Proportional Representation Applied To Party Government
by T. R. Ashworth and H. P. C. Ashworth
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Parties Not Represented in the Legislature in the Same Proportion as in the Country.—Representation under the present system is purely arbitrary; the amount which each party secures is a matter of chance. If a party with a majority in the whole country has a majority in each of the electorates it will secure all the representation. On the other hand, if it splits up its votes in each electorate, or even only in those electorates where it has a majority, it may secure none at all. Theoretically, then, any result is possible. The argument would lose its force, however, if in practice the result usually came out about right. But this seldom happens, and, speaking generally, two cases may be distinguished: first, when parties are nearly equal, the minority is almost as likely as the majority to return a majority of the representatives, thus defeating the principle of majority rule; and, second, when one party has a substantial majority, it generally sweeps the board and annihilates the minority. A few examples will illustrate these facts.

The 1895 election for the Imperial Parliament is analyzed by Sir John Lubbock in the Proportional Representation Review. He shows that out of 481 contested seats, the Liberals, with 1,800,000 votes were entitled to 242, and the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists, with 1,775,000 to 239, a majority of three seats for the Liberals. But the Conservatives and Unionists actually returned 279, and the Liberals only 202, a majority of 77 seats. The Conservatives and Unionists obtained also a majority of 75 of the uncontested seats, giving them a total majority of 152, instead of the 72 to which they were entitled.

Recent elections for the United States Congress are shown by Professor Commons to present striking inequalities. At the election for the 51st Congress, 1888, the Republicans polled 5,348,379, and the Democrats 5,502,581. But the Republican minority actually secured 164 seats against 161, a majority of 3, and were enabled to carry the McKinley tariff law. For the 52nd Congress, 1890, the Republicans, with 4,217,266 votes, only elected 88, while the Democrats, with 4,974,450 votes, elected 235, and the Populists, with 354,217 votes, elected 9 Congressmen. The Democratic majority should have been only 2, instead of 138. Compared with the 51st Congress, their proportion of the popular vote increased only 1 per cent., but their proportion of the representatives increased 21 per cent. It required 47,923 votes to elect a Republican, 44,276 to elect a Populist, and only 21,078 to elect a Democrat.

To come nearer home, did not Mr. Reid return to power at the 1898 election in New South Wales although the Opposition polled a majority of 15,000 against him? The last election in Victoria illustrates nothing so much as the chaotic state of parties, brought about by newspaper influence in promoting false lines of division. No less than 30 seats, representing 81,857 votes, were contested only by candidates who professed to be Ministerialists of various shades. Of 52 seats contested by Ministerial and Opposition candidates, each party secured 26; but the Ministerialists paid 59,255 votes for their seats as against 44,327 cast for the Opposition. 13 seats were uncontested, 9 Ministerial and 4 Opposition, giving a total of 65 members to the Ministerial party and 30 members to the Opposition.

The arbitrary and haphazard character of these results is obvious. It would be entirely removed by the reform. Every election would reflect the true feeling of the country; the right of the majority to rule would be rendered certain, and the right of the minority to a fair hearing would be assured. Taking the country as a whole, the Ministerialists would pay almost exactly the same number of votes for each seat as the Opposition. In each separate electorate the accuracy would not be so great, but the rectification of even this slight and unavoidable inequality would, instead of being arbitrary, be subject to the laws of chance.

Ineffective Votes.—Under the present system, all votes cast for rejected candidates are ineffective; therefore nearly one-half of the electors have no voice in the Government. A Liberal elector may live in a Conservative constituency all his life without having the opportunity to cast an effective vote. The evil of popular indifference is largely to be explained by this fact. It is no answer to say that it affects both parties equally. The trouble is that nearly one-half of the electors of each party have no influence in deciding who are to represent the party, and therefore do not help to frame its policy.

This evil would also be entirely removed. Every vote cast would count to one or the other party. It is not necessary that every vote should be counted to some one candidate, as the advocates of the Hare system claim. Votes given to rejected candidates would be in effect just as much transferred to the successful candidates as by the Hare system. Moreover, it is an important gain that the candidates of each party would be ranged in order of favour, as the relative position of the candidates would be an index of the feeling of each electorate, not only as regards men but also as regards measures. Therefore, even the votes given to rejected candidates would affect the framing of the party policy, and show the progress of public opinion.

Uncontested Seats.—At the 1895 election for the Imperial Parliament no less than 189 seats out of 670 were uncontested. Thus one-quarter of the people had no opportunity of expressing any opinion. In Australia the proportion is often quite as large. The present Legislative Council of Victoria is an extreme instance. One-third of the Council retires every three years; and at the last election not a single seat was contested. Only 4 out of the 48 sitting members have had to contest election. Under these circumstances the holding of an election at all becomes a farce. No doubt it is very convenient for the favoured individuals; but as the primary object of elections is the ascertainment of public opinion, it is very desirable that every seat should be contested.

The chief cause of this evil is that when one party is strong in an electorate it is hopeless for the minority to contest it, unless the majority nominates more than one candidate. On the other hand, the majority knows that if it does split its votes the minority will probably win the seat. The result is that the sitting member has a great advantage, and is often tolerated even though he is acceptable to only a minority of his own party.

With the reform each electorate would become the scene of a contest between the two parties for their proportional share of representation. It is very unlikely, indeed, that in any electorate no more candidates would be nominated than are required to be elected.

Limitation of Choice.—Even when seats are contested, the elector's choice is very limited under the present system. Wherever party government is strong, each party nominates only one candidate, owing to the danger of splitting up its votes and so losing the seat. The elector has then practically no choice. He may disapprove of the candidate standing for his own party, but the only alternative is to stultify himself by supporting the opposing candidate. If in disgust he abstains from voting altogether, it is the same as giving each candidate half his vote. Even when two or three candidates of his own party are nominated, and he supports the one whose views coincide most closely with his own, he can exert very little direct influence on the party policy. Besides, he will often think it wise to support the strongest candidate rather than the one he favours most.

These considerations show what a very imperfect instrument the present system is for expressing public opinion. The test which should be applied to any system of election is whether it allows each elector to express his opinion on general policy, and from this point of view the present system fails lamentably; all opinion which does not run in the direct channel of party is excluded. Mr. Bryce has fixed on this defect as the weak point of the party system, but the fault really lies in the limitation of choice connected with the present system of election. It is quite true that "in every country voting for a man is an inadequate way of expressing one's views of policy, because the candidate is sure to differ in one or more questions from many of those who belong to the party."[4] But if, in the first place, the incentive to limit the number of candidates be removed and the field of choice widened, and if, in the second place, each elector be allowed to vote for several candidates instead of one only, the defect would be remedied. Now, the reform makes both these provisions, and the importance of the improvement can hardly be overrated. It means, first, that every elector will be not only allowed, but also induced, to express his opinion on general policy. He may give his votes to candidates either for their general views or for some particular view; or, if he lays less stress on measures than on men, he may give them to men of high character or of great administrative ability. It means, secondly, that every section of opinion composing each party will be fairly represented, and that none will be excluded, because the candidates of each party will compete among themselves for the support of all sections, in order to decide those most in general favour. Hence every section will directly help to frame and influence the party policy, and there will be not the slightest excuse for independent action outside the two main parties. In the third place, it means the substitution of individual responsibility for the corporate responsibility of parties, since the electors will have the power to reject those who wish to modify party action in any direction contrary to the general wish. It means, finally, that every elector's opinion, as expressed by his vote, will have equal influence in deciding the direction of party action.

