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What is the best way to hold a democratic vote?

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  • What is the best way to hold a democratic vote?

    Ahh. Democracy. We live it, we love it. It’s a solid basis for a justified rule. But, it comes in a few flavours. And some countries of course mix those flavours up somewhat.

    No, it’s not perfect. There’s always going to be people on the losing end, and some among them really quite upset about the whole thing. As I’m looking to be as non-partisan as possible here, I’m not going to dunk on any political party or leaning. I’m not even looking to dunk on how any given country runs it’s elections.

    But I do want to discuss your preferences, and why you find some versions to be lacking. Please just remember a criticism of a system should not be a criticism of the country itself.

    Broadly, there are three common versions of determining the outcome of the popular vote.

    First Past The Post. The seat is won by whomever gets the most votes in that constituency, even if it’s a majority of just one vote.

    Proportional Representation. Seats are determined by the wider popular vote. If one party gets say, 50% of all the available votes, it gets 50% of the available seats, regardless of exactly where those votes were cast. Exactly who gets which seat is a mechanism I’m afraid I’m entirely ignorant of.

    Alternative Vote. This is somewhere in between, and arguably the most controversial. Rather than One Person, One Vote, it’s a ranking of preferences, with various rounds of counting to determine the winner. In theory, in a multi party environment, it’s meant to be more representative than FPTP. Example. Let’s say there are 3 main political parties as we have in the U.K. AV could prevent one party carrying the seat with just 35% of the available votes, instead entering into a “second preference” round of voting, where you might find the second place party being the second preference of all those who voted for the third party. In short, it’s about ensuring the party you want in the least struggled to win the seat.

    In the US of course, you have a mix of FPTP, and PR. In theory, as they’re doled out by percentage of the population, the College System is PR. But, the states operate on FPTP. You might only win the state by a single vote, but as a result you bag all of that State’s College Votes (this is of course somewhat simplified).

    But….what’s your preference, folks? Which approach, or mix of approaches, gets us closest to the fairest possible version of Democracy, where the will of the greatest majority is reflected in how Seats are issued based?

    For me? I’m torn on AV and PR. AV is as I said the most controversial, but with a ranking of preference you’re likely to satisfy the greatest number of voters. But I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that, as it’s quite the departure from “just put a cross in the box for your preferred candidate”, and would need a significant effort made to re-educate the electorate as to how it’s suppose to work. So I’d probably plump for PR. A given seat might not get who it wanted as their MP, but at least Parliament itself would be truly representative of the entire electorates’s preference.

    How about you? And don’t forget your why!

  • #2
    Having grown up with AV I like that. While the concept of PR appeals to me, I loved knowing my local member growing up, and then when I got older being able to ask him specifically for help with things and see that take shape, whereas in PR (at least from my surface level understanding) the whole local member thing seems like it wouldn't be the same?

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd like a variation of the Holyrood system. It has FPTP-selected constituency representatives and then a top up system of regional lists selected via PR using the D'Hondt system to offset the constituency members already selected. The principle being that you retain the direct link to representatives with local responsibilities but also get an overall balance representing the votes of the entire country.

      The goal is solid, but in practice it's still skewed by FPTP at the constituency level and the D'Hondt formula is a bit shifty. This is deliberate - Labour explicitly designed it to prevent SNP majorities.

      I'd change the constituency vote to AV and put the constituency and regional members in separate houses with the latter acting as a revising chamber for legislation from the first.

      Full PR simply doesn't work on a national scale. In the UK you'd only bother campaigning in a dozen or two cities and the votes of the rest of the country could be totally ignored. In the US you could probably get away with what, 10-15 states?

      Comment


      • #4
        Depends upon the vote, doesn't it? Electing someone is diffrent depending upon position within the state. Further election =/= policy vote which is far more consequential.

        Structure of country / state, and of course population have a deciding factor upon which system would improve or lower the value of the vote aswell.

        Proportional vote is also great at representing proportions but is baseline skewed torwards urban areas, it needs in many conutries a counterweight. Vice versa FPTP has the same issue just from another angle.
        Also the later is far more easily abused and gerrymandered, albeit if not political controll is over voting area then it also can be far better.

        Both however can discriminate against minorities... not much one can do against that with democratic systems beyond leaning heavily into federalistic policy and subsidiary principles, which can make overal national government however sluggish and weak. Has however other boni, like more equal spending, less infrastructure focussed in hubs, etc.

