Labour members of the UK House of Lords narrowly failed to delay the bill to call a referendum on the Alternative Vote for May, 2011. The vote was 224-210 to reject a proposal to refer the bill to a committee for further discussion (i.e. stalling).
The bill would set the referendum for the same date as the elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and some local councils. Labour opposition stems largely from the linkage of the AV referendum to a review of constituency boundaries, which currently favor Labour.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently be able to muster a majority of his diplomatic-security cabinet to approve an additional 90-day freeze on West Bank settlement construction in exchange for an incentive package from the United States.
But Netanyahu’s majority will be a razor-thin one, made possible only by Shas ministers’ agreement to either abstain or absent themselves from the vote.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said yesterday that his party would take this step “if it is made clear in a letter from the president of the United States that construction will take place in Jerusalem immediately, and that after 90 days, it will be possible to build everywhere, without restrictions.”
The story goes on to note that the security cabinet’s vote is likely to be 7-6, with the six members from the PM’s party, Likud, divided 3-3.
This vote is as good a window as any of the difficulty Netanyahu faces on these matters, independently of whatever his own preference may be.
Adam Bonica has posted some must-see graphs at Ideological Cartography. The graphs really drive home just how polarized the new US House of Representatives will be. The mean Democrat and mean Republican (and I suppose “mean” has both meanings here!) will be farther apart than any recent House, and the median of the entire House will be much more to the right than any in the past–notably more than the one elected in 1994. This follows the House elected in 2006, which was by far the most left-leaning House we have seen.
Another of Bonica’s graphs shows the extent to which entering Republicans are heavily skewed right. Exiting Democrats were less concentrated at any ideological position within their party, but the ranks of the moderates are going to be notably thinner.
Bonica concludes that “The polarization resulting from the 2010 Midterms is fundamentally different and more worrisome than what had preceded it.” Worrisome indeed.
Frequent commenter Bancki noted the following about the Jordanian election of this past week:
When you think you’ve seen it all, Jordan invented a new hybrid electoral system: SNTV with virtual sub-districts: on the one hand, every voter has only one vote for one candidate in his multi-member-district (SNTV), but on the other hand, the district is divided in as many ‘virtual sub-districts’ as there are seats and every candidate stands in the sub-district of his choice. Not the M highest vote-getters are elected (SNTV), but the winner in every sub-district.
I have no idea why this sub-district complexity was added (who enacted the electoral law change anyway?), but it seems to me it’s more difficult (compared with simple SNTV) for a well-organised minority (say worth a Droop quota) to get a candidate elected: if their opponents know in which sub-district the minority concentrates its votes, the majority can overrun the concentrated minority in that sub-district, while winning on low numbers in other (less contested) sub-districts.
Even though someone who was following the Jordanian election closely sent me a detailed description which I was traveling this past summer (and which I subsequently lost), I do not understand this odd twist, either. Maybe someone can enlighten us. The NDI report is not exactly clear on this point. For example:
The new law preserved the single, non-transferrable vote system, which has been controversial in Jordan as some argue that the system favors tribal voting over the development of political parties. It also increased the number of seats in the lower house from 110 to 120, adding four seats for heavily populated areas in Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa, as well as six new quota seats for women. [...]
Jordan’s government tried to address a long-standing complaint about Jordan’s single non-transferable vote system (often described as “one man, one vote”) with the creation of “virtual” sub-districts. In some polling stations, the candidate lists were broken down by sub-districts while in others only the overall candidate list was displayed. Voters had to make their choice without knowing the full list of competitors in each sub-district. This system should be improved or changed for future elections.
If the candidates are actually only in competition with other candidates in a given sub-district, then how could the system be considered SNTV at all?
Finally, a terminological issue. The reference to “one man, one vote” as SNTV is odd, unless one realizes that the alternative (used in some past Jordanian elections) is MNTV. Of course, the term, “one man, one vote” normally refers to an absence of malapportionment, not to the number of votes per voter. If districts had equal voter populations, it would be “one man, one vote” whether it was MNTV, SNTV, or some other system, because all voters would be represented equally.
There is still malapportionment, albeit less than before:
One of the most significant features of the electoral context in Jordan remains the disproportionality among electoral districts. The underrepresentation of urban, largely Palestinian-origin voters, has long been an issue of political contention.
In the past, we have had discussions here about the type of lists used in Iraqi elections. All are in agreement that the elections of 2005 were by closed list, and that more recent elections were not. However, there has been some uncertainty about just which form of non-closed lists have been used.