Control of Nominations.—There is a constant incentive with the present system of election to limit the number of candidates to two, one representing each party. For if either party splits up its votes on more than one candidate it will risk losing the seat. But the necessity to limit the candidates involves some control of the nominations, and this is perhaps the worst feature of the system. It means that, instead of the electors being allowed to select their representative, he is chosen for them by some irresponsible body. We have seen how in the United States the nominating system is the source of the power of the "boss" and the "machine;" and the same result is only a matter of time in British countries. The registration of voters is not yet conducted in the same rigid manner as in America, nor is the farce of holding a primary election gone through; but whether the control be exercised by a political organization, a newspaper, a local committee, or a secret society, the principle is the same. Mr. Bryce has noticed the rapid change in the practice of England on this point:—"As late as the general elections of 1868 and 1874 nearly all candidates offered themselves to the constituency, though some professed to do so in pursuance of requisitions emanating from the electors. In 1880 many—I think most—Liberal candidates in boroughs and some in counties were chosen by the local party associations, and appealed to the Liberal electors on the ground of having been so chosen. In 1885, and again in 1892, all, or nearly all, new Liberal candidates were so chosen, and a man offering himself against the nominee of the association was denounced as an interloper and traitor to the party. The same process has been going on in the Tory party, though more slowly. The influence of the locally wealthy, and also that of the central party office, is somewhat greater among the Tories, but in course of time choice by representative associations will doubtless become the rule."[5] Is it to be expected that this power will not be abused as in America? The trouble is that no association can represent all the party electors, and that the representative becomes responsible to the managers of the association, to whom he really owes his election. Any control of this kind is fatal to the principle of responsible leadership. And yet the only alternative with the present method of election is the break-up of the party system. This is the dilemma in which all modern democracies are placed. The evil will be completely obviated by the reform. Instead of limiting the candidates, it will be to the advantage of each party to induce the strongest and most popular candidates to stand on its behalf, since the number of seats it will obtain depends only on the aggregate votes polled by all the candidates. With individual candidature there can be no "machine" control of nominations. All are free to appeal directly to the people.

Localization of Politics.—The local delegate is unfortunately the prevailing type of Australian politician. The value of a member is too often measured by the services he renders to his constituents individually or the amount of money he can get the Government to spend in his constituency. Hence the nefarious practice of log-rolling in Parliament. Is it any wonder that some of the colonies promise to rival France in the proportion of unreproductive works constructed out of loan money?

How few of our members approach the ideal expressed by Edmund Burke in his address to the electors of Bristol:—"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of our nation, with one interest—that of the whole—where not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed, but when you have chosen him he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament." It must be confessed, however, that Burke's ideal is rather exalted; it is the duty of a member to make known the requirements of his district. It is the ministry which is specially charged with looking after the interest of the whole and of resisting illegitimate demands. But it cannot do so if its position is so insecure that it must purchase the support of the "parish pump" politician.

The only way to nationalize politics is to ensure that every electorate shall be contested on national issues by organized parties, and that every locality shall be represented on both parties. The proposed system will provide this remedy. In enlarged electorates each party will take good care that its candidates are men of local influence in the most important divisions of the electorate; therefore, sectional and local interests will be represented, but they will be subordinated to the interests of the whole electorate; and where there are a few large divisions the interests of each will more nearly coincide with national interests than where there are a large number of small divisions. Besides, log-rolling will not be so easy between groups of representatives as among single representatives.

Incentive to Bribery and Corruption.—We now come to a class of evils which to a large extent result from the fact that a few votes in each electorate decide whether a party gets all the representation or none at all. Candidates are impelled, in order to gain support from every faction, to acts degrading to themselves and destructive to the moral tone of the people. Foremost among these evils is the great incentive to bribery and corruption; it is manifested not only in direct expenditure at the elections, but also in promises of patronage and class advantages. Direct bribery is perhaps worst in America; Professor M. Cook states, in a paper on "The Alarming Proportion of Venal Voters" in the Forum for September, 1892, that in twenty-one towns of Connecticut 16 per cent, of the voters are venal. As Professor Commons remarks:—"It is plain that the bribable voters themselves are adequate to hold the balance of power between the parties. The single-membered district, therefore, places a magnificent premium upon bribery." In England the Corrupt Practices Act has done immense good: nothing reflects so much honour on the Imperial Parliament as the voluntary transference of the duty of deciding cases to the judiciary. In Australia this much-needed reform has not yet been introduced, and direct bribery prevails to a much larger extent than would be supposed from the number of cases investigated. Members of Parliament are naturally loth to convict one of their own number, and the knowledge of this fact prevents petitions being lodged.

The mere existence of secret bribery is bad enough, but a greater danger is that acts of indirect bribery are openly practised, with the tacit approval of electors. "There have been instances," says Mr. Lecky, in his "Democracy and Liberty," "in which the political votes of the police force, of the P.O. officials, of the civil service clerks have been avowedly marshalled for the purpose of obtaining particular class advantages—a disintegrated majority is strongly tempted to conciliate every detached group of votes." In Australia this has become a regular practice; and a still worse feature is that Members of Parliament have free access to public departments to promote class and local interests. Class legislation is frequently brought forward on the eve of an election with the sole object of influencing votes. These conditions favour the wire-pullers and mere self-seekers, and, in so far as they prevent the electors from voting on the political views and personal merits of the candidates, they are inimical to the public interests. Mr. Lecky has pointed out that a certain amount of moral compromise is necessary in public life, and that a politician may indulge in popularity-hunting from honourable public motives; the danger is that unworthy politicians may screen themselves under shelter of this excuse.

We do not claim that the proposed system would abolish corruption, but we are justified in hoping that it would mitigate it very much. Even if the venal vote still held the balance of power between parties, parties are not so easily corrupted as individuals. But the most important gain is that it could only exert an influence proportional to its numbers; it could not decide whether a party gets all the representation or none at all, as at present. In most cases it would be doubtful if it would affect a single candidate. Consider, again, the case of individual candidates of the same party; any candidate resorting to bribery in order to increase his chance of election would do so partly at the expense of the other candidates of his own party, who would immediately denounce him. Instead of being forced to conciliate selfish factions, the candidates would be free to appeal for the support of the unselfish sections.

Continual Change in Electoral Boundaries.—The irregular growth of population necessitates a periodical revision of the electoral boundaries of single-membered electorates. Owing to the influence of vested interests, this is generally effected in an arbitrary manner; and the glaring anomalies only are rectified. We have in Victoria at the present day some country electorates with 6,000 electors on the rolls and others with only 1,500. An elector in the latter has four times the voting power of an elector in the former. The process of alteration of the boundaries offers great temptation to unfairness; and in American politics the opportunity is taken full advantage of by a practice which has received the name of the gerrymander. In his work on "Proportional Representation" Professor Commons writes:—

It is difficult to express the opprobrium rightly belonging to so iniquitous a practice as the gerrymander; but its enormity is not appreciated, just as brutal prize-fighting is not reprobated providing it be fought according to the rules. Both political parties practise it, and neither can condemn the other. They simply do what is natural: make the most of their opportunities as far as permitted by the constitution and system under which both are working. The gerrymander is not produced by the iniquity of parties, it is the outcome of the district system. If representatives are elected in this way there must be some public authority for outlining the districts. And who shall be the judge to say where the line shall be drawn? Exact equality is impossible, and who shall set the limit beyond which inequality shall not be pressed? Every apportionment act that has been passed in this or any other country has involved inequality; and it would be absurd to ask a political party to pass such an act and give the advantage of the inequality to the opposite party. Consequently, every apportionment act involves more or less of the gerrymander. The gerrymander is simply such a thoughtful construction of districts as will economize the votes of the party in power by giving it small majorities in a large number of districts, and coop up the opposing party with overwhelming majorities in a large number of districts. This may involve a very distortionate and uncomely "scientific" boundary, and the joining together of distant and unrelated localities into a single district; such was the case in the famous original act of Governor Gerry, of Massachusetts, whence the practice obtained its amphibian name.[6] But it is not always necessary that districts be cut into distortionate shapes in order to accomplish these unjust results. (pp. 49, 50.)

He illustrates a gerrymander which actually made one Democratic vote equal to five Republican votes. We have quoted this description of the methods of the gerrymander not so much because the evil has attained any magnitude in Australia as because it offers a warning of the probable result of adopting the single-membered district system for our Federal legislature.

With enlarged or grouped electorates the periodical revision of boundaries would be entirely obviated, because the size of the electorate may be kept constant, and the number of representatives varied. Under such a system all unfairness would disappear, and the gerrymander would be impossible. Representation would automatically follow the movements of population.


[4] Bryce, "The American Commonwealth," vol ii, p 325

[5] Bryce, "The American Commonwealth," vol. ii., note on p. 81.

[6] Governor Gerry contrived an electorate which resembled a salamander in shape.



