# Majority electoral systems: the second ballot & the alternative vote (AV) Weekend 3 : Session 2.

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Majority electoral systems: the second ballot & the alternative vote (AV) Weekend 3 : Session 2

The problem of majorities If there are more than two candidates contesting a seat at an election, the candidate with the most votes need not get a majority; here is an example with 100 voters: If there are more than two candidates contesting a seat at an election, the candidate with the most votes need not get a majority; here is an example with 100 voters: Candidate X gets 15 votes Candidate Y gets 45 votes Candidate Z gets 40 votes Candidate Y has a plurality of votes (the most) but not a majority (a majority would be 51 of 100 votes) Candidate Y has a plurality of votes (the most) but not a majority (a majority would be 51 of 100 votes)

The problem of majorities Question — How to ensure that the winning candidate at an election always gets a majority of votes? Question — How to ensure that the winning candidate at an election always gets a majority of votes? Answer — By forcing the voter to make a final choice between only two candidates. With only two candidates for a seat, one must get a majority Answer — By forcing the voter to make a final choice between only two candidates. With only two candidates for a seat, one must get a majority But how can this be done? But how can this be done?

First solution: second ballot If no candidate gets a majority of votes at an election, hold a second election between the top two candidates If no candidate gets a majority of votes at an election, hold a second election between the top two candidates To continue the example, after the first election: To continue the example, after the first election: Y gets 45 votes (plurality winner, but no majority; Y goes to next round of elections) Z gets 40 votes (2 nd most votes, and Z goes to next round of elections) X gets 15 votes (fewest votes; X is excluded)

First solution: second ballot The 100 voters vote at the second election a week later with only two contestants, Y and Z: The 100 voters vote at the second election a week later with only two contestants, Y and Z: Y gets 48 votes (only gains three of X’s votes) Z gets 52 votes (gains 12 of X’s votes) and wins a majority! (This assumes that only those who voted for X in the first election changed their vote. Of course, any voter is free to change his/her mind between the two elections!) (This assumes that only those who voted for X in the first election changed their vote. Of course, any voter is free to change his/her mind between the two elections!)

First solution: second ballot The second ballot solution guarantees that all elected candidates gain a majority of votes because: Either they won a majority at the first round election Either they won a majority at the first round election Or, where no candidate won a majority at the first round election in their electoral district, they won a majority at the second round election Or, where no candidate won a majority at the first round election in their electoral district, they won a majority at the second round election But there is another solution; the alternative vote (AV)

Second solution: AV The alternative vote (AV) is a way of compressing the second ballot solution into a single election so that all successful candidates gain a majority of votes The alternative vote (AV) is a way of compressing the second ballot solution into a single election so that all successful candidates gain a majority of votes If voters could indicate their second choice of candidate at the same time as their first choice, only one election would be necessary If voters could indicate their second choice of candidate at the same time as their first choice, only one election would be necessary But to achieve this, a preferential ballot is required But to achieve this, a preferential ballot is required Here is an example: Here is an example:

An election with 100 voters to elect one representative using AV There are three candidates: There are three candidates: Fred (X Party) Ling (Y Party) Menka (Z Party) A voter must rank candidates by placing 1, 2, or 3 next to the candidates’ names in the order of the voter’s preference A voter must rank candidates by placing 1, 2, or 3 next to the candidates’ names in the order of the voter’s preference For a ballot to be valid, all candidates must be ranked (compulsory expression of preferences) For a ballot to be valid, all candidates must be ranked (compulsory expression of preferences) The successful candidate must gain a majority of valid votes (1 more than half the total of valid votes) The successful candidate must gain a majority of valid votes (1 more than half the total of valid votes)

AV ballot paper (to elect one representative) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (to elect one representative) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (to elect one representative) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (to elect one representative) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (all combinations) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (Fred’s 1 st preferences) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (Ling’s 1 st preferences) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

AV ballot paper (Menka’s 1 st preferences) Fred X party Ling Y Party Menka Z party

Fred X party 15 first preference votes Ling Y Party 45 first preference votes Ling is the plurality winner Menka Z party 40 first preference votes AV election (to elect one representative)

Fred X party 15 first preference votes As no candidate has a majority, Fred is excluded as the candidate with the fewest 1 st preferences Ling Y Party 45 first preference votes Ling is the plurality winner, but does not have a majority Menka Z party 40 first preference votes Menka stays in the count AV election (to elect one representative)

Fred X party Of Fred’s 15 first preferences, 3 are like this Ling Y Party 3 second preference go to Ling Menka Z party

AV election (to elect one representative) Fred X party Of Fred’s 15 first preferences, 12 are like this Ling Y Party Menka Z party 12 second preference go to Menka

AV election (to elect one representative) Fred X party 15 first preference votes (Fred is excluded: he has the fewest 1 st preferences) Ling Y Party 45 first preference votes + 3 of Fred’s 2 nd preferences = 48 votes Ling does not have a majority Menka Z party 40 first preference votes + 12 of Fred’s 2 nd preferences = 52 votes Menka has a majority and is elected

