Elections and stuff

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,635
#1
Since the political sciences are listed under this forum now... I hope this is allowed by the forum rules now.

Few thoughts, opinions and questions of election systems. First of all - so that you can note the potential bias - I come from Finland where there parliamentary is elected in the open list proportional representation (PR) basis using the d'Hondt method. And where traditional voting blocks do not exists - which means we have had nice variety of governments from left wing, center-left, center-right, left-right (excluding center), and so on. So... I have tried to figure out what benefits systems like the 'first past the post' (FPTP) would have over that but i really can not. Some might claim that since the districts in FPTP are smaller the voters have more 'intrinsic' connection to their representatives which in some sense might be true but the other side of the coin is that the voters who opposed the elected candidate seem to be left out in the cold altogether which i see as a far bigger 'minus'. On other side the PR allows larger groups of people to be represented in the parliament with less voters being left without their own empowered representative, but then again the whole system may make the representatives too distant for the voters to connect in any meaningful manner. So how do you see that? (1)

Open list on one hand means that it is the voters, not the party, who chooses the representatives - in contrast in closed list party does that instead and voters merely vote for the relevant party. The open list can be sort seen as problem since in the end it is still typically the opinion of the party which matters (aka 'party discipline') instead of the opinion of the individual representative so some might perceive the system as misleading the voters since the stances presented by the candidate may not be those represented by the stance of the party in question. On the other hand in closed list system the voters might be disinterested in voting if they have no say on the candidates at all. I have seen all kinda of arguments being thrown in support of both stances. What is your opinion? (2)

As to method used for determining the 'proportional' part - I'm personally not convinced of the excellence of the d'Hondt method. It is relatively easy and straightforward but it still rewards the large parties and punishes the smaller ones. In that respect it shares some of the problems with that of the FPTP. Sainte-Laguë method (especially the modified version) seems to be somewhat fairer even if the difference may not usually be all that large. In this respect i perceive the Swedish system to be more fair than the Finnish one for example. Of course there are other potential means for determining that as well. How do you perceive this? (3)

That being said there is one thing that i really dislike in the current Finnish system. And that is the way how the parties which form the government allocate ministerial positions - making in practice all ministers into political ministers. The reason is simple: I do not think that the ability to gain support from a sizable enough group of people to be elected to the parliament gives in sort of competence to perform the tasks as a minister. Not unless the task of a minister is essentially reduced to that of a rodeo-clown. In that sense i really like those systems where ministerial positions are filled in something remotely resembling meritocratic procedures instead of just squabbling & horse trading between political parties. In the same sense i for one do necessarily see there being any problems in having minority governments - government can function just fine as long as keeps in the good graces of the parliament. I guess you could kind of see how the EU works (or is supposed to work...) as a sort of an example of that - the member states agree on the goals, the commission strives to fulfill those goals, the parliament acts as the watchdog. You should replace the terms with proper analogues to the domestic system of course.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2010
4,244
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#2
1. Although Georgia USA where I live has not had proportional representation, it used to have election by a plurality. It was changed to require majorities in both primary and general elections because of worries about extremists of one sort or another winning election.

2. The parties should choose. Reason in two words: Donald Trump.

I’ll look at other headings when I have time
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,467
Dispargum
#3
In America we have an extreme first past the post system in our electoral college. Perhaps you are familiar with our red states and blue states. Back in the 1990s I lived in a red state. In every presidential election my choice was to give the democrat a vote he couldn't use or to give the republican a vote he didn't need. The only votes that matter are in the states that are genuinely competitive. If we elected presidents by national popular vote, then every vote would matter and maybe more people would vote.
 

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,635
#4
On that issue, just to note, one of the things that really horrified me when i read about the Brexit were the descriptions of the some of the election habits... Where people really were not voting because of the party or candidate agenda but because of they had always kept voting for a certain party. The case in point: 'The way the EU treated the UK opened my eyes': Bolsover's Brexit - to make it clear i really don't care if they voted for or against Brexit (i.e. the topic of the linked news article) but that the opinions are so entrenched that people refuse to change them no matter what?

