The LA Times (and other papers I'm sure) are reporting that San Francisco will use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in this November's city elections.
In this system, voters rank order the candidates (San Francisco will allow 1st, 2nd and 3rd rankings). The votes are counted several times. After the first round of counting, the candidate with the fewest 1st rankings is eliminated. All the people who ranked the eliminated candidate 1st will then have their votes transferred to the candidate they ranked 2nd. The count process is repeated until one candidate gets over 50% of the vote.
This system has a number of advantages over the single member district plurality system (SMD) used in most US elections. The LA Times article discusses these and I've posted about this before.
This system would most likely benefit moderate candidates. Consider a three way mayoral race between a Green (G), a Democrat (D) and Republican (R). Let's suppose there are several kinds of voters with the following rank orderings for candidates:
Greens: 1 = G; 2 = D; 3 = R (15% of voters)
Republicans: 1 = R; 2 = D; 3 = G (43% of voters)
Liberal Democrats: 1 = D; 2 = G; 3 = R (32% of voters)
Moderate Democrats: 1 = D; 2 = R; 3 = G (10% of voters)
Under the current US electoral system if everyone voted for their first choice, the Republican would win with 43%, the Democrat would come in second with 42%, and the Green would lose with 15%. However, this hypothetical city has a 57% majority against the Republican. What is more, 47% of the voters, more than actually voted for her, consider the Republican the worst possible candidate! Would a Republican mayor really be the best, most democratic expression of the voters' preferred policies in this city??
Now consider the same city with the same candidates but this time, the votes will be counted using STV and each group of voters will rank order the candidates as indicated above. After the first round, the Green candidate would be eliminated and his votes transferred to the Democrat. The Democrat would then win with 57% of the votes to the Republican's 43%. What's more the Democrat would be 1st choice of 42% of the voters and the second choice of the other 58%. So no one would feel like the election produced their worst case scenario.
Obviously this example makes some assumptions about the candidates involved and voters' preferences. You could play around with it on your own and figure out how such a system would work with 4 parties by adding a party on the far right too. Also, this kind of example assumes one dimensional politics (left versus right) that assumption works most of the time.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 2:42 PM