The single transferable vote, generally known as the Hare system, was first invented by a Danish statesman, M. Andrae, and was used for the election of a portion of the "Rigsraad" in 1855. In 1857 Mr. Thomas Hare, barrister-at-law, published it independently in England in a pamphlet on "The Machinery of Representation." This formed the basis of the scheme elaborated in his "Election of Representatives," which appeared in 1859.

He proposed to abolish all geographical boundaries by constituting the whole of the United Kingdom one electorate for the return of the 654 members of the House of Commons. Each member was to be elected by an equal unanimous number of electors. The method of election was therefore so contrived as to allow the electors to group themselves into 654 constituencies, each group bound only by the tie of voluntary association, and gathered from every corner of the Kingdom. The total number of votes cast (about a million) was to be divided by 654, and the quotient, say about 1,500, would be the quota or number of votes required to elect a member. But some of the candidates would naturally receive more votes than the quota, and a great many more would receive less. How were all the votes to be equally divided among 654 members so that each should secure exactly the quota? The single transferable vote was proposed to attain this result. Each elector's vote was to count for one candidate only, but he was allowed to say in advance to whom he would wish his vote transferred in case it could not be used for his first choice. Each ballot paper was, therefore, to contain the names of a number of candidates in order of preference—1, 2, 3, &c. Then all the candidates having more than a quota of first choices were to have the surplus votes taken from them and transferred to the second choice on the papers, or if the second choice already had enough votes, to the third choice, and so on. When all the surpluses were distributed a certain number of members would be declared elected, each with a quota of votes. The candidates who had received the least amount of support were then to be gradually eliminated. The lowest candidate would be first rejected, and his votes transferred to the next available preference on his ballot papers; then the next lowest would be rejected, and so on till all the votes were equally distributed among the 654 members. Such was the Hare system as propounded by its author. The electors were to divide themselves into voluntary groups; then the groups which were too large were to be cut down by transferring the surplus votes, and the smaller groups were to be excluded and the votes also transferred until the groups were reduced to 654 equal constituencies. These two processes, transferring surplus votes and transferring votes from excluded candidates, are the main features of the system. Mr. Hare's rules for carrying them out are drawn up in the form of a proposed electoral law, and in the different editions of his work the clauses vary somewhat. They are also complicated by an impossible attempt to retain the local nomenclature of members. As regards surplus votes it was provided that the ballot papers which had the most preferences expressed should be transferred; still a good deal was left to chance or to the sweet will of the returning officer, and this has always been admitted as a serious objection. The process of elimination is still more unsatisfactory. Mr. Hare was from the first strongly opposed to the elimination of the candidate who had least first preferences, and he therefore proposed that, in order to decide which candidate had least support, all expressed preferences should be counted. This involved such enormous complication that in the 1861 edition of his work he abandoned the process of elimination altogether in favour of a process of selection. He then proposed to distribute surplus votes only, and to elect the highest of the remainder, regardless of the fact that they had less than a quota. He then wrote:—"The reduction of the number of candidates remaining at this stage of the election may be effected by taking out the names of all those who have the smallest number of actual votes—that is, who are named at the head of the smallest number of voting papers, and appropriating each vote to the candidate standing next in order on each paper. This process would be so arbitrary and inequitable in its operation as to be intolerable. It might have the effect of cancelling step by step more votes given to one candidate than would be sufficient to return another.... Such a process disregards the legitimate rights both of electors and of candidates." But the process of selection was not proportional representation at all, being practically equivalent to a single untransferable vote, and Mr. Hare finally adopted, in spite of its defects, the "arbitrary and inequitable" process of elimination in his last edition in 1873. And all his recent disciples have been forced to do the same, because nothing better is known.

Mr. Hare's scheme has ceased to be of any practical interest, since it is now generally admitted that electorates should not return more than ten or twenty members. Moreover, it is admitted that the electors would group themselves in very undesirable ways, and not as Mr. Hare expected. And yet the only effect of limiting the size of the electorates is to reduce the number of undesirable ways in which electors might group themselves. Let us briefly note the different proposals which have been made.

1. Sir John Lubbock's Method.—In his work on "Representation," Sir John Lubbock says:—"The full advantage of the single transferable vote would require a system of large constituencies returning three or five members each, thus securing a true representation of opinion." Three-seat electorates are, however, too small to secure accurate proportional representation; with parties evenly balanced, for instance, one must secure twice as much representation as the other.

The following rules are given to explain the working of the system:—

(1) Each voter shall have one vote, but may vote in the alternative for as many of the candidates as he pleases by writing the figures 1, 2, 3, &c, opposite the names of those candidates in the order of his preference.


(2) The ballot papers, having been all mixed, shall be drawn out in succession and stamped with numbers so that no two shall bear the same number.

(3) The number obtained by dividing the whole number of good ballot papers tendered at the election by the number of members to be elected plus one, and increasing the quotient (or where it is fractional the integral part of the quotient) by one, shall be called the quota.

(4) Every candidate who has a number of first votes equal to or greater than the quota shall be declared elected, and so many of the ballot papers containing those votes as shall be equal in number to the quota (being those stamped with the lowest numerals) shall be set aside as of no further use. On all ballot papers the name of the elected candidate shall be deemed to be cancelled, with the effect of raising by so much in the order of preference all votes given to other candidates after him. This process shall be repeated until no candidate has more than a quota of first votes or votes deemed first.

(5) Then the candidate or candidates having the fewest first votes, or votes deemed first, shall be declared not to be elected, with the effect of raising by so much in the order of preference all votes given to candidates after him or them, and rule 4 shall be again applied if possible.

(6) When by successive applications of rules 4 and 5 the number of candidates is reduced to the number of members remaining to be elected, the remaining candidates shall be declared elected.

Objection is commonly taken to this method on account of the element of chance involved in the distribution of surplus votes. Suppose the quota to be 1,000, and a candidate to receive 1,100 votes, the 100 votes to be transferred would be those stamped with the highest numerals. But if the hundred stamped with the lowest numerals or any other hundred had been taken the second choices would be different.

Strictly speaking, however, this is not a chance selection—it is an arbitrary selection. The returning officer must transfer certain definite papers; if he were allowed to make a chance selection it would be in his power to favour some of the candidates.

Sir John Lubbock points out that the element of chance might be eliminated by distributing the second votes proportionally to the second choices on the whole 1,100 papers, and that it might be desirable to leave any candidate the right to claim that this should be done if he thought it worth while.

2.—The Hare-Clark Method.—The Hare system has been in actual use in Tasmania for the last two elections. It is applied only in a six-seat electorate at Hobart and a four-seat electorate at Launceston. The rules for distributing surplus votes proportionally were drawn up by Mr. A.I. Clark, late Attorney-General. The problem is not so simple as it appears at first sight. There is no difficulty with a surplus on the first count; it is when surpluses are created in subsequent counts by transferred votes that the conditions become complicated. Mr. Clark adopts a rule that in the latter case the transferred papers only are to be taken into account in deciding the proportional distribution of the surplus. Suppose, as before, the quota to be 1,000 votes, and a candidate to have 1,100 votes, 550 of which are marked in the second place to one of the other candidates. Then the latter is entitled to 50 of the surplus votes, and a chance selection is made of the 550 papers. The element of chance still remains, therefore, if this surplus contributes to a fresh surplus.

3.—The Droop-Gregory Method.—This method, advocated by Professor Nanson, of the Melbourne University, is claimed to entirely eliminate the element of chance. The Gregory plan of transferring surplus votes is defined as a fractional method. If a candidate needs only nine-tenths of his votes to make up his quota, instead of distributing the surplus of one-tenth of the papers all the papers are distributed with one-tenth of their value. Reverting to our former example, if a candidate is marked second on 550 out of 1,100 votes, the quota being 1,000 and the surplus 100, then instead of selecting 50 out of the 550 papers, the whole of them would be transferred in a packet, the value of the packet being 50 votes, or, as Professor Nanson prefers to put it, the value of each paper in the packet being one-eleventh of a vote. Should this packet contribute to a new surplus the third choices on the whole of the papers are available as a basis for the redistribution. The packet would be divided into smaller packets, and each assigned its reduced value. It might here be pointed out that the use of fractions is quite unnecessary, the value of each packet in votes being all that is required, and that the-same process may be used with the Hare-Clark method to avoid the chance selection of papers. The only real difference is this: that when a surplus is created by transferred votes Mr. Clark distributes it by reference to the next preference on all the transferred papers, and Professor Nanson by reference to the last packet of transferred papers only—the packet which raises the candidate above the quota.

