Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Proportional Representation - enjoy the ride!

Many Americans, British and others are confused by the PR voting system and even Fianna Fail many decades ago hated it and tried to get rid of it. But in the last few elections FF in particular have been getting good at vote management with their supporters using the PR single transferable vote (STV) system .

On Friday and Saturday it should be fun studying all the voting patterns, surpluses, transfers on 2nd, 3rd preferences etc. And with manual counting it's going to offer plenty of slow suspense!

Our PR system offers each voter a chance to help elect several candidates who are considered compatible with the voter's desires. With good knowledge of people in the constituency there are many clever possibilities.

For example, if one person is likely to smash the quota (e.g. a popular party leader or a powerful local person) then their surplus can help drag in second weaker candidate with 2nd preferences. This depends on party or pact loyalty being strong.

In another possible case, if one candidate is likely to be elected, but without a useful surplus, then it might make sense for some supporters to vote for a weaker compatible candidate as first preference. If the weak candidate gets elected than that's good. If they get eliminated - well at least your second preference can usually go to helping the prime candidate. If the prime candidate is already elected at that stage of counting by reaching the quota, then the 3rd preference can even help a further compatible candidate. In this case if too many voted for the moderately prime candidate as first preference and they barely reach the quota - then your 2nd preferences for the weaker candidate will not even be counted.

These are just examples of the logic that might be applied and every constituency will have it's own special features. As you can imagine - this vote management game needs careful co-ordination to get the best effect - it could easily go badly wrong if the numbers and estimates are not balanced right. In the end it's the people's choice and there is only so much that parties can attempt with working the system.

Let's get ready to rumble!


K8 said...

Thanks! I was wondering about how that works only this morning!!

John of Dublin said...

Hi K8. I'll bet most people even in Ireland are confused by PR. I did a lot of careful study of it over the years. It's a fascinating system and even appeals to anyone with half an interest in mathematics - particularly at the counting stage.

Paige A Harrison said...

I remember being infuriated by the haughty BBC presenter who started his piece with the line "Did you hear the one about the Irish voter? He voted for all candidates!" Cue lots of laughing at how stupid Paddy was.

I absolutely love the PR system. It appeals to my sense of logic and indecision!

John of Dublin said...

Hi Paige. Yes, I agree with you. It's nice to have an each way bet on a few of the horses!

Dario Sanchez said...

The PR system is fair, but a bit too cumbersome. Granted, it is much more equitable than first-past-the-post, but all the recounts spoil the interest in it for me.

We had around fourteen recounts in Cavan/Monaghan last time. And I voted this evening. God, the anti-climax of the century ...

John of Dublin said... don't enjoy the drama of all the counts? Well maybe you should try to get those damned electronic voting machines working. :-)