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Making Legislatures More Representative Bob Richard Californians for Electoral Reform.

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Presentation on theme: "Making Legislatures More Representative Bob Richard Californians for Electoral Reform."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making Legislatures More Representative Bob Richard Californians for Electoral Reform

2 Questions How do we elect our legislatures? What are the goals of representation? Do our methods meet these goals? If not, what are the alternatives? How should we evaluate alternatives?

3 How do we elect legislatures? Single-member districts  Federal, state, large cities and counties  Each winner represents one district  Plurality of votes wins At large  Small cities, school boards, district boards  Often non-partisan  Winners represent the whole community  Largest pluralities of votes win

4 Goals of Representation The House of Representatives “should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them.... in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it.” – John Adams “In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.” – Ernest Naville, 1865

5 Do our methods meet these goals? Let's look at some election results

6 British Columbia 1996 PartyVotes% of Votes Seats% of Seats New Democratic Party 624, %3952.0% Liberal Reform146, Progressive Democrat 90, Other58, Totals1,582, % % Minority party (NDP) got majority of seats Smaller parties got too few seats

7 British Columbia 2001 PartyVotes% of VotesSeats% of Seats New Democratic Party (NDP) 343, %22.5% Liberal916, Other331, Totals1,591, % % Majority party (Liberal) got majority of seats, BUT Minority party (NDP) nearly wiped out 20% of voters supported parties that got no seats

8 It CAN happen here U.S. House 2012 PartyVotes% of VoteSeats% of Seats Democratic59,645, Republican58,228, Other4,472, Totals122,346, Minority party got majority of seats Smaller parties and independents got nothing

9 Two questions:  Why do single member districts fail to provide fair representation?  Are at-large elections the answer? I want to show:  Unfairness is built-in, not accidential  Gerrymandering is NOT the problem We will look at the second question first

10 Tic Tac Toe Town Population of 25 5 seats on town council Political views  9 support X slate  16 support O slate Note: real life is much more complicated O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

11 At Large Election Votes  X slate candidates get 9 votes each  O slate candidates get 16 votes each Seats  X slate gets 0 seats  O slated gets 5 seats X supporters cry foul O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

12 District Elections Version 1 Redistricting principles  Regular shapes  Keep it simple Election result  X slate gets 3 seats  O slate gets 2 seats O supporters cry foul What went wrong? O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

13 District Elections Version 2 Redistricting principles  Regular shapes  Keep it simple Election result  X slate gets 3 seats  O slate gets 2 seats O supporters cry foul (again) O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

14 District Elections Version 3 Redistricting principle  Similar shapes  Compactness Election result  X slate gets 0 seats  O slate gets 5 seats Same result as at-large X slate's turn to cry foul (again) O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

15 District Elections Version 4 Redistricting principle  Work backwards from the answer  We call this “gerrymandering” Election result  X slate gets 2 seats  O slate gets 3 seats Can we always do this? O XX XXX X X XX OOOO O O OO O OOOO O O

16 Alternatives: a quick world tour Several kinds of ballots Each with its own rules for counting Each with its own rules for translating votes to seats We will visit 4 countries  South Africa  Denmark  New Zealand  Ireland

17 One nationwide district or several regional ones Voters choose a party Voters get one choice Called a “closed party list” ballot South Africa 1994

18 ClosedParty List in U.S.

19 Closed Party List Count the votes for each party Calculate percentage of total vote for each party Each party gets that percentage of the seats Parties determine in advance the order in which individual candidates are elected  Order is known to voters when they vote  Parties can (and sometimes do) insure equal number of women Thresholds

20 This district has 7 seats Voters choose a candidate Voters get one choice Vote counts for both candidate and party Called “open party list” ballot Denmark, 2001

21 Open Party List in U.S.

22 Open Party List Count the votes for each party Calculate percentage of total vote for each party Each party gets that percentage of the seats Voters determine which candidates win seats  Within parties, votes counted by plurality rule  Many variations possible (e.g. voting for multiple candidates) Thresholds same as closed party list

23 New Zealand 2014 All districts have one seat Voters make two choices  One for candidate in a district  One for party at large Called “mixed mem- ber proportional (MMP)”

24 Mixed Member in U.S.

25 Mixed Member Proportional1 Count district votes and determine district winners. They all get seats Count party list votes and determine each party's percentage Compare each party's share of the district seats to its party list share Award party list seats to make the legislature as a whole representative Thresholds Partly proportional variations

26 Mixed Member Proportional 2

27 Ireland 2002 District has 5 seats Voters rank the candidates in order of preference  “1” for first choice  “2” for second choice  and so on Two names for this  Ranked choice voting  Single transferable vote

28 Cambridge, Massachusetts

29 Ranked Choice Voting 1 Threshold = 1 / (seats + 1) + 1 vote  In single-winner election (IRV) threshold is 50% + 1 Count all the first choices If candidates are over the threshold:  Elect them  Transfer their surplus ballots to voter's next choices If no new winners:  Eliminate last place candidate  Transfer those ballots to voter's next choices Repeat until all seats are filled

30 Ranked Choice Voting 2

31 I promised you a framework for evaluating methods

32 Representation A lawyer acts for you personally in court  Representative as personal agent A governor or mayor acts for the whole community  Representative as executive agent  Majority rule A legislator acts for her constituents  Who should these constituents be?  Two main answers

33 Two types of legislatures Majoritarian (“winner take all”)  Constituents share geographic location  Your representative lives near you but often has different views  Single member districts or at-large plurality Proportional representation  Constituents share values and beliefs  Your representative shares your views but might live elsewhere  Multi-member districts, several methods

34 Winner take all Possible advantages  Is government more effective when largest group has enough power to govern alone  Encourages “stable two party system”  In small communities, encourages collegiality and discourages gadflies Possible disadvantages  Gridlock caused by two polarized parties  Wrong winner elections  Unfair to all groups except the largest

35 Proportional representation Possible advantages  Fair to all groups in society  Promotes multi party system  Multi sided negotiation encourages consensus and compromise, discourages gridlock Possible disadvantages  Can minority groups have “too much” influence, leading to gridlock?  Are voters unable to handle too many choices, need single alternative to group currently in power

36 Resources

37 Free at

38 British Columbia 2004


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