The 100-member Convention strongly favors a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, with 69% preferring it over other options. A “proportional list system”–not clear whether open or closed was specified–wins 29% support, and a paltry 3% would like FPTP. (And, yes, those numbers sum to more than 100.)
The news story does not offer information on preferences for keeping the current system vs. change, either in general or any specific replacement system. It does note that there will be a further round of deliberations next month on the exact model that the Convention will recommend.
Ireland is, of course, the main model we have of Single Transferable Vote (STV). MMP and STV are usually the two models most preferred by reform activists (at least in current FPTP jurisdictions) and by political science expert in electoral systems. It is very interesting to see an Irish process possibly leading to STV vs. MMP as choices for the country.
The Irish Times states that “Ireland is now one of the few parliamentary democracies in which members of parliament are not allowed free votes on issues of conscience.” It cites many cases of free votes (also known as “conscience votes”) on issues such as homosexuality law reform, gambling, abortion, and numerous other matters in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Leaving aside the technicality that Ireland can be classified as semi-presidential–the presidency really is weak enough that we can call it parliamentary–is it possible that the use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect the Dail (parliament’s first chamber) is a factor?
The editorial correctly notes that such votes occur “where views differ strongly within parliamentary parties”. What might STV have to do with this? It would be a whole lot more dangerous for party leadership to open up its divisions to be recorded on the floor in a system where the members could then compete for votes on precisely these internal divisions.
Whatever the underlying cause in variation in the use of free/conscience votes, one thing is certain: such votes are called when the government wants them. This could be when it prefers not to be held collectively accountable for some issue (let it pass but don’t call it your program), or when the government favors the passage of some measure that enjoys majority support in parliament but divides its own caucus (be sure it passes, but let your MPs claim credit for having tried to stop it). In other words, when there is conflict between the individual interests of MPs and their parties’ collective interests. If the electoral system reinforces such conflicts–as STV surely does, but FPTP, MMP, and closed-list PR do not–then we might expect parties, when in government, to do what they can to keep such conflicts from spilling into the open.
In any case, the usual agenda control of parliamentary cabinets means that we can understand these votes only by understanding governing parties’ decision calculus. What are the conditions under which free votes are seen as desirable or risky by those who decide to apply, or not, the government whip on a vote?
I had missed most of the following discussion earlier, and as it occurred in a thread on Lower Saxony, it could easily have been missed by others as well.
I am going to reproduce two comments that describe interesting ideas for coping with thresholds.
there’s no reason you couldn’t make thresholds less discontinuous, by combining them with preferential votes.
The mechanics would be a tweaked STV, with the following differences:
1. Because of large district magnitude, a full preferential vote for all candidates would be impractical. Instead voters would list parties in order of preference, with the intraparty order being fixed as in List-PR.
2. To effect a threshold of T seats, a party would not be awarded its first seat until it has accumulated T quotas.
Vasi, that sounds essentially like the NSW Legislative Council electoral system.
The election is by STV, with 21 vacancies at an election. One has the option of either voting below the line, by ranking at least 15 candidates, or voting above the line, by voting for one or more party tickets. Unlike federal Senate elections, voting for a party’s ticket does not result in a vote for a preset preference ranking of every candidate; instead, it only ranks the candidates of that party, in the order they appear on the ballot paper. Voters have the option of marking multiple parties above the line, unlike federal Senate elections. So, for instance, the Labor how-to-vote cards in the last election suggested that their supporters vote 1 Labor, 2 Greens above the line. That means they essentially ranked every Labor candidate, followed by every Greens candidate, and if all of them are elected or excluded, their ballot is exhausted.
The Australian group voting ticket essentially operates like closed-list PR, with the exception of in very large elections. The NSW Legislative Council used to use the same ticket style system that the federal Senate uses, but after the 1999 election resulted in a ballot paper the size of a tablecloth (almost 1 sq. m), and a candidate from the “Outdoor Recreation Party” got elected with 8,000 first preference votes (something like 5% of a quota), they changed the group-ticket system to the single party ticket system now in place.
Stephane Dion, the former Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada, also is advocating a version of party-preferential voting. though in ridings which would be only 3-5 seats (1 seat by AV in the territories). In a 4-seat riding, the threshold would be 25% + 1 vote. If all remaining parties are above the threshold, seats are awarded to them by largest remainder (I believe). If there are any parties remaining below the threshold, the party with the least votes is eliminated and their supporters votes transferred to their highest remaining preference. His system is OLPR, with each voter able to cast a preference vote for one candidate of his first-preference party.
