STV and party ID

Does STV “weaken” parties?

See the discussion at The Monkey Cage.

15 thoughts on “STV and party ID

  1. Wouldn’t STV also allow multiple parties to form voting alliances?

    I would say that it would weaken parties and strengthen personalities.

    Allowing votes to transfer across allied parties. Then an STV electoral system would produce a 2 bloc party system similar to Swedish Party List of Socialist, and Bouregiois camps.

    It might lead to a party system where a party is a few seats short of a majority and forms minority governments.

    There are so very few countries and jurisdictions world wide that use STV that we don’t know what a bad example of STV would be.

    STV would be from an observation, a great system for geographically disperse minorities, who can elected represents from their own group, and as well as influencing the election of other candidates sympathetic to their interests. It depends of the district magnitude, and the size of the minority group.

    STV on the other hand, how would it work in a country with geographically concentrated minorities like Canada? Would it make the party system more regionalized or balkanized?

    Ireland and Malta are fairly homogeneous countries. Northern Ireland on the other is not. STV does not seem to encourage vote pooling across communities whose interests are against one another.

  2. My (anecdotal) conclusion so far is that the ordinary Australian voter – ie, even someone who hasn’t studied politics at university and/or been directly involved in an election campaign – has a fairly sound grasp of the bottom-line results of AV and STV-PR, ie what it means in party terms. First preferences are the most valuable, second preferences are also useful, putting a party last helps stop them winning seats.

    However, I also suspect that if one could systematise the most common assumptions about how the Australian voting system gets to that end point, it would involve something like a points system. Indeed, a couple of times I have heard people express surprise that STV for the Senate *doesn’t* work on the basis of 1.000 points for your first-choice candidate, 0.500 for your second choice, 0.333 for your third choice, and so on.

  3. If you fear STV weakens parties too much, look at Australia for help with the ‘above-the-line tick’ similar to a list vote in flexible list-PR systems. … or should I say ‘closed list’ if a valid below-the-line vote is only valid if all candidates are ranked so that 97% (Senate 2007) are above the line?
    (A major difference between an above-the-line vote in STV and a list vote in list-PR is the interparty transfer possibility in STV)

  4. Bancki, despite being a professed shill for Hare-Clark STV, I would even prefer a simple open- or flexible List system to the stage-managed [per]version of STV used for mainland Australian upper houses. More complicated voting and counting… and for what? An unbroken correlation (in 62 years) between party ticket ranking and order of election. Voters who now equate “PR” with “safe seats for party insiders”.

    In fact, Senate-style STV is even worse than List in that a person can fill a casual vacancy, through de facto party appointment, without even being listed on the ballot at the previous election.

    PS: As for this…

    “… it was probably an anomaly that the sixth assembly elections in 2004 returned the first majority government to the territory in its twenty years of self-government, an outcome that the champions of Hare-Clark had argued was next to impossible. But an exceptionally popular chief minister, Jon Stanhope, and an especially inept Liberal opposition delivered just that…”

    – Norman Abjorensen,
    “The Green/ Labor alliance: one year on”, Inside Story (10 November 2009).

    I think it is fair to say that I was a minor playa among the said champions, and a large part of the PRSA’s arguments was that Hare-Clark did NOT make majority govts impossible – especially in contrast to the ACT’s previous electoral system, a sort of preferential modification of the Finnish “regional list” method.

  5. How do open list systems work in practice? How familiar does the voter have to be with the intricacy of the electoral system to buck the party rankings?

    I’ve thought of an open list system where each voter had two votes, one for the list or party and one for a specific candidate. There are thresholds for parties and thresholds for candidates. If a candidate reaches the threshold, he or she gets elected, regardless of his or her rankings on the list. The list rankings would come into play only if the list wins more seats than they have candidates elected through direct votes for the candidates. Then the party insiders’ rankings would be used to fill out the balance.

    Probably to work a voter would have to be limited to voting for a candidate on the list he votes for, since candidate votes would count as list votes. But you could avoid this with some sort of overhang feature. However, I like the idea of party list featuring personnally popular candidates because their personal votes will help other candidates on the list get elected.

    The selling point of this is that it is very simple for voters to understand. Also, candidates with enough candidate votes to meet the threshold in a sense get directly elected to the chamber. They have some confidence in getting away with thumbing their noses at the party bosses.

    I’m interested in relatively simple systems because there is some evidence that voters really try to work the electoral system they are presented with to their advantage. But sheer ignorance often means that these attempts backfire. And often the ignorance is caused in part by deliberately built in complexity.

  6. Ed, in open-list systems, by definition, there are no party rankings. Party wins a number of seats, which we will denote s, and the candidates with the top s preference vote totals take those seats. (Thus, what you propose, would be a variant of flexible list.)

  7. Tom, I feel ok about Senate-style STV as a system that preserves both preferential voting and a certain amount of party strength. I would just get rid of the conceit that below-the-line votes could actually change the intra-party ranking, and only allow above-the-line votes–call it “List-STV”. Counting would become easier, and vacancies could be filled by the next candidate on that party’s list.

    Are there any particular problems with this system, that make it worse than Senate-style STV or non-transferable List-PR?

  8. It’s a little strange to encounter alleged refinements to STV (Tom’s withdrawal STV. Vasi’s Above-the-line STV) that actually reject the underlying logic of the system entirely. STV is about maximizing, not limiting, the choices available to the electorate.

