[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at lavabit.com
Wed Jul 18 06:45:47 PDT 2012

On 07/09/2012 03:29 AM, Michael Allan wrote:

> 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?

There are two areas of difficulty. First, this party would have to have 
some kind of administration (that would publish the lists, and so on). 
One would have to be sure the administrators don't co-opt the party and 
transform it into an ordinary party. Such things have happened, to 
lesser degrees, with small parties that have become large. Novel forms 
of voting, or consensus based systems, disappear because they're not 
effective enough, for instance.

Second, the Public List just reproduces the thing elections are supposed 
to solve in the first place - which is finding good candidates. In the 
actual election, the "good candidates" are the winners, and get 
parliamentary seats or executive positions. But the Public List doesn't 
have any people deciding upon the internal election, so it has to have 
some kind of primary to construct the list to begin with. And for that 
primary, it needs a way of winnowing the field so that voters aren't 
faced with having to rank a million candidates in the primary. Making a 
primary for the primary could get unwieldy.

So the Public List needs some kind of logic. If it has that - e.g. if it 
used Gohlke's triad system - then it could be used to change the 
political system without actually changing the general election method. 
But if the system isn't part of the general election, then there may be 
incentive not to bother. Say that the internal selection process 
produces a list of centrists. Left-wingers (who didn't win) may decide 
to just vote for a left-wing party instead of the Public List in the 
general election. People taking part in the internal election may, 
anticipating this, think that "we'll go through all this work and then, 
because we're a centrist party, few people will put us first, so why 
should we?". This suggests the internal method should be proportional as 

>> 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?

Yes, but STV also supports independents. Even more than in party list, 
the Public List's advantage rests only in finding good candidates before 
the real election.

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