Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: #GE2015: Proper Mad

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  • Hilary Stace,

    So if Conservatives and Lib Dems win enough seats there will be no immediate electoral crisis - although with large geographical areas and groups of people effectively disenfranchised it probably won't be a happy place. It will show that big money can still win elections. But the campaign for electoral reform might pick up momentum.

    (And their disability policies have been terrible there for the last 5 years so I would be worried about the future for that vulnerable group. Our government has followed much of their direction so it could affect us too).

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Ben Austin,

    One of the main reform organisations, if not the main one, is the Electoral Reform Society. Their preference is some form of STV.

    I can see how STV is a fairer system on an electorate-by-electorate basis, as it reduces the ability for a candidate to benefit from splitting the votes of adversaries. I don’t think it’d be such a bad idea to use it for electorates in NZ, if voters could stomach the higher complexity.

    But when parliament is made up of winners from individual seats, does STV alone really result in a more representative parliament? If 15% of the entire populace supported candidates from party 3, I could easily see a situation where nearly all of that 15% still seeped back to supporting either party 1 or party 2, due to party 3 dropping out earlier during the counting process and those voters’ later preferences being used. The consequence (as far as I can tell): it’d continue a system where two major parties largely dominate, despite not having the same level of popular support as they have influence in the house. It just becomes easier for candidates of those two parties to win against each other when there’s a third party draining their immediate support, because STV means they probably get it back anyway as long as they have a nose in front of the 3rd candidate.

    What has the experience been with the proportionality of representation in Australia under STV?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    On the other hand, STV lets the victorious major parties point at the result and claim they really do have a mandate of popular support. because so many voters fell back to supporting their candidates eventually... if only because the mechanics of the counting process knocked out everyone else.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Zach Bagnall,

    Re politicians photographed eating, this from a few weeks ago, is glorious:

    During the last mid-terms, someone on the internet did a slideshow of politicians eating things. If any PAS reader is contemplating standing for Parliament, at all costs avoid battered sausages on sticks. Think about it.

    Good god, this exit poll is depressing.

    Meh... exit polls in the UK are... shall we say, variably reliable. To show my age, I remember 1992 when the BBC's exit polling projected a slim but workable Labour majority. The polls that really counted didn't quite work out that way.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to izogi,

    Australia doesn't have STV - it has another system which is not actually proportional. All of our DHBs and some local bodies here use STV. We have a Green mayor in Wellington twice largely because of STV. It's a much fairer system than FPP and with sophisticated computer systems can be calculated quite quickly.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'm in 2 minds about STV - I agree it's the best way to elect people to a seat or office - but it can get stupidly complex - ranking the 40-50 people who run for the 11 seats on the DCC's central ward is stupidly hard.

    I also have a problem that it's less transparent than other elections - vote counting for Dunedin local body elections effectively occur in Christchurch where someone types ballot papers into computers over a period of 3 weeks - want to be a scrutineer? you effectively have to quit your job and move to Christchurch for a month - want a recount? it's done by a for profit organisation so it costs tens of thousands of dollars (or they just push the button that reruns the program that counts the already keyed in ballots) - I like that we still count ballots manually with people looking on

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Are a lot of LibDem voters gone to Labour and Labour voters going to UKIP?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and London Assemblies use a form of MMP (with regional lists in the national cases.) The Northern Irish Assembly uses STV, and then proportional allocation of the ministers based on the d'Hondt method. The London Mayor, like most elected Mayors, is elected with a truncated form of STV. And of course, the European Parliament is STV.

    The British voter, by and large, is familiar with and accepting of non-FPP voting systems. So there's no reason you couldn't see electoral reform, but voters are very suspicious of things like AV, which looked like a Lib Dem jack-up.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Sounds like a very low turnout of 56% ish. Democracy not healthy. The probably had the Dirty Politics two track strategy there too.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to izogi,

    What has the experience been with the proportionality of representation in Australia under STV?

    Australia uses approximately 20 variations on preferential voting, all of which can be called STV. Typically each of the five different votes I cast will use a different electoral system. At federal senate level I must tick all the boxes, and I'm voting for five senators from a pool of about a hundred organised into about 30 parties plus some independents. In the federal lower house I vote for a single MP, usually from a pool of about five, again ticking all the boxes. For state reps, voting is optional so I only tick the ones I care about (then my vote exhausts), but the two votes are otherwise very similar to their federal equivalents. At local council level I vote for three councillors in my ward using the same optional preferential system as state votes, but the pool is about 6 candidates from 5 parties. Where I elect multiple candidates they don't use a proportional system except at council level, in the senate it's a quota system where overflows are distributed - if there are N positions each needs 1/(N+1) the vote (so for 1 position, 1/2 the vote).