In various previous discussions (click “Iraq” in the “planted in” line to see them), some of my valued commenters have linked to items from the Iraqi electoral commission that purport to show that the 2009 provincial elections were by flexible list, and that this year’s national assembly elections were by open lists.* Unfortunately, all those links now simply take one to the main Arabic page of the commission (and clicking there on the English link also does not seem to allow one to find archived articles).
I wonder if anyone saved these original articles, or has any other reliable sources** that clearly indicate the list format in these elections.
* The distinction that I am making is that under flexible lists, “preference” votes cast for candidates on a party’s list affect the order of election only for those candidates who receive some legally stipulated quota of preference votes. Otherwise, a pre-set party list order prevails. Under open lists, on the other hand, preference votes alone determine the order in which candidates are elected from the list, there being no pre-set list order with any affect on candidate ranking.
**In my experience, many writers, even by political scientists, will say “open” even when the lists in question in some country actually are flexible. (For that matter, sometimes that will refer to flexible lists as though they are closed. Flexible lists are kind of an orphan category, notwithstanding that they are used in so many European PR systems!)
Here is what Yes to Fairer Votes, a pro-AV organization in the UK, says on its “Why vote yes” page:
AV is a small change which will make a big difference.
Just a simple change to what we do on polling day can make a real difference to how politics works in Britain.
The Alternative Vote builds on the current system and makes it better. It eliminates many of its weaknesses and keeps its strengths. It’s a long overdue upgrade to make a 19th century system fit for the politics of the 21st century.
Our parliament will better represent our communities. MPs will have to have a better view of what your community thinks – and that’s because they will have to listen harder to your views.
It’s simple. If someone wants to represent your community they need the votes of the majority of the community. That’s what making every vote count really means.
Say YES! to Fairer Votes. Say YES! to AV.
And now from the no side, where there is an organization called NO2AV, which says it is leading “The Fight for Fair Votes“:
1. Defend our democracy
- A No vote stops minority party voters – like BNP supporters – getting more than one vote when the votes are counted
- A No vote guards against distorting and muddying the debate in marginal seats
- A No vote ensures people vote for who and what a candidate is, as opposed to who and what a candidate is not
2. Keep the power of your vote
- A No vote prevents hung parliaments becoming the norm
- A No vote is a vote against electoral uncertainty and unaccountability
- A No vote puts the power to decide who runs the country into the hands of the people – AV gives it away to the politicians
3. Defeat an unfair, discredited and unwanted change in the way we choose our Government
- A No vote is a vote against a confusing, seldom used and undemocratic system – that even Nick Clegg has called a “miserable little compromise”
- A No vote is a vote against partisan, political tinkering that will stifle the real democratic changes the country needs
- A No vote will defend fair votes and is a call for real reform
Voters in Kosovo are to go to the polls in snap elections on Dec. 12, after Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s weakened government supported a no-confidence vote in the country’s parliament. [...]
The no-confidence motion on Tuesday was supported by 64 of the 120 legislators. It was submitted two weeks after Thaci’s coalition fell apart when former President Fatmir Sejidu pulled his party out of the governing coalition. Sejidu also stepped down as president in mid-October, after the country’s constitutional court ruled that he could not be the leader of a political party and the country’s president at the same time.
This will be the country’s first election since its declaration of independence.
The president of Kosovo is a mostly ceremonial head of state, elected by the National Assembly; the country has a parliamentary system of government.
The electoral system is proportional in a nationwide constituency. The assembly consists of 120 seats, with 20 set aside for the Serb minority. Apparently the system was changed from closed lists to open-list PR prior to the 2007 election. The linked item, from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, says that voters could vote for up to ten candidates on a list. (That’s a lot!)
When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, the election produced the second lowest value of “Electoral Separation of Purpose” of the preceding five decades.
Electoral Separation of Purpose (ESP) is a concept developed in David J. Samuels and Matthew S. Shugart, Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers (Cambridge, 2010). It starts with the difference between presidential and legislative votes, at the district level, for a given party. It then can be expressed in a summary indicator by the average of the absolute values of all these differences.
For Obama and the Democrats in 2008, ESP=10.45. In the book, we considered 42 observations for the USA (both parties in 21 elections through 2004); the only one lower than what we would see in 2008 was 8.79 for Democrats in 1996, when Bill Clinton won reelection.
That ESP would be relatively low in the Obama era is yet another window on the much talked-about “polarization” of US politics: votes for Congress now tend to be more similar to presidential votes at the (House) district level. In other words, the fates of members of the House are more tied to that of their co-partisan president (or presidential candidate) than used to be the case. Voters apparently do not “want different things” from congress and president as much as they once did (for instance, 1972 and 1974, ESPs of 20.4 and 25.8, respectively).