Which of these methods is correct? Should we select the surplus from all votes, original and transferred, as Sir John Lubbock proposes; from all transferred votes only, with Mr. Clark; or from the last packet only of transferred votes, with Professor Nanson? Consider a group of electors having somewhat more than a quota of votes at its disposal. If it nominates one candidate only every one of the electors will have a voice in the distribution of the surplus, but if it puts up three candidates, two of whom are excluded and the third elected, Mr. Clark would allow those who supported the two excluded candidates to decide the distribution of the surplus, and Professor Nanson only those who supported the last candidate excluded. Both are clearly wrong, for the only rational view to take is that when a candidate is excluded it is the same as if he had never been nominated and the transferred votes had formed part of the original votes of those to whom they are transferred. Whenever a surplus is created it should therefore be distributed by reference to all votes, original and transferred. As regards these surpluses, Mr. Clark and Professor Nanson have adopted an arbitrary basis, which is no more than Sir John Lubbock has done; and they have therefore eliminated the element of chance only for surpluses on the first count. It may be asked, Why cannot all surpluses be distributed by reference to all the papers, if that is the correct method? The answer is that the complication involved is enormous. Yet this was the plan first advocated by Professor Nanson, who wrote, in reply to a definite inquiry how the Gregory principle was applied:—"I explain by an example. A has 2,000 votes, the quota being 1,000. A then requires only half the value of each vote cast for him. Each paper cast for him is then stamped as having lost one-half of its value, and the whole of A's papers are then transferred with diminished value to the second name (unelected, of course). The same principle applies all through. Whenever anyone has a surplus all the papers are passed to the next man with diminished value." Now, the effect of this extraordinary proposal would be that the whole of the papers would have to be kept in circulation till the last candidate was elected, with diminishing compound fractional values. In a ten-seat electorate a large proportion would pass through several transfers, and would towards the end of the count have such a ridiculously small fractional value that it would take several millions of the ballot-papers to make a single vote! It is no wonder that this method was abandoned when the complications to which it would lead were realized.

A simple method of avoiding this complexity would be to treat transferred surplus papers as if the preferences were exhausted. It must be remembered that in all transfers a certain number of papers are lost owing to the preferences being exhausted, and the additional loss would be small. Thus at the first Hobart election 206 votes were wasted, and this number would have been increased by two only. Every surplus would then be transferred by reference to the next choice, wherever expressed, on both original papers and papers transferred from excluded candidates.

It might be provided, however, for greater accuracy that all papers contributing to surpluses on the first count only should be transferred in packets. Should these contribute to a new surplus, it should be divided into two parts, proportional to (1) original votes and votes transferred from excluded candidates, and (2) the value of the packet in votes. Each part would then be distributed proportionally to the next available preferences wherever expressed. To divide the packets into sub-packets is a useless complication. The loss involved in neglecting them would usually be less than one-thousandth part of the loss due to exhausted papers.

Having now dealt with the main features of the different variations of the Hare system, we may proceed to consider some details which are common to all of them. A difference of opinion exists, however, as regards the quota. Sir John Lubbock and Professor Nanson advocate the Droop quota, which we have shown to be a mathematical error; Miss Spence and Mr. Clark use the correct quota.

The Wrong Candidates are Liable to be Elected.—The Hare system may be criticised from two points of view; first, as applied to the conditions prevailing when it is introduced, and, secondly, as regards the new conditions it would bring about. Its advocates confine themselves to the first point of view, and invariably use illustrations based on the existence of parties.

We readily grant that if the electors vote on party lines, and transfer their votes within the party as assumed, the Hare system would give proportional representation to the parties; but even then it would sacrifice the interests of individual candidates, for it affords no guarantee that the right candidates will be elected. The constant tendency is that favourites of factions within the party will be preferred to general favourites. This at the same time destroys party cohesion, and tends to split up parties. Nor can this result be wondered at, since the very foundation of the system is the separate representation of a number of sections.

One reason why the wrong candidates are liable to be elected is that the electors will not record their honest preferences if the one vote only is effective. They will give their vote to the candidate who is thought to need it most, and the best men will go to the wall because they are thought to be safe. Mr. R.M. Johnston, Government Statistician of Tasmania, confirms this view when he declares—"The aggregate of all counts, whether effective or not, would seem to be the truer index of the general favour in which each candidate stands, because the numbers polled at the first count may be greatly disturbed by the action of those who are interested in the success of two or more favourites who may be pretty well assured of success, but whose order of preference might by some be altered if sudden rumour suggested fears for any one of the favoured group. This accidental action would tend to conceal the true exact measure of favour in the first count." If this statement means anything it is that the three preferences which are required to be expressed should have been all counted as effective votes at the Hobart election instead of one only; and this is exactly what we advocate. It is also admitted that when two candidates ran together at the first Launceston election the more popular candidate was defeated; and again the Argus correspondent writes of the recent Hobart election:—"The defeat of Mr. Nicholls was doubtless due to the fact of his supporters' over-confidence—nothing else explains it. Many people gave him No. 2 votes who would have given him No. 1 votes had they not felt assured of his success."

A second reason why the wrong candidates are liable to be elected is that the process of elimination adopted by all the Hare methods has no mathematical justification. The candidate who is first excluded has one preference only taken account of, while others have many preferences given effect to. We have shown that this glaring injustice was recognized by Mr. Hare, and only adopted as a last resort. Professor Nanson admits that "the process of elimination which has been adopted by all the exponents of Hare's system is not satisfactory," and adds—"I do not know a scientific solution of the difficulty." To bring home the inequity of the process, consider a party which nominates six candidates, A, B, C, D, E, and F, and whose numbers entitle it to three seats, and suppose the electors to vote in the proportions and order shown below on the first count.


It will be noted that F, having fewest first votes, is eliminated from the second count, D from the third count, and E from the fourth. A has then 13 votes, B 7, and C 9. If the quota be 9 votes, A's surplus would be passed on to B, and A, B, and C would be declared elected. But D, E, and F are the candidates most in general favour, and ought to have been elected. For if any one of the rejected candidates be compared with any one of the successful candidates it will be found that in every case the rejected candidate is higher in order of favour on a majority of the papers. Again, if the Block Vote be applied, by counting three effective votes, the result would be—A 10 votes, B 12, C 9, D 21, E 22, and F 13. D, E, and F would therefore be elected. Thus we see that A, B, and C, the favourites of sections within the party, are elected, and D, E, and F, the candidates most in general favour—those who represent a compromise among the sections—are rejected.

In practice, then, the Hare system discourages compromise among parties, and among sections of parties; and therefore tends to obliterate party lines. This has already happened in Tasmania, where all experience goes to show that the Hare system is equivalent to compulsory plumping. In every election the result would have been exactly the same if each elector voted for one candidate only. The theory that it does not matter how many candidates stand for each party, since votes will be transferred within the party, has been completely disproved. Votes are actually transferred almost indiscriminately. The candidates have not been slow to grasp this fact, and at the last election handbills were distributed giving "explicit reasons why the electors should give their No. 1 to Mr. So-and-so, and their No. 2 to any other person they chose."[7] Three out of every four first preferences are found to be effective, but only one out of every five second preferences, and one out of fifty third preferences. The first preferences, therefore, decide the election.

The actual result is that, in the long run, the Hare system is practically the same as the single untransferable vote. The whole of the elaborate machinery for recording preferences and transferring votes might just as well be entirely dispensed with. The "automatic organization" which it was to provide exists only in the calculations of mathematicians.

A Number of Votes are Wasted.—It is claimed for the Hare system that every vote cast is effective, because it counts for some one candidate. But unless every elector places all the candidates in order of preference some votes are wasted because the preferences become exhausted.

When a paper to be transferred has no further available preferences expressed it is lost. In order to reduce this waste, a vote is held to be informal in the six-seat electorate at Hobart unless at least three preferences are given. Notwithstanding this, the number of such votes wasted was 7 per cent, at the first election and 10 per cent, at the second.

The effect of this waste is that some of the candidates are elected with less than the quota. At the last Hobart election only three out of six members were elected on full quotas, and at Launceston only one out of four. The result is to favour small, compact minorities, and to lead sections to scheme to get representation on the lowest possible terms.

