Voting Rules for
 Accurate
Democracy

Different uses for voting need different types of voting.

Proportional Representation Ballots

Arguments Against PR

Proportional Representation Options

PR ensures the right to representation for all voters.

Arguments Against Proportional Representation

How can I know which policies I am voting for if I don't know before the election which parties might agree to form a governing majority?
The same problem happens when we vote for individual candidates who often can not or do not keep their campaign promises.
-- Several Full Rep countries including New Zealand and Denmark are pushing parties to declare their preferred allies before each election.

Full Rep voters are sometimes dismayed to see some leaders of a failed governing majority win reelection and even cabinet positions. "Why can't we throw the bums out?" they ask.
-- Those voters obviously did not vote for the bums. Other voters did and they have the right to choose the bums to be their representatives. The reelection rate to the US House and Senate is over 90%.

Greater competition would sacrifice some of the "stability" The U.S. enjoys under the two-party monopoly.
-- But plurality rules let extreme leaders from one party control a majority and sharply change policies.

Full Rep is promoted most loudly by members of a few tiny "fringe" groups such as the Libertarian Party and the Greens. They hope PR will give them the balance of power between the two major parties, as indeed it sometimes does in countries which use PR. Voters are better served by focusing on the realistic policy options promoted by the major candidates.
-- The nation and its people are served best by giving every group its share of seats so their suggestions can be considered.

"Gridlock" is more likely when a legislature is divided among more than two parties.
-- No major democracy has had worse gridlock than the polarized two-party system of the USA in 1995.

Latin American countries have this problem when a combination of a PR legislature with an independent president results in deep gridlock (see Gary Cox, p. 59 of "Reflecting Us All, The Case for Proportional Representation", Robert Richie and Steven Hill, ed., Beacon Press, Boston, 1999.) The president's veto power is key; absent that, this gridlock can not occur.

Part of the solution, according to Cox, is tightly linking the election of the president with election of the legislature, so the president's "coattails" help give her a legislative majority and make reps seek her favor in coming campaigns. Their elections should be simultaneous and should use equally eccentric voting rules -- so IRV is usually best.

Another part of the solution is to limit the number of effective parties the president must negotiate with by limiting the number of reps elected from any district. Three-seat districts, with a local threshold of 25%, usually produce one or two reps from each of the two major parties and none from smaller parties.

The threshold can be set too high; Turkey's is ten percent. In their 2002 election nearly 50% of voters supported parties that did not win any seats because they won less than 10% of the national vote. The Islamic-linked party that won more than 360 seats in the 550-seat legislature won only 34% of the vote.

Fairy shares are for "fairy tales." Life isn't fair. Going to extremes to ensure fairness limits lives. It “dumbs down” the American people, the American economy and American culture. It ends up hurting all of us.
-- This is not a reasoned argument based on evidence; it is merely name calling, acting like the bad children at recess. Of course, labeling and name calling are common in political arguments.
A reasoned argument might assert, “The weak are not equal to the strong; the stupid are not equal to the brilliant” (ignorant/educated, poor/wealthy). But Ashley Montague defeated that argument by exposing its immorality when he observed, “It is the mark of the cultured man that he is aware of the fact that equality is an ethical and not a biological principle.” All modern democracies respect the equal right of the minority parties to cast votes. Most respect their right to have those votes count toward representation.

Hard evidence shows that countries with the best voting rules out perform other countries as measured by levels of health, education, life expectancy, infant mortality. . .  The healthiest, best educated countries use Proportional Representation. It is hard to prove cause and effect with this data; perhaps healthy, well-educated voters choose PR. But more likely PR raises funding for education and health care. Peer-reviewed research by Arend Lijphart, G. Bingham Powell and others has reached and confirmed this conclusion.

Arguments Against Single Transferable Vote

"One of the arguments I've heard against preference voting (STV and IRV) is that we already over-tax the voters by asking them to fill a plethora of public offices, the candidates for which they already know little or nothing about. On top of that, we're now proposing to ask the voters to rank several candidates for each office."
        Tony Solgard

-- Some of those who insist STV confuses voters argue more generally to limit the voters' choices and power. The two are closely linked; exercising power requires making choices.

American voters are no less able than Australians or Irish. Most voters in U.S. cities that use IRV like it.

If he wants, a voter may mark only his first choice, just the same as he does now. STV also lets a voter rank the candidates in his order of preference, something the old voting system does not allow a voter to do.

Allies of politics as usual try to foist a wild and inaccurate analogy on STV by saying transfers "give some voters 2 bites at the electoral apple." This lie is easily exposed with a visible tally:

Looking at the final count of a Tabletop Tally, a teacher can point to one of the last ballots transferred to the last winner, then to one of the first- choice ballots given to the first winner and ask, "Did this voter's ballot win more representation than that voter's ballot?" (Or, even more simply ask, "Did these voters win more representation than those voters?")

It is immediately obvious that both have won equal representation.