        Quite frankly i'll holdmyself to rousseau, there should not be a debate about the best type of government, since that would be removed from the reality, there should be discussion about the best type of government for a nation instead. Incidentially i think that this is applicable to election and voting systems, but then again democracies connect the two spheres

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Online View Post
          Depends upon the vote, doesn't it? Electing someone is diffrent depending upon position within the state. Further election =/= policy vote which is far more consequential.
          The OP does refer explicitly to electing representatives.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by nfe View Post
            Full PR simply doesn't work on a national scale. In the UK you'd only bother campaigning in a dozen or two cities and the votes of the rest of the country could be totally ignored. In the US you could probably get away with what, 10-15 states?
            Forgive me for saying, but isn't this logic kind of twisted around?

            With a FPTP type of national division, wouldn't the same reasoning apply? They just campaign in the most populous part of their division? Furthermore, given the amount of places considered 'safe', you frequently see the national parties direct efforts into a few more swing-y divisions (swing states in the US).

            Full PR here doesn't mean that the rest of the country gets ignored necessarily, because each party has a more or less regional power base. The Netherlands for example:

            - Progressive left-center or center parties campaign in big cities where most of their voters can be found.
            - The liberal right wing party campaigns in more affluent areas, but generally everywhere.
            - The christian democrats focus on the east, where they had a strong support base amongst the farmers.
            - The more strongly christian parties campaign in the 'bible belt'.
            - The social democrats in the big cities and the north.

            Now voters have shifted quite a bit, so the above has changed somewhat. In the last elections, the party with the biggest share of votes didn't come out as the biggest in 3 out of the 4 major cities and their voting share across the country was roughly similar in the outer areas and urban center.

            Comment


            • Online
              Online commented
              Editing a comment
              It still can and will lead to an incentive to ignore certain parts of the country simply because of the votes there not being enough though.

            • Disciple of Fate
              Disciple of Fate commented
              Editing a comment
              Sure, but that is exactly the same when you divide up the country into little voting blocs.

              The way we avoid that here is that the country is divided into 12 regions and they provide the votes for the senate, which approves parliament legislation. So only working for the most populated areas would get stuck in the senate.

            • Online
              Online commented
              Editing a comment
              excactly, it needs a counterweight as does the other. We got dual equal chambers one represents the population, the other the Kantons, same ammount of hinderance, bit more sluggish though... otoh since its subsidiary system national government anyways is quite a bit less significant than other countries.

          • #7
            Originally posted by nfe View Post

            The OP does refer explicitly to electing representatives.
            Even then it depends.
            Electing somone over here will due to historical reasons and structures be far diffrent then electing someone in the UK, which has itself internal logic cue elections in NI vs Scotland, vs England.

            Comment


            • nfe
              nfe commented
              Editing a comment
              Sure, but it makes distinguishing between elections and policy referenda irrelevant to the conversation, that's the point I was making.

               How, and whether, to have policy reference is an interesting discussion of its own, though.

            • Online
              Online commented
              Editing a comment
              it does not, unless of course we ignore Rousseau and modern constitutional doctrine.

          • #8
            Ranked choice for offices that only have 1 possible winner (Think president).

            Something else to be considered is combining areas and using ranked choice for multiple positions. For instance, (From a US perspective), for US Senators, hold the elections for both at the same time. Use ranked choice to eliminate the one that has the lowest number of votes until only 2 candidates remain. They are the elected senators then.

            You generally only want to have 2-3 candidates that win so I wouldn't suggest this for congressional seats as different areas in a state need different voices...But maybe have the areas re-done to have 2 congresscritter per district, with the odd one out being 3 (Or in states with only one congresscritter - 1)

            Comment


            • #9
              I desperately want to get rid of FPTP in the UK, and move to PR. It is fundamentally unfair that most votes ultimately count for nothing, unless you happen to vote for the winning candidate in your constituency. My vote hasn't counted for about 15 years now.

              There are some good graphs here - https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/...past-the-post/ scroll down to UK General Elections 1997 – 2017 - that show the dichotomy between the votes cast and the MPs elected. Toggle the dropdown between votes cast and seats won for each election, and see how the graphs change.

              The best example I can see off the top of my head is for UKIP in the 2015 general election. Regardless of what you think of their politics (and personally I think they suck balls), it is a massive injustice that they received something like 12% of the national vote and yet only got a single MP. Also 1997 - the massive swing to a vast Labour majority is simply not borne out by the votes: 42ish % of the vote should not translate to 60% of the seats.

              Comment


              • #10
                Originally posted by Disciple of Fate View Post
                Forgive me for saying, but isn't this logic kind of twisted around?

                With a FPTP type of national division, wouldn't the same reasoning apply? They just campaign in the most populous part of their division? Furthermore, given the amount of places considered 'safe', you frequently see the national parties direct efforts into a few more swing-y divisions (swing states in the US).
                Yes, but I'm not advocating FPTP. I think you need representatives with direct responsibilities to specific locations and they're best being single individuals, so AV is my preferred mechanism. Anything with multiple members I'd have a PR system but I still think it needs to be on a regional scale.