The Droop quota, being smaller than the Tasmanian quota, would have the effect of electing more members on full quotas, and it is often recommended on that account. Indeed, Professor Nanson declares:—"In no circumstances is any candidate elected on less than a quota of votes. The seats for which a quota has not been obtained are filled one after the other, each by a candidate elected by an absolute majority of the whole of the voters. For the seats to be filled in this way all candidates as yet unelected enter into competition. The matter is settled by a reference to the whole of the voting papers. If any unelected candidate now stands first on an absolute majority of all these papers he is elected. But if not, then the weeding-out process is applied until an absolute majority is obtained. The candidate who gets the absolute majority is elected. Should there be another seat, the same process is repeated. If an absolute majority of the whole of the voters cannot be obtained for any candidate, then the candidate who comes nearest to the absolute majority is elected." It will be seen that Professor Nanson proposes to bring to life again all the eliminated candidates, in order to compete against those who have less than the quota. The proportional principle is then to be entirely abandoned, and the seats practically given to the stronger party, although the minority may be clearly entitled to them. The vaunted "one vote one value" is also to be violated, because those who supported the elected candidates are to have an equal voice with those still unrepresented. And finally, the evil is not cured, it is only aggravated, if an eliminated candidate is elected.

The Hare System is not Preferential.—The idea is sedulously fostered that the Hare system is a form of preferential voting, and many people are misled thereby. The act of voting is exalted into an end in itself. The most elaborate provisions are now suggested by Professor Nanson to allow the elector to express his opinion only as far as he likes. The simple and practical method in use in Tasmania of requiring each elector to place a definite number of candidates in order of preference is denounced as an infringement of the elector's freedom. Why force him to express preferences where he does not feel any? The Professor has therefore invented "the principle of the bracket." If the elector cannot discriminate between the merits of a number of candidates he may bracket them all equal in order of favour. Indeed, where he does not indicate any preference at all, the names unmarked are deemed equal. Therefore, if he does not wish his vote transferred to any candidate, he must strike out his name. It is pointed out that a ballot paper can thus be used if there is any kind of preference expressed at all, and the risk of informality is reduced to a minimum. All the bracket papers are to be put into a separate parcel, and do not become "definite" till all the candidates bracketed, except one, are either elected or rejected; the vote is then transferred to that candidate. And as bracketed candidates will occur in original papers, surplus papers, and excluded candidates' papers at every stage of the count, the degree of complication in store for the unhappy returning officer can be imagined.

The whole of these intricate provisions are founded on a patent fallacy. Preferences are not expressed in the Hare system, as in true preferential voting, that they may be given effect to in deciding the election, but simply in order to allow the elector to say in advance to whom he would wish his vote transferred if it cannot be used for his first choice. The elector is allowed to express his opinion about a number of candidates, certainly, but after being put to this trouble only one of his preferences is used. And which one is used depends entirely on the vagaries of the system. The principle of the bracket illustrates this fact; if the elector has no preference the system decides for him. If his first choice just receives the quota the other preferences are not even looked at. Again, of all the electors who vote for rejected candidates, those who are fortunate enough to vote for the worst (who are first excluded) have their second or third preferences given effect to, and few of their votes are wasted; but the votes of those who support the best of them (who are last excluded) are either wasted or given to their remote preferences. In Mr. Hare's original scheme, for instance, the votes of the last 50 candidates excluded would have been nearly all wasted, unless some hundreds of preferences were expressed.

Another claim on which great stress is laid is that by the process of transferring votes every vote counts to some one candidate. This means nothing more than that the votes of rejected candidates are transferred to the successful candidates. Where is the necessity for this? So long as each party secures its just share of representation and elects its most favoured candidates, there is no advantage gained by transferring the votes. Miss Spence even declares that "every Senator elected in this way will represent an equal number of votes, and will rightly have equal weight in the House. According to the block system, there is often a wide disparity between the number of votes for the highest and the lowest man elected." Surely the mere fact of transferring votes till they are equally distributed does not make all the successful candidates equally popular! On the contrary, it is very desirable to know which candidates are most in favour with each party.

Ballot Papers Must be Brought Together for Counting.—This is a practical objection to the Hare system, which puts it out of court for large electorates. If the whole of Victoria were constituted one electorate, as at the Federal Convention election, the transference of votes could not be commenced till all the ballot papers had come in from the remote parts of the colony, two or three weeks after the election. On this point Professor Nanson writes:—"In an actual election in Victoria this 'first state of the poll' could be arrived at with the same rapidity as was the result of the recent poll on the Commonwealth Bill. In both cases but one fact is to be gleaned from each voting paper. The results from all parts of the colony would be posted in Collins-street on election day. These results would show exactly how the cat was going to jump. The final results as regards parties would be obvious to all observers, although the result as regards individual candidates would be far from clear. But this, although of vast importance to the candidates themselves, would be a matter of small concern to the great mass of the people." These remarks are based on the assumption that the electors vote on strictly party lines, which a reference to Tasmanian returns will show is not usually the case. Few will be disposed to agree that a knowledge of the successful candidates is a matter of small moment.


[7] Hobart Mercury



The Liste Libre, or Free List system, is a far simpler and more practical method of proportional representation than the Hare system. The distinctive feature is that it applies the proportional principle not to individual candidates but to parties. But, like the Hare system, it places no restriction on the number of parties. It is therefore particularly adapted to the circumstances of the countries on the Continent of Europe, which, having already a number of strong party organizations, wish to retain them and to do justice to each. Accordingly we find that nearly all experiments in proportional representation to the present time have been confined to those countries.

Perhaps the very earliest attempt to apply the proportional principle was that of Mr. Thomas Gilpin, in a pamphlet, "On the Representation of Minorities of Electors to act with the Majority in Elected Assemblies," published at Philadelphia in 1844. He proposed that electorates should be enlarged, and that each party should nominate a list of candidates equal to the number required to be elected, and should place them in order of preference. Each elector could then vote for one of these lists; and each party would be allotted a number of representatives proportional to the amount of support it received. The highest on each list, to the number allotted, would be elected. It will be seen that this is really a system of double election; for the order of favour of the candidates of any party would have to be decided before the nominations were made.

Only two years afterwards M. Victor Considerant published a similar scheme at Geneva, Switzerland. Each elector was to vote first for a party and then for any number of candidates on the party list whom he preferred. The party votes were to decide the number of members allotted to each list, and the individual votes the successful candidates.

The little republic of Switzerland has been the scene of nearly all subsequent improvement. In 1867 Professor Ernest Naville founded the Association Reformiste at Geneva to advocate the principle of proportional representation. In 1871 the Association adopted the Liste Libre system, invented by M. Borely, of Nimes, France, in which each elector was to place all the candidates of his party in order of preference. But as this allows the electors little direct influence on their own candidates and none outside of them, a combination of the cumulative vote and the Liste Libre was adopted in 1875. Each elector was to have as many votes as there were seats to be filled, but he could not only give them to any candidates on any list, but he could also give as many votes as he liked to any one candidate. Thus if there were ten seats to be filled the elector could give ten votes to one candidate, or one vote to each of ten candidates, or five votes to one candidate and divide the remaining five among others, and so on. The only condition necessary was that his votes added up to ten. The aggregate votes given to all the candidates of each party were then to be taken as the basis of proportional distribution among the parties and the highest on each list to the number decided were to be elected.

It was not till the year 1890 that this scheme was actually put into practice. The election of 1889 had resulted so unjustly to the Liberal party in the canton of Ticino that an insurrection broke out. This forced the hand of the Federal Government, which had to quell the disturbance, and proportional representation was recommended and adopted. Several other cantons followed suit, and it is expected that the whole of Switzerland will soon adopt the reform.

A modification of this plan has lately been adopted by the Swiss Association. In this later plan electors can give a single vote only to individual candidates, but if they do not use all their votes in this way they may cumulate the balance on any one party list by marking at the head of the list. Thus if the elector in a ten-seat electorate gives five votes to individual candidates, and places a mark at the head of one of the lists, the balance of five votes will count to that list. The aggregate votes given to individual candidates on any list, plus the votes placed at the head of the list, will form the basis of proportional distribution among the lists. This is the plan adopted by the American Proportional Representation League as most nearly suited to American habits, and recommended by Professor Commons in his book on "Proportional Representation."

