[EM] PR via self-chosen districts? (was Re: voting reform effort inDENVER - PLEASE HELP)

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Sun Jun 11 10:03:25 PDT 2006

> Allen Smith Sent: Sunday, June 11, 2006 4:21 PM
> I had an idea a while back, which I suspect others probably 
> have had before me but I haven't been able to locate much on 
> (probably due to lack of time to look thoroughly, just as I 
> haven't had time to reply to some emails on and off this list 
> - sorry!), for how to do PR with single-member districts. 

Yes, but why try to invent something completely untried and untested when we already have a voting system that would
answer the problems, is in current use, and for which we have a great deal of practical experience in several different
countries around the world?

> Instead of district assignments based on geography or any 
> other essentially arbitrary criterion (for elections to a 
> multimember body governing a particular set of voters, as 
> opposed to a non-arbitrary criterion of voters being only 
> allowed to vote in elections for individuals/bodies governing 
> them), allow individual voters to decide what district they 
> are in.

Stephane from Canada has written extensively about a PR system in which electors are allocated to non-geographical

> In the US, for 
> instance, most geographic assignment of districts takes place 
> by either the current majority party or a bipartisan, not 
> multiparty, commission, Iowa being about the only exception - 

In all countries for all elections the electoral district boundaries should be determined by an independent Boundary

> and even in Iowa, the decisions of the nonpartisan body they 
> use (which is unfortunately advised by a _bipartisan_ 
> commission) can be overriden by the legislature (or the 
> judicial system, of course).)

Yes, even in the UK where we have such independent Boundary Commissions, they produce recommendations (after extensive
public consultation, which includes inputs from all the political parties) which the legislature has to pass into law to
make them effective.  But at least if the government makes changes, that blatant political interference can be seen for
what it is, and if there is enough public opposition, the legislature can throw out the government's attempted

> >But if you want PR of the voters, and want to make the elected council 
> >members truly accountable to the local electorate, you have only one 
> >real choice - STV-PR.  Worldwide, we have a hundred years of 
> >practical experience of STV-PR.
> I would certainly not argue that we have extensive experience 
> with the above idea, nor that one should try using it without 
> more extensive analysis (unless more analysis has taken place 
> that I'm not aware of; I would be grateful for pointers to 
> said analysis, if it exists!).

What I meant was that there is a lot of relevant experience of STV-PR provided you are prepared to look around the world
to different countries.  Then you'll find that STV-PR has been in use for legislature and city council elections for
many decades and that there has been extensive analysis of its effects.  To access some that, just type "single
transferable vote" into your favourite search engine and you'll have links to some 199,000 pages.  Of course, not all of
those pages are equally useful or informative.  And in reviewing all that technical discussion and debate, don't loose
sight of the big questions: "What is the purpose of this Denver election?"  "How can we most quickly and effectively
bring about the desired change?"

James Gilmour

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