The case in point:
The generational ties are breaking, sighed Gascoyne. “It was always the case that you voted how your dad voted and he voted how his dad voted. In one of the last elections my daughter rang me up and said, Dad, I’m thinking of voting Lib Dem. I said fine, but don’t show your face around our house any more.” He laments the lack of political education among many young people.
I really wonder if the person referred to in the comment understand the what 'political education' means unless that is referring to brainwashing young people to do as they as are told instead of letting them decide by themselves (EDIT: i mean the person referred to by the one who gave the quote, apologies for tripping myself in English, again. I fully agree with the need for understanding of politics as referred to by the quoted person.). What I'm after is that how can there be a healthy let alone functional democracy if people are not voting for the candidate that best represents them and their interests but instead relying on entrenched habits, old traditions, or decisions made by their parents instead?



As to the presidential elections... Finland currently votes for the president by direct popular vote - all eligible candidates on the first round and unless no candidate gains over 50% of the votes then the two leading candidates on the second. And i think that is fairly good and equitable method for that. But we used to have electoral college kind of things previously (before 1988). In essence people voted for 'electors' who were nominally aligned with parties but could freely change their opinions and the persons they were backing too - allowing for 'dark horse' candidates to get through. In essence you wouldn't know to whom your vote would go to - so I'm not sure i would consider the US electoral college thing to be all the strange. For reference: 1925 Finnish presidential election - Wikipedia - the party chose candidate won was third in popular vote with mere 20% vote-share and its candidate was not leading on first or second round either.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
1,915
#6
In America we have an extreme first past the post system in our electoral college. Perhaps you are familiar with our red states and blue states. Back in the 1990s I lived in a red state. In every presidential election my choice was to give the democrat a vote he couldn't use or to give the republican a vote he didn't need. The only votes that matter are in the states that are genuinely competitive. If we elected presidents by national popular vote, then every vote would matter and maybe more people would vote.

Current / trending "Nationalist" position argument:
Since the president has power over all of the people, then all of the people should be evenly represented in the popular vote for a presidential election. The electoral college is outdated and the efficacy of the model fails because all citizens, of all the states, are not fully represented.

"Federalist" position at Constitutional Convention 1787:
Alternatively, every vote would count, but minority viewpoints would be shutdown. In theory, this format could destabilize a nation. States have different interests. If large municipalities or states with a particular viewpoint consistently overruled all the other smaller states then the cohesion of the states could be destabilized. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to change the system now and that is not likely to happen.


FYI: Additional Sources
The Electoral College and its procedure are established in the U.S. Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4. SOURCE: wiki
Article II, Section 1, Clause 3, by which the Electoral College the president was elected. SOURCE: wiki

Recommended Reading:
Federalist 39, James Madison - The Constitution is designed to establish both National and Federal characteristics.
Federalist 47, James Madison - Structure of the New Government and The Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,366
US
#7
Current / trending "Nationalist" position argument:
Since the president has power over all of the people, then all of the people should be evenly represented in the popular vote for a presidential election. The electoral college is outdated and the efficacy of the model fails because all citizens, of all the states, are not fully represented.

"Federalist" position at Constitutional Convention 1787:
Alternatively, every vote would count, but minority viewpoints would be shutdown. In theory, this format could destabilize a nation. States have different interests. If large municipalities or states with a particular viewpoint consistently overruled all the other smaller states then the cohesion of the states could be destabilized. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to change the system now and that is not likely to happen.


FYI: Additional Sources
The Electoral College and its procedure are established in the U.S. Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4. SOURCE: wiki
Article II, Section 1, Clause 3, by which the Electoral College the president was elected. SOURCE: wiki

Recommended Reading:
Federalist 39, James Madison - The Constitution is designed to establish both National and Federal characteristics.
Federalist 47, James Madison - Structure of the New Government and The Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts
This has been seen many times throughout history - in nations, states, empires, etc. where there is a sizeable minority, but that minority gets little to no representation. In the U.S., with the federal government ever growing in scope and power, in relation to states (e.g., the popular election of U.S. senators, not original) or local (creation of cabinets not original to the nation like the Department of Education), it is ever more imperative that the more populated areas not solely dictate policy. The electoral college is devised in a way that gives more populous states more votes, to give proportionality. Otherwise, the title of this thread may be more apt than supposed: elections and stuff, as in people tend to vote for the candidate who gives them "more stuff" and that is the demise of a republic.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,467
Dispargum
#8
Current / trending "Nationalist" position argument:
Since the president has power over all of the people, then all of the people should be evenly represented in the popular vote for a presidential election. The electoral college is outdated and the efficacy of the model fails because all citizens, of all the states, are not fully represented.

