Does STV “weaken” parties?
See the discussion at The Monkey Cage.
Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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12 November 2009
Planted by MSS
Planted in: STV
Does STV “weaken” parties?
See the discussion at The Monkey Cage.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (15)
Tonga, currently a monarchy in which the king and traditional chiefs wield all the power, may make the change to a parliamentary democracy. And, if the proposals of the official Constitutional and Electoral Commission are adopted, the expended elected parliament would use single transferable vote (STV).
We could certainly use another case! And this would be big progress for Tonga.
22 May 2009
An op-ed in the Irish Times decries the “inefficiency” of Irish politics. About the Irish political system, Gemma Hussey asks:
The solution? A party-list system and a smaller, unicameral parliament.
Actually, Ireland’s 166-member first chamber, the Dáil, just about nails the “right” size under the cube-root law, given a population of around 4.1 million. I’ll leave it to others to discuss the merits of STV vs. list forms of proportional representation for the 21st century.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (30)
13 May 2009
The BC-STV proposal suffered a resounding defeat in British Columbia’s referendum yesterday. The electoral reform, originally recommended by a Citizens Assembly, won only 38.2% of the vote,* a nearly 20-percentage-point drop from what it earned the first time it was on the ballot, in 2005. (Then as now, it required 60% provincewide and majorities in 60% of the districts to pass.)
One needs only to look at the results of the concurrent general election to see why FPTP retains such widespread support: The first-past-the-post system is working well for the province. FPTP, in a parliamentary form of government, is expected to produce a contest between two principal parties, one of which will win a clear governing majority. And that’s what BC got out of this election, with the incumbent Liberals winning 46% of the vote (a small increase over the 2005 election) to the New Democrats’ 42.1%. The Liberal party’s strong plurality translates into an even stronger majority of seats–49 (57.6%)–just as is expected from FPTP.
That the STV proposal managed a majority in the 2005 referendum is likely attributable to the fresh memories of how a FPTP parliamentary system can fail to do what is expected of it. Two elections prior to that, it had produced a plurality reversal (NDP seat majority despite Liberal vote plurality), while in 2001, the Liberals swept almost every seat, depriving parliament of an opposition presence.
The 2009 election represents the second consecutive return to normal performance after those two anomalies. Presumably, roughly three fifths of BC voters are relieved that they had the opportunity to revisit their yes-but-no outcome of four years ago, and cast a loud-and-clear vote against abandoning their British electoral heritage.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (22)
10 May 2009
I find it quite striking that the argument submitted by the campaign to defeat British Columbia’s referendum on adopting STV (and posted alongside the ‘yes’ at CBC) does not address the inter-party dimension. That is, it does not attack STV on the grounds that it would eliminate (or reduce) the tendency towards single-party governments or allow “extreme” parties into the legislative assembly.
In fact, the argument against STV is almost entirely directed at the intra-party dimension, that is the nature of the parties and the extent of individual legislator accountability one would get, buttressed by claims about the Irish experience. The core of the intraparty attack is:
Attacking the “vote management” incentives STV gives parties is a very smart strategy, as is arguing that members will be less “accountable” to local constituents.
Before the quoted passage, there is the usual line of attack on the alleged complexity of voting and vote-counting under STV, including a rather disingenuous claim about how transfers work. Rather remarkably, this attack is buttressed by a link to a video made by the Citizens Assembly that recommended the system.
Nowhere are any inter-party arguments invoked. Indeed,
The Green Party, currently not in the legislature due to FPTP, is also invoked:
(Of course, in the meantime, Ireland’s Green Party has become a member of a coalition cabinet–something that would not happen with FPTP, even if it might plausibly have happened earlier or with greater strength under MMP.)
By contrast, the ‘yes’ argument is almost entirely based upon the inter-party dimension (a preference for not having majorities that are manufactured by FPTP), as well as an appeal to BC voters to establish their province as “the foremost laboratory of electoral reform in Canada.” Their argument even acknowledges the “too complicated” objection to STV (thereby violating one of the principles of framing an argument). It invokes the majority vote in 2005 in favor of the proposal,” essentially admitting that vote was based on low information!
While I would certainly vote ‘yes’ were I voting in BC, I have to give the ‘no’ side the credit for a much stronger argument. They attack STV where it is most vulnerable, rather than attempt to defend FPTP and manufactured majorities. And the use of the Citizens Assembly video looks like a master stroke. Meanwhile, the ‘yes’ side fails to even mention the process by which ordinary citizens crafted the proposal, which was allegedly a selling point last time around.**
** Is deliberative democracy dead?
Propagation: Seeds & scions (7)
03 May 2009
British Columbia is now just over a week away from its (second) referendum on the proposal to change to single transferable vote for future provincial legislative assembly elections. The referendum will be concurrent with the election to the next provincial assembly, by FPTP, at which the Liberals will be seeking a third term. The voting takes place on 12 May.
The election race could be tightening, with a recent poll putting the Liberals on only 42%, the NDP at 39%, and the Greens 13%.