Belgium has also quite recently adopted a scheme of proportional representation. As in Switzerland, its advent was hastened by political disturbances. The Catholic party, not satisfied with exerting a preponderating influence in the country districts, wished to obtain also its proportionate share of representation in the cities, and proposed a scheme of proportional representation for them only. This caused such ill feeling that riots took place in the streets of Brussels. Finally, proportional representation was promised all round, and became law for both the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate at the latter end of 1899. In Brussels, where there are 18 seats to be filled, a trial election had already been held in 1893 with satisfactory results. Six lists were nominated, the largest being that of the Socialists, who nominated ten candidates; and over 12,000 electors voted. Each elector was allowed 18 votes, and the methods in which he could distribute them were somewhat complicated. He might (1) mark at the head of a list, (2) mark at the head of a list and also opposite one or more candidates on the same list, (3) mark opposite the names of not more than 18 candidates on any list. In the first case his 18 votes counted to the list marked, in the second case one vote was counted to each of the individual candidates marked and the balance counted for the list; in the third case one vote was counted to each candidate marked. The aggregate of votes marked at the head of each list, plus the individual votes on the list, was then taken as the basis of proportional distribution. So many of the votes were cumulated on lists that only about one-fifth of the votes cast were operative in the selection of candidates.

In the bill which has recently become law a new method has therefore been adopted, which gives more power to the party committees, but allows the electors to modify their choice. For this purpose the party organization nominates the candidates in order of preference. The elector may then accept this order by marking at the head of the list, or he may give his vote to any one candidate on the list. If all the electors of a party vote in the first way, those nominated highest on the list, to the number to which the party becomes entitled, are elected. But if all the electors vote in the second way, those with the highest single votes are elected. The actual result will usually be a compromise between the two, and it is evidently the interest of the party organization to place the candidates in their real order of favour, in order that the electors may accept the list. For if an unpopular candidate were placed at the head of the list few would accept it.

The first election under this system has just taken place, and the result was, as expected, to reduce the Clerical representation considerably.

In all the above variations of the Free List system the distribution of seats is effected by dividing the aggregate votes polled by each party by a unit of representation, but three different methods of determining this unit are in use. The first is obtained by simply dividing the total number of votes by the number of seats.

The objection to this unit is that when there are several parties, part of the seats only can be allotted on full units, and the rest have to be allotted to those parties which have the highest remainders or fractions of a unit, and this unduly favours small parties, who do not poll even a single unit. The rule to divide the total votes by the number of seats increased by one, which was first proposed by Mr. H.R. Droop, reduces slightly the number of seats allotted on remainders, and was adopted by the canton of Soluthern in 1895. In Belgium a third plan, devised by Professor D'Hondt, of Brussels, is used, which is designed to prevent any seats being allotted on remainders. This unit is evidently smaller than either of the others, and is to be found by trial. It is only necessary that the sum of the quotients obtained by dividing it into each of the lists shall be equal to the number of seats to be filled.

Suppose a five-seat electorate in which 6,000 votes are divided among four parties, who poll 2,500, 1,850, 900, and 750 votes respectively. Then if we take one-fifth, or 1,200 votes, as the unit, the result would be the following:—

(1) 2,500 = 2 units of representation + 100 remainder = 2 seats.

(2) 1,850 = 1 unit of representation + 650 remainder = 1 seat.

(3) 900 = unit of representation + 900 remainder = 1 seat.

(4) 750 = unit of representation + 750 remainder = 1 seat.

If the Droop unit of one-sixth, or 1,000 votes, be used, the result will be different:—

(1) 2,500 = 2 units of representation + 500 remainder = 2 seats.

(2) 1,850 = 1 unit of representation + 850 remainder = 2 seats.

(3) 900 = unit of representation + 900 remainder = 1 seat.

(4) 750 = unit of representation + 750 remainder = seat.

By the third method any number of votes between 834 and 900 will be found to comply with Professor D'Hondt's condition, and the result would, in this instance, be the same as by the Droop method. Although the highest number was at first used, the lower limit has been adopted in the new bill.

In no case can the proportional distribution be considered satisfactory. If the electorates are small, and the number of parties large, accurate proportional representation is quite out of the question. In Switzerland, however, the electorates are made to contain sometimes as many as 30 seats. The effect of such large electorates must be in time to encourage the formation of a great number of small factions. At the same time there is not so much incentive to split up the parties as by the Hare system.

Passing now to the selection of party candidates, none of the methods can be said to ensure the election of those most in general favour. When electors are allowed to cumulate on individual candidates, the favourites of sections within the party will be elected. If, on the other hand, they are allowed to cumulate on party lists, all votes thus given are ineffective in the selection of the successful candidates. It may be noted that although the nomination of candidates in lists by party organizations is less in accordance with the practice of British countries than the individual candidature of the Hare system, there is nothing to prevent one candidate being nominated to stand in the place of a party.

A word of warning must be added as to the danger of holding up Belgium and Switzerland as examples of true electoral justice to Australia. The direct government of the people which Switzerland has adopted bears not the slightest resemblance to the representative institutions of British countries. Both the referendum and proportional delegation are suited to direct government and are destructive to party responsible government. The Swiss adopted the referendum to save themselves from the lobbying and plutocratic character of their legislatures. The initiative and proportional delegation have followed because they are complementary reforms. The consequence is that the legislators have been degraded to mere agents for drawing up measures, and leadership has been transferred to the press. It is the peculiar conditions of Switzerland which enable it to tolerate unrestrained majority rule. It is a small country, surrounded by powerful neighbours, whose strength lies in its weakness. Moreover, the people are very conservative. In Zurich, for instance, which is largely devoted to manufactures, a proposal to limit the hours of work in factories to twelve hours a day was rejected by the people. Nor is direct government proving a success; the tyranny of the majority is already apparent. The first federal initiative demanded a measure to prevent the slaughter of animals by bleeding, designed to interfere with the religious rites of the Jews. Despite the fact that it was opposed by the Federal Council, as contrary to the right of religious liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, it was carried by the referendum. Belgium, again, can hardly be taken as a model of constitutional liberty. Surely we in Australia do not want the factious strife of religious, racial, and class sections, which so nearly brought on a revolution last year. Yet this is exactly what proportional delegation to sections would bring about. Belgium has a hard task to reconcile two races so differently constituted as the Walloons and Flemings, and has been able to avoid instability of the ministry so far only because the Clerical party, which is mostly Flemish, still has a majority. The new system has only consecrated the sectional principle, and will do nothing to restore harmony.



Preferential Voting.—Laplace, the great mathematician, to whom we owe so much of the theory of probability, showed more than a century ago that although individual electors may have very different views as to the relative merits of a number of candidates for any office, still the expression of the degree of favour in which the candidates are held by the whole body of electors will be the same if each elector be assumed to have a uniform gradation of preference. Suppose that there are ten candidates, and it is required to place them in order of general favour. Each elector should be required to place the whole ten in the order of his preference, 1, 2, 3, &c. Let the maximum degree of merit be denoted by ten marks, so that every first preference will count as ten marks. Then, although an individual elector might be disposed to give his second preference only five marks, and the rest of his preferences, say, two marks, Laplace demonstrated that it is most probable that the total result would be the same if each elector be assumed to give his second preference nine marks, his third preference eight marks, and so on. Therefore, if all first preferences be multiplied by ten, second preferences by nine, and so on in regular order down to last preferences multiplied by one, the total number of marks will be an index of the order in general favour. If there is one office to be filled, the candidate with the highest number of marks should be elected; if there are two offices, the two highest candidates, and so on.

But the assumed condition must be rigidly complied with; each elector must express his honest preferences. Whether he will do so or not depends upon the circumstances. Laplace recognized this element of human nature, and declared that if electors are swayed by other considerations independent of the merit of the candidates the system would not apply. For instance, if the candidates are the nominees of a number of independent sections, each of which is anxious only to secure the return of its own candidate, and to defeat those who stand most in his way, the tendency will be general to place the more popular candidates, those whose success is most feared, at the bottom of the list, so as to give them as few marks as possible. The result would be to favour mediocre men, or even in extreme cases the most inferior.