It is worth putting the 2008 election in comparative perspective, comparing both to other countries and to past US elections. When compared to other countries, a value of 10.45 is not especially low. Even when we eliminate all cases where presidential and legislative votes are “fused” (meaning ticket-splitting is impossible, so ESP=0), we still find that the 2008 Democratic ESP is at about the 60th percentile among 383 party-year observations from around the world. Even with polarization and tied fates, there is still a lot of room for divergence between presidential and congressional vote shares in the USA.
What is interesting is the pattern of this divergence. Below is the graph, where each data point is one of the House districts in 2008. Ignore the distinction between triangles and circles for now; we’ll get to that.
(Click the image for a larger view in a new window)
It is striking that in districts where the Democrat has over 50% of the legislative vote, Obama tends to run behind his co-partisan House candidate. That is, there are notably more points above the equality line for winning House Democratic districts than there are below the diagonal. Districts where he runs ahead of the Democratic House candidate tend to be where the party loses the congressional race. For instance, if Obama won about 60% of the vote in a given district, the Democrat tended to win around two thirds of the House vote. But if Obama won around 45% of the vote, the Democratic House candidate tended to get closer to 35% of the vote.
This pattern, which would be reflected by some sort of S-curve, had I bothered to try to plot it, seems to be a common feature of US elections. The graph for Republicans in 2004 (ESP=10.98) looks very similar (see p. 135 of the book). It is not a prevalent pattern in other countries. I suspect it has something to do with the “personal vote” of Representatives; incumbents run ahead of their party’s presidential candidate because some voters who vote for the presidential candidate of the other party nonetheless support the incumbent. However, I have not yet broken the data down by incumbency. In the losing districts, of course, much of it has to do with the Democrats’ not recruiting high-quality candidates in districts they were not likely to win anyway (but having a “high-quality” presidential candidate). Of course, this is a companion to the personal-vote story, whereby the Republican candidate was stronger and able to keep for the party voters who voted for Obama.
Does the graph shed any light on the electoral debacle suffered by Democrats this week? Not directly, although one can see at a glance the numerous districts in which the Democrat won despite the district having voted for McCain. Now here is where those triangles come in: they represent the districts that the Democrats lost in the 2010 midterm election. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of those in the part of the graph where Obama’s vote is less than 50%. In fact, over half the Democratic losses came in McCain 2008 districts. If that’s not a (mini-)realignment, it certainly is a readjustment.
However, the Democrats lost 29 districts in which Obama had won a majority in 2008. And here is where the pattern of 2008 Democratic House winners frequently having run ahead of Obama becomes so important. They had a “cushion” against an adverse swing against them, stemming from Obama’s unpopularity at the midterm, and they most certainly needed it!
In this second graph we see that ESP actually declined further in 2010. At first, it may seem odd that one could go from unified to divided government, yet electoral separation of purpose decreased. But that is what happened. In 2010, ESP for Democrats dropped to 10.00. Note the near disappearance of winning Democrats who are more than about ten percentage points above where Obama was in their district in 2008. In fact, what really stands out here is the extent to which Democrats who won over 50% of their own district vote are concentrated very near, or slightly below, the equality line. That’s a good case of tied fates!
The S-curve pattern is gone, other than a continued bow in losing Democratic districts, where Obama’s 2008 vote is still higher (and often by a bigger margin) than the Democratic House candidate in 2010.
There are still some survivors in McCain districts, and they are about the only ones to still be running well ahead of Obama. If they could survive the great Democratic fall of 2010, they just might survive anything.
Now for the cross-time comparison. The following graph shows the ESP values for the president’s party for every US election since 1956, except for years following reapportionment and redistricting (and 1966, for mysterious reasons).
There is a clear trend in recent elections of declining ESP. No election for which we have data had ESP for the president’s party below 12.0 until 1996. The 1970s, and to a lesser extent the 1980s, were the days of high ESP, with Republicans often winning the presidency but Democrats keeping the House. Even in 1976, when Carter won, ESP was 14.55. Maybe this explains why Carter had so much trouble with his own party: they knew the president was less popular than they were. The graph from that election (not posted; I can’t post everything!) shows a huge bow of the S-curve above the equality line where practically all the Democratic House winners are found.
But note the almost steady downward trend after 1984, when Reagan was reelected. The 1994 midterm, when Democrats lost their House majority under Clinton, showed a downward trend. So 2010 is not unique in being an election that produces a transition to divided government yet sees ESP drop. However, in spite of the decline in ESP, it was still the case then that most Democratic winners in1994 were running ahead of where Clinton had been in 1992. Part of this is owed to the three-way presidential race in 1992. (All these graphs show actual vote percentages, not percentages of the “two-party vote.”) But then Clinton and the Democrats had tightly shared fates in 1996.