If the race is (at least) that tight between the top two parties, and the Greens are that strong, just about any outcome is possible, given the past history of this province’s FPTP but multiparty elections–the history that initially put electoral reform on the map over the past decade. In fact, the item just linked includes a section about how the poll is an “echo [of the] B.C. Liberals’ 1996 defeat.” In that year the NDP won its most recent assembly majority despite the Liberals’ having won their first-ever voting plurality.
The referendum requires 60% to pass, plus majorities in 60% of the provincial ridings (electoral districts). Sixty percent of votes is probably at least 20 percentage points more than it would take either party to win 60% of ridings, depending on margins and geographical distribution of the vote.
I have addressed many of these issues in past B.C. plantings.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (13)
30 April 2009
US political blogger Matthew Yglesias has suggested single transferable vote as ” one solution to polarization” in the US Congress.
I would note that his specific suggestion that New York City could form a single 13-seat district might not be the best way to sell STV. But perhaps one should not quibble with such details, important though they are, at this point.
I did not look at many of the comments (55 at last check), but I did notice that the first comment advocates expanding the size of the House (as an alternative, but why pick just one of these?), and another makes the all-too-common mistake of conflating the increased district magnitude of PR with “at large” plurality (with reference to such a provision in the Puerto Rican legislature).
And at least one of the comments mentions the looming referendum on STV in British Columbia.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (7)
29 August 2008
As Jack notes at The Democratic Piece, an initiative to adopt the single transferable vote for Cincinnati’s city council has qualified for this November’s election.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (6)
27 June 2008
Via an e-mail from Californians for Electoral Reform:
And on the off chance that anyone reading this could attend, CFER adds:
Other CFER news, from a separate message regarding the organization’s recent annual meeting:
12 May 2008
Outgoing London mayor Ken Livingstone in the Guardian:
Seen at Making Votes Count.
05 May 2008
My various questions have been answered by the propagators. Thanks!
As you likely know by now, London held mayoral and assembly elections over the weekend. “Red Ken” Livingstone was denied a third term as mayor, defeated by Boris Johnson of the Conservative party.
The mayor is elected by one of the single-winner ranked-choice voting methods, known variously as the “contingent vote” or the “supplementary vote.” Voters may give a second as well as first preference.1 If no candidate has a majority of first preferences, all candidates other than the top two in first preferences are eliminated, and the excluded candidates’ voters’ second preferences are taken into account. Thus this rule is really the one that most deserves the name “instant runoff” that is often used in the USA for any of the various majoritarian ranked-choice systems: it literally mimics a top-two runoff in one round of voting.
The difference with an actual two-round runoff is that voters do not actually know the top two (in first preferences) when they give their second preferences. In races with two clear leading candidates before the voting begins, this is not a major flaw, though in a race among three or more candidates without clarity about which two are in the lead, it is a very big flaw. Of course, the difference with the other system often known as “instant runoff,” the alternative vote, is that under the latter, candidates are sequentially eliminated and their voters’ next preferences transferred, until one of the remaining candidates crosses the 50%+1 victory threshold.
A question for reformers, especially Americans: Is this distinction between the alternative vote and the contingent/supplementary vote understood in reform circles? If not, should it be?
Now back to London. The Guardian shows the two counts that led to Johnson’s winning the majority. He led at the first count, 43.2% to 37%. Brian Paddick of the Liberal Democratic party came in third with 9.8%. Sian Brady of the Greens was next with 3.2% and Richard Barnbrook of the BNP won 2.9%. There were five other candidates. After the elimination of the candidates other than Johnson and Livingstone, Johnson wound up with 53.2%.
Malcom Clark, quoting from London Elects, notes why some second preferences counted and others did not:
The London Assembly is elected by
Malcolm has a whole series of posts about the elections at Make My Vote Count.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (18)
10 March 2008
Update: See Bancki’s comment regarding preference votes and the add-on seats, which will keep Nationalists in power.
Update 2: And Espen adds detail on the perverse effects of the “bonus” system, its anti-green bias, and a change in the way the bonus seats are allocated that was effective with this election.
The results posted at Times of Malta show the incumbent Nationalists with 49.34% of the vote (I assume that means first-preference votes) and the Labor party with 48.79%. I do not see a page with seats, but Adam Carr is reporting that the current seat count reverses the plurality, with Labor ahead, 32-31. However, two seats remain to be called and apparently are both expected to go to the Nationalists.
Malta has some add-on seats that are given to the party with the vote plurality (i.e. first-preference votes) if it has not won a plurality of seats in the district counts.
Lots of detail (that I do not have time to wade through) at the Times of Malta special page on the election.
There is an item on the “crucial role of the president.” Yes, even those “mostly ceremonial” presidents in parliamentary systems can have crucial roles around election time.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (10)
25 November 2007
Labor, as expected, has won with a projected 88 seats to the incumbent Coalition’s projected 60 in the House of Representatives. On first preference votes, Labor beat Liberal+National (the main components of the ‘Coalition’), 44.0% to 41.8%. The third largest party was Greens, on 7.6%. Of course, the Greens won no seats in the House, but thanks to the use of the alternative vote (i.e. single transferable vote in single-seat districts, or “instant runoff”), their voters’ second preferences may have helped Labor in some marginal seats1 Family First was the next largest party, with 1.9% of the first-preference vote (and no seats).
