Evolving Toward StabilityOver 200 years ago, framers of the U.S. constitution worried about policy flip flops and so gave their Senate overlapping terms to smooth changes. On a large council, overlapping terms and ensemble rules can work together for stability.
An ensemble legislature can function beside an independent executive branch, such as the American president and cabinet, or with executive officers selected by the legislature, as are most prime ministers of parliamentary governments.
Germany's 1949 combination of party-list PR and single-winner districts is almost an ensemble rule but: Most single-winner districts are not huge and heterogeneous. They use a plurality rule so reps usually come from and give loyalty to 1 of the 2 large moderate parties not a more central party. The biggest party almost always forms a ruling majority with a minor party -- excluding the second largest party from policy making.
The page on List PR explained that the first candidate on a list gets the first seat her party wins and that party leaders usually write the lists, so they have immense power over junior politicians and voters. Public, intra-party competition is therefore rare under list PR. A rep who co-operates with another party risks losing his position on his party's list. Therefore Condorcet reps, in an ensemble with List PR reps, may have to wait for proposals from the major parties. STV reps may be more independent. Under LERa, central reps can make proposals and entice STV reps to join.
The system used in Germany and New Zealand is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) because it mixes district reps with party list reps. A voter casts 2 ballots, 1 for a district rep and 1 for a party list. Seats won in district elections count toward a party's share of the parliament. If the party's share of the PR votes equals 30 seats and district elections gave them only 10 seats, they fill another 20 seats with the top 20 people on the party list for a total of 30 seats.
District reps hold 46% of the seats in Hungary, 50% in Germany and New Zealand. That is higher than necessary; if most districts elected centrists, the ruling majority might be centrist, not inclusive. All 3 countries use the 5% threshold to exclude very small parties from the PR seats.
A parallel voting system also uses list PR and single-winner districts but does not count district reps toward a party's share of the PR seats. If the party's share of the PR votes equals 30 seats and district elections gave them 10 seats, they fill another 30 seats with people on the party list for a total of 40 seats.
Hungary's election system is similar to Germany's, but with no link between the single-member district seats and national list-PR seats. Hungary's election law calls for a runoff in a district where no one gets a majority. The runoff rule is not the best but it is better than plurality for electing Condorcet winners. Unfortunately the single-winner districts are not huge and heterogeneous -- a small, conservative district will return a member of a conservative party who is near the political center of that district but not of Hungary as a whole.
Azerbaijan and Georgia use parallel systems in which district seats are 20% and 33% respectively. Both use the runoff rule for district elections. I don't know whether their districts are politically heterogeneous. Both are former Soviet states still building the democratic norms for fair elections and civil society. Given that setting, it will be some years before we can evaluate the effects of their systems.
A parallel system with Condorcet's rule would act like LERb, giving extra seats to centrists. MMP with Condorcet's rule would act more like LERa; it would not give extra seats to a central party. But a voter could split his 2 ballots, giving his PR vote to central party C and his Condorcet preference to a candidate from central party B. Parties and voters can do that now under MMP but 1) no party has split itself in two, and 2) few voters split their ballots between parties that often join together for a coalition government.
Sabbatical TermA sabbatical term for reps can increase competition. It leads current reps to run against former reps. This is likely to produce clear campaigns with strong choices for voters: winner against winner and record against record. Such similar candidates would split their support. So IRV is needed to elect a majority winner with a strong mandate.
In some single winner districts, sabbatical terms could let a very powerful politician endorse her seat to a protégé for 1 term, then take it back for several terms. When the leader retires, the protégé may expect to receive the nomination. In districts with such strong party discipline, a plain term limit might increase competition more:  years in 1 office, then run for another office.
Sabbaticals would not work as well with list PR. Those reps could rotate off the list to work in a party job for a term, then rotate back onto the list.
Such party discipline may be harder to maintain in a multi-winner STV district because the incumbent protégé can run again without appearing to run specifically against the mentor. Or the mentor may want to help the protégé run again to replace a rival party leader. Either way, the elections become more competitive than without sabbaticals.
Nominating a Board of DirectorsIt is often hard to find members with the time and skill to serve on a board of directors. Many volunteer groups have to recruit (beg) for board candidates. An organization may form a leadership or nominations committee whose job is developing prospects to chair other committees and eventually serve on the board. This committee ought to represent the whole organization in order to have a good chance of recruiting an inclusive board. Serving on the nominations committee is not a large time commitment compared to serving on the board. So it is fairly easy to get candidates for the nominations committee and elect a few by an ensemble rule.
Some members of an organization I work with do not want competitive elections for their board — to offer that sacrifice and be rejected by voters is just too dispiriting. The group does elect its nominations committee. The committee may find a handful of members willing to serve on the board, then vote by STV or LER to nominate 3 candidates for the 3 open board seats. The membership then ratifies that slate by an up or down vote. Many of us feel it is awkward and undemocratic to have this intermediate step between the members and their board. But a committee to recruit and develop leaders is essential — and its secret deliberation and vote might minimize hurt feelings.
|Electoral Systems||Legislative Systems|
Condorcet + STV
Notes & quotes