    The giant flaw in the system is that it is unpredictable in exactly the same way as the UK system is, but much less comprehensibly. Few people in Australia understand how voting works and IIRC 80% of people vote "above the line" - they tick one box and the party they choose allocates preferences for them.

    Preference distributions are one of those apparently simple things that leads to chaotic behaviour (in the mathematical sense). The problem is that in the senate exactly which votes get allocated to a candidate and which get distributed matters, and some systems allocate fractional votes and some don't, resulting in a different outcome for the election. Imagine the first half of the votes for a party all preference A,B,C but the send half all preference A,C,B. If the first half are allocated to the winning candidate, and most of the second half are excess votes that get redistributed... C comes out way ahead desipte only getting half the "next preference" votes overall. Or something like that. We saw this in the Western Australian Senate recently, where every vote in the state was upset because a thousand ballot papers were lost, making the outcome of the election unpredictable. So they had another go...

    The Australian approach could reasonably described as: it's very confusing, by design.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I am not even slightly a fan of the Australian System, but it does seem to be one of the very few STV systems that's been widely tested. I consider it "great in theory, shit in practice" because it requires an informed, thoughtful voter. Which is great if you are one, but for the other 99% of the population it's just needlessly confusing. Rather than just deciding which candidate or party they prefer, they're asked to think about every single one and rank them in order. Even I don't want to have to decide whether the NeoNazi Party is better than the CryptoFascist Party.

    MMP or pure proportional is much better - it's simpler, clearer and in practice fairer. I prefer the Israeli system with all votes in one pool and no local MPs, but as a compromise the MMP system seems to work and is more likely to be adopted. In the UK the upper house is a huge problem, giving veto power to people who have bought the right to vote is so undemocratic I'm lost for words. IMO step one should be replacing the house of lords with a democratic equivalent - a pure PR senate with 10 year terms and ideally a term limit.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • carrie onn,

    You begin your piece Russell by claiming that "the UK election result will almost certainly be a mess."

    Like most of the other predictions, that couldn't be further from the truth. The result is a clear-cut mandate to continue the economic stability that Cameron and his mob have delivered since they came to power.

    Miliband is a memory in waiting. Bravo.

    Since May 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to carrie onn,

    The result is a clear-cut mandate to continue the economic stability that Cameron and his mob have delivered

    A voice from the future? Oracle says "the recession will continue indefinitely"?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • matthew, in reply to carrie onn,

    Interesting post. The uk economy has been consistently under performing for the last 5 years. Stable yes bur crap even more so. Is that really something to cheer about?

    auckland • Since Nov 2013 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Australia uses approximately 20 variations on preferential voting, all of which can be called STV

    IANAPS but I think that single-electorate instant-run-off voting (as used for the Australian lower house, or the Wellington mayor, isn't strictly STV.

    With STV you have multi-member electorates, and the effect is that the number of elected members tends to proportionality as the electorates get larger (absent various confounding factors like tactical voting).

    With single member electorates (for an assembly), that isn't the case. You could have a situation where party A has 51% of final preference votes in every electorate and hence wins all the seats, leaving the other parties unrepresented, even though they had 49% of the votes.

    Even STV for a single office-holder (like the mayor of Wellington) isn't very representative (no system of direct voting for an office holder can be) as it subsumes everyone's vote into final support for one of two candidates. We should elect our councils by an MMP type to elect councillors followed by the indirect election of a mayor by a majority in council (as the PM is "elected" by a majority in parliament).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Moz,

    Imagine the first half of the votes for a party all preference A,B,C but the send half all preference A,C,B. If the first half are allocated to the winning candidate, and most of the second half are excess votes that get redistributed… C comes out way ahead desipte only getting half the “next preference” votes overall. Or something like that.

    That's not how it works. Excess votes are distributed based on proportions. If there are 20% excess votes to be re-distributed, then all of the second choices are counted, but each one only counts as 0.2 of a vote. So in your example, B and C would get equal votes, as is fair and proper.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 619 posts Report Reply

  • simon g, in reply to carrie onn,

    How I would define a “mess”:

    - One nation in the kingdom (Scotland) is entirely detached from the rest of it – in popular feeling, but not in legal fact.

