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Proportional respresentation voting
in the upcoming Pacifica elections
4-22-03


from david greene, [Pacifica]elections coordinator.

(Please forward to the bylaws (and all other relevant) lists.)

In specific response to the misunderstanding that Choice voting requires candidates to be associated with constituencies, and as an attempt to explain the overall Choice voting system being proposed for LSB elections:

The choice voting system being proposed for Pacifica's elections does not require formal constituencies. It is strictly non-partisan. Candidates - and voters - run and vote as individuals.

Let's recap:
Elections come in two general flavors: Proportional Representation (PR) and Winner-Take-All (WTA).

WTA elections essentially say that whoever gets the most votes, wins. 51% of the voters win 100% of the seats. Works great for mayors and presidents where there's only one seat, but not so great for an entire board or council whose intention is to be a representative body.

PR elections say that 51% of the voters should win 51% of the seats, and the other 49% of the voters should get their fair share of representation: 49% of the seats. PR elections don't work for single seats, but are a very effective way to elect representative bodies.

Depending on the kind of PR election - and the number of seats up for election - fractions as small as 10%, or 5%, or even 1% of the voters also get their fair share of the seats.

PR elections can be partisan, where people vote for a party rather than an individual candidate; or non-partisan, where people rank individual candidates without any need for party or formal constituency affiliation.

In both cases, voters cast their vote for their preferred party or first-choice candidate. The votes are then grouped to see what percentage of all votes were cast in favor of a particular party or first-choice candidate.

In the case of a party vote, the party is then awarded a number of seats on the representative body so that their share of seats is equal to their share of the overall vote. If ten seats are being awarded, then each seat requires a one-tenth share of the votes: a party with four-tenths of the vote gets four seats. This is the simplest form of PR, known as a party list vote.

In the case of a non-partisan vote, we use Choice voting, also called the single transferable vote (STV). In choice voting, each voter gets one vote, and ranks their preferred candidates as a first, second, third, etc. choice. Votes are tallied according to first choice votes, and the group of voters who happen to have voted for the same candidate as their first choice are awarded a 'share of influence' equal to their share of the overall vote. If ten seats are being elected, then each seat requires approximately a one-tenth share of the votes (The exact share required is slightly lower, see comment below). If the group of people who rank the same candidate as their first choice is one-tenth of the total, then they successfully elect their first choice candidate.

(Roughly: If 10 seats are being filled, and 100 of 1000 voters rank A as their first choice, then A wins one seat)

If, however, the same group of people is four-tenths of the overall vote, then they have four times the votes - or share of influence - as they need to elect their first-choice candidate. We don't give the first-choice candidate four seats in this case. Instead, we say that the group of people who have voted for the same first-choice candidate is large enough that only one-fourth of their share of influence is needed to elect their first-choice candidate, and the remaining three-fourths of their share of influence (or vote) can be applied, voter by voter, to whomever _each_ voter has ranked as their second choice. This is what's called transferring the surplus vote.

(Roughly: if 400 of 1000 voters rank A as 1st choice, then A wins a seat using 1/4 of each voter's vote since 1/4 times 400 equals 100 votes; and 3/4 of each voter's vote is transferred to their next-ranked candidate (B, C, D, or etc.)

Note that the group of people who shared the same first-choice vote are not necessarily formally grouped in a party or constituency. They are grouped only on the basis of sharing the same first choice in candidates. Once we look at the second choices of this group, we may find that they have a wide variety of second choices. Or many of them might rank the same second choice candidate, if two candidates share similar platforms and constituencies. It doesn't matter.

Returning to the example, if all surplus votes have been transferred and the voters have all been grouped according to the first (or current) choice of candidate, and no candidate has at least a one-tenth share of the vote, then we declare the candidate with the least share of votes to be defeated. The candidate's votes are then transferred in full to each voter's next-ranked candidate.

This process of defeating or electing candidates, and transferring votes accordingly, proceeds until all seats have been awarded. In the end, you will have )in the example) ten elected candidates, each with approximately one-tenth of the share of votes.

I mentioned earlier that the fraction to win a seat in the example was actually slightly less than one tenth... saying one tenth makes it easier to understand the overall concept; but in this case of electing ten seats, it's actually one more vote than one-eleventh of the total that's required to win a seat. Why? Because while eleven candidates could each get one-eleventh of the vote (11 times 1/11 of votes equals 11/11 of votes, or 100% of votes), they couldn't each get one more than one-eleventh: that would require 11 more votes than were cast! (11 times (1/11 of votes + 1 vote) = 100% of votes + 11 votes) Only ten candidates could each get one more than one-eleventh, so that fraction is used as the minimum number of votes needed to win one of ten seats.

Example:
100 votes, so 1/11 = 9 votes. Eleven candidates can each get 9:
9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9=99.
But 1/11 + 1 = 9+1 = 10 votes: Eleven candidates can't each get 10:
10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10 = 110 votes, or more than the 100 votes.
Ten candidates can get 10 votes: 10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10=100 votes.

In the upcoming Pacifica LSB elections with 18 listener reps being elected, the threshold to win a seat will be one more than 1/19th of the vote. If 5000 people vote, as in the past KPFA elections, then approximately 265 votes will be needed to win a single seat.

If a candidate is supported by a group of voters that size - call them a constituency, a group of like-minded voters, or just a collection of people who all had the same first choice - whatever - then that candidate will win. The other 18 seats will similarly each be elected by other groups-constituencies-collections, so that, given an array of strong candidates to choose from, the elected board will fairly and accurately reflect the electorate's preferences, priorities, and diversity, as measured in 1/19th (5-1/4%)- sized slices.

Again, please distribute widely. Read it aloud & hand out copies at your next LAB meeting. Let's build our understanding of this process! Feel free to contact me with any questions at dmgreene@igc.org

David Greene
Pacifica Elections Coordinator


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