[EM] bicameral design poll

Jeffrey O'Neill jeff_c_o at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 5 08:04:17 PST 2004

Hi Alex,

Interesting question.  I agree with your answer except for the size of the
districts.  According to Duverger, a district size of 10 supports 11 parties. 
If each party runs a full slate, then there would be 110 candidates.  I would
prefer a district size of 4-5 to reduce the number of candidates.

In MA, the smaller house is 40 and the larger house is 160.  I think it would
be desirable to create districts solely for the smaller house and then use the
same districts as 4-member districts for the larger house.  This would create
an interesting geographical linkage between the two houses.


> From: "Alex Small" <asmall at physics.ucsb.edu>
> To: <election-methods-electorama.com at electorama.com>
> Subject: [EM] bicameral design poll
> Suppose that political momentum built for proportional representation in a
> state legislature.  The most likely scenario, at least in the short term,
> is that people will be willing to entertain the notion of electing one
> chamber by PR, but will insist on keeping the other chamber elected by
> single-member districts.
> Now, I realize that many people on this list reject (however rightly or
> wrongly) the notion of bicameralism, or at least in non-federal states. 
> And I realize that many people on this list (myself included to a large
> extent) are less than enthusiastic about electing legislators from
> single-member districts.
> But, for the sake of discussion, let's just accept those features as
> constraints in the SHORT TERM.  Here is the poll questions:
> 1)  Which chamber would you prefer to elect by PR:  The larger chamber or
> the smaller chamber?  (Assume for the sake of this question that your
> favorite PR and single-winner methods will be used in each chamber. 
> Whether it's Condorcet, IRV, Approval, Borda, whatever;  or STV, PAV,
> party list, cumulative voting, whatever.)
> 2)  What size would you recommend for the PR districts?  (This could be
> anywhere from a handful, e.g. 5 or so, to electing the entire chamber
> state-wide, e.g. 100 members for the single district.)
> My answers:
> 1) If we must elect one chamber from single-member districts, I'd prefer
> that it be the smaller chamber.
> Reason:  Even if we use unbiased redistricting algorithms to avoid
> gerrymandering, a smaller district is likely to be less diverse than a
> larger district, and hence less competitive.  Here in California we've
> seen what happens when districts are safe for one party or another:  The
> elections are decided in party primaries, so you get a whole bunch of
> really liberal Democrats and a whole bunch of really conservative
> Republicans and not a whole lot of moderates.
> 2)  I'd recommend 10 members per PR district.  This keeps the size of the
> district and number of candidates to consider at least half-way
> manageable, but still ensures representation for a broad range of
> interests.
> Alex

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