                The Netherlands only has state-wide PR for the representatives, right? There are multiple other layers elected at regional scales? Then some folks installed by the head of state? I'm not very familiar beyond a couple Dutch pals' election-time summaries.

                Maybe I should have said 'full PR exclusively on a national scale...'

                Comment


                • #11
                  Originally posted by nfe View Post

                  Yes, but I'm not advocating FPTP. I think you need representatives with direct responsibilities to specific locations and they're best being single individuals, so AV is my preferred mechanism. Anything with multiple members I'd have a PR system but I still think it needs to be on a regional scale.

                  The Netherlands only has state-wide PR for the representatives, right? There are multiple other layers elected at regional scales? Then some folks installed by the head of state? I'm not very familiar beyond a couple Dutch pals' election-time summaries.

                  Maybe I should have said 'full PR exclusively on a national scale...'
                  I know you're advocating AV, but just as FPTP that leads to divisions for seats for those local representatives, no?

                  So say the UK goes AV, there would still be no reason that say Scotland or Northern Ireland get involved more in campaigning. Even their AV candidates are unlikely to be from the ruling party. It would divide seats more fairly, but it would still leave dead zones where majority parties feel there is no gain to be had?

                  The NL is structured as follows:

                  Municipality elections (cities being their own, smaller towns combining for one). PR election for government of municipality.

                  Regional/provincial election, PR election for provincial government.

                  Senate election (House of Lords in the UK), indirect election of senate by parties that gained seats in the provincial elections. This involves a division based on province population and party seats divided by senate seats. So parliament and the senate can have entirely different majorities of parties, as the provincial and national elections are always two years apart. Not infrequently this means that the government has no majority in the senate.

                  Parliament elections, complete PR on a national level. Seats are allocated by looking at the vote share for each party. Total amount of voters divides by available seats gives the votes required for gaining one seat. Parties can agree to share excess votes to ensure a seat is not lost to another party. Parties negotiate to form a majority and divide government positions amongst them

                  The head of state (the monarchy) assigns a representative for each province, but as we're a constitutional monarchy in practice this means they are a government representative. The monarch only really confirms a candidate, but in theory appoints them.
                  Last edited by Disciple of Fate; 07-21-2021, 11:39 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Originally posted by Disciple of Fate View Post
                    I know you're advocating AV, but just as FPTP that leads to divisions for seats for those local representatives, no?

                    So say the UK goes AV, there would still be no reason that say Scotland or Northern Ireland get involved more in campaigning. Even their AV candidates are unlikely to be from the ruling party. It would divide seats more fairly, but it would still leave dead zones where majority parties feel there is no gain to be had?
                    As voting habits stand you'd need huge majorities to simply ignore them with any confidence, but in those cases, sure - if there was no PR second chamber (which I see as being more directly involved in legislation than the Lords. More a House/Senate relationship than Commons/Lords).

                    I'd also retain devolved parliaments, probably elected via PR in pretty small regions. Something like 1 member for every 40-50k people.

                    Comment


                    • Haighus
                      Haighus commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I'm in favour of dividing England into devolved regional parliaments too. It relatively nicely splits into chunks of ~9 million people, which would somewhat reduce the disparity between the other nations and England in population.

                    • Disciple of Fate
                      Disciple of Fate commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Clear, thank you for expanding.

                  • #13
                    Another aspect is whether the voting should be compulsory or not.

                    I can see the pros and cons of both.

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by Haighus View Post
                      Another aspect is whether the voting should be compulsory or not.

                      I can see the pros and cons of both.
                      I used to be in favour of compulsory voting provided remote voting is universal and you can vote for no one. These days I think I'd probably just favour making remote voting universal without bothering with the compulsion bit.

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        The risk of compulsory voting is that people who don't care at all, but have to show up, might swing crucial elections. They might even vote against their own interest without knowing.

                        Comment


                        • Mad Doc Grotsnik
                          Mad Doc Grotsnik commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Better than them not voting at all if you ask me. Wouldn’t take them long to realise “whoa, I actually matter” and start engaging more.

                        • Bunnies
                          Bunnies commented
                          Editing a comment
                          You'd think that MDG, but we've had years and years of it in Australia, and the number of people who still think we vote for PM like the yanks vote for president..

                        • Disciple of Fate
                          Disciple of Fate commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I think forcing completely uninformed people to vote on a process they don't care to know about is not exactly conductive to democracy.

                          How would they even realize they matter if their normal level of engagement doesn't even get them to the polls? How would someone uncaring even notice what they did mattered?
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