STV Versus Party-List PR

In open-list Proportional Representation and in STV, much of the electoral competition is between candidates of the same party. So reps have less loyalty to any party. This weakens the parties and coalitions.
-- Many voters feel this gives them more power to “throw the bums out”, or at least more control over their own parties.

James Gilmour wrote, “Among the PR systems, British politicians dislike STV specifically because of the power it gives to the voters. That's why we use those other [closed-list] systems of PR where PR was unavoidable. Here our political parties want quite unreasonable control of the whole political process. And they want elected members, at all levels of government, to be accountable primarily to their parties. STV/PR would break the parties' grip as it would make the elected members accountable to the constitu­encies of voters who elected them. Party managers here don't want free thinkers [in Parliament]. The Executive [the Prime Minister and Cabinet] does not want to be held accountable to Parliament by Parliament.”

Personality Or Policy

by Ed Broadbent MP, former leader of the federal New Democratic Party, writing that Canada's elections and government lack legitimacy.

[This argues is that, compared to party-list PR, STV makes personality more important than policy. The argument does not pertain to STV for schools, clubs or other organizations that have no parties.]

"[I]n practice, this system fails to address some important values and has negative effects on others. Even if it brings us an increase in proportionality, it comes at the cost of weakening the policy and personal cohesiveness of political parties. STV promotes an environment where the individual candidate is significantly more important than the party. In multi-member constituencies in this system, candidates compete not only with members of other parties, but also with those of their own party. Their campaigns are run more like those of individuals in our municipal elections. What has inevitably resulted, as in Ireland, is that when members of the same party battle against each other, national platforms are sacrificed for personal and local competitions, and there is little internal party cohesion. It becomes more, not less difficult to hold parties and their leaders accountable for elections platforms and promises. It weighs against party responsibility for developing nationally cohesive programs."

"Furthermore, STV does not have a good record in reflecting diversity. The only two national governments that employ this system, Ireland and Malta, have bad records when it comes to women in their legislatures, near the bottom in comparison with European countries and even worse than what Canada has today. We need a system that would improve diversity in parliament, not set it back."

[Perhaps Mr. Broadbent did not know the Australian Senate is elected by STV, and that 26 of the 76 senators are women, all elected by STV. That's a much better ratio than plurality gives Canada, the U.S. or the U.K.
STV does create more intra-party competition than list-PR. But many voters like that; it gives them more choice. The voters of Ireland have voted twice to stop the politicians from changing their election rule.]

from "The Right-Side Lock"

by Kevin Potvin. original

[This argument does not relate to STV for towns, schools, clubs or other organizations that have only one geographic district.]

"The Single Transferable Vote proposal for BC elections contains a quirk that could guarantee a permanent rural and right wing advantage in all future elections."

"Under STV, the rural ridings will have smaller numbers of seats, as few as two, and the urban ridings will have larger numbers of seats, as many as seven. As a result, the threshold for victory in rural ridings will be high-as much as 34%-but the threshold for victory in urban ridings will be low-as little as 13%. This means that for the traditionally challenging party in the rural areas-typically the left wing party-where today they get less than 30% of the vote, 34% will be required under STV. But for the traditionally challenging party in urban areas-typically the right wing party-where today they get close to 40% of the vote, only 13% will be required under STV."

"The left wing parties will remain as locked out of less-dense areas as they are now, since the right wing party will simply run two candidates in the sure knowledge both will get 34% at least after vote transfers. But right wing parties will break through in highly dense areas where they are locked out now-like in East Vancouver-because it's likely some can get at least 13% once transfers have occurred. If 13% was the threshold for victory in rural areas, it's likely left wing candidates could pick up a seat or two. But it isn't: the threshold there is three times higher as here."

[Party-list PR avoids this problem But single-winner districts create a similar bias. Housing patterns throughout the world create urban election districts where the progressive or pro-union party wins landslide victories - with many more votes than needed, excess, wasted votes. At the same time, conservative rural districts tend to create fewer wasted votes. So the rural party tends to win more seats for every million votes. (Ref) ]

How Proportional Is STV?

Republic of Ireland, STV election 1997

    Pure
PR
Actual
STV
PR 2%
threshold
PR 3%
threshold
PR 5%
threshold
Fianna Fail 39.3% 65 77 72 79 84
Fine Gael 27.9% 47 54 51 56 60
Labour 10.4% 17 17 19 21 22
Progressive
Democrats
4.7% 8 4 9 10  
Greens 2.8% 5 2 5    
Sinn Fein 2.5% 4 1 5    
Democratic Left 2.5% 4 4 5    
independents
and others
9.8% 16 7      
Gallagher index:   0.4% 7.5% 7.8% 10.6% 13.1%

Adapted by Julian West from Michael Laver (1998):
“A New Electoral System for Ireland?”, table A1.

This fractured council would make it hard to find a majority supporting any one policy on some issues. (To build a stable collation for a ruling majority would be even harder.) But enacting a policy by the Condorcet method would be quick and easy.

The next page shows some tally options for Proportional Representation. Tally options



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