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 History of voting systems

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: History of voting systems   Thu 17 Nov 2016, 20:32

With the recent fuss about the US presidential elections, some thoughts about the several voting systems and the fairness of them.
In the recent US polls Trump one million voters less than Hilary and nevertheless he became the president due to the electoral college.
As I understand it the big states have less electors than the small states if one looks to the proportional:
https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/fairvote/pages/199/attachments/original/1450119297/2008votersperelector.pdf?1450119297
http://www.fairvote.org/population_vs_electoral_votes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election


Not that the British or have I to say English system is that proportional too:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_the_United_Kingdom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-past-the-post_voting


I find the system in France a bit fairer especially with the two rounds and on the first sight it is proportional?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_France#Electoral_system


And of course in Belgium they are proportional too, at least on the first sight because represents each seat the same number of voters?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Belgium

And about the proportional representation of the voters:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation


Reading it all and how it came that far I have the impression that I opened a can of worms...

But for me is fair that "each seat" represents the "same number" of citizens

Some preliminary introduction to stimulate the thoughts.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Thu 17 Nov 2016, 20:50

OOPS...forgot...if I don't reply immediately the reason is that I am to London for some days...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Thu 17 Nov 2016, 23:12

Paul - rather you than me. These days I take care to avoid the Great Wen if possible.

I'm not convinced that size of electorate is sufficient on its own to give an equitable distribution of representatives. Should 100,000 living almost within spitting range of the town hall be regarded as equal to the same number living across a large rural area, or should the difficulty of accessing the far-flung reaches of some Welsh and Scottish seats mean they should have a smaller electorate?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Thu 17 Nov 2016, 23:37

All voting systems are deemed fit for purpose until the moment when a vocal majority (or a very vocal and sizeable minority) which doesn't get its way calls foul. PR is probably the most successful at ensuring that all views get represented and minimising the chances of this happening, but I do not think a system has yet been devised which ensures good government on the basis of a popular vote - probably because "popular", as has been proven so many times it hardly needs stating, is not always the best view anyway.

Have a good time in first-past-the-post (what a stupidly incorrect description) land.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Tue 22 Nov 2016, 13:56

@nordmann wrote:
All voting systems are deemed fit for purpose until the moment when a vocal majority (or a very vocal and sizeable minority) which doesn't get its way calls foul.

There is a voting system which not only caters for the interests of the minority but even caters for a minority of one. That system is the unanimous vote. If there is no unanimity and an individual opposes a proposal then it's called a veto.

Normally vetoes are only held by representative bodies in confederations - i.e. federated cantons and individual member states etc. In the case of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, however, a liberum veto was held by each and every member of the Sejm (parliament). During the late 17th Century and throughout most of the 18th Century the liberum veto was exercised (or even seemingly abused) by members of the Sejm to such an extent that this effectively rendered the commonwealth virtually anarchic as an entity and left it increasingly vulnerable to outside interference. Poland-Lithuania gradually fell under the control of its neighbours Austria, Prussia and Russia, culminating in outright annexations (or partitions) beginning in the 1770s.

The liberum veto was finally abolished in 1791 but this, however, was seemingly a case of too little, too late. The once powerful Commonwealth, which had been one of the largest states in Europe and had stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, was, nevertheless, extinguished only 4 years later by the third and final partition in 1795.

Historians are divided on the merits of the constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and particularly the liberum veto. Some suggest that in the Commonwealth's origins in the middle of the 17th Century, it was a truly noble enterprise, seeking to accommodate political localism and religious tolerance in a Europe dominated by centralised and absolutist states. Others, however, echo the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis who, 70 years later when his own confederation was nearing its end, suggested that it had 'died of a theory'.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Tue 22 Nov 2016, 16:21

The use of veto is a vital part of any constitutional definition of consensus, though the most successfully applied definitions, it seems, are those which restrict its use as a blatant empowerment device for minorities, especially extreme minorities.

Modern Britain, uniquely almost with the exception of some rather ugly dictatorships or oligarchies, operates without a definition of either. This in fact could be interpreted therefore as some kind of "super democracy" in that establishing a consensus about what actually constitutes a consensus is therefore implicitly required every time a consensus is measured. However in practice - as Brexit illustrates rather graphically - the effect is actually quite the opposite and the burden of establishing a definition, once ignored by parliament, cannot be enforced from beneath.

This is a problem people face in any system where their rights are not constitutionally defined or guaranteed. It is normally in fact the very first thing addressed when a dictatorship is overthrown.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Tue 22 Nov 2016, 22:01

@Vizzer wrote:
@nordmann wrote:
All voting systems are deemed fit for purpose until the moment when a vocal majority (or a very vocal and sizeable minority) which doesn't get its way calls foul.

