Project Wonderful

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Election Words

I'd like to demonstrate one of the many things I did not like about my grad school. I was writing a report with a group of my classmates for a big consulting client and in that report I used the terms "first past the post" and "proportional representation." One of my classmates strenuously objected to me using these terms because they were "jargon" and she didn't know what they meant. First, call me my father's daughter, but I thought we went to an ivy league public policy school where at the very least if you are unfamiliar with a term you look it up. Second, I don't want to live in a world where public professionals not only don't know the difference between a first past the post and proportional representation system, but they assume that the people who work at our most prominent international peace and governance organization don't either. (Spoiler alert: those words wound up all over our report.) So lest you fall victim to my particular brand of snobbery and because as someone who gives you advice, I thought you should know, here are some common electoral system terms and their definitions*:

(Absolute) Majority- More than half.

Plurality (Aka Relative Majority)- Used in elections when somebody gets the most of anyone else, but not necessarily more than half.

First Past the Post- (Aka Winner Takes All or Simple Plurality) The candidate(s) with the highest number of votes win(s).

Single Member Legislative District- A district that returns one member to a body (for example Congress) that has multiple members.

Single Seat Plurality- The winner of the one seat in question is the person with the most votes.

Multiple Member First Past the Post- The first number of candidates, in order of highest vote, corresponding to the number of positions to be filled are elected. (If there are six vacancies then the first six candidates with the highest vote are elected.)

Fusion Voting (Aka Electoral Fusion)- two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate.

Proportional Representation- System in which the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received by that group.

Party List Proportional Representation- System in which parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats get allocated to each party in proportion to the number of votes the party receives.

Closed List- A party list proportional representation in which the voters effectively vote for party and do not have any influence over in which the candidates who represent them are elected.

Open List- A party list proportional representation in which the voters effectively vote for party and have some influence over the specific candidates who represent them or the order in which they are elected.

Constituency- in this case voting distict (I know, mind blown.)

Preferential Voting/Rank Order Voting (Aka Preferential Voting)- Voters place candidates in order of preference (1st,2nd,3rd...)

Borda Count- Votes are counted by assigning a point value to each place in the hierarchy, and the choice with the largest number of points is selected.

Instant Runoff Voting (Aka Alternative Vote)- Type of preferential voting in which if no candidate gets a majority of votes, the votes voters cast for the candidate that received the smallest number of first preference rankings are redistributed to those voters' second choice and so on until some candidate receives a majority.

Single Transferable Vote- a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat constituencies. Voters have a single vote that is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate, and then, as the count proceeds and candidates are either elected or eliminated, is transferred to other candidates according to the voter's stated preferences, in proportion to any surplus or discarded votes.

Supplementary vote- Voters express a first and second choice of candidate only, and, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of first choice votes, all but the two leading candidates are eliminated and the votes of those eliminated redistributed according to their second choice votes to determine the winner.

Range Voting- Voting method for one-seat elections under which voters score each candidate, the scores are added up, and the candidate with the highest score wins.

Bucklin Voting- System in which all votes on all ballots that are above some threshold are counted, and then adjusting that threshold down until a majority is reached.

Exhaustive Ballots- System in which a voter casts a single vote for his or her favorite candidate. If no candidate is supported by an overall majority of votes then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and a further round of voting occurs.

Open Primary- Primary election in which voters can vote in any party primary regardless of their party affiliation.

Closed Primary- People may vote in a party's primary only if they are registered members of that party prior to election day. Non-affiliated voters cannot participate.

Semi-closed Primary- Registered party members can vote only in their own party's primary. Unaffiliated voters can vote in any party's primary.

Parallel Voting (Aka Mixed Member Majoritarian)- System in which voters in effect participate in two separate elections for a single chamber using different systems, and where the results in one election have little or no impact on the results of the other. For example, in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Senators some Deputies and Senators are election in first past the post election and some are elected in a proportional representation system.

Plurality at Large Voting (Aka Block Voting or Multiple Non-Transferable Vote)- A non-proportional voting system for electing several representatives from a single multi-member electoral district using a series of check boxes and tallying votes similar to a plurality election. Although multiple winners are elected simultaneously, block voting is not a system for obtaining proportional representation; instead, the usual result is that the largest single group wins every seat by electing a slate of candidates.

Direct Election- A system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the person, persons or political party that they desire to see elected (as opposed to voters electing electors who then cast a vote for the office holder.)

*Note that these definitions were crossed referenced with Wikipedia and sometimes ripped or paraphrased therefrom.
** In full disclosure, some of these I did not know before I went to grad school.

1 comment:

  1. The Top Two Primary should also be added. This is the system used for most municipal elections, as well as statewide in California and Washington state, Party primaries are eliminated, replaced by one public primary where all voters can participate. They can split their ticket however they like, and the top two vote getters regardless of party advance to the general election. Advocates say this system increases participation, increases coalition building, makes elections more competitive, and incentivises politicians being responsive to all of their constituents, not just their base.