[EM] STV vs Party-list PR, could context matter?

Raph Frank raphfrk at gmail.com
Mon Feb 20 05:18:04 PST 2012

On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 8:47 PM, Richard Fobes
<ElectionMethods at votefair.org> wrote:
> Another way to understand the second problem is to consider what would
> happen if 55% of the voters in a state favor the Republican Party, and the
> remaining 45% favor the Democratic Party, and there is an even distribution
> of these preferences throughout the state.  If STV uses 3 seats per
> district, the likely result would be that two thirds of the elected
> representatives would be Republicans, and only one third would be Democrats.

If they were single seaters, then it would be 100% Republican.

Small districts inherently don't give good PR, but a 1/3 to 2/3 split
is better than 100% to one, if the votes are 55% to 45%.

> If STV is used with 4 seats per district, in a (different) state that
> strongly favors a third party, the fourth seat would yield unpredictable
> results.  Here I'm assuming that the first three seats would be filled by
> one Republican, one Democrat, and one third-party politician.

There would be a little randomness, but it should balance out somewhat
when averaged over many districts.  Tiny parties would still have a
very hard time.

4 seats means a quota of 20%.  If both Republicans and Democrats are >
40%, then they both get 2 seat each.

An odd number of seats has the feature that if a party gets a majority
of the vote, it gets a majority of the seats.

> In contrast, my view is that first we -- the voters -- need to reclaim
> control of the Republican and Democratic parties, and then we can decide
> whether we need one or more third parties.  (I expect that we will need
> small third parties, but that they will primarily serve as a way for voters
> to steer the two main parties in wiser directions.)

The issue is that if the 2 parties work together, then they can ignore
the voters, since they effectively hold a duopoly.

Everyone must choose one or other, so there is relatively little control.

With third parties, it is possible for voters to move to one of the
third parties.  Even if only a small number do it, it still acts on as
a check, since each voter who leaves represents loss of power for the

Currently, the only way to leave is to switch vote from one party to
the other, which is a big step for many people.

> Remember that state legislatures and Congress use a voting method (for
> choosing which proposed laws to pass) that works reasonably well with just
> two main parties, but that voting method would break down into chaos if a
> legislature or Congress had to form coalitions (in order to get a majority
> of support for each proposed law).

Certainly, there would need to be changes in the customs/rules of
order in the House.

The Senate would likely not be PR based anyway, due to the 2 Senator
per State rule.

> Also remember that in Congress (and
> presumably in state legislatures) the chairmanship of each committee
> switches to a committee member who is from the majority party; there is no
> graceful way to choose which committees switch their chairmanships to which
> of three (or more) parties.

That could be handled either by having a formal coalition (the
coalition agreement would include how to split the chairmanships) or
maybe doing it via PR, or some other compromise.

> You seem to be focused on accommodating a transition to a three-party
> system, without also accommodating a later transition back to a two-party
> system.

PR is unlikely to switch back to a 2 party system.  There is little
benefit in reducing voter choice.  However, if the voters mostly vote
for the 2 biggest parties, PR allows it to move back to 2 party.

> Election-method reform must (first and foremost) cut the puppet strings that
> currently connect politicians -- of both parties -- to the biggest campaign
> contributors ("special interests").

That is one of the main points about PR.  By giving the voters more
choice, they can move their support away from parties that don't
represent them well.

A 2 party system inherently, only has 2 choice.  If a voter hates one
party and dislikes the other, then he isn't likely to move his vote to
the party he hates.

The more voters who are in that situation, the less voter control
their is over the party.

> That alone will change the political
> landscape dramatically, and that change might result in a stable two-party
> system that all the voters like.

I assume you mean campaign contribution reform?  That isn't actually
an election method.

Also, because of the FPTP method, politicians can ignore the public,
as long as both parties agree.

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