On District-Ordered Lists: in reaction to Éric Grenier’s proposal

A month or two back, Éric Grenier from ThreeHundredEight.com, who is often cited on this blog when the discussion turns towards current electoral prospects in Canada, proposed an electoral reform to introduce PR in that country. The proposal suggests a retention of current electoral districts as a list-ordering mechanism: while seats would be allocated proportionally to parties within each province, voters would still cast a vote for one candidate in their district, and each party’s seats would be awarded to the party’s candidates achieving the highest shares of the vote in their districts.

To my knowledge, two countries use a very similar system: Slovenia and Romania. The Slovenian system is practically identical, with the difference that seats are allocated to candidates on the basis of the number of votes they receive in their district, rather than the percentage. The Romanian system is different in that it guarantees a seat to any candidate with more than 50% of a district’s vote, and guarantees that each district has (at least) one representative (with potentially more in the case of an overhang). Another substantially similar case is the German state of Baden-Württemburg, where half the seats are filled by the plurality winners of each district and the other half by the party’s ‘best loser’ candidates by district vote share. In the absence of another moniker (as far as I’m aware) I shall collectively call all these systems (including Grenier’s proposal) ‘District-Ordered List systems’. Of these, only systems where each district winner is guaranteed a seat (as in Baden-Württemburg’s ‘best loser’ scheme) may be considered to be a type of MMP.

Though I recognise that District-Ordered List systems may have some merit, they suffer from some serious disadvantages, especially with comparison to 2-vote MMP.

As the Jenkins Commission put it some years ago, “turning losers into winners” may be seen as problematic. This is even more the case in those systems which do not guarantee district plurality winners a seat, as the representative elected from a district may only have taken a small share of the vote while the first-, second-, third-, and even fourth- placed candidates return empty-handed. In Slovenia (and under the Grenier proposal), some districts, particularly deeply-divided ones, can be left with none of its candidates elected and no local representation at all, while other districts may see more than one candidate elected. Romania doesn’t have that problem as its system ensures that every district has its own MP, but those MPs are more likely to be second- or third-placed within their own district. Baden-Württemburg’s best-loser MMP eliminates most of these problems by ensuring each district’s first-placed candidate gets a seat.

Another limitation of District-Ordered List systems is that they (as proposed or currently used) feature a single vote, meaning voting for district representative is completely tied up with the party vote (unlike the most commonly used variant of MMP, which features two votes: a district vote and a list vote). While ordering lists by district is an attempt to bring individual accountability to the list component[1], having a single vote means that voters cannot assess district candidates independently from the parties. For example, if a voter identifies with a party but dislikes that party’s candidate in his district, he may be faced with a dilemma. That dilemma does not exist under 2-vote MMP, where a district vote for party A’s candidate should not, in principle, affect party B (or any party’s) final seat count, which is determined separately according to the number of list votes attained by each party. This should make individual, district-level accountability stronger under regular 2-vote MMP.

Another issue has been raised previously by Matthew Shugart, this blog’s chief planter:

“By rewarding a candidate for driving up his or her vote even in a district where the candidate has little realistic chance of winning, best-loser allocation exacerbates some of the worst features of FPTP. Whereas under [2-vote] MMP rules, the two big parties have a strong incentive to seek to position themselves near the center of the nationwide electorate to maximize their party vote, under the best-loser rule, they would be back to the old days of targeting districts and seeking to appeal to voters located in relatively closely contested districts. They would want to do so because, even if they are not likely to win such electorates, those are the electorates where their highest quality candidates have the best shot at entering parliament despite losing the district race.”

I don’t know to what degree this has been the case in the aforementioned countries using district-ordered lists[2], but the charge certainly makes sense, although I think it is a little overstated: under First-Past-the-Post, parties target marginal seats as a seat-maximizing strategy. Under any system with district-ordered lists, each party’s seat total is generally determined proportionally and independently of the number of districts won[3]. This means the general effect should be lesser than under FPTP, though it may still be just as strong when it comes to nomination strategies. Either way, Matthew’s argument underlines the point I try to make above: though 1-vote district-ordered list systems are supposed to introduce a certain individual accountability to the list, the fact that voters have but one vote means that to a large extent, voting patterns are party- rather than candidate-based. Safe and marginal seats can therefore be expected to exist by virtue of partisan rather than candidate support. To summarize, this not only means personal, district-level accountability will not be any stronger than under first-past-the-post, but may also impact parties’ nomination strategies at least as much as FPTP.