After a big upward blip in ESP in 1998, when Democrats had a rare seat gain in a midterm election, we enter the 2000s with ESP hovering in the 10-12 range.^
We really are in uncharted territory by US standards. We have not seen such closely tied presidential and legislative electoral fates at any other point in the last five decades or more.
What this might mean going forward is hard to say. I don’t have that kind of ESP! Or maybe it is not so hard. If Obama is reelected in 2012, it is unlikely to be with a broad personal victory like Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984, which represent two of the three highest ESP concurrent elections. (The other is 1988, when the senior Bush effectively won Reagan’s “third term.”) But therein lies a ray of good news for Democrats–who are surely looking for such rays about now. Normally, if a President is reelected, he does so without much of a “pull” on the House races. However, we have already seen two incumbent presidents win a second term with a drop in ESP. In addition to Clinton, already mentioned as the lowest US ESP so far, the same happened with G.W. Bush (ESP=12.27 when he, uh, became president in 2000,* and a drop to 10.98 in 2004).
in such a low-ESP environment, with partisan fates so tied, it is entirely plausible that a reelected Obama would carry enough of that cluster of districts near 50% to regain a House majority. If he loses, of course, then so might several more Democratic House members. Such are the perils of governing and campaigning when electoral separation of purpose is tending to run so low, by historic US standards.
^ The 1998 plot shows a large number of Democratic winners well above where they had been in 1996, and thus also well above where Clinton ran in their districts in his low-ESP reelection in 1996. (This footnote was added a couple of days after initial planting.)
* ESP for Democrats in 2000 was a little higher (13.07), presumably because Gore ran well behind many Democratic incumbents. That the value would be so much higher than it had been for the Clinton-Gore team in 1996 really drives home how much Gore failed to cement the Democratic coalition that swung so tightly behind Clinton in 1996.
Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren’t going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.
Yes, I think that is right. So are a couple of his other points: Power is not about simply retaining it at the next election, but using it; and not only will Republicans be unable to repeal the health-care bill in the short run, in years to come the law likely will be popular enough that they won’t want to repeal it.
And, this just in: the country is divided. Forty eight percent of voters said in exit polling that they wanted the health-care law repealed. Sixteen percent like it as it is. Then there are the 31% who want it expanded. So that’s 47% that see it as either good as is or something to build on. Not exactly the repudiation of the policy that is being so widely spun as the voters’ alleged verdict.
In the last UK election campaign, the Labour Party made an election manifesto call for a referendum on the alternative vote (AV). Of course, they made this when it was fairly likely they were going to be out of power after the election, which indeed they are.
Then came the Conservative-LibDem coalition, with its agreement to hold a referendum on AV, something the Conservatives would never have pledged to do had they won a majority at the election. Indeed, the parties agreed to disagree on the value of AV: the parties would each commit to passing legislation to put the referendum on the ballot, but Conservatives, including PM David Cameron, would be free to campaign for a “no” vote on the AV question. The Liberal Democrats, of course, would campaign in favor.
At the May, 2010, election, had there been AV, the LibDem voters would have split their second preferences between Conservative and Labour, but more would have gone for the latter. Both big parties’ supporters would have tended to give second preferences to LibDems. Thus, says Curtice,
The figures suggested that if the Alternative Vote had been in place, the Liberal Democrats would have won 79 seats, rather than 57. The Conservatives would have won only 281, not 307. Labour would have been marginally better off with 262 instead of 258.
However, things look quite different now, six months into Britain’s coalition government. More Conservatives would likely give their second preferences to a LibDem, but fewer Labour voters would do so.
At the same time twice as many Liberal Democrats might prefer the Conservatives to Labour. If voters had behaved that way in May the Liberal Democrats would still have gained most, with 83 seats. But the Conservatives might have won as many as 316; Labour could have had just 223.
The second item suggests that this changed dynamic has not gone unnoticed among Tories. The Independent‘s Political Editor, Andrew Grice, reports that Conservatives are already considering an “informal pact” in the event that AV passes, in which each coalition party appeals for its voters to give their second preferences to the other partner.
An unofficial pact is seen as more realistic than a more formal share-out of seats under which the Tories and Liberal Democrats did not stand against each other in some seats, including the 57 held by Mr Clegg’s party. A formal deal on seats has been suggested by Nick Boles, a Tory MP and prominent supporter of Mr Cameron’s drive to modernise his party. But the Tory and Liberal Democrat leaderships admit that would provoke strong opposition from local party activists and have reassured them the two Coalition parties will both fight every seat at the next election.