I think the most proportional system possible would be party-preferential with a low threshold and a large district magnitude (the most proportional would obviously be a single national district). You could either exclude parties one-by-one (hopefully with block exclusions) until every party remaining was above the threshold, then distribute seats. Otherwise you could simply exclude all parties below the threshold and distribute their voters’ preferences to remaining parties. It avoids the huge numbers of voters wasting their votes by being below the thresold; for instance, even with a relatively low threshold of 3%, 19% of the valid votes in the May 2012 Greek election were cast for parties below the threshold. In this system, the only voters who do not have either a first preference or a transfer vote elect an MP are those who deliberately choose not to rank any parties that make it into parliament.
I also think a novel way to build a stronger government while remaining representative of votes would be to use preferential ballots, but with multiple thresholds. In a 120 seat legislature, 60 seats could be awarded to those parties above 2%, with voters below the threshold transferring to their highest placed remaining party. Then a further 30 seats could be given to those parties above 5% (including transferred votes), then a further 20 seats to those parties above 10%, and then the final 10 seats to the party which wins a majority by transfers. This means that even voters who vote below the threshold are represented, and parties with a decent amount of support have representatives in parliament, just not proportionally to their first-preference votes. You also get larger parties at the top, making a stable government more likely, but unlike supplemental member, or the Italian/Greek plurality-winner top up system, the larger bloc is distributed based on all voters’ preferences, retaining a much larger degree of proportionality than other semi-proportional systems.
I am not necessarily endorsing this concept, although I do find it very interesting. I would be interested in further discussion.
The thread has a lot of other interesting comments on the relationship of thresholds to democratic theory (particularly the last several comments posted as of 4 February). I re-posted the two comments above simply because they refer to proposals for an alternative way of coping with thresholds in electoral-system design.
The Australian Capital Territory, which possibly has the worst acronym in the known universe, (the ‘ACT Electoral Act’ is an example that springs to mind) is having a general election on 20 October. There are 2 districts with magnitude 5 and one with magnitude 7. The electoral system is Hare-Clark STV.
The form of government is not Westminster. The legislative assembly elects and dismisses the chief minister directly.
I know I thought this about the Northern Territory and I was wrong, but this may end the 2 year run of unbroken Labor electoral losses.
And now that we know all about this minuscule election, the subject of capital districts is so chaotic that Wikipedia does not even manage a unified page on the topic.
The following is a guest-post by Alan Renwick, Professor at the University of Reading in the UK. It originally appeared at the Reading Politics blog.
I asked Alan if I could reproduce this essay here at F&V, figuring it would be of interest to this community.
All of what follows is by Alan. I will also copy over a comment that I originally posted at Reading Politics.
Electing the House of Lords: Should there be above-the-line voting? Alan Renwick
The parliamentary select committee that has been examining the government’s proposals for reform of the House of Lords will be publishing its report in a couple of weeks’ time. Rumour has it that they want an electoral system different from the one proposed by the government. Nick Clegg and colleagues argue that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) form of proportional representation should be used. But the committee has been interested in finding a system that will give voters a choice between voting for individual candidates and for a single party ticket (see the transcript of their oral evidence session last December, when the quizzed Iain McLean and me on this subject). According to the Guardian, the committee is going to recommend the form of STV used in many Australian elections, where voters can vote ‘above the line’ for a party or ‘below the line’ for individual candidates.
The Electoral Reform Society is crying foul over this. Calling the proposals a ‘dog’s breakfast’, they say that STV with above-the-line voting will return power to the parties, rather than allowing voters to determine who gets elected.
What should dispassionate observers make of this? I think three questions need to be considered. First, how much power would the inclusion of a party voting option give to parties and to voters? Second, how much power should parties and voters have in determining which candidates are elected? Third, are there any other considerations that we should take into account before deciding whether we think that possibility of above-the-line voting should be welcomed? Most of this rather lengthy (sorry) post will focus on the first of these questions; I’ll say a little about the other two at the end.
Earlier this week, I reported the polling-place correlations of votes for various options in the New Zealand electoral-system referendum of 2011.
An analysis of the split-voting statistics, as compiled by the Electoral Commission, offers another window on the same questions addressed there. The advantage of these data is that they are based on the Commission’s examination of individual ballot papers, as votes in the two parts of the referendum were cast on a common ballot.1
As we already knew, most voters who voted to “Keep” MMP (Part A of the ballot) did not vote at all on Part B, where they could select among several potential replacement systems. In fact, 54.7% of “Keep” voters cast “informal” ballots (meaning blank or invalid).