"Federalist" position at Constitutional Convention 1787:
Alternatively, every vote would count, but minority viewpoints would be shutdown. In theory, this format could destabilize a nation. States have different interests. If large municipalities or states with a particular viewpoint consistently overruled all the other smaller states then the cohesion of the states could be destabilized. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to change the system now and that is not likely to happen.
You bring up the intentions of the founders. I am talking about their results - in other words unintended consequences. The founders never intended the Electoral College to be dominated by party politics. Because most of the states have come under the control of one party or the other (red states vs blue states) the votes in those states have been rendered irrelevant. The only votes that make a difference in a presidential election are in the purple (battleground) states. So if the choice is between giving a slight advantage to minority interests (electoral college) or letting more than 20% of the country pick our president (popular vote) I say popular vote. Let every vote count.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,366
US
#9
You bring up the intentions of the founders. I am talking about their results - in other words unintended consequences. The founders never intended the Electoral College to be dominated by party politics. Because most of the states have come under the control of one party or the other (red states vs blue states) the votes in those states have been rendered irrelevant. The only votes that make a difference in a presidential election are in the purple (battleground) states. So if the choice is between giving a slight advantage to minority interests (electoral college) or letting more than 20% of the country pick our president (popular vote) I say popular vote. Let every vote count.
The Founders also never intended for a lack of checks and balances or mob rule, which is why they instituted the electoral college. It isn't for the best when those from many sparsely populated states can't muster enough votes to match a large city from one populous state. For state elections, the popular vote is fine. For federal elections, having one or a few states, dominated by one or a few urban areas, determine national policy was never intended by the Founders. Of course, this whole discussion is akin to debating how many angels dance on the head of a pin. The requirements for a constitutional amendment are stringent, as they should be, to prevent volatility in times of populism or temporarily changing attitudes. It is precisely why 2/3 of the states' legislatures would not vote to change the process. They would be sealing their own fate as that of a non-entity. As for congress, changing the senate to a popular vote has already moved things in that direction, but when the day comes that 2/3 of both congressional bodies vote for such a change, it will likely be moot, because this would mean the vast majority of voters are of the same accord already.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,467
Dispargum
#10
The founders also didn't intend for tyrany by the minority - where the minority has so much power that the majority can't enact any of its agenda at all. Take for example the power of the American South in the mid-19th century. Population-wise the South was a clear minority yet they were able to control the national agenda for a lot of years until finally the North said no more. Then we had a civil war because the majority will only tolerate a tyrany of the minority for so long. It's one thing to protect the rights of minorities, but it's something else to let small groups grind the whole train to a halt.

Can you think of any issues in the last 50 years where small states like Wyoming and Vermont agreed on something but were opposed by big states like California and Texas that would have resulted in good public policy if the small states had their way? I can think of one example where bad public policy came about because small states had their way. Shortly after 9/11 the federal government made lots of money available to cities and states to upgrade their counter-terrorism preparedness. But the likely terrorist targets are not evenly distributed across the country. They tend to be concentrated in the big cities. Because small states are over represented in the US Senate and in the Electoral College, a lot of small towns in Wyoming and Vermont got new fire engines and ambulances even though the terrorist threat is very low there. The big cities that really needed the money ended up with less because they had to share with smaller communities that didn't really need the money - at least not for counter-terrorism.

States' rights or states' interests just are not as prominent or distinct as they were 200 years ago. Modern communications have rendered state borders almost irrelevant. Millions of Americans cross state lines every day just communting to work. Millions more consume mass media that is transmitted across state lines. It's been 100 years since the 17th Amendment provided for direct election of senators. Giving states a role in national politics is increasingly anachronistic.

Wyoming and Vermont are far more likely to disagree on political philosophy (conservative vs liberal) than they are to agree on anything size related. Big states vs little states just isn't the issue today that it was in 1787.
 

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