[EM] Democratic Electoral Methods

Jack Santucci jms346 at georgetown.edu
Tue Jan 10 10:49:57 PST 2017

Hi Fred,

STV with nomination by petition is anything but a party-based system. Yet I
find that party organization helps explain even the adoption of that
(supposedly) party-weakening voting rule.

I have little to add to a normative debate about the place of parties in
democracy. I am somewhat familiar with what it takes to win an election
reform. This paper by Jack Nagel is pretty good:


Jack Santucci
Ph.D. Candidate in Government
Georgetown University
202-681-5225 (Google Voice)

On Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 1:36 PM, Fred Gohlke <fredgohlke at verizon.net> wrote:

> Good Morning, Jack
> The difficulty arises because partisanship is a vital part of society.
> Unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword.  On the good side, it is at the
> heart of all progress; on the not-so-good side, it provides a natural
> platform for power-seekers.
> The big problem, in politics, is that party-based systems do not let the
> mellowing voice of non-partisans temper their excesses.  Instead,
> non-partisans are disenfranchised.  Pew Research, for example, constantly
> refers to 'leaners', people who vote with a party but are not members.
> What should stand out, but doesn't, is that leaners lean because they have
> no other choice.  They are forced to choose the (for them) lesser of two
> evils.
> Sennet Williams asked, "What is the goal of a 'better' election method?"
> and answered himself by saying, "Personally, I want 'better govt.'"
> I suggest that, if we want better government, we should start by
> recognizing that our government cannot be better than the people we elect
> to provide it.  If we are dissatisfied with our government, the first step
> in improving it is to elect better people.  That cannot happen as long as
> political parties are allowed to select the candidates for public office
> because "Those who control the options, control the outcome."
> When thinking about better election methods, the biggest issue is not how
> the votes are counted, it is who the people can vote for.  If we want
> better candidates, we must change the way they are selected.  As Jane
> Mansbridge told us in "A 'Selection Model' of Political Representation"[1]:
>   "Another possible --- and sometimes conflicting -- approach is
>    based primarily on selection.  This approach works only when
>    the principal and agent would have similar objectives even in
>    the absence of specific incentives and sanctions.  That is,
>    the agent is already internally motivated to pursue certain
>    goals -- goals that in politics include both a general
>    political direction and specific policies.  If the
>    representative's desired direction and policies are the ones
>    the constituent desires, and if the representative also has a
>    verifiable reputation of being both competent and honest, then
>    it makes sense for a constituent to put that representative in
>    office and subsequently spend relatively little effort on
>    monitoring and sanctioning.  As a general rule, the higher the
>    probability that the objectives of principal and agent may be
>    aligned, the more efficient it is for the principal to invest
>    resources ex ante, in selecting the required type, rather than
>    ex post, in monitoring and sanctioning."
> Consideration of electoral methods should include thought about ways to
> select candidates whose goals are in line with the public interest. Instead
> of letting political parties tell us who we can vote for, we need a method
> that integrates the goals of partisans and non-partisans.  It's not
> difficult, it's just different.
> Fred Gohlke
> [1] https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/
> citation.aspx?PubId=5548&type=WPN
> ----
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