There is a voting system which not only caters for the interests of the minority but even caters for a minority of one. That system is the unanimous vote. If there is no unanimity and an individual opposes a proposal then it's called a veto.

Normally vetoes are only held by representative bodies in confederations - i.e. federated cantons and individual member states etc. In the case of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, however, a liberum veto was held by each and every member of the Sejm (parliament). During the late 17th Century and throughout most of the 18th Century the liberum veto was exercised (or even seemingly abused) by members of the Sejm to such an extent that this effectively rendered the commonwealth virtually anarchic as an entity and left it increasingly vulnerable to outside interference. Poland-Lithuania gradually fell under the control of its neighbours Austria, Prussia and Russia, culminating in outright annexations (or partitions) beginning in the 1770s.

The liberum veto was finally abolished in 1791 but this, however, was seemingly a case of too little, too late. The once powerful Commonwealth, which had been one of the largest states in Europe and had stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, was, nevertheless, extinguished only 4 years later by the third and final partition in 1795.

Historians are divided on the merits of the constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and particularly the liberum veto. Some suggest that in the Commonwealth's origins in the middle of the 17th Century, it was a truly noble enterprise, seeking to accommodate political localism and religious tolerance in a Europe dominated by centralised and absolutist states. Others, however, echo the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis who, 70 years later when his own confederation was nearing its end, suggested that it had 'died of a theory'.


Vizzer,

interesting example of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Perhaps better than an individual veto right, can be a two thirds majority to pass a law, which is crucial for a state? As such some "minorities" will be protected?
As for instance in Belgium the Flemish majority can't pass a legislation without the consent of the French speaking regions. As a consequence they can only abolish Belgium if they agree among each other Wink .
The process of constitutional amendment in Belgium

And to change the Constitution one need to have a two thirds majority, as the Constitution is such a serious matter and to have the assent of the king. But the king can always be declared "unable to reign" Wink
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Question
"With Belgium liberated but the King still in captivity, a regency was proclaimed and Leopold's brother, Prince Charles, Count of Flanders, was elected as prince regent. The King was declared officially "unable to rule" in accordance with the Constitution. With the country divided along political lines over whether the King could ever return to his functions, and with the left wing dominant politically, Leopold went into exile in Switzerland."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Belgium
"However, the problem was resolved by an agreement between the king and Prime Minister Martens by which the Belgian government declared the king unable to govern, assumed his authority and enacted the law, after which Parliament then voted to reinstate the king on the next day.[6][10][11][12][13][14]"


But in all it's regidity also of the new Weimar constitution Hitler was able to reach the two thirds majority for the Enabling Act by the help of the Catholic Ludwig Kaas. Although there were some tricks I have to agree, as the Reichstag's fire, the menacing SA around the voting building, the Communist party members without right to vote, the Socialists had to be present to vote and as most were set in jail or sought cover for the Nazi represailles, there were no many present at the pseudo Reichstag building, the Kroll Opera House, that day.
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/the-enabling-act-march-1933/
"The President of the Reichstag was Hermann Goering. He introduced a new procedure that made irrelevant the proposed move of the Social Democrats. Goering’s new procedure was to deem present any Reichstag Deputy who was not at the session but who did not have a good reason not to be there. In fact, 26 Social Democrat Deputies were in hiding for their lives – but as they could not present to the Reichstag a good reason for not being there they were counted as present."


Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Tue 22 Nov 2016, 22:31

Fixed it for you.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Wed 23 Nov 2016, 17:23

@nordmann wrote:
Fixed it for you.

Thanks a lot, Nordmann. Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Fri 25 Nov 2016, 09:20

I'm impressed by the Rwandan system - historical in the sense that despite being a recent innovation it is definitely the first of its kind, and a perfect response to the horrifically divisive social tensions that led to genocide in the country in the 1990s when one of the two main ethnic groups basically tried to wipe the other out (800,000 died). Other divided communities might take note. It contains some elements that at first glance appear extremely undemocratic and yet in practice have proven extremely efficient at returning basic democratic principles to the electorate, an almost unimaginable thing in 1995 when the country first took stock of its horrendous blood-letting and the deep divisions of hatred that had culminated in mass slaughter. In many ways it was one last desperate and almost hopeless attempt at avoiding further genocide, but in other ways it has managed perhaps to establish an electoral system that now should be given serious consideration by all other countries, especially those whose colonial legacy includes serious ethnic divisions not always amicably accommodated within their often artificially contrived population demographics, designed at one time to suit the colonist, not the colonised.