This is a swing of 22 seats out of 1502, and a very cool interactive map lets you see where these districts are. It is the lower house that determines the government, and thus Kevin Rudd of the Labor party will be Prime Minister, with a large majority in the House of Representatives.
But what is really interesting is the Senate. Australia’s Senate is one of the more powerful upper houses of any federal parliamentary system. It is elected by single transferable vote, with six seats at stake in each state (and 2 per territory). However, most voters tick an “above the line vote” that essentially converts it into a “transferable closed list” PR system. Votes above the line for party tickets that do not elect any candidates, as well as votes remaining for a ticket after it has elected candidates but does not have enough left over to elect another, get transferred in an order determined by the party.3
The use of STV and the posting of detailed results mean that the voters, and their elected representatives and senators, can learn just how the winning electoral coalitions were formed, for any who did not win on first-preference votes alone. The posted results show, in each stage of the count, how the votes were transferred from party to party to produce the final result. These transfers in each state’s senate election can determine the incentives of elected senators to follow their national party leadership or to deviate form the party line, as some senators may owe their election to transfers from voters for parties closer to the other main national bloc. (However, I am not sure how common that is in practice; I did not parse the preference transfers, except for the Greens, as noted below.) It is not clear–at least to me–whether Rudd’s government will be able to have effective control of the Senate. However, it is clear that the method of electing the Australian Senate is a potential model that should be looked at in the USA, as it combines state representation with much greater responsiveness to the federation-wide electorate than is the case with the US Senate.
Of the 40 seats at stake in the Senate, preliminary results posted by ABC suggest that Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition each won 18. The Greens won three,4 Family First none, and one “other” won a seat. The “other” is independent Nick Xenophon, who won the third of six seats in South Australia. He won the seat on a full quota. In the comments below, JoffrÃ© identifies Xenophon as a Labor ally on some issues, but also right-wing on others (which presumably explains why he ran as an independent).5
Of the 36 continuing seats, Labor holds 14 to the Liberal/National Coalition’s 19, Greens 2 and Family First 1. Add them up, and the Coalition still has a plurality, but not a majority: 37-32. The Greens five brings the broad progressive bloc to parity, with the continuing Family First senator and Xenophon having the swing votes. Now, that is an interesting result! I hope a reader can tell us whether this means the opposition will continue effective control of the upper house, or whether the new Labor government will be able to do so. (Of course, these results are preliminary, and even one seat swinging on final results could make a big difference!)
The Australian Senate is a good example of the ability of a federal chamber to combine at once the federalist principle of states’ representation with the democratic principle of responsiveness to the national electorate on whose behalf the federal legislature ultimately makes binding law. Like the US Senate, Australia’s represents the states equally (territories and the capital district have representation, but not at parity). Very much unlike the US Senate, national partisan vote swings are reasonably well reflected in the body. The difference, of course, is that the PR system means even the minority in every state is represented. Additionally, half the body, including seats in every state/territory, is elected at each election, instead of one seat in just around a third of the states at each election in the USA.
In other words, one need not return to the original Madisonian proposal for the US Senate (seats from each state in proportion to its population) in order to represent the national electorate within a federal context. A larger body with elections in all states by a non-plurality formula would preserve the equal representation of each state while making the body relatively more accountable to the federation for whom it makes laws.
We Americans could learn from our friends Down Under.
I will leave it to my Australian readers or others more knowledgeable about that country’s politics to inform us about the extent to which the Australian Senate really does inject state-specific interests into national policy making, as well as what the close result means for the ability of the incoming Labor government to work with the Senate.
Finally, thanks to Tom Round for his several informative comments to Friday’s planting ahead of the election result.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (71)
23 November 2007
Australia’s general election is 24 November. The race has tightened during the campaign, according to the final Newspoll:
I will shortly be off line till some time Sunday, my time. So I will leave this as an open thread for anyone following the results.
In addition to this thread, there have continued to be comments regarding the election in previous threads (including “The time has come”) on Australia and STV. See “propagation” on the right sidebar for the latest contributions.
As always, thanks to my readers in (or interested in) Australia for keeping us up to date.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (7)
20 November 2007
“Christians cast first stone” is the title of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about negotiations for preference exchanges before Australia’s general elections this Saturday.
Relations have soured between two small parties, Family First and the Christian Democrats, and the incumbent Prime Minister, John Howard (Liberal party) took part in the discussions. (He needs all the vote transfers he can muster–and then some.)
The Liberty and Democracy Party “supports voluntary euthanasia” and “opposes regulation of gun ownership and anti-smoking laws in restaurants, pubs and clubs. It supports legal recreational use of marijuana by adults.”
Interesting set of small parties Down Under!
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