[EM] The Global Fight For Electoral Justice: A Primer

ElectionMethods electionmethods at votefair.org
Sun Jan 1 16:05:04 PST 2017

On 1/1/2017 11:35 AM, Juho Laatu wrote:
> I guess in many cases the rule is that those who have power want to stay in power.  ...

Here is an important pattern worth recognizing:

Politicians and political parties (under puppet-like control of the 
biggest campaign contributors) tend to adopt changes that HIDE the 
SYMPTOMS of the unfairness.  Yet hiding symptoms does not solve the 
underlying unfairness, which is the use of single-mark ballots (even in 
open-list PR).

Here are examples of how unfairness symptoms are hidden:

* Term limits are sometimes considered as a way to kick out unpopular 
incumbents, without realizing that fair elections would be a better way 
to kick out unpopular incumbents -- without also kicking out popular 

* Primary elections in the U.S. hide vote splitting so that it occurs 
where the winner is never from the "wrong" political party.  (This is 
where the biggest unfairness occurs, through the use of money-based 
tactics such as funding "spoiler" candidates.)

* The U.S. two-party system (i.e. effectively blocking third-party 
candidates from general elections) prevents the vote splitting that used 
to occur in U.S. general elections.

* Using the "national popular vote" instead of the Electoral College (to 
choose a U.S. president) is a way to hide the unfair parts of the 
Electoral College -- but in a way that would fail the majority 
requirement if there were more than two main candidates.

* Open primaries attempt to "solve" the problem of independent voters 
not being allowed to vote in primary elections, but the math does not 
work because the two candidates with the "most votes" are not 
necessarily the most popular.  Instead of voters abandoning the two 
dominant political parties, it would make more sense to use fairer 
voting methods so that voters can regain control of the two main parties 
(which are now heavily controlled through money tactics used by the 
biggest campaign contributors).

* Unbiased (but not necessarily fair!) ways of choosing district 
boundaries are often recommended as "solutions" to gerrymandering, yet a 
fully fair voting method would produce roughly the same election results 
regardless of where the (equal-population) district boundaries are drawn.

* Public funding of election campaigns attempts to "solve" the problem 
that money can be used to influence election results.  The real solution 
is to ban single-mark ballots, because better voting methods are not 
easily vulnerable to funding influence.

* Very importantly, proportional representation (PR) is used to hide the 
unfairness of using single-mark ballots and the unfairness of electing 
just one winner per district.  In other words, PR adjusts the number of 
winners from each party to hide the symptom of some parties winning too 
many seats and other parties winning too few seats.

The pattern is that, alas, most voters would rather try (without 
historic success) various "fixes" that deal with the SYMPTOMS, rather 
than learn how vote counting should be done (and then ban the use of 
single-mark ballots).

In other words, political forces are only willing to adopt changes that 
HIDE the SYMPTOMS of unfairness, without abandoning the use of 
single-mark ballots.

As time permits I hope to create some videos that explain the 
above-listed concepts.

Please, if anyone else might be interested in creating such videos, 
please do!!  There is a need for more videos than I could ever create.  
If video-creation software seems challenging, I suggest looking at the 
iPad app named Explain Everything, which is very easy to use.

I now realize that most people "don't read."  Instead most people learn 
about elections through internet videos (especially on YouTube) and 
graphics used in TV news broadcasts.  As an author of books this is 
discouraging, yet admittedly I, myself, sometimes prefer to learn from 
well-scripted videos.  Thank goodness you-all do read!

Reminder: Many Canadians are now learning about elections, but they are 
searching for "first past the post," not "plurality" or "elections" as a 
search term.  I saw that a YouTube video with the words "first past the 
post" had millions of views, whereas other videos on the same topic (but 
without those words) had far fewer views.

May 2017 bring greater awareness of how voting should be done. Happy new 

Richard Fobes

On 1/1/2017 11:35 AM, Juho Laatu wrote:
>> On 01 Jan 2017, at 21:16, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km_elmet at t-online.de> wrote:
>> On 01/01/2017 07:06 PM, ElectionMethods wrote:
>>> (I presume closed-list PR is dominant in Europe because many members of
>>> parliament would be unlikely to get re-elected under open-list PR.)
>> If the "old parties heading off the socialist challenge" theory is correct, it would also explain why closed list PR is so common; the old parties weren't in it for egalitarian purposes, but rather as a necessary compromise. Open list would not have been required in such a scenario, just interparty PR. The only situation that would force open list would be if closed list would have led to too mediocre candidates within the old parties and thus to voters flocking to the socialists anyway.
> I guess in many cases the rule is that those who have power want to stay in power. If there are two parties in power, they don't want to donate it to the third and fourth party. If there is some level of proportionality in the system, the incumbent parties don't want to distribute that power to parties that are smaller than themselves. If party officials can decide which candidates will be first on the party list, they don't like the idea of letting voters decide which candidates will be elected.
> The main rule is that those who are in power want to concentrate more power to themselves. This applies also to civil servants and other interest groups. Democracy (the spirit of giving power to the people) takes steps forward occasionally. Small steps in the other direction are possible all the time. This means that if one wants to keep the status quo, there is a need to defend the system all the time in order to avoid those small steps in the opposite direction.
> BR, Juho
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