Rwanda's government is bicameral. The upper house, the Senate, contains 26 people indirectly elected by political groups and ratified institutions (there is hope that Amnesty International will be included). However the Senate has a limited function regarding policy development, so the real innovation applies to the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.

This is made up of 80 delegates, 27 of whom are elected by special interest groups as defined in the new constitution. These groups are mandated to protect minorities and disadvantaged sectors of the population, and interestingly 24 of the 27 must be women, 2 must be "young people", and the remaining representative must be disabled. Already this section of parliament has been called "the common sense brigade" by Rwandans (who were offered the option to do away with them under a constitutional reform amendment a few years ago and rejected the change outright).

The remaining 53 are what we might call "normal MPs". However given what we know about these people (politicians, not Rwandans) when behaving according to what they think is normal their election is a little special.

Firstly there are no small constituencies, single seat such as in the UK or multi-seat such as in more democratic PR systems. Rwanda is now divided into 5 provinces ("intara"), which in 1995 replaced the 12 diverse provinces which reflected ethnic divisions and were considered part of the problem that had led to genocide. The intara however reflect in at least 2 cases (possibly 3) a generally proportionate division of ethnicity within them as exists in the country as a whole. During an election each party publishes a list of its candidates. The people within each province then vote for the party, not the individuals. Based on this vote each party receives a corresponding percentage of available seats and must select from its own potential candidates who it will send further to the chamber.

The effect of this obvious. Firstly candidates, when canvassing, must basically extol the virtues of their party and not just their own - unless one individual is so hugely popular that he or she garners a percentage in excess of all the others put together (and it hasn't happened yet) they cannot really pursue a personal platform. Instead they become policy explainers. Then, when the party gets to the point that the electorate has decided the percentage it has to play with, it must basically prune away all the tossers who let it down with respect to this approach. Of course it doesn't have to, but advancing tossers would be a very foolhardy risk for any party to take come the next election.

Nothing is perfect, least of all in Rwanda. However when one takes into account that Hutu terrorists (the ones who kick-started and perpetrated the genocide of 1994) consistently attempt to disrupt voting, including even grenade attacks on polling stations, and that President Kagame is most likely privately backing Congo militants committing human rights offences left right and centre which in turn could end up raising violence levels within Rwanda itself, then the whole thing seems even more miraculous. The electorate has overwhelmingly returned the RFP, a "peace and reconciliation" party, each election and even Kagame (the nearest thing the system can produce to a vainglorious demagogue) has overseen financial policies which have contributed to the country's recent projection of a 7% economic growth, easily ahead of most of Africa and which has been on the up since the early years of this century.

Kagame however could well prove the undoing of the whole thing. The 2015 constitutional reform which he ensured could not be legally challenged by the opposition (itself an illegal move according to the UN) essentially made him potential president for life. A constitution which was so rigorously designed to avoid demagoguery at the outset may now be undermined and abolished by literally the only public representative still allowed to campaign using personality politics. However the reform, at least as it stands now, has decreased the presidential term from 7 to 5 years and Kagame must still stand against opposition candidates - so at least it's not quite Mugabe standard demagoguery, yet.

We'll see.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: History of voting systems   Fri 25 Nov 2016, 12:02

It's certainly a fascinating set up although it has to be appreciated that Paul Kagame was already in power before the constitution came into place. He presided over the setting up of the constitutional commission which drew it up. In other words rather than being a system which produced the demagogue, it was the demagogue who produced the system. But time will indeed tell. Quite apart from anything else, Kagame's Rwanda and its constitution were deemed appropriate enuff for the country to be join the Commonwealth of Nations which it did in 2009.

Staying with the Commonwealth and with Africa, then another system which was attempted was the 2 party state established under General Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria in the late 1980s. When one considers the long list of military coups in that country (does Nigeria hold the world record in this?) and also the many 1 party states which existed around the world at that time, then an official 2 party state seemed like an eminently sensible way forward. If for nothing else it was at least an honest reflection of the effectively 2 party state set ups which exist in the US and the UK etc as a result of their use of the Single Largest Wins voting system. Thus in Nigeria only the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Convention were permitted. All other parties were banned. Babangida's incentive here too was to seek to remove tribalism from party politics. Things didn't go quite to plan for Babangida, however, as he ended up annulling the results of an election in 1993 and then himself stepped down. There then ensued yet another military coup and Nigeria's brief experiment as a 2 party state passed into history.
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