Another example of AV An animated example of AV (or preferential voting as the Australians call it) can be found on the website of the State Electoral Office of South Australia (look for Counting Methods, Exclusion ‘Bottom up’: An animated example of AV (or preferential voting as the Australians call it) can be found on the website of the State Electoral Office of South Australia (look for Counting Methods, Exclusion ‘Bottom up’: http://www.seo.sa.gov.au/flash.htm http://www.seo.sa.gov.au/flash.htm

Why have majority systems been adopted? To reduce the representation of small parties and force their supporters to align themselves behind one of two large party groupings; the current French second ballot system for the National Assembly was introduced for this reason To reduce the representation of small parties and force their supporters to align themselves behind one of two large party groupings; the current French second ballot system for the National Assembly was introduced for this reason To prevent one large party from benefiting from a split in the other large party; in Australia AV has been used to preserve a non-Labor coalition against the Australian Labor Party; in BC AV was introduced to preserve a Liberal/Conservative government against the CCF/NDP To prevent one large party from benefiting from a split in the other large party; in Australia AV has been used to preserve a non-Labor coalition against the Australian Labor Party; in BC AV was introduced to preserve a Liberal/Conservative government against the CCF/NDP

Have they achieved their goal? In France, yes, but significant small parties have continued to have an influence in French politics In France, yes, but significant small parties have continued to have an influence in French politics In BC, only partially; the CCF/NDP was kept out of office, but the beneficiary was a new party, Social Credit In BC, only partially; the CCF/NDP was kept out of office, but the beneficiary was a new party, Social Credit In Australia, yes, but over more than 80 years, the beneficiaries have been, at various times, large parties on both the left and the right In Australia, yes, but over more than 80 years, the beneficiaries have been, at various times, large parties on both the left and the right

Evaluation of majority systems Majority (stable) government Majority systems are designed to produce one-party governments or well established coalition governments with majority support in parliament. Majority systems are designed to produce one-party governments or well established coalition governments with majority support in parliament.

Evaluation of majority systems Electoral accountability Two-party competition encouraged Two-party competition encouraged Contests become government versus opposition — voters have a choice of who will be in government Contests become government versus opposition — voters have a choice of who will be in government Some ability for small parties to pressure large parties but only at election time Some ability for small parties to pressure large parties but only at election time Voters have choice of supporting or opposing local candidates Voters have choice of supporting or opposing local candidates Provision for local representation (if DM is low) Provision for local representation (if DM is low)

Evaluation of majority systems Parliamentary check on government & role of MLA Majority government frees government from serious parliamentary scrutiny; executive dominance Majority government frees government from serious parliamentary scrutiny; executive dominance Permits premier-dominated style of government Permits premier-dominated style of government All MLAs have the same electoral standing and a similar identifiable constituency (even if the DM varies) All MLAs have the same electoral standing and a similar identifiable constituency (even if the DM varies)

Evaluation of majority systems Fair representation of parties and social groups There may be big distortions between vote shares and seat shares There may be big distortions between vote shares and seat shares Majority systems have under-represented some groups (women and minorities) in electoral and legislative politics Majority systems have under-represented some groups (women and minorities) in electoral and legislative politics

Evaluation of majority systems Democratic political parties Majority systems produce a small number of large parties Majority systems produce a small number of large parties There is some incentive for small parties to exist and to express distinctive interests There is some incentive for small parties to exist and to express distinctive interests Large parties are catch-all but may have to listen to smaller, more ideological parties at election time Large parties are catch-all but may have to listen to smaller, more ideological parties at election time Bargaining over government policy takes place within the governing party (or the bureaucracy) only Bargaining over government policy takes place within the governing party (or the bureaucracy) only Parties can be decentralized to respond to local demands Parties can be decentralized to respond to local demands

Evaluation of majority systems For more evaluations of majority electoral systems, see the handout for Weekend 3 : Session 2 at pages 6-7

Assessment: strengths of majority systems Majority systems regularly produce one party majority government, or well established coalition governments Majority systems regularly produce one party majority government, or well established coalition governments Majority systems produce an identifiable local representatives chosen in and for each area Majority systems produce an identifiable local representatives chosen in and for each area Majority systems limit the representation of minor political parties but enable their supporters to contribute to the choice of large party candidates Majority systems limit the representation of minor political parties but enable their supporters to contribute to the choice of large party candidates Governments and members are accountable through a direct electoral contest Governments and members are accountable through a direct electoral contest

Assessment: weaknesses of majority systems Majority systems distort the votes/seats relationship Majority systems distort the votes/seats relationship They permit the government to dominate parliament They permit the government to dominate parliament Minority interests and small parties (unless geographically concentrated) are not represented Minority interests and small parties (unless geographically concentrated) are not represented Small party voters appear to have a disproportionate effect in some contests Small party voters appear to have a disproportionate effect in some contests Even with a second ballot or AV preferences, many votes do not contribute to electing anyone Even with a second ballot or AV preferences, many votes do not contribute to electing anyone The second ballot requires two sets of elections The second ballot requires two sets of elections AV requires a more complicated preferential ballot AV requires a more complicated preferential ballot

Majority systems in BC? Majority systems could be adopted in BC with little change to the style of parliamentary or electoral politics They are, after all, systems designed to generate majority support and reward the largest two parties, much like the current plurality systems. The biggest change would be to give the supporters of minor parties the chance of having some influence over which of the two largest parties won government. And AV has been tried in BC for the provincial general elections of 1952 and 1953

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