  9. Alan, I’m not suggesting that everyone should use my “List-STV” idea. I quite like the way plain-old-STV emphasizes local issues, and allows competition within parties. The Irish system and the proposed BC-STV both look great to me. This sort of STV is my preferred alternative electoral system for countries like the UK and Canada, where there are multiple parties and party discipline feels fairly strong.

    However, different situations call for differing systems. For example, some countries have very weak or non-existent parties, electing mostly local bosses to the legislature. This can result in incoherent coalitions of whomever most wants government funds, with no common ideas about how the country should be run. If such places adopted regular STV it would only worsen this problem, but List-STV might be ok.[1]

    Perhaps the best use case for List-STV would be in countries new to democracy. We’d want to encourage party formation, so STV and FPTP are bad choices. But if we chose List-PR, there wouldn’t be good information about which incipient parties would be likely to cross the threshold, so we’d see many wasted votes. A system that encourages coherent lists while allowing preferential voting sounds ideal.

    I think we also have to be realistic about the amount of choice STV provides. To prevent huge, confusing ballots, STV systems typically have either small district magnitudes or group tickets. (Counter-examples welcome!) Small DMs mean high effective thresholds[2], crowding out small parties. Group tickets mean that the vast majority of voters are only deciding which party they most prefer. I’m not sure how to quantify “choice”[3], but to my mind, both these solutions limit it fairly severely.

    If you feel choice is the critical feature of electoral systems, the real challenge may be to maximize STV’s choice within the constraint of voters’ patience for filling out preferences. I think the system in New South Wales’ Legislative Council isn’t half-bad, allowing multiple above-the-line votes à la List-STV as just one of several voting options. But still most voters just vote for a single ticket, so….got any better ideas?

    [1] I suspect even List-STV doesn’t provide enough advantages for party formation, and some sort of List-PR would be better.
    [2] Yes, I know that applying the word “threshold” to a transferable vote is non-ideal, sorry.
    [3] We could calculate the “effective number of unique votes” as we do for the effective number of parties. But I feel that the diversity of results that we get in a multi-member district is as important to “choice” as the diversity of unique votes.

  10. I’m sorry if the formating and spelling of this post is bad. I’m posting with my phone.

    This may be a dumb suggestion, but why not allow above-the-line voting and below-the-line voting on the same ballot? Use the voter’s below-the-line preferences until they become exahausted, then use the party’s rankings. That way if there was even one candidate a voter cares about, (s)he could place one candidate vote below-the-line, and then select a party. You could help any candidates you care about while maximize the impact of your vote without having to rank a bunch of candidates you don’t know and couldn’t care less about.

    Such a system would seem to be ideal for very large districts.

    I also wouldn’t mind having very small districts (1-5 seats) with large compensory(s?) districts drawing candidates from the smaller districts using the “best loser” method. That way, low population density regions (like northern British Columbia) could have small districts(even ssd) and higher density regions could have more seats without ruining PR. To be honest, I’d prefer to use open lists instead of STV with such a system. If only for simplicity.

  11. To add to Christopher’s post, here is another wacky mixed member PR idea. Again, my preference is for straight STV, but this suggestion might gain more traction in some systems.

    Have two lists of voters, similar to the New Zealanders’ Maori and everyone else lists. The list will be the PR list and the single member district list. A voter can register on one of the two lists. Single member districts are drawn by an independent commission, so that the number of voters on the single member district list is spread evenly through the single member districts. The other voters vote for at large representives using a PR open list system. How many representatives are selected on the PR open list system, and how many are elected in the single member districts, depends on the proportion of the electorate that register for one over the other.

    This obviously would be a mixed member system, not purely proportional in any sense. If most voters want proportionality, they would register for PR and get a fairly proportional system. If most voters prefer their own local rep, the result would be a mainly single member district system with a handful of at large members. If urban voters like PR and rural voters like SMD, you would basically get a system of multimember urban PR districts with some rural SMD districts.

    Its hardly elegant, but it would probably expand voter choice. The Maori voter list is terrible on all sorts of theoretical grounds but has worked well in practice.

  12. Does anyone besides me think that Christopher may be on to something? Well, at least conceptually. It may not be obvious how to “transfer” the ballot from below-the-line to above-the-line. When a below-the-line vote (or fraction thereof) becomes exhausted in the Nth round, above-the-line votes belonging to the voter’s selected party have already been through N rounds of counting on their own, and possibly been split up into a number of parcels. Which candidate(s) on the party’s list get what fraction(s) of our voter’s vote?

    But the notion is really appealing.

  13. I once conducted a student election using something like Christopher’s proposal. There was no separation between tickets and individual candidates. You voted 1, 2, 3 etc in the usual way. Where your vote was counted for a ticket at preference n, you were assumed to vote n, n+1, n+2, n_3 etc for that ticket until you ran out of candidates on that ticket and your vote then transferred onto your next available preference.

  14. A few hours ago I wrote that there could be a difficulty implementing Christopher’s proposal. Having slept on this, I think I was wrong. At the round in which a vote is transferred from below-the-line to above-the-line, it goes to the highest ranked candidate on the party list who is still continuing (not defeated and not elected). Fairly simply, actually.

    Alan’s note shows, I think, that this works.

  15. Alan at #8: Not sure what you mean. The “standing_down STV” option I have (tentatively) mooted would not reduce a voter’s choices. “Okay, you wanted Dark Purple, but s/he would be defeated by Deep Yellow, so would you prefer your favourite stood down and let Light Purple win instead?”

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