To some degree, one could address these issues with the best-loser MMP model by slightly modifying it to have two votes: one for district representative and the other determining each party’s overall share of seats, but with list seats going to the ‘best losers’ in the district tier. Voters could split their vote, thus generating district results that more closely reflect voters’ appreciation for the candidates rather than for the parties they are affiliated with (all the while having their list vote count fully for the calculation of the seat total of their preferred party). There would be less of a risk in nominating ‘quality’ candidates in less-than-safe districts, as the relative safety of a district would less be a function of partisan preferences and more of appreciation for the nominated candidates. Of course, this may work only to the degree that people understand and use their two votes in this way. If they would still overwhelmingly vote for their preferred party’s candidate, either because they do not understand that it does not impact their party’s total or for instance because they only value candidates based on their partisan affiliation, the improvement felt would be negligible.

Either way, this also raises a broader question: is pitting individual candidates against other individual candidates of other parties an effective way of holding candidates individually accountable, as under FPTP, MMP or any district-ordered list PR? Personally, I suspect systems where candidates face competition from other candidates of the same party, such as open-list systems or STV, may have more to offer on this score[4].

[1] For example, the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly described best-loser MMP as having “greater accountability [than regular 2-vote MMP] as voters would have a more direct vote for those who are chosen to represent them.”

[2] The evidence Matthew cites comes from Japan, which allows parties to order their lists based on success in districts, but does not make it mandatory.

[3] The exception is overhang, which under some systems may increase a party’s seat total beyond its proportional share, and which may or may not be a realistic prospect, depending on the electoral situation.

[4] Whichever is the case, I can think of only one system that offers a direct compromise between the two principles: open-list MMP.

29 thoughts on “On District-Ordered Lists: in reaction to Éric Grenier’s proposal

  1. Thank you, JD, for another thoughtful post on some fine details of electoral-system design. I rather like the term, district-ordered list.

    Regarding the passage on best-loser provisions that JD quoted, I would agree that my concern was overstated if applied to MMP. However, as JD indicates in the footnote, I was saying it in response to Japan, where parties should have incentive to target districts, because MMM means an additional district won actually is an additional seat in the parliament. For MMP, any such effect would be on the candidate-selection side, as JD also notes.

  2. I’ve been trying to square this circle.

    “Pure” MMP as I understand it essentially means electing some members of the assembly via single member districts, then someone appoints the remaining members of the assembly. The appointed members are party functionaries who are there to make sure that each party’s strength is proportional to the votes they received nationwide. The elected members are there because its important that localities have their own representative, which they elected, to do constituency work.

    “Pure MMP” is as it is because it tries to incorporate two values that in practice contradict each other. Having constituencies elect representatives is important. Its important that the party strengths in the assembly match their strengths among the electorate. So you wind up electing some members from single member districts and appointing others. If you cared about the former, not the latter, there is no reason not to elect all members from single member districts. If you care about the latter, but thing constituency representation is a scam, you could just have everyone elected via party lists. But if you don’t like appointed members in your elected assembly, MMP is probably not for you. Many people don’t mind this. Note that with open party lists, either nationwide or provincial wide, all members of the assembly ARE elected, unlike with MMP, if the party lists are open enough they could even be said to have individual mandates.

    Personally, I don’t value proportionality much (having party strengths in the assembly match the votes for the parties in the electorate), but I do value having an elected assembly made up exclusively of elected members quite a bit, and I like constituency representation in principle, though I recognize it doesn’t work so well in reality. I think it should be at lease theoretically possible that every single member of the assembly is in danger of being dumped by the voters, without having to push the entire party below some threshold. SInce I am willing to sacrifice proportionality to get more constituency representation, STV seems to me to do a better job of what MMP is trying to do. Everyone is elected, at least nominally, and little of the weirdness that often comes up with MMP seat allocation rules.