Practically, therefore, the system is not applicable where any of the electors are personally interested in the result. If a number of judges were called on to decide the relative merits of several essays or prize designs, and the competitors' names were not known to them, the system might be used. But even in such a case a simpler method is available; for, although it may be difficult to pick out the best, it is generally easy to agree upon the worst. It is usual, then, to gradually eliminate the worst, and when the number is reduced to two to take the decision of the majority.

This process of elimination may be, however, combined with the preferential system, and the result is more accurate than if one count only be made. At the first count the candidate with the fewest marks would be eliminated and his name struck out on all the papers. All those under him on each paper would then go up one point in order of favour, and further counts would be held, eliminating the lowest candidate each time till the candidates were reduced to the number desired. This method is very complicated, and involves a great amount of trouble.

Consider now the case of a voluntary association of individuals, such as a club or society; and suppose that it is required to elect a president or committee. The condition is clearly that he or they should be most in general favour with all the members; and the question whether Preferential Voting is applicable will depend on how united the members are. Now, clubs are not usually, nor should they be, divided into cliques or parties; indeed, if a serious split does take place it generally results in the resignation of part of the club and the formation of a separate organization. But in a live club it is impossible to prevent slight differences of opinion; and an officer-bearer who has the interests of the club at heart must often offend small sections who want to exert undue influence. In an election for president this office-bearer would stand no chance of election if there are several candidates and any small section likes to put him at the bottom of the list, so as to give him as many bad marks as possible. This is the weak point in Preferential Voting; any small section can ensure the rejection of a general favourite. The greater the number of candidates the smaller the minority which is able to do this; dummy candidates may therefore be introduced to make it more certain. The risk would, however, be very much lessened if the process of gradual elimination we have described were adopted.

When we come to the election of representatives to a legislature it is evident at once that Preferential Voting is not applicable at all. We have shown that the true condition required is not the return of candidates most in general favour with both parties, but the return of the candidates most in general favour with each party separately. Preferential Voting would therefore only be applicable if the electors of each party voted separately for its own candidates; and even then it would be open to the objection we have already urged. If it were applied to the two parties voting together the electors would certainly not be influenced only by the merit of the candidates. They might record their honest preferences as regards the candidates of their own party, but they would naturally place the candidates of the opposing party in inverse order of merit. The candidates most in general favour would be those who represented neither party. Suppose there are three candidates for a single seat, two representing large parties of 49 per cent, each, and the third a small party of 2 per cent. The electors of the large parties would be more afraid of one another than of the small party, and would give their second preferences to its candidate. This candidate, representing one-fiftieth of the electors, would then actually be elected; he would receive 202 marks, and neither of the others could possibly secure more than 200. Moreover, he would still be elected if the process of elimination were adopted, since on the second count he would beat either of the other candidates separately by 51 votes to 49.

These plain facts are indisputable. What is to be thought, then, of the claim made by Professor Nanson that Preferential Voting, with the process of elimination, is the most perfect system known for single-membered electorates.

The Block Vote.—The Block Vote, General Ticket, or scrutin de liste, is in general use when there is more than one seat to be filled. Each elector has as many votes as there are members to be elected, and the highest on the list, to the number of representatives required, are successful. Dealing first with elections to a legislative body, the system is eminently unjust to parties. A rigid control of nominations is necessary in the first place, because any party which splits up its votes spoils its chance. Each party will therefore nominate only as many candidates as there are seats, and the stronger of two parties, or the strongest of a number of parties, will elect the entire list. A minority might in the latter case secure all the representation, but the practical effect of the Block Vote is to force the electors to group themselves into two parties only. It therefore has the same beneficial effect as the single electorate of confining representation to the two main parties. This is apparently nob recognized by Professor Nanson, who writes, in his pamphlet on the Hare system:—"Contrast with this the results of the Block system. With strict party voting, which has been assumed throughout, each of the five parties would put forward seven candidates. The seven seats would all be secured by Form, with 44 votes out of a total of 125, and the remaining 81, or more than two-thirds of the voters, would be wholly unrepresented." Does the Professor really think that the 81 (who, by the way, are less than two-thirds) would be so foolish as not to combine and secure all the seats?

The exclusion of the minority in a single-membered electorate excites only a feeling of hopelessness, but when it fails to secure a single representative in an electorate returning several members, a spirit of rankling injustice is aroused. The Block Vote has, therefore, never been tolerated for long in large electorates. In the early history of the United States many of the States adopted it, and sent to Congress a solid delegation of one party or the other. This proved so unjust, and operated so adversely to the federal spirit in promoting combinations of States, that Congress, in 1842, made the single-membered electorate obligatory on all the States.

In France it was adopted at the election for the Chamber of Deputies in 1885. The result as regards parties was about as good as with the single electorate system. The Republicans and Conservative-Monarchists, whose numbers entitled them to 311 and 257 seats respectively, actually secured 366 and 202. But it was abandoned after a trial at this one election.

The Block Vote was adopted in Australia for the election of ten delegates from each colony to the Federal Convention. This was a work in which all parties might fairly have joined together; and in most colonies the people did select the best men, regardless of party. In Victoria, however, the newspapers took on the role of the "machine," and the ten candidates nominated by the Age were elected. Many of the supporters of the defeated candidates voted for some on the successful list who just defeated their own favourites. Had this been foreseen they would have thrown away these votes by giving them to those sure to be elected or to those least likely to be elected. The injustice of forcing each elector to vote for the whole ten is thus brought home. We are now threatened with the adoption of the Block Vote for the Federal Senate, and in some of the States for the House of Representatives as well; and it is in the hope of preventing this wrong that the present book is written.

So far we have been considering the Block Vote as applied to the election of a legislature with two or more parties; we now propose to consider it as applied to one party only. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Block Vote, when used for such an election as that of the committee of a club, works very well, and results in the return of the candidates most in general favour with all sections. The reason is, of course, that all sections work together, and members vote for the best men, regardless of sectional lines. We will go further and say that the Block Vote is by far the best method for such purposes, and is superior even to Preferential Voting. In the first place it is free from the defect that a small section can ensure the rejection of a general favourite; and in the second place it rests on at least as secure a theoretical basis. To fix our ideas, suppose there are ten candidates for five members of a committee. Laplace assumed (1) that each member would have a knowledge of the merits of all the ten candidates, (2) that his estimate of the respective candidates would vary arbitrarily between nothing and a maximum degree of merit, (3) that each member would express his honest preferences. The Block Vote, on the other hand, assumes (1) that each member can pick out the five best candidates, and therefore express his opinion as to how the committee should be constituted, (2) that he will be inclined to place these five candidates on one plane of favour and the other five on one plane of non-favour. We submit that the latter assumptions agree more closely with the actual state of affairs. The members can distinguish between candidates who have merit and those who have no merit or of whose merit they are ignorant; to force them, therefore, to place all the candidates in order of preference is to make them express preferences where none exist.[8] On the whole, then, the Block Vote is more likely to place the candidates in their real order of favour.

But some reservation must be made. The Block Vote works best when the number of candidates does not exceed two or three times the number of vacancies. Suppose, first, that the candidates present in the final result a fairly regular order of favour from lowest to highest. Each of the successful candidates will then be supported by at least an absolute majority of the members, providing the number of candidates be not greater than twice the number of vacancies. But if there are four or five times as many candidates as vacancies, none of the successful candidates will have the support of a majority of the members. On the other hand, however, the candidates do not usually present a regular order of favour from lowest to highest when there are a large number of candidates, for there may be a long "tail" of candidates who receive very few votes. The following general rule may therefore be laid down:—The Block Vote works best when the total votes given to rejected candidates do not exceed the total votes given to successful candidates.

The difficulties indicated above were met by the Australian Natives' Association by a plan which provided that no candidate should be elected except by an absolute majority of the voters. The Block Vote is used throughout; and if at the first ballot the required number of candidates do not obtain an absolute majority a second ballot is held, from which those at the bottom of the poll and those who have been elected are eliminated. This process is continued till all the vacancies are filled. Four or five ballots are sometimes required, and the proceedings become very irksome. A sub-committee was recently appointed to investigate the subject, and reported in favour of the Preferential System with one count only. The process of elimination was considered too complicated to be practicable. Now, the conditions presented by these elections, in which a very large number of candidates are generally nominated, are precisely those in which Preferential Voting lends itself most easily to abuse. An insignificant minority may defeat a candidate who should be elected, by placing him at the bottom of their lists.

