Different uses for voting
need different types of voting.
Condorcet rules elect a central chairperson.

Multi-Winner Elections

Represent Everyone.

Next chapter: Center Majorities.
to voting tasks and voting systems

Fill a diverse committee with Proportional Representation.

Humor 3 for pols: According to Ashley Montague, “It is the mark of the cultured man
that he is aware of the fact that ______ is an ethical and not a biological principle.”
1) equality, 2) interdependence, 3) succession, 4) survival of the fittest ?
(Humor answers are arranged from egalitarian to authoritarian.)

Old voting rules disregard all groups whose candidates win less than the largest share of their district's votes — only the biggest group can win representation.  Newer rules give each large group its fair share of council seats.

Democracy's Failures

Chicago Illinois has many Republican voters but they are less than a plurality in each district so the voting rule often elects no Chicago Republicans to the state's House of Representatives.  The party's reps then tend to ignore the needs of Chicago's voters.  Rural counties of the state elect few Democrats so Democratic reps tend to neglect those areas.  It need not be this way. (The state used an old fair-share rule for 110 years — up until voters cut the number of reps to punish them for giving themselves a pay raise during a “lame duck” session.)

The lack of women elected by plurality rules has consequences:  Legislatures with fewer women are apt to give less attention and funding to child care, education, health care, and other social needs.  Run-down schools and hospitals with underpaid workers are one blight, a class of citizens with inferior education and health are another.

Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1983 with a solid majority of seats in parliament, but with only 42% of the votes.  Two parties were more liberal than hers; they split their supporters and thus gave the Tories a plurality in most districts.  Thatcher's policies did not please the majority of voters, yet they were powerless to stop her.

A Democratic Solution

Proportional Representation (PR) elects several people from each large district.  It gives each party a share of seats equal to its share of the votes.  A district with 3 reps might elect 2 from the largest party and 1 from another party.  This gives representation to more points of view.  The more seats in a district with PR, the more accurately its reps speak for its voters.

For over a century, Illinois used a crude form of Proportional Representation which let each district elect 3 reps.  Each major party could win 1 or 2 seats in almost every district.  No district was “unwinnable” so neither party could afford to ignore a district.  Most important, each party caucus heard voices from all parts of the state.

Proportional Representation

The elevator pitch for PR, by Steve Chessin
“The principle of Proportional Representation is this:
    Majority rule,
    with representation for the electoral minority,
    in proportion to the way people vote. 
  “That is 60% of the vote gets you 60% of the seats, not all of them.
    And 20% of the vote gets you 20% of the seats, not none of them.

  “There are 2 key ingredients to PR:
    You have to elect more than 1 person from a district, and
    you have to allocate the winners in proportion to the vote.”

This inclusive representation continues democracy’s evolution toward wide participation in power.  All democracies have accepted the minority citizen's right to vote, and most have recognized the minority voter's right to representation.

PR has been used for over a century:  It is used by most stable democracies including: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden ...   Notice that new democracies do not look on the USA's election system as the best form of democracy.

PR can also be used by cities, towns, schools and universities: examples include the city of Cambridge Massachusetts, England's Cambridge University and many others.

In 1993, New Zealanders voted to drop plurality rule for “party list” PR.  Like the USA, New Zealand inherited plurality rule while it was a colony of Great Britain -- the first large nation to hold elections.  Voting for reps has evolved in newer democracies.  The British themselves have been edging toward PR; they use it to elect reps to the European Union and to the new legislatures of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Most people want PR when they understand its benefits.

Merits of Proportional Representation

Some merits have been mentioned: PR improves the accuracy, fairness and legitimacy of elections.  In the North Carolina case, 4 PR districts of 3 reps each would tend to elect 9 or 10 whites and 2 or 3 blacks.

PR can lessen regionalism because some conservatives can win seats even in the most liberal cities and states.