  3. My own attempt to square the circles of MMP, done as an intellectual exercise, came out as follows.

    There are two tiers of districts. The first tier consists of single member districts. The second tier, or regional tier, is made up of agglomerations of three to nine of the single member districts. The second tier districts themselves elect from one to three members. Election to both types of district is done by plurality/ first past the post.

    All candidates must run as part of a ticket of two candidates, one candidate for the first, or local, tier, and one candidate for the second, or regional tier. A regional candidate will have a running mate in each of the local districts that make up his regional district. A candidate for a local district will paid with someone running for the regional district that the local district is part of. A voter will cast a single ballot for a pair of candidates.

    Ballots for the local, single member, districts are counted first. The candidates that win a plurality are elected. Then ballots are counted for the regional races. However, if a running mate of a candidate for the regional tier has been elected in his/ her local districts, a number of votes equal to that achieved by his/ her closest opponent, plus one, is deducted from the total of the regional tier candidate. Essentially the votes required to elect a successful local tier candidate are “credited” to the victorious local tier candidate, and not available to help elect the regional tier running mate.

    This isn’t very proportional, but the proportionality can be adjusted by increasing (or decreasing) the ratio of regional tier members to local tier members. An area that returns three local tier and three regional tier members will be more proportional than an area that returns nine local tier and one regional tier member. But what happens is that a party can’t run the table in an area with narrow win after narrow win in each single member district, because the higher proportion of their votes that are needed to elect their local tier candidates, the fewer votes will be available for the regional tier candidates and the runner up parties will take those seats. A party that runs a close second or even a strong third in a region and gets unlucky with the single member seats will do well with the regional seats. A party that genuinely dominates a region, say takes 60% of the vote, will scoop up at least one of its regional seats as well as sweeping the local seats.

    Overall the effect will be that all parties with a significant level of support will have at least some representation, while it would be very hard for a party to manufacture a majority if it can’t get its popular vote percentage at least into the high forties. Traditionally, this goes back to the old borough member and county member distinction in the Westminster parliament (I designed this with UK elections in mind). All members would be elected, and all could point to a distinct geographic constituency that elected them.

  4. By “Pure MMP” I take it you mean German MMP. But no one appoints MPs in Germany. As part of their denazification they have wonderful lows on political parties, which I wish Canada had. Germany’s Federal Elections Act requires that the order of names of the candidates in the provincial list must be laid down by secret ballot provincial conventions: Sec. 27(5). Even the election of convention delegates is democratic: “The elections of the delegates to delegates’ assemblies (party conventions) shall be secret” says Sec. 15(2) of the Law on Political Parties. And if the party allows executive members to be automatic ex-officio delegates at conventions, that Law states that the number of them eligible to vote must not exceed 20% of the total number of delegates: Sec. 9(2).

    Furthermore, the usual practice is that the provincial convention to elect list candidates is held only after local constituency candidates have been elected; most good list positions go to candidates who have already won a local nomination. (The SPD, for example, makes sure at least 40% of each group (5 or 10) of candidates on the list are women. Occasionally the list includes a “list-only” minority or female candidate not nominated locally.) The list MP then works as a shadow MP for the constituency he or she ran in, competing to serve it better, because if their party does better next time, their list seat may evaporate; they will need to win the local seat.

    But this is not relevant to Canada anyway, since no one advocates closed list MMP for Canada. The NDP supports the Law Commission recommendation that, with your second vote, you vote for the regional candidate you prefer of the party you prefer. So voters can go into the regional list and say, “That is the order the party set, but I do not prefer that order. I prefer this person to move up in the order.” As Lord Jenkins wrote, top-up MPs locally anchored to small areas are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.” So all MPs have faced the voters and are accountable to voters.

    As for STV, it works nicely in compact Northern Ireland with six MLAs per district. In half of Canada, a single constituency with six MPs would be unacceptable. We have too much geography for STV.

    • Australia also has quite a lot of geography. Canada has 3.45 people per square kilometres against 2.99 people per square kilometres in Australia. Western Australia and Queensland are each larger in area than Quebec. Yet most electoral reformers here advocate STV, as did the BC citizens assembly. Distance is certainly an argument, but it is not necessarily decisive for MMP over STV.

