[EM] STV seat count, and start small and locally

Richard Fobes ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org
Sat Mar 3 10:59:53 PST 2012

(My comments are interspersed because there are multiple topics here.)

On 2/29/2012 2:02 PM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
> On 02/26/2012 06:25 PM, Richard Fobes wrote:
>> On 2/24/2012 1:01 PM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>>> On 02/23/2012 11:24 PM, Richard Fobes wrote:
>>>> Kristofer Munsterhjelm asks: "... why do you propose rules that would
>>>> make it harder for third parties to grow?" ...
>>>> What I promote is VoteFair ranking. It includes a PR-related portion --
>>>> called VoteFair partial-proportional ranking -- that gives
>>>> representation to third parties that represent enough voters. This
>>>> aspect of VoteFair ranking specifically makes it easier (not harder)
>>>> for
>>>> third parties to grow.
>>> Yes, proportional representation would make it easier for third parties
>>> to grow. On the other hand, in an earlier post, you suggested STV (which
>>> is a PR method and thus one would expect to have the same purpose as the
>>> VoteFair ranking) be used with two seats instead of three or five.
>>> In a five-seat district, assuming Droop proportionality, any group of
>>> more than a sixth of the voters can give their candidate a seat.
>>> However, in a two-seat district, the group has to grow to exceed a third
>>> of the voters to be sure of getting that seat; thus, smaller groups
>>> could be splintered (either maliciously by gerrymandering or simply due
>>> to bad luck), if there are few seats.
>> I'm picturing double-size districts and electing two representatives per
>> district. STV can use the ballot info to get that part right.
>> However, getting fair proportional results beyond two seats per district
>> (for any voting method) requires asking voters to indicate their
>> favorite political party.
>> That additional party-preference information then enables additional
>> proportional seats to be filled.
> I'm not entirely sure what you're saying. If you're saying that you
> can't have more than two seats per district and still have
> proportionality unless you use party list PR, that's obviously wrong.
> But if you say that you can use an MMP compensatory mechanism to get
> proportionality beyond the effective threshold, then I get what you're
> saying. So I'll assume that :-)

I am very much against party lists.

I am saying that there is a limited degree of proportionality that can 
be achieved without asking voters to indicate their favorite political 

Yes, an MMP-like compensatory mechanism (that makes use of 
ballot-expressed party preferences) improves proportionality -- in ways 
that STV cannot (because STV does not look at party preferences).

>> Using STV to fill more than two seats would lead to very unfair results
>> in some situations. Those situations don't exist now, but they can (and
>> I believe would) arise if the voting system changes (such as adopting
>> STV).
> I think you said minor parties could get undue power in three-seat
> district STV with the two parties + minor situation that you have today,
> but I also guess that's not what you're referring to (since you say
> "those situations don't exist now").
> So what kind of unfairness are you envisioning? STV with five-seat
> districts seems to work where it's been used, in the sense that it does
> produce multipartyism and the voters don't complain about vote
> splitting. At least if they do, I don't know it.
> MMP is a solution. The Norwegian parliament even combines MMP-like
> top-up with party list PR: if a party gets more than 4%, and the party
> gets a disproportional outcome from constituencies alone, then they get
> a share of the seats allocated for the purpose of compensating for that
> disproportionality.
> But if you're going to use MMP, why then use STV at all? Why not use
> party list (since you're going to ask the voters their party
> preferences) or Condorcet + MMP (since the MMP part can handle the
> disproportionality of single member districts just like it can the
> disproportionality of two-member districts)? Questions of where you draw
> your tradeoff line - in this case, of two members per district instead
> of one or five - can be very useful in understanding, and so I ask.

Note that two-seat STV can be used in conjunction with MMP "compensatory 
mechanisms."  These results would be reasonable in the United States 
because of the two-party dominance.

What would not work well would be 3-seat, 4-seat, or 5-seat STV (either 
with or without MMP compensation).

Another way to express this concept is to refer to it as roundoff error.

Specifically, one single winner cannot represent all the voters in a 
district.  In a similar way, three winners would be very disproportional 
in a district that has a balance (of voters) between just two political 

> (I tend to think that, all other things equal, seats allocated to STV is
> better than seats allocated to party list, because STV gives
> proportionality by what the voters want, not just proportionality per
> party. Party list PR is easier when the district sizes get large, but
> that's a matter of how many candidates you should have in each district
> before any residual disproportionality will have to be accepted or be
> handled by party-wise top-up.)
>> Currently the tiny state of Rhode Island is so frustrated by what goes
>> on in its state legislature that it is ripe for election-method reform.
>> That state is so small that it is more "local" than the Los Angeles area.
>> In other words, I agree that reform must start at the "local" level, but
>> I think that some state-level changes would fit your idea of "local". (I
>> don't know if there are cities that are ripe for proportional
>> improvements.)
> I know too little about US politics to comment, but if you're right,
> that's good, and I hope your strategy can work :-) Do you have any
> specific plans on how to advocate substantial electoral reform in Rhode
> Island?

One strategy is to educate as many people as possible about the 
existence of the Declaration of Election-Method Reform Advocates.

I'm also pursuing other strategies that I'll reveal as appropriate.

I'm not focusing any direct attention on the Rhode Island situation.

I'm aware of it because last spring there was a demonstration going on 
at the Rhode Island state capitol building when I was across the street 
at the train station waiting to be picked up.

>> I'll add that here in the state of Oregon there was a ballot measure
>> about adopting an "open primary", so there are opportunities to adopt
>> election-method change at the state level if it's the right change. (It
>> failed; I opposed that change for what I hope are obvious reasons.)
> Was that a partisan or nonpartisan open primary?

Here "open primary" refers to having all the primary-election candidates 
in the same race and then choosing the two candidates who have the "most 
votes" to compete in a runoff election.

So few people understand what "most votes" really means, so lots of 
voters thought this would be a good idea.  Afterwards I talked to one of 
the backers of that measure, and he had no clue about how voting really 

>> I continue to be impressed by your/Kristofer's questions and comments,
>> so I'll add that you have asked good questions here, which makes it
>> worth the time to reply.
> Thank you :-)

You're welcome.  I enjoy concrete (non-abstract) discussions.

Richard Fobes

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