[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
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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