      • Australian electoral reformers advocate for STV because STV is claimed as an Australian invention. The (terribly designed) website of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia is filled with information about STV, but fairly little about any alternatives. The electoral reform movement in Australia is unfortunately so small that their proposals are unlikely to be scrutinised.

        I do agree with Wilfred that Canada is probably too big to have STV, at least if multi-member constituencies must be used everywhere. To some extent, I think the same goes for Australia.

      • Between 1973 and 2006 Australians reformed 4 out of 5 legislative councils, abolished (with 2 minor exceptions) malapportionment and gerrymandering, transferred electoral administration and redistribution from ministerial control to independent commissions, adopted modified D’Hondt for the ACT, then (by referendum) replaced it with STV, established public campaign financing in the federation and most states and imposed at least some donation disclosure rules.

        The legislative council of Western Australia does not yet meet the one vote one value standard, but he existence of the electoral region of Mining and Pastoral at 2,210,722 km2 suggests that STV can and does work in largish electoral areas. Remote areas are always going to need some special treatment and should not determine the electoral system. Queensland’s ‘Solomonic compromise’ of extra weighting for remote seats actually effects only 4 seats out of 89.

        There have been only two departures from STV, the modified D’Hondt system in the ACT was the result of a series of compromises in the senate rather han a well-formed proposal. MMP was never considered for obvious reasons. Once the deficiencies of modified D’Hondt became manifest the system as changed to STV. The other non-STV example was South Australia which elected its legislative council by list PR from 1983 to 1985.

        The PRSA may be small and have a poorly designed website but someone out there appears to be doing something and what they do most often appears to be STV.

      • Of course, there are a few large STV districts in Australia, but they all exist in parallel to single-member districts in the other house. Though two states use PR with a single statewide district, and we may claim it “works”, I think it would be a very hard sell to make a full shift to PR there without introducing some districting.

        I agree that remote areas should not, in principle, dictate the choice of electoral system. But the question for reformers is what is more likely to be accepted. What “works” is subjective enough for neither side to be wrong in principle, but what is going to be accepted as a minimally adequate solution is another question. It has been claimed (I cannot say with what veracity) that seeing the proposed multi-member districts was one of the factors which led to the rejection of STV in British Columbia’s second referendum – and despite the 60% threshold, that was by no means a referendum with a veto for remote areas. With all the limitations to that example, if the district size was indeed a decisive factor, I submit that the case demonstrates the importance of the issue for getting reform passed, at least in Canada.

      • JD

        I agree with your analysis. I’m merely making the point that remote areas are not he nearly the decisive issue that has been claimed in this thread. I would mention the Tasmanian assembly district of Braddon at 20,826 ㎢. While Braddon does not approach the size of Mining and Pastoral it is a lower house multimember district of considerable area (larger than Belize, Israel or El Salvador) that includes some extremely extremely remote and isolated communities.

      • Braddon has five MHAs, whereas if STV was adopted for federal elections (without a change in the size of parliament), the entire island of Tasmania would have five MHRs. As for Western Australia, the size issue is also there (the WA upper house has almost three times the number of MHRs from Western Australia) and upper house elections are usually effectively party-list contests.

        A change in the size of parliament would mean that STV would be appropriate in Australia, but the point I’m trying to make is that Canada already has massive electorates (the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, northern Saskachawan) with a fairly large parliament. The two countries are fairly different.

      • Australian parliaments are unusually small by world standards and that has quite a harsh impact on remote areas.

        In a previous thread I suggested that single member districts are desirable in those areas while multimember districts should be used elsewhere. There is no reason that am Australian or Canadian STV model could not incorporate SMDs in remote areas. I’m even open to Solomonic compromises.

        All I’ve said is that geography is a consideration, it should not be decisive. Once you allow SMDs in remote areas many of the traditional objections to proportional representation, not just STV, become less important. There may be a case for triple member districts (3MDS?)in rural areas and larger magnitudes in urban areas.

        I think I mentioned in that thread that the AEC call centre once invited me to take a round trip of 1400 kilometres to ‘pop into’ the divisional office.

