[EM] In defence of IRV

Bob Richard [lists] lists001 at robertjrichard.com
Mon Nov 15 14:58:41 PST 2021

In the United States there is no constitutional barrier to PR, with two 
partial exceptions (more on that below). The Apportionment Act of 1842, 
cited by Jan Simbera, was the first legislative mandate for 
single-member districts, but not the last. The most recent was passed in 
1967 following the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The motive in 1967 was to 
prevent Southern states from using at-large plurality (called "multiple 
non-transferable vote" or MNTV by political scientists) to deny 
representation to black voters. (MNTV is majoritarianism on steroids 
since a cohesive majority of voters can win all the seats.) PR would 
have accomplished this aim much better, but the political class in the 
U.S. was and still is extremely afraid of PR.

The constitutional partial exceptions are (1) the Senate, in which each 
state has two representatives, regardless of population. And (2) seats 
in the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states 
according to population. Congress could mandate PR in states with two or 
more House members but the electoral threshold and degree of 
proportionality would have to vary by state.

A few states only have one seat in the House of Representatives, and a 
few more only have two. To remedy this for the sake of PR and still 
comply with the Constitution, Congress would have to increase the number 
of seats from 435 to at least 1,135 and even that number would only give 
the state of Wyoming two seats (Wyoming has about 0.18% of the country's 
population). In a House of that size, the state of California would have 
roughly 135 seats.

--Bob Richard

------ Original Message ------
From: "Jan Šimbera" <simbera.jan at gmail.com>
To: election-methods at lists.electorama.com
Sent: 11/15/2021 1:28:30 PM
Subject: Re: [EM] In defence of IRV

> > I think in the US specifically there are constitutional barriers to 
>multi-member districts.
>As far as I understand both the US Constitution and [1], the barrier is 
>not constitutional but on the level of a congressional act, making it 
>much easier to change. Please correct me if I'm wrong!
>[1]: The Apportionment Act of 1842: “In All Cases, By District” | US 
>House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives 
>On Mon, Nov 15, 2021 at 10:05 PM Daniel Carrera <dcarrera at gmail.com> 
>>On Mon, Nov 15, 2021 at 2:49 PM Jan Šimbera <simbera.jan at gmail.com> 
>>>As an aside since the debate has broadened considerably anyway:
>>>To me, a Central European, it is still quite strange how little the
>>>American debate on electoral reform focuses on the option of 
>>>constituencies (the reform of House elections from single-member
>>>districts to a per-state PR method perhaps being the most obvious 
>>>The main argument I find for the "first show support, then negotiate"
>>>paradigm is that it gives the votes more expressive power
>>>AND makes the negotiation process more transparent and observable
>>>for the general public.
>>Yeah. I think multimember precincts are a brilliant solution but my 
>>impression is that anglo-saxon countries are really stuck on the idea 
>>of single member districts (Ireland being a notable exception). The 
>>argument I've heard is that the elected official is there to represent 
>>their particular region, but I've never been persuaded by that 
>>argument. I've lived in three anglo-saxon countries (Canada, UK, US) 
>>and national politics are always national. I've never heard of an MP 
>>or member of congress actually push for a little parochial issue that 
>>is specific to their particular spot in the country. It all seems to 
>>be party-line votes regardless. If politicians are going to behave 
>>that way, then we might as well just have a system with proportional 
>>representation. I would love to see STV in more places. I think in the 
>>US specifically there are constitutional barriers to multi-member 
>>Dr. Daniel Carrera
>>Postdoctoral Research Associate
>>Iowa State University
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