[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Sun Jul 8 18:29:26 PDT 2012

Fred and Kristofer,

Fred Gohlke said:
> I think you're right, the selection of candidates for public office
> must be opened to the entire electorate.  Such an approach has
> eluded us so far because of the lack of organization among the
> non-partisans.  This lets the parties maintain their control of the
> electoral process with the classic 'Divide and Conquer' strategy.

Yes, or at least among the general public.  The public may include
partisans, of course, but they would vote together with everyone else
when it comes to public decisions.  That's the crucial thing.

Kristofer Munsterhjelm said:
> We don't really have primaries here, at least not in the sense of
> patches to make Plurality work, because we don't use Plurality but
> party list PR. There are still internal elections (or appointments,
> depending on party) to determine the order of the list - those are
> probably the closest thing to primaries here.

Imagine a PR party that invites all residents (even members of other
parties) to participate in the "primary election" of its party list.
It is not an ordinary party with an ideology, or platform.  Its only
concern is primary *inclusivity*.  It calls itself the "Public List"
and it strives to be just that, and nothing more.

Hypothesis: the Public List will have a lower attrition rate than any
other party.  Unlike other parties, it cannot easily offend the voters
because all it does is open its list to their participation.  Nor can
it easily offend the nominees and candidates, because it is equally
open to them.  It will therefore come to win all elections.

Is this likely to be true?  What could work against it?

> I imagine that the primary link is even weaker in STV countries. Say
> you have a multimember district with 5 seats. To cover all their
> bases, each party would run at least 5 candidates for that election,
> so that even if they get all the seats, they can fill them. But that
> means that people who want members of party X to get in power can
> choose which of the candidates they want. There's no predetermined
> list, and there's less of a "take it or leave it" problem than in
> single member districts.

Wouldn't the Public List also have an opening here?

> But I digress. The way I see it, there are two approaches to
> changing the rules. The first is to do it from within - to have a
> party or other organization that implements those rules
> internally. The second is from without, by somehow inspiring the
> people to want this, so that they will push for it more strongly
> than the parties can.
> In the United States, the latter might be rather difficult (since
> money counts for so much). And perhaps in the US, primaries would be
> a good place to start. I don't know, as I don't live there :-)

Suppose a Public List were made available without pushing.  The
parties would continue promoting themselves (and bashing each other)
while the public list would quietly do its job.  It might offer a kind
of refuge to voters who were tired of the usual fights, or confused by
the choices.  Might this not be enough in itself?

> Don't some local elections over there have free-for-all primaries
> where anyone can vote, so the system turns into top-two runoff?

I'm not sure.  The parties in Canada (where I live) generally don't
field candidates for municipal elections.  Even at higher levels, the
nomination mechanism for assembly members is obscure.  Ordinary MPs
have little power anyway.  Power is concentrated in the leader's
hands.  The leadership convention is the only primary contest that
gets much public attention.

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 416-699-9528

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