      • But, of course, if you allow SMDs in rural areas, you run into allegations of trying to introduce a gerrymander by allowing parties popular in the rural areas to sweep the single-member districts, while giving those same parties minority representation in urban areas. The reverse does not apply to parties popular in urban areas, who cannot sweep MMD urban constituencies and who cannot win SMD rural constituencies. Chapter Six, Paragraphs 102-106 of the Jenkins Commission lay out this problem pretty clearly.

      • New Zealand has the fun wrinkle of Maori Seats – just the one (single-member) for the entire South Island (58,000km2) plus parts of Wellington. Note the number of General Seats is fixed in the South Island to prevent them being ‘too large’ an area. In the single House, with a nationwide List.


    • I was not speaking about SMDs in rural areas, I was speaking about SMDs in remote areas. 4 seats out of 89 in the Queensland legislative assembly are effected by the Solomon compromise and that seems about the right proportion to me. It simply cannot be your position that SMDs in remote areas are to be desired, indeed a major argument in favour, under MMP but not under other forms of proportional representation..

      • But Alan, the difference between SMDs in MMP and SMDs in STV is that under MMP, all districts are SMDs. This creates a level playing field for parties; parties with strong support in remote areas can sweep those areas, parties with strong support in urban areas can sweep those areas, and it is all evened out by the list mechanism.

        The Queensland legislative assembly is fairly large. Compared to Canada, which has 116,070 people per MP, Queensland has 53,376 people per MP. It’s not a fair comparison.

      • If the remote areas comprise less than 5% of the seats you are not going to have disproportionality any more severe than exist with thresholds, overhang seats, balance seats etc etc in MMP.

        It is also historically unlikely that any party would sweep these seats. Mt Isa for example, has elected 4 Labor members, 1 National, 1 Liberal and 1 from Katter’s Australian party in its history. Kennedy, the federal seat covering Mt Isa has a similar history. When the gerrymander prevailed in Queensland the ALP repeatedly argued that it was the party of remote Queensland and the Nationals held a great number of gerrymandered country seats that were actually very close to Brisbane.

        I really cannot see how the electorate populations effect the fairness of considering SMDs for a tiny fraction of the whole assembly. 5% is, I think, the same percentage whether it is 5% of 89 or 5% of 308.

      • The historic argument doesn’t really work, at least for Australia. Labor has become a more urban party, at least in federal elections, in recent years, and any election map of Australia will have very large amounts of blue and dark green. The same is true for Canada, on a federal level; NDP support has shifted eastwards since the 1993 rout, and while they do still have a few big rural seats, the Conservatives generally dominate those. Either way, the Liberals would certainly claim that the change was unfair, as they get most of their support from smaller districts that would be more likely to be assimilated into MMDs.

  5. MPs elected from closed lists are NOT “appointed”. Voters know ahead of the election who the candidates are, and a party’s list seats are filled by those candidates in the order of the pre-determined list. If closed lists are seen as ‘appointed’ by the parties, why should that suddenly not be the case when M=1? Under First-Past-the-Post, do you not vote for your favourite party, and the party with most votes gets to pick the MP? Indeed, it doesn’t exactly happen like that, but I’m just extending the reasoning.

    Ed, you state that MMP “tries to incorporate two values that in practice contradict each other: Having constituencies elect representatives [and that] the party strengths in the assembly match their strengths among the electorate.” But what is the actual value behind “having constituencies elect representatives?” If it is to keep representatives in some way ‘individually accountable’, I wonder to what degree this is really served by electing representatives from single-member districts, where, as I pointed out above, candidates only face candidates from other parties.

    As to the system you propose, it seems to me like a version of the MMP system in use in Scotland and Wales.

  6. Yeah, MPs elected from closed list proportional systems are no more “appointed” than those elected in plurality systems (but without primaries), where they could be said to be “appointed” to a party list containing one candidate instead of a list containing several candidates. But “appointed” is an extremely misleading term here.

    Whatever the system, the candidates are first selected (by some mechanism) and then after a campaign period some are elected (by some decision rule).

    • Why in English speaking countries, people think that List MPs are appointed when they are elected on a group slate? It seems that SMD for most English speaking countries seem to imply hyper-individualism, I want to vote for a person, and not a group whereas other Western Countries are content with voting for groups. If Canadians want an electoral system where they vote for individuals, then they would be best to use the STV system.

