September 23, 2007November 2, 2007Meeting Report

October 21, 2007

Pete Martineau and Chuck O'Neil

Proportional Representation and
Scotland's Use of Ranked Voting

Pete Martineau and Chuck O’Neil, who are both HAGSA members, made presentations at the September 21 meeting.

Proportional Representation (Pete Martineau)

Pete is a leading advocate of proportional representation, and had given a similar presentation five years ago.

Our current system consists of separate geographical districts, with one member per district. Whoever wins a plurality wins the seat. Most seats are either safely Democratic or safely Republican. The few seats that are in play get most of the attention from the parties and the media. Furthermore, Democrats in Republican districts and Republicans in Democratic districts really do not have a representative. With proportional representation each party will have approximately the same proportion of legislators as it had of votes received in the last election. Practically everyone will find a representative they will feel comfortable contacting.

Pete recommended the FairVote website for further information on proportional representation.

Scotland’s Use of Ranked Voting (Chuck O’Neil)

Chuck had recently visited Scotland, which had experimented with ranked choice voting in its last election. Instead of voting for one candidate, the voter ranks his or her choices. The candidate with the smallest number of first choice votes is eliminated from the race and his or her votes are recounted and reallocated to the second choice candidate. This process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of votes cast. If this system were used here, many more people could vote for someone like Ralph Nader without feeling that their vote would be wasted or would indirectly cause the least desired candidate to win.

The Scottish election is different from American elections in other ways as well. Voters do not register as members of a party, as there are no government-run primary elections. Voting districts are determined by a boundary commission, the members of which cannot have been members of a political party in the last ten years. There is no gerrymandering by partisan legislatures or supervision of elections by partisan secretaries of state, as we have here. Chuck would like to like to see multi-member districts with proportional representation.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney

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