[EM] Proportional Representation Systems I'd Support

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Mar 26 11:41:38 PDT 2010

Kathy, it seems that, to a degree, your thinking about proportional 
representation has been colored by the problems of STV as applied to 
single-winner elections. Let me suggest that you back up a bit and 
reflect on the purpose of representation in decision-making as 
distinct from decision-making itself. Single-winner elections 
represent a decision. Proportional representation does, it might 
seem, need to make decisions, too, but they are decisions of a different kind.

Let's start with imagining ideal representation. There have been 
various proposals that would, in some aspect or other, be ideal. It 
was proposed (for a city at one point about a century ago), that 
those elected to a city council would have as many votes in council 
process as they received in the election. Without getting into gory 
practical details, could you agree that, to the extent that this 
could be done, it would be a kind of ideal representation?

However, for a peer assembly, there is another variation. The 
original used STV, but that actually complicates it as far as a 
qualitative understanding. Imagine that it is vote-for-one. If it is 
desired to create N seats, perhaps N is considered an ideal size for 
an assembly, and there are V voters, who vote for the candidate they 
most trust, we can assume. Any candidate who gets N/V votes (Q, the 
Hare quota) is elected.

But there is a problem, obviously. There might be no such candidate, 
if there are enough candidates. And some candidates will get more 
than Q votes. Is it fair that they have the same voting power in the 
Assembly as another who only got the minimum?

Lewis Carroll, studying STV in 1884, noticed that most voters really 
only had enough information to pick their favorite. So he got the 
idea, what if with any exhausted ballot (all candidates on it have 
been eliminated -- or, for that matter, elected, but by more than the 
quota of votes, so there are "excess votes") the candidate could 
recast the vote at will, "as if it were his own property.") So those 
holding votes could put together, collectively, assemblages of Q 
votes, electing seats that didn't make it in the first pass. He 
considered that this revoting power would be in the hands of the 
favorite on the ballot, I believe.

Would you agree that, if this were done, it would be fair, that every 
voter would be fairly represented in the Assembly? Some directly, 
some indirectly. The electors, I call the candidates holding the 
votes, vote publicly, so every voter knows where his or her vote 
went, and exactly whomo it elected.

This is very, very different from a contested election, in which some 
voters lose. In this, all voters win. (Except for what can be called 
the "dregs," which reduces to a very small problem with Asset Voting 
like this, and what you would do is, if you want N seats, you'd allow 
the election of "as many as N + X seats." Where X is a variable 
determined from experience to represent the level of non-negotiable 
differences among the electors. If by some miracle they all agree, 
you actually get N + X seats, a small problem, maybe even not a problem at all.

But look what happens to the votes: This is an STV election! The only 
difference is that the vote transfers are in the hands of chosen 
electors, instead of being determined by a ranked ballot. Each vote 
only is used once to actually elect. That's the "Single" in "Single 
Transferable Vote."

For fairness, in single-ballot STV for proportional representation, 
as a ballot is part of a quota for election, the ballot then counts 
fractionally for any subsequent uses.

The non-monotonicity of STV arises in the last seats to be elected, 
it arises from elimination before all the votes have been considered. 
Basically, to ensure that a vote is only counted once (If we imagine 
that instead of N votes being divided up and reduced fractionally 
according to excess votes, the pile of ballots can be physically 
divided -- and that's actually done in some STV implementations -- 
though it's not as fair as uncovering the next preference and casting 
fractional votes for it, so each ballot gets its fair share of 
representation), it is only allowed that one vote at a time be 
"active." But that's a practical detail.

You should realize that those who are elected before eliminations, 
with STV (and this includes IRV!) are obviously appropriate winners. 
The flaws arise in elimination rounds. Get rid of eliminations, but 
sequentially pick winners, that problem disappears, and you are left 
with only the problem that if you use a single ballot, there will 
likely be seats where nobody gets the quota. So what do you do?

You can't hold a "runoff election," and here is why: Some voters 
already got their candidate. A runoff under these conditions has no 
way of knowing who "won" and who didn't. You only want those who 
didn't "win" to be able to vote. Asset Voting avoids this problem. 
Every ballot is available to be voted. (I would recommend that every 
candidate be required to designate a proxy, to vote for the candidate 
if the candidate becomes unavailable. Consider how much easier this 
would be than holding a special election! And that choice would be 
public record, I presume. No surprises.)

Asset will work with STV, and my prediction is that not too many will 
use additional ranking on the ballot. It probably becomes 
unnecessary. Asset would also work with IRV! It would make IRV into 
an excellent voting method. No majority, no election, runoff of some 
kind. If holding a runoff is a problem, it would be obvious who could 
be blamed for it! Candidates who were unwilling to compromise. If 
that's a majority, I'd say this electorate has a problem! Normally it won't be.

STV for proportional representation, even with eliminations, is much 
better than multiseat methods in use. But I'm hoping that we can look 
at ways to do it even better, and what Asset would do is to create a 
penumbra of electors that stand between the voters and those who are 
actually elected to the Assembly. They generally represent the voters 
to those whom they elect. This "Electoral College" is *fully 
representative,* along the lines of that old proposal for a city 
council where the winners exercise the number of votes they got in 
the election. They are public voters.

And there goes the need for campaign financing. Spending a lot of 
money to get elected would become a suspicious action! Rather, 
increasingly, electors would not be candidates with a chance of 
winning, except in small jurisdictions. They would be people, your 
neighbors for the most part, interested in helping see that the 
people are represented in the Assembly. You would know them 
personally, almost always. You could talk to them. And, because it's 
known who they voted for in the actual seat elections, they could 
talk to the seat holders directly, as people with real political 
power, the power to elect, known and identified.

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