Women usually win more seats on PR councils than on councils elected by older rules.  The U.S. and England, for example, use the ancient plurality rule and only 10% of their reps are women.  In contrast, the oldest democracies in Europe use PR rules adopted in the last century and 30% of their reps are women.  Nations that use both rules elect more women by PR than by plurality.

Why?  Because most parties nominate some women in each PR district to attract particular voters.  A party that offers an all-male slate of nominees looks corruptly sexist.  But one man campaigning in each one-winner district does not look as sexist.  A PR party's slate also may reveal any ethnic or religious bias.

In a multi-winner district, a woman is not seen as running against a man or against an incumbent.  She is likely to be seen as running for her issues and policies.

Women in some PR countries considered starting their own parties.  Under plurality rules, new parties divide a side and lead to certain defeat.  But PR promptly gives seats to a new party supported by a large minority.  This reasonable threat forced the old liberal parties to decide that political experience was not as important as gender balance.  They dropped some experienced men to make room for women on their lists of nominees.  And they won.  They are now incumbents with experience, power and allies.

Inclusive rules elect a broad variety of reps and thus invite a wide range of candidates and issues, attracting a great turnout of voters -- Australians see 90% vote compared with the USA's 50%.  Turnout is high also because 83% of the voters help pick the winners.

(The quota for five majority winners is just 50% of each district and thus 50% overall.  So at least half of U.S. votes are wasted on winner surpluses or on losers; they do not affect the results.  The share of votes needed to win a Senate seat in Australia is only 16.7% for each of five seats;  5 × 16.7% = 83.5%.  So in Australia, five ballots out of six are “effective”.  That means it turns one of the voter's choices into a rep.  High turnouts prove that Australia's ranked ballots are easy and worthwhile.)

Turnout for many U.S. primaries is only 20%.  Most voters ignore primaries.  But later, many feel the two finalists offer little choice.  Indeed, in the “safe seat” districts drawn to favor either the liberal or conservative party, there is no choice; that party's nominee is certain to win.

Some forms of PR combine the primary with the general election: Each party offers more nominees than it can elect and voters in the general election decide which nominees are best.  A liberal rep must compete against similar reps and challengers for the favor of liberal voters.  This lets voters have real choices.

(Sabbatical terms also make elections more competitive, forcing current liberal reps to run against former liberal winners. Sabbaticals cannot work with “list PR” where party leaders list the order in which their nominees win seats. Members can rotate off the list to work in a party job for a term, then rotate back onto the list.)

The down arrow links to another full page with many more merits of PR.  Further down are pages on the Single Transferable Vote, the best PR rule for city councils and for organizations with no political parties.

Unfortunately PR rules usually produce no central party and the 2 biggest parties usually refuse to work together.  The side with the most seats forms a ruling majority which then enacts policies skewed toward their side.  The ensemble rules explained next can do better. Balanced majorities.

Answer: Ashley Montague wrote of ethical and political equality.  Top

Yes Sim Candidate 1YesSim Candidate 2 Yes

Answer: Ashley Montague wrote of ethical and political equality.


Searching for more?  There are a dozen quotas for STV and PR, divisors for PR, semi-proportional rules and rules for letting voters reorder a party's list.

You will find rules and quotas or divisors named for Droop, d'Hondt, Hare, Meek, Newland-Briton, St. Lague, Warren...  Some rules have descriptive names such as Largest remainders.  And you will find names that indicate variations on these rules.  The voting glossary defines some of these.

Search Terms Adjectives
Nouns Choice Hare-Clark Proportional
Single Trans-
ferable Vote
Methods Choice methods Hare-Clark methods PR methods PV methods STV methods
Procedures  Choice 
Hare-Clark procedures  PR procedures   PV procedures   STV procedures 
Quotas Choice quotas Hare-Clark quotas PR quotas PV quotas STV quotas
Rules Choice rules Hare-Clark rules PR rules PV rules STV rules
Systems Choice systems Hare-Clark systems PR systems PV systems STV systems

The basic terms: Proportional Voting, Proportional Representation and Full Representation or Full Rep. are synonyms.

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