What is most striking is that of those who cast a vote in Part B, a very large plurality voted for the old First Past the Post (FPTP or FPP) system. The percentage of valid Part B votes for FPTP cast by those who voted in Part A to keep MMP was 40.4%! I wonder how many of these were “insincere” votes, by voters who assumed that FPTP could never defeat MMP in the follow-up referendum that would have happened in 2014 if a majority had voted for change in Part A.
The next most popular choice for “keep” voters was STV, with 24.0%. This, of course, makes sense. Voters who prefer proportional representation ought to rank STV and MMP one after the other as their sincerely preferred choices among the systems on offer.
For third place among “keep” voters who chose any system in Part B, “Supplementary Member” actually edged out “Preferential Voting”, 18.7% to 16.9%. The choice here is an interesting one, as it indicates a preference for any sort of mixed-member system–Supplementary Member is actually a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system–over a return to all single-seat districts with ranked-choice ballots. (Preferential Vote = Alternative Vote or Instant Runoff.) In terms of sincere voting, it is not straightforward which of these “should be” preferred by voters whose first choice is MMP.
On the one hand, MMM (SM) retains a tier of nationwide proportional seats, but these would cease to be compensatory (and, under the specific proposal, there would have been many fewer of them). On the other hand, while PV (AV) abolishes all party-list seats, it gives voters for a losing party in a district the potential of determining on preferences which of the big parties wins the seat. Both systems would likely produce majority governments frequently, but those majorities and the campaigns that produced them would have been of a different character.
As for the “change” voters, there are no surprises. Only 3.7% did not cast a valid vote in Part B. Of the remaining voters who did cast a valid vote, just under half (49.8%) voted to go back to FPTP, and 28.0% voted for MMM (SM).
In the earlier correlation analysis of polling place results, I noted the lack of correlation between the vote for Part A and the vote for STV. As we saw above, 24.0% of “Keep MMP” voted for STV, and so did 12.4% of the “Change” voters (for whom STV came in third place, ahead of PV/AV). When the informal votes are included in the denominator, the percentages drop to 10.9% and 11.9%, strikingly close. It is not possible to say for sure from the available data, but maybe STV was a Condorcet winner in the wider electorate, albeit not an especially popular one overall. That would make some sense, as it provides the compromise features of all members being elected in local districts, yet offering a considerable degree of proportionality.
In any case, MMP is now clearly confirmed as the New Zealand electoral system, and so discussion shifts to the formal review of MMP, and how the system might be “improved”.
The same page at the Electoral Commission carries out the split-ballot analysis in each district, although not in each polling place. [↩]
Ireland has its presidential election today. The president is elected by an “instant runoff”–specifically, the same Single Transferable Vote system that is used for the Irish parliament, but given a single seat, the quota for election is 50%+1. Of course, this means it’s the Alterative Vote, electing the first candidate to reach a majority on either first preferences or transferred lower preferences of voters whose higher-preferred candidates have been eliminated from the count.
TODAY, FOR only the second time since 1938, a presidential election will ultimately be determined by the second, third and fourth preferences cast by voters…
This year, unless the polls are seriously wrong, no candidate is likely to be within 10 percentage points of a simple majority on the first count. The election, with seven in the race spread out the way they appear to be, is certain to go to a second, probably a third, and possibly even fourth or fifth counts.
The Irish presidency is weak, within a premier-presidential system that is almost parliamentary. Yet I wonder if the current political upheaval could lead to a president asserting more influence for the office.
While the results of some constituencies are not yet complete, the general shape of the Irish result is known.
Elections Ireland.org compares seats so far to seats at the last election. Out of 153 seats called thus far, it shows the top four parties as follows:
Fianna Fail 18 (-60)
Fine Gael 70 (+19)
Labour 36 (+16)
Sinn Fein 13 (+9)
Independents and others will have 14 seats, up by 8.
As expected, quite a debacle for Fianna Fail. Preliminary results show Fine Gael with 36.1% of the first-preference vote (up 8.8 on 2007), Labour on 19.4% (+9.3). Fianna Fail has fallen to 17.4% (from 41.5%!).
Independents combined for 12.6% (almost double last time). The Greens, who were coalition partners to Fianna Fail in the outgoing government, saw their vote fall from 4.6% to 1.8%, will not win a seat.
At the Political Reform blog, Eoin O’Malley poses the question of whether Labour should join a coalition (as expected) or support a minority Fine Gael cabinet.