It should be emphasized, but is not mentioned in the article, that a “share-out of seats,” whereby there are mutual stand-down agreements between the partners, would practically be required if FPTP remains the electoral system–if, that is, the parties go into the election with plans to continue their coalition in the next parliament, given a favorable electoral result. Obviously, if the parties are competing against each other in districts decided by plurality, they could tip many districts to Labour, as well as be practically forced to stress their disagreements in the campaign.
So AV might not be so bad in Conservative eyes, after all.
There has been a growing recognition in Tory circles since the formation of the Coalition that a switch to AV could help the party’s prospects. [...] Tory MP David Mowat, who had a majority of 1,553 over Labour in his Warrington South constituency in May, said: “If we did have AV and we put Lib Dems second and they put us second, it would be very likely to give us a better result than we might achieve under first-past-the-post. There could be a squeeze effect on Labour.”
The existence of a pact would make it much harder for the LibDems to bargain with Labour after the election in the event the latter party should emerge with the most seats. Making a return of a Lib-Lab pact difficult is obviously in the Tories’ interests.
Current polling looks good for Labour, showing the party within striking distance of a parliamentary majority on around 40% of the vote. Of course, it is only six months into a government committed to deep spending cuts, and Labour has just elected a new leader. Still, the polling is a reminder that the Conservatives could very well have trouble forming a government without some sort of pact in 2015, whether it is pre- or post-electoral. And AV would seem to make a pre-electoral pact more palatable to each party’s activists and voters than would a retention of FPTP.
Proposals to change the electoral system in Chile are again on the table, writes Mariano Montes (in Spanish). With the first post-dictatorship presidency from the center-right (who is currently very popular), the previous veto by the right may be overcome. The center-left Concertacion has never liked the current electoral system, which was originally designed to over under-represent them at the expense of the right.
The proposals would be to increase the size of each chamber, and simultaneously permit presidential reelection. These moves would require a constitutional amendment. With larger chambers, the district magnitudes would be increased, resulting in a more proportional system.
The current system actually is a proportional formula, continuing the pre-dictatorship system of open-list PR with D’Hondt allocation. What has made it mostly unrepresentative of political forces other than those grouped into the two big pre-electoral coalitions is that all districts currently have a magnitude of two. Rather awkwardly and imprecisely, this system has come to be known as the “binomial” system.
I am always somewhat amused by criticisms of the system that refer to its making possible districts in which one winning candidate has fewer votes than another who loses. Of course, this is precisely the sense in which it is not a “nominal” (or nomial?) system. Were it a nominal system, by definition, the two candidates with the most votes would be the winners in each district. Nominal systems are those in which votes are cast for candidates by name, rather than being first pooled by party or coalition affiliation. Nominal systems are top-M systems (where M is the district magnitude).
Chile’s system, by contrast, is a list system. That means the first criterion is the votes cast collectively for the candidates on each list. Then the open nature of the lists kicks in, where candidate vote totals matter. Rather than being a top-M system, at this stage it is a top-s system, where s is the number of seats each list has won. Obviously, when M=2, s can take only the values of 0, 1, or 2.
Given that it is D’Hondt, the list with the most votes will win two seats only if it doubles the vote total of the runner-up list. This is how all D’Hondt systems work, and D’Hondt is the most common of proportional allocation methods for list systems (open or closed). The difference is that most list-proportional systems that use D’Hondt have M>2 for most of their districts, and so the process continues beyond determining whether the largest list has more or less than twice the votes of the next list. But in any open-list system, it is always possible (in fact, typical) that some candidates who win seats are not in the top M. They merely must be in the top s of their own party’s or electoral coalition’s list.
It would make a lot of sense if Chile would revert to the pre-dictatorship system of larger districts, and thus greater proportionality. The current system over-represents the two largest list, but over-represents the one that is second in votes to a greater degree than the one with the most votes (because the second one often has many fewer votes in a district, but not only half as many). It also makes sense to expand the size of the chambers; Chile’s Chamber of Deputies is very under-sized, relative to its population (see the graph at a planting from more than five years ago on reapportionment in the USA).
Maybe Chile will finally have a more proportional electoral system. But, please, let’s not call the resulting system with its higher magnitudes a multinomial system!
Given that by tonight we are likely to know that the USA is facing divided government–with a Republican House (if not both houses) and Democratic president–a refresher course on what it means is in order.
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