  7. This system that is proposed for Canada seems complicated, in order to understand it, I must pretend that the SMD are pseudo districts and are completely artificial, whoever wins the plurality in those districts gets the seats, but where would the top ups come from? This system seems as if to work only if one party wins at least 1 SMD seat rather than a percentage of party votes.

    Canada can’t use STV as it is too large geographically in the northern parties to be well represented seems a bit silly, as those areas can be represented by an SMD, and all the other parts of Canada with multiple member districts using STV, with a nation wide top up.

    • “This system that is proposed for Canada” Éric Grenier’s? Plurality winners do not automatically get a seat. Instead, each party’s seats are filled by their most successful candidates by vote share. Grenier gives full examples in his post.

      • Grenier is new to the issue, and came up with his own weird system, which he quickly renounced (see below).

        I don’t elect a local MP to populate a list, I elect a local MP to represent my community. With MMP I also help elect a few regional MPs, so I have competing MPs, including at least one from the party I support. The best of both worlds. As long as it doesn’t use closed lists.

        One problem with his model is not that a handful of ridings would elect more than one candidate. It’s that some ridings would elect no one. In Baden-Wurttemberg, every riding elects an MLA (from larger ridings), and some ridings have an additional MLA to top-up the number of MLAs from their region (they use four regions) in order to make every vote count equally (subject to the usual German 5% threshold).

        Many ridings and regions would hate this model, because they lose. Take Northern Ontario, which rejected the 2007 Ontario model because it had province-wide lists.They want Northern Ontario votes to elect the nine Northern Ontario MPs. Under this model, no Kenora candidate is elected. Worse, the Conservatives have no Northern Ontario MPs at all. By the votes shares in Northern Ontario, the fair result is four New Democrats, three Conservatives and two Liberals. In 2011, Liberal voters got cheated. This model lets the Nipissing Liberal win, but no second one. And it chops the three Conservative MPs, adding to the NDP’s northern bonus, bringing the NDP up to seven MPs. Yes, Ontario NDP voters were cheated in 2011, but not in Northern Ontario. The Baden-Wurttemberg model would have given the Liberals two Northern Ontario MPs, namely, the two defeated candidates who got the most support: Anthony Rota, and either Roger Valley (highest %) or Christian Provenzano (most votes). Whereas open list would have let Northern Liberals elect Carol Hartman.

        So Grenier responded “On reflection, I like the ‘nearest runner-up’ approach or ‘best winner’ approach best. The number of ridings would be reduced and decided via FPTP, and then extra seats would be awarded to parties to get the total number proportional to their vote. Those extra seats would be populated by the ‘nearest runner-up’, or each party’s best losers in the FPTP ridings.”

        In Canada, national lists are impossible. Provinces have fixed numbers of MPs. Province-wide lists would be possible, but most people are looking at regions similar in size to the numbers of MPs from the smaller provinces, so the degree of proportionality is similar across the country. Therefore, the region size will be in the range of 8 (the Atlantic average) to 14 (Manitoba and Saskatchewan).

        Each province still has the same number of MPs. Every group of five ridings becomes three, and you have two votes: one for a local MP, and one that helps elect a few regional MPs from your region to represent voters unrepresented (or under-represented) by the local MPs in the region. You have competing MPs from your own region (Northern Ontario’s nine MPs would certainly be a region, for example), at least one of whom you support or helped elect. No closed lists. Every MP has faced the voters. And every vote counts equally. As Stephane Dion says “I do not see why we should maintain a voting system that makes our major parties appear less national and our regions more politically opposed than they really are.”

        Eric complains open-list MMP mean choosing from about 36 names. No. You pick a party. You can stop there if you’re lazy. If, like most voters, you want a say in which of your party’s candidates you prefer, you have six (or maybe ten) names to choose from. How hard is that?

