Nov 16, 2010

Why is 3-seated Hare-Largest Remainder the Bomb?

This is my first post at third party and independent daily. It is reposted from my blog, "A New Kind of Third Party". But I need to provide a little bit of background to clarify it. I have been a self-taught student and independent advocate for election reform for the last three years. I've arrived at my "brand" of Strategic Election Reform(SER) from dialogues with election reformers in the US and with normal people from a variety of ideological backgrounds and education. The central premise of Strategic Election Reform is the idea that there are two basic types of elections: Winner-Take-All and Winner-Doesn't-Take-All and we need to use both at the same time to make our democracy robust. Since in the US, we almost exclusively use winner-take-all elections, the implication of SER is that we need to restore balance between the two types of elections as soon as possible. This is best done by taking the path of least resistance to incorporate the use of winner-doesn't-take-all elections within our existing US electoral system. The two secondary premises of SER are that (1)we only need to use Winner-Doesn't-Take-All elections in more local elections and the primaries for Winner-Take-All elections, neither of which would end two-party dominance in the United State of America and (2) one election rule doesn't fit all elections or the specific sorts of options given voters(IRV, Approval/Range Voting, Cumulative Voting) are of second order importance, especially for Winner-Doesn't-Take-All elections. A corollary of the second premise is that it is important to keep election rules simple for voters.

These premises reflect how I am less ambitious than some in my goals for electoral reform. However, I also believe that the effects of SER's goals would be of immense long-term benefit for moving the US Toward a Winner-Doesn't-Take-All Electoral System with positive spill overs for the entire world, which is why 3-seated Hare LR is the bomb!

1. With an infinite number of possible forms of proportional representation(PR), 3-seated Hare-LR (also known as Hare-Niemeyer) is the only form of PR that works almost exactly like the US's existing election rule First-Past-the-Post(FPTP), which it turns out is 1-seated Hare-LR. There is one candidate per party and one vote per voter. The typical outcome is that the top three candidates(in terms of percent of votes received) get one seat each. However, if the top candidate beats the third place candidate by more than one-third of the total vote then (s)he wins two seats for their party and gets to pick a team-mate to hold the second seat.

So what? This makes it easier to implement. It lets voters vote for the candidate, not the party as they are accustomed to doing and it is easier to explain than other forms of PR that let voters vote for the candidate. That's why the idea is called "Strategic Election Reform"(SER).

2. 3-seated Hare LR is biased in favor of smaller parties and therefore would help elect third party candidates. Since the top third party candidate has to beat the top candidate's percent minus 33.33%, the bar is relatively low. If the top candidate got 43% of the vote then the top third party candidate would only need to get ten percent of the vote to get elected.

So what? The 3-person cumulative voting rule used in Illinois set the bar at 25% for a third party candidate to win the third seat. This is a better deal, especially for local third parties that specialize in contesting more local and winnable elections. Smaller local third (LT) parties would be great checks on the influence of $peech on the major parties, since their smaller scope would not require large sums of cash to fund elections. And if 3-seated Hare LR in state representative elections were coupled with a plurality vote to determine the leader of the state house of representatives, then third party state representatives would determine which of the two major parties is in power. That would give them further voice with the two major parties and be what keeps either major party from dominating a state's politics. The trick is to give the leadership of the party in power additional controls so as to get things done, so third party and major party representatives do not get too much power.

3. If we take as a given that intere$t$ are going to try to influence political leaders then if they were unable to predict which major party is going to be in power in a state house of representatives they would have to hedge their bet$ (or $peech) between the two major parties. If they hedge then they would need to accept a lower and more variable return on their "investment".

So what? In the business world, if the return on an investment is lower and more variable then it tends to receive less funds. Thus, if intere$t$ were forced to hedge more between the two major parties, they would also be discouraged from investing, or exerting as much influence on them. Also, if $peech from intere$t$ (or wealthy candidates) is a crucial input for a party to win important winner-take-all elections then more equality in the amounts of $peech donated to the major parties would tend to make more winner-take-all elections competitive at the state and federal levels. There are other ways that SER would tend to make winner-take-all elections become more competitive. SER favors smaller local third (LT) parties that specialize in contesting local winnable elections with its advocacy for multi-seated elections for local/state elections. The tendencies of LT parties to vote strategically together in winner-take-all elections and to help make voters better informed and to get habitual nonvoters to vote again would together also make more winner-take-all elections competitive. And if more winner-take-all elections became competitive then more intere$t$ would need to hedge even further, which would continue to reduce the influence of their $peech.

Thus, a seemingly modest change in the election rule used in a state legislature that most people do not care about would impact the US entire electoral system. $peech would be checked the "natural" way without complicated and hard to enforce campaign finance reforms, or public funding for elections. Albeit, if the influence of $peech were weakened by SER then more strategic campaign finance regulations and some public funding would become available. And that is what makes 3-seated Hare-Largest Remainder the bomb!


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