Strategic Election Reform, American Proportional Representation and the Debate on IRV vs. RV

I'm going to take some time to follow up on reader suggestions made in comments over the last week or so. In a comment here last week, reader DLW relayed a link to an article at TPM on Strategic Election Reform, which led to another on American Proportional Representation, both written by David L Wetzell. On strategic election reform, Wetzell writes:
(SER) advocates for simple rule changes for state legislative elections. The basic idea behind SER is to use both winner-doesn't-take-all and winner-take-all elections, so as to bring together the best of the two types of elections. . . .

Just as the US Constitution prescribed two very different ways of electing congressmen and senators, Strategic election reform proposes that we use different election rules to elect our state representatives and our state senators. First, let us have state districts, and let there be three state representatives and one state senator per state-district. Then, we propose the use of American Proportional Representation to elect the three state representatives in each district. Then, for state senate elections, we propose a new hybrid winner-take-all election system, Top Three IRV. Thus, we would use a winner-take-all election for the state senate and a winner-doesn't-take-all election for the state house of representatives. . . .

American Proportional Representation is unapologetically biased in favor of smaller parties. Top Three IRV, like all winner-take-all election rules, is biased in favor of larger parties. When we use both rules for the two separate branches, their biases will tend to cancel each other out.
In the second article, Wetzell explains what he means by 'American Proportional Representation':
American Proportional Representation (AmPR) is a simple election rule. It is designed for use in state house of representative elections, as a part of Strategic Election Reform. It is a way to adapt Proportional Representation (PR) for the US. It is "American" because it works just like most US elections work, except there would usually be three winners. Like most US elections, with AmPR, there would be multiple parties with one candidate each and voters would vote for the candidate they support the most. The difference is that there would be three seats contested and the three seats would be distributed among the parties/candidates based on their percentages of the vote. The rule is to match as close as possible the percentage of the seats a party wins with the percentage of the vote their candidate received.
Independents and third party activists should be vocal supporters of these sorts of reforms. Over the last year or two, however, I have come to side with advocates of range and approval voting in their critique of both plurality voting and IRV, but I'm still working through my thoughts on the politics of the issue, which is somewhat embarrassing, as I've been meaning to write a guest post on the issue for Dale Sheldon at Least of All Evils for some time now. Coincidentally or not, over the last few days at Least of All Evils, DLW has been engaged in a detailed discussion and debate on the merits of IRV vs. range voting with Dale and commenter Broken Ladder, which is well worth a read.


DLW said...

Strategic Election Reform's a matter of evolution, not revolution. IRV has been more fit because it's somewhat easier to explain and the way it favors incumbents has helped make elected officials(almost all of whom are going to be the incumbent in an election) more prone to support it.

AmPR/SER is more fit because of how it doesn't require lots of voter-education and it doesn't try to end our two-party dominated system. Albeit, the theory only states that there would tend to be two dominant parties, per state, and so there's no reason to believe that it has to be the same two parties in each and every state.

I'd reckon we'd end up eventually with a Green Democrat party and a Libertarian Republican party, with both parties more green and more libertarian (or less corporatistic)....


Jim Jepps said...

I'm not sure PR can work on three member constituencies.

The point is that if a party is getting 10% of the vote across the country then they should be entitled to 10% of the representation - three member constituencies still excludes that party and, the US, would generally mean that areas had two of one and one of the other bigger parties.

I'm happy with the compromise of a winner take all house and a PR house, but really you need to have more sizable PR constituencies to make PR meaningful.

That's my view anyway.

DLW said...

Hi Jim,

The point is that we don't need to get the %s perfect to make our system give more voice to more people on more issues. AmPR will generally award the top 3 parties with one seat each if the diff between the top and 3rd-place party's %s is less than 33.3. If it's more than 33.3 then the top party will win 2 of the 3 seats. And in order for the top party to win all three seats, they'd need to get 66.67% more of the vote than the 2nd place party. These rules are derived from how the seats would be distributed so as to minimize the differences in % between the seats won and the votes received among all of the parties.

So if a party gets 10% of the vote consistently, and they are the 3rd ranked party and the top party gets less than 43.33% then they'll win a seat. On average, over many elections across time and districts, this would tend to work out so the party would get more than 10% of the seats. But that'll compensate them for how they'd still get less than 10% of the seats in winner-take-all elections. Rather than try to get "the" perfect election rule without any bias, the idea is to use a mix of rules with different biases that tend to cancel each other out.

But what give AmPR an edge is that it's so much like most USAmerican elections and thereby doesn't require extensive voter education, like with IRV or Cumulative voting. It's rules are simple and not hard to enforce. It'd make it so that the third party reps would get to determine which of the two major parties is in power in the state hourse of reps. And that would make it so neither of the two major parties could dominate a state's politics.

Plus, it need not be the case that the same two parties would be dominant in all fifty states. Thus, we'd see intermediate parties emerge between the two major parties and local third parties that specialize in local elections and otherwise vote strategically as part of their civil issue-advocacy.

DLW said...

I wrote a new post here.

it sums up my views from the debate with Dale and Broken Ladder/Clay...


DLW said...

Any thoughts on how the dialogue is going between Dale and BL and I?


DLW said...

My views got published recently at the Rational Argumentator.

d.eris said...

Thanks for that link DLW, I'll definitely have to take a closer look at that article.