    - One province in the kingdom (N. Ireland) will provide the seats for the English party (Conservatives) to govern the whole kingdom

    - One party (UKIP) will be almost absent from Parliament, despite being the third largest in votes

    - Overall, the two core UK questions (are all parts of it in or out of the UK, and is the UK in or out of Europe?) have only become more intractable

    So yes, “mess” seems pretty accurate to me.

    Now your turn, “Carrie”. Define “clear cut mandate”.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Call me cynical, but I think the troll may be back.
    - General cadence of the name, c.f. "fredster jones", "stamper stamp"
    - All lowercase (sorry simon)
    - Appears from nowhere in a puff of blue bullshit

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    That's not how it works. Excess votes are distributed based on proportions. If there are 20% excess votes to be re-distributed, then all of the second choices are counted

    Can you also explain exactly how the unpredictability arises in your scenario? I'm willing to accept your claim that no election in Australia currently exhausts preferences as I described.

    The problems in practice are usually simpler, per one of Anthony Green's presentations on reform:

    let me outline the extraordinary manner in which Wayne Dropulich of the Sports Party was elected. The Sports Party finished 21st of the 27 parties on the ballot paper. Twenty different parties contributed votes through preference tickets to the party’s victory, with 15 of those parties having recorded a higher share of the vote. At three points during the distribution of preferences
    Mr Dropulich had the second lowest vote tally of remaining candidates, only to survive by gaining ticket preferences on the exclusion of the only candidate with fewer votes. Under no other electoral system in the world would Mr Dropulich have been elected ahead of the other parties whose preferences were funnelled to Mr Dropulich.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    We should elect our councils by an MMP type to elect councillors followed by the indirect election of a mayor by a majority in council (as the PM is "elected" by a majority in parliament).

    This causes significant issues in Australia. Commonly no group has a clear majority, and there are fairly often more independents than members of any single party (sometimes more than all parties combined). Deals are done where one group agree to vote for mayor B on the understanding that B will resign mid-term and group B will then vote for mayor A. You see the obvious flaw. The mayor usually gets paid more than councillors, often a full-time salary and position. Which means "I'll be mayor for 3 months, then you for 3 months, then Sam for 6 months..." is utterly impractical whther it's pre-arranged or the result of shifting alliances and regular no confidence votes.

    The flip side of that is that even powerful mayoralties can be very easy to obtain compared to buying a seat in parliament. Hence corruption scandals. For a property developer, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to satisfy a council regulation or paying thousands of dollars to help elect councillors who will vote to waive those fees... it's an easy choice.

    And finally, Sydney has the novel problem of an extremely popular directly elected mayor who is not aligned with any major party, and has seriously annoyed the two who control parliament. So we have seen shenanigans, not least laws passed by those parliaments specifically to contain or destroy that mayor. That is to some extent a reflection of the corruption in state parliament, but not entirely. Political "reform" is much easier to get if the major parties all agree that it's needed...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to carrie onn,

    You begin your piece Russell by claiming that “the UK election result will almost certainly be a mess.”

    Like most of the other predictions, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    When you say "most of the predictions", you mean__ every single one of the opinion polls__, which had converged around a dead heat, at least for the popular vote. That is extremely unusual, and will be the subject of of a lot of analysis. But it's not something people just made up to suit themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Stella Duffy,

    We drove home at 2am across South London. It's quiet. I'm sad and hugely worried for disabled friends who have - no exaggeration - found their lives at risk (NHS services limited, work support cut back) under this govt. It feels very worrying. The rise in the UKIP vote is scary. The 30 emails that came in to the Women's Equality Party between 10pm (when polls closed) and 1am (when I checked) suggest that, maybe, people are looking away from traditional voting, and maybe there is hope for change. But 2020 is a long, long time to wait. I hope to sleep soon and find something amazing happened meanwhile.

    London • Since Aug 2011 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Unfortunately it looks like the exit poll has underestimated the Tory vote, and they could now win an outright majority. Crosby Textor and loads of money has out-manoeuvred the left - we are used to that here.

    You definitely don't want to be disabled in modern Britain. But there is no United Kingdom any more.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    At this early stage, Labour is losing seats to the SNP, but there appears to be a 2 - 3%
    drop in the Conservative vote.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The big problem for this as far as I'm concerned is that the proletards and toryscum are quite likely to take away my EU citizenship.

    The EU ought to provide a refugee option for UK citizens to renounce that and become citizens of the EU, with a resettlement grant paid for by a tax on British exports, such as they are.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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