A sampling of the argument:
By entering government Labour will stunt its own growth and the potential development of a left-right divide in Irish politics. If it were to stay in opposition it would displace Fianna Fáil as the main opposition party. …
…staying in opposition would protect Labour’s left flank. In going into government Labour will be opposed vigorously by a young, energetic and largely articulate Sinn Féin and ULA.
The Labour leadership will no doubt claim that it does not want to go into government but that the national interest demands it. … But it’s not even that clear that it is in the national interest to enter government.
Ireland, of course, is the land of the Single Transferable Vote (STV).
Indications are that turnout is high.
The Fianna Fail party, which has led the government during the current financial crisis, is expected to fall to third place. How often does a governing party in a democracy fall to third place? Not too often. Canada 1993, when the Progressive Conservatives fell to fifth place, with only 2 seats, must be the record.
Fianna Fail, which won 42% in the 2007 election, has been polling at around 15%. So, in terms of votes, if not seats, the party could challenge the Canadian record (where Conservatives fell from 43% to 16%).
Regarding the Donegal South-West by-election, thejournal.ie has this tidbit:
Polling stations opened at 7am this [Thursday] morning and remain open until 10pm tonight – though voters on Donegal’s islands voted on Monday, as is traditional, to account for any difficulty in bringing the votes to land.
The count begins at 9:00 a.m. Friday, Irish time.
The Sinn Fein candidate, Pearse Doherty, is expected to win rather easily.
A Red C poll commissioned by Paddy Power two weeks ago showed Doherty commanding a massive lead in the opinion polls, with 40% of respondents saying they were likely to give him their first preference vote, while another 17% said he would receive their second preference.
The electoral system, of course, is single transferable vote. But this election is for one seat, which means the system reduces to the alternative vote, where the quota to win the seat is 50% + 1.
Iceland will have a Constitutional Assembly “for the purpose of reviewing the Constitution of the Republic.” It will be elected by single transferable vote (STV), in a single national district with a magnitude of 25. The election will be 27 November.
The STV system will include a gender-representation provision:
There is a 40% sex-balance rule that is to be applied after the STV-PR election for the 25 places has been completed. If candidates of either sex do not have at least 10 of the 25 seats (“two-fifths”), additional seats will be allocated to the under-represented sex to bring representation of that sex up to “two-fifths”, subject to a limit of six additional seats. These additional seats would be allocated to the required number of the last eliminated candidates of the under-represented sex.
See more at the Irish Political Reform blog. And thanks to Tom Round for pointing this out in another thread.
Iceland’s M=25 is likely a record for size of an STV constituency.
Australia’s Labor and Green parties have reached a support agreement. The Greens won their first House of Representatives seat at the recent election. One seat, out of 150, on over 11% of first-preference votes.
One of the provisions of the agreement is that Green Senator Bob Brown will reintroduce as a Private Members Bill the Commonwealth Electoral (Above-the-Line Voting) Amendment Bill 2008. The Labor party “will consider” the bill. Among other provisions, this bill would allow voters who vote for a party ticket in Senate elections, rather than rank their preferences across all candidates running, to rank the parties in order of preference.
The agreement also includes several proposed reforms to parliamentary procedure, including guaranteeing minor parties the right to ask questions of the Prime Minister no later than the sixth question during Question Time. It further stipulates that the parties acknowledge that any of the Green’s policies for the 2010 election can be brought forward for discussion in parliament. Greens will receive Treasury briefings. There will be a “well resourced Climate Change Committee.”
All in all, a very fine agreement. There is just one catch: the Labor and Green parties remain short of a majority in the House by three seats. There are four independents, whose votes could still give the Coalition (of Liberals and Nationals) a majority if they choose to swing that direction.
The Labor and Green parties appear to have combined for over 49% of the first-preference votes, compared to around 44% for the Coalition. Yet Labor and Greens have just under 49% of the seats, despite the use of a “majoritarian” electoral system (and one that is often taken as a model here in the USA), and despite the fact that the electoral swing from Labor to the Greens was greater than that to the Coalition.
(All claims about the partisan breakdown of first-preference votes need to be taken cautiously until all votes are counted, but the pattern of swing is clear.)
At least for now, a “contentious” proposal to add about 15 list seats to Ireland’s single transferable vote system has been left out of the main governing opposition party’s ambitious proposals for political reform. (See Irish Times for full story and politicalreformireland.ie for periodic updates and links.)
On a theme that we discuss here from time to time, the third party in Malta (Democratic Alternative) is proposing a compensatory element to the country’s single transferable vote system.
we are proposing a double threshold, with a district quota of 16.6% that would allow an individual to be elected on her/his own steam, and a national quota with a threshold of 2 quotas for a party to be represented in parliament.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4