        PR, under any MMP model (whether Baden-Wurttemberg’s, the Scottish model, and Law Commission’s, or any other, never sees a party “assign” an MP to represent a riding. Ridings elect their own MP. As well, voters in each riding help elect regional MPs who represent voters unrepresented by local winners. Complex? Watch this new six-minute video:

  8. See also https://fruitsandvotes.wordpress.com/2007/11/12/denmarks-election-and-interesting-electoral-system/

    On the ‘gerrymander’ of PR in urban areas and plurality in rural areas (so that districts in both areas have the same size in km²): Belgium introduced list-PR in december 1899, but shorty before, it also considered such a scheme. In the summer of 1899, the catholic majority proposed list-PR in the six biggest districts (6-18 seats), while retaining two round-majority in the smaller districts (the electoral districts were then still equal to the administrative districts). The catholics, as a rural party, were accused of preferring minority protection in the districts with the six biggest cities while retaining majoritarianism elsewhere.

    • Into that category you might add the French electoral system of 1951-1959. Under this system, there were multi-member districts in which party-list proportional representation applied. There was an adjustment, however, where if a party or group of parties won a majority, that party or group of parties would win all the seats. In the Communist-controlled districts of urban Paris, this adjustment did not apply, though; the obvious intention was to stop the Communists from winning all the seats in these districts.

      • The idea of special representation for remote areas is not new to this blog or to discussions of proportional representation. Initially I was misrepresented as arguing for SMDs in all rural seats although that was never what I had said. Now we are told that less than 5% of districts can cause a reversed majority. MMP, as we all know, is completely immune to reverse majorities.

        I don’t quibble with that. I’ve also said repeatedly that if a given electoral system results in a reverse majority then it is appropriate to add sufficient MPs to the under-represented party or coalition to give them the appropriate level of representation. That should be a feature of any electoral system.

  9. A good way to implement (or at least frame interpretation) best loser (even in a 2-vote MMP system) is this.

    -Assume a standard MMP where top up seats are allocated based on initial SMD results.
    -For simplicity assume that no SMD winners are removed and overhands are allowed.
    -Assume there’s a mechanism to allocate top up seats regionally so that total regional seats are fixed.
    – NB: This is generally mathematically possible based on allocating each party’s top up seats by region based on a quotient related to their votes per seat. Then simply determine which regions are overrepresented and underrepresented, then reallocate top up members from one region to the other and solve iteratively until the regional total is balanced.
    -This type of system also is most fair to minimize overhangs and having every vote counted the same (even with overrepresented regions).
    -Similar, assume each region is subdivided into districts composed of 2/3 ridings and exactly one top-up member (I use riding in lieu of SMD to avoid confusion).
    -Assume for each region a similar allocation can be done to each district similar as explained above resulting in a party being awarded a member-at-large for one district.
    -So assume a simple example where the Conservatives win both ridings Conservative A winning with 40% of his district and Conservative B winning with 34% in each two ridings beating NDP A who got 38% and NDP B who 32%. NDP A would win member at large and would represent a geogrpahic district in which his party had 35% slightly higher than Conservative B.

    If we’re okay with people winning ridings being guaranteed a seat with very low pluralities, what is inherently wrong with a best loser who is otherwise being arbitrarily excluded based on the limitation of FPTP creeping into MMP?

    • Electoral reformers have a touching faith in rebranding, especially if one xan then claim a national origin for one’s proposal. We have a tendency to argue for ‘PR but with districts!’ or sometimes for ‘Districts but with PR!’ or even perhaps for something as anodyne in sound as ‘an element of proportionality’ (definitely no exclamation mark on that last one).

      Really the question should be what advantage would DOL have over MMP, STV or ListPR?

      The people of New Zealand dod not vote for one of these soap system rebrandings and there is no reason to think he people of Canada would either. The absurd arguments in the AV referendum in Britain tell us, if they tell us nothing, that no matter how restrained, rational or anodyne a proposal is the opponents of reform will invariably paint it in grim tones only slightly less restrained than those used to describe the military operations of Attila the Hun.

  10. Regarding the second point of calling the limitation of a best-loser system of being 1-vote rather than 2-vote, this will be seen by many as a plus. Unless you’re the world’s biggest optimist, 2-vote MMP only avoids a likely issue with decoy lists or vote doubling, if that MMP system is willing to remove some riding winners to eliminate overhangs (which effectively makes it a different type of PR not really MMP).

    Honestly, the issue of 1 vote and 2-vote MMP is a different debate that is separable from the merits and issues with a best loser or regional list system and is best treated as such, IMHO.

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