PR vs. Geographic Representation [WAS: RE: [EM] Bill Lewis, never re-dist

James Green-Armytage jarmyta at
Wed Jan 28 14:44:02 PST 2004

Dear election methods fans,

	As regards the issue of geographic representation, I just wanted to point
out that if you switch from a low-district-magnitude version of STV-PR to
a high-district-magnitude version of STV-PR, even if you keep the total
number of seats constant, this doesn't necessarily decrease voters'
ability to have local representatives. 
	What it does, in my opinion, is give the voters a choice as to what is
more important to them: locality of representation, or something else
(various dimensions of political preference). 
	Assuming that a district had enough people to elect a seat before the
switch (where it was absorbed into a super-district), then if all the
voters in that former district rank only candidates from that former
district above all other candidates, then they will easily be guaranteed
that a representative from that former district will take office.
	If voters strongly prefer to have local representatives in
high-district-magnitude STV-PR, then local representatives they shall
have. If other factors are more important to them, then the most
democratic thing to do is to allow those other factors to take precedence,
rather than forcing them into a district-sized political box against their
	So, while in practice higher magnitude STV-PR will most likely lead to
some degree of less local representation, this can only occur as a result
of voter preference.

	While high-magnitude STV-PR shouldn't be criticized from the point of
view of effective representation, it does require a more advanced voter
interface than most methods. That is, a super-district with 20 seats could
have around 100 viable candidates. 
	Please note that it is *NOT* necessary for voters to rank all of the
candidates in order to cast an effective ballot for high-magnitude STV-PR,
so the method doesn't place an unreasonable burden on the voters. That is,
if they rank around 10 to 20 candidates in this example, the likely
fraction of their vote that is wasted should be small to negligible. 
	Rather, the challenge is to have an interface that allows voters to rank
all of the candidates without a ballot the size of an atlas. Obviously
this means a computer interface. Voters should be able to choose from a
large and easily browsed list of candidates, pull them out of the list by
giving them a ranking, and still be able to adjust the rankings later on
after they have pulled the desired candidates out of the list. It would be
nice if the list of candidates would be sortable by things like party,
last name, first name, region, and so on. 
	It *might* also be desirable to allow voters the option of casting their
vote according to the advice of a particular party or individual, that is
choosing from a series of ready-made ranked lists which can be made
available in the databases of the voting system. However, again, these
sorts of shortcuts are not necessary for the system to function
	While this is obviously a few steps up from our current voting
interfaces, it is hardly impossible. Again, in my opinion the cost of the
computers is well worth it in terms of the increased quality of
representation. So I think that it is well worth it to advocate high
district magnitude STV-PR as a long run goal for public multiple-winner


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