Future democracy: sensible proportional representation

With the current state of UK politics, I believe this is an idea whose time has come.

The UK government comprises members who won the most votes in their constituency. It is a simple system, but it favors parties whose votes are concentrated in certain regions. Parties whose support is spread evenly rarely reach a majority anywhere so they get very few seats even if they have a large voter share. Those with low support usually don’t get any seats at all, but if their support is mostly from a single area, they can win a seat. Whatever the merits of such a system, and there are some, it certainly isn’t ‘fair’ in terms of equal representation. With some constituencies bigger than others, some voters get far better representation of their views than others.

My suggestion is very simple. Firstly, each MP in parliament should have the value of their vote on each issue scaled to the national proportion of people who voted for that party. Secondly, so that all significant parties are represented, each party with more than 1% of the national vote should get at least one MP, even if none achieved a majority anywhere. So to take real examples, if the Green Party gets 2% of votes, but only one seat out of 600, then their MP should be given 12 votes. If the Labour Party, with 30%, gets 45% of the seats, then each of their MPs should only get two thirds of a vote each. If Conservative win 35% of the seats with 35% of the vote, they would get one vote each. That way, there would still be a good mix of MPs and each would still represent a constituency, but every voter would have equal representation, very unlike the current system. Minority parties would benefit greatly, and the big parties would have to suffer only getting the power they actually represent.

With such a system, it ought also to be possible to divide your vote, giving some of it to one party and some to another. That would immediately remove the problem where if the left or right vote is divided, that the MP the fewest people support can win the seat. They would still win that seat, but the voting power would still go to all the parties according to their actual support.

Naturally, some people would like this system and others would hate it. It is quite normal to want to keep an unfair advantage and upsetting when it is removed. But it is surely time to make democracy so that every voter has an equal say in the running of the country.

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4 responses to “Future democracy: sensible proportional representation

  1. I’m sorry Ian, but this does not sound simple. You haven’t dealt with several key issues, including coalition-forming (which would be made much more complex by the very low 1% hurdle you have for Parliamentary representation – this would spawn more small special-interest parties), division of cabinet posts, committee voting, by-elections.

    Perhaps if you critique other PR electoral systems you will find one that works for you. I like the Scandinavian single-chamber parliament, PR with a 2% hurdle, multi-member constituency with a supplementary national list, system. With more diverse countries it might make sense to raise the hurdle slightly.

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    • Thanks Robin, I first voted in Northern Ireland which used a PR system while doing my degree in Maths and Physics, and by coincidence there was a huge article at the time in the Institute of Mathematics journal on about 20 different sorts of PR. Each favoured a different voter distribution and I have to say it destroyed my illusion that any form of conventional PR is fair – it showed the weaknesses of each and meant in the end that I didn’t like any of them. In the 90s I wrote about Shadow Democracy which allows each citizen to have their preferences recorded (and available for them to edit at any time) on a long list of issues so that at any time a government can see the preferences of the population. That has some merit but it fails on the fact that a large proportion of voters don’t know (or even care) what to think on many issues. Representative democracy is flawed but at least solves problems like that. In this blog my system is just an adaptation of the representative democracy we use now, still crudely representing the wishes of the population via party affiliation. It isn’t perfect by any means. On the good side, coalitions could still work in my system. Each member would still have their vote scaled to the proportion of the population they represent. With a few members from tiny minorities, they would be free to ally with or against the coalition and in some cases one or two members with highly scaled votes could make all the difference. I can see how problems might result from that, but if that mix is actually representative of the views of the electorate, then it might be worth putting up with the problems it would bring.

      On the bad side, the 1% barrier is very low and in some elections we’d presumably get some of the frivolous ‘free chocolate for all’ parties as well as the slightly more legitimate greens, communists, far right groups, and assorted special interest parties. On the other hand, if someone cares enough about an issue to spend their vote on it, should they not have that issue represented? Debatable for sure. It would be good to have some means of filtering out single issue candidates from causing problems on other issues while still making sure that their single issue gets put firmly on the table if enough people care about it. Perhaps people should have the option to get Swiss-style referenda to deal with the special issues instead of feeling they have to vote someone in to parliament.

      I agree it needs work. I still think that having scaled votes is a good starting point that makes sure people can have equal representation from the moment the votes are counted.

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  3. But in Our Country INDIA, the present voting methods are not the result of true DEMOCRACY because the poors citizens electorates i.e. voters cannot have the appropriate peoples representatives viz., MP or MLA or MLC either in the PARLIAMENT or in the ASSEMBLIES OF STATES in INDIA [The TUESDAY, 31st MARCH, 2015 at 22:00:00 PM/Hr/IST]

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