A variation of the Block Vote may be suggested which is much simpler and better. The preferential ballot papers should be used, and two counts should be made. At the first count the primary half of the preferences should be counted as effective votes, and the candidates should be reduced to twice the number of vacancies. A second count should then be made of the ballot papers, using the Block Vote. All or nearly all the candidates would then obtain an absolute majority, and it is practically impossible that any candidate should be eliminated by the first count who would have had any chance of election in the second.

This plan is far superior to the original method. It is right that members who vote for candidates who are hopelessly out of it should be allowed to transfer their votes; but it is not right that members who first help to elect some candidates at one ballot should have the same voting power as others at subsequent ballots.

The Hare system is sometimes advocated for clubs on account of its supposed just principle. Any live club which adopts it runs the risk of disruption. It merely encourages the formation of cliques and sections; any slight split would be accentuated and rendered permanent.

The Limited Vote.—The injustice of the Block Vote led to the introduction of the Limited Vote, which allows the minority some share of the representation. We have seen that the Block Vote forces each party to try to return all the representation, and of course one party only can succeed. But if neither party be forced to try to return more than it is entitled to each party will get its correct share of representation, providing both parties are equally organized. This leads to the Limited Vote, in which each elector has a number of votes somewhat less than the number of seats.

The Limited Vote was used in England for a number of three-seat electorates, which were created by the Reform Bill of 1867, each elector being allowed to vote for two candidates only. By this means the majority would usually return two candidates and the minority one. Thus the Limited Vote has the same advantage as the Block Vote and the single electorate system, that it tends to confine representation to the two main parties, but it creates an artificial proportion of representation between them. Moreover, it renders strict party organization even more necessary, since each party must arrange to use its voting resources to the best advantage. Consider the three-seat electorate, for instance. The minority will, if it is wise, nominate two candidates only; and the majority may nominate either two or three. But if the majority does divide its votes among three candidates it runs the risk of securing one only. It can do so safely when two conditions are fulfilled: first, it must be sure of polling more than three-fifths of the votes; and, second, it must arrange to distribute all its votes equally among the three candidates. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the Limited Vote was responsible for introducing "machine" tactics into England. In Birmingham, when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain organized the Liberals and succeeded in carrying all three seats, the electors in each ward were directed how to vote so that as few votes as possible might be wasted. These three-cornered constituencies were abolished by the Redistribution Act of 1884; and Sir John Lubbock, reviewing the experiment, declared—"On the whole, it cannot be denied that under the Limited Vote the views of the electors have been fairly represented."

The system has also been tried to a smaller extent in the United States. In New York 32 of the delegates to a constitutional convention were elected from the State polled as one electorate, each elector being allowed to vote for 16 candidates. Both parties were afraid to split their votes, and the result was that each returned 16. The rest of the delegates were elected in single-membered electorates, and of these the Republicans secured 81 and the Democrats 47. It might here be pointed out that the Republicans might have secured more than 16 of the delegates from the State at large if they had nominated 20 candidates and allowed the laws of chance to regulate their organization. Each elector might have been directed to put the twenty names into his hat, and to reject the first four he pulled out. The same evil is apparent in Boston, where twelve aldermen are elected at large, each elector being allowed seven votes. Each party nominates seven candidates only; and the majority invariably elects seven and the minority five.

The Limited Vote is therefore not a satisfactory solution of the problem of representation. It gives an artificial instead of proportional representation, and it necessitates strict party organization and control of nominations. At the same time it will generally give a very fair representation if parties are not strictly organized, and might well have been adopted for the Federal Convention, five or six votes being allowed instead of ten. Newspaper domination would thus have been prevented.

Election of the Candidate Most in General Favour.—It is often required to ascertain the candidate most in general favour where one party only is concerned, such as an election for leader of the Opposition or president of a club; and the methods in general use are very defective. We do not refer to the theoretical difficulty, which perplexes some persons, of giving effect to the actual degree of favour in which the candidates stand in the electors' minds, but to the simple problem of finding out who is preferred most by the bulk of the electors. Thus it is universally recognised that when two candidates stand the candidate who has the support of an absolute majority of the electors is entitled to election. Yet it is possible that the rejected candidate may be nearly twice as popular. This might happen if the majority held that there was little to choose between the two candidates, while the minority thought they could not be compared. But it is quite evident that such distinctions cannot be recognized; the candidate who is preferred by an absolute majority must be elected. It is when there are more than two candidates that the difficulty arises. To elect the candidate who has most first preferences is open to very serious objection; he may have a small minority of the total votes, and each of the other candidates might be able to beat him single-handed.

The best way to overcome the difficulty is undoubtedly by some process of gradually eliminating the least popular candidates till the number is reduced to two; the candidate with the absolute majority is then elected. We propose to consider the different ways in which elimination might be made. We assume, in the first place, that each elector has cast an advance vote—i.e., that he has placed all the candidates in order of preference. The most primitive method is to eliminate at each successive count the candidate who has least first preferences. This is the method adopted in the Hare system, and we have already shown that it is very defective; in fact, it is no improvement at all. The eliminated candidate might be most in general favour, and might be able to beat each of the other candidates single-handed. A second method is to use Preferential Voting to decide which candidate should be eliminated at each successive count. This is far superior, but it is extremely complicated, and is open to the objection that when there are a large number of candidates a small section may cause the rejection of the general favourite. We propose to describe a method based on the Block Vote which is much simpler, and which does not lend itself to abuse. We have shown that the Block Vote works best when the candidates can be divided into two equal sections of favour and non-favour. Suppose there are four candidates, the first two preferences should therefore be counted as effective votes, instead of the first preference only. The eliminated candidate will then be the least in general favour. A second count is then made of the three candidates left, and the first preferences and half of the second preferences are counted as effective, and the lowest again eliminated. The candidate who has an absolute majority is then elected. The method may be indefinitely extended; if there are five candidates the first two preferences and one-half of the third preferences are counted, and so on. But when there are a great many candidates more than one might be eliminated. Any number up to eight could be safely reduced to four at the first count.


[8] The bracket principle introduced by Professor Nanson into the Hare system involves a partial recognition of this fact.



The Double Election.—In the preceding chapter we have strongly insisted that the different methods considered for ensuring the return of the candidate acceptable to all sections are not applicable to the election of legislators. The true principles of political representation require, not the election of the candidate most in general favour with both parties, but the election by each party separately of its own most favoured candidates. But as it is impossible for both parties to be represented in a single-membered electorate, the best alternative is that both should contest the seat and one be represented. The present system of election has largely tended to realize this alternative, especially in those countries in which party government was strong, such as England and the United States; and representation has in consequence been confined to the two main parties. In England, where the party system was gradually developed, this result was attained without any rigid control of nominations, because the true party spirit prevailed and personal ambition was subordinated to political principle; and in the United States it was only brought about at the cost of "machine" control of nominations. But on the Continent of Europe, where party government was transplanted from England, it has never really taken root. Each small group nominated its own candidates, and the successful candidate represented only a plurality, and not a majority, of the electors. Instead of a contest between two organized parties there was a scramble among numerous factions.

In France, Belgium, Italy, and Germany an attempt has been made to check this evil by the double election. If at the first election no candidate secures an absolute majority of the votes, a second election is held, for which only the two candidates who head the poll at the first election are allowed to compete. One must then get an absolute majority. The double election has undoubtedly tended to prevent a further splitting up into groups, but the Continental countries offer such poor soil for the growth of party government that it has only restricted the contest to two factions in each electorate; and, of course, the dominant factions are not the same in the various electorates.

The Advance Vote.—In Australia the same evil has become increasingly evident, and it is now no uncommon thing for a candidate to be elected by less than one-third or one-quarter of the total votes. In Queensland a plan has been introduced to meet the evil, under the name of the Advance Vote, which is designed to secure the advantages of the French plan without the trouble and expense of a second election. The electors simply declare in advance at the first election how they would vote at the second election. All that is necessary is that they place the candidates in order of preference, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. Then, instead of holding a second election between the two who have the greatest number of first preferences, it is merely necessary for the returning officer to consult each ballot paper and see which of these two candidates is higher in order of favour. Thus if one is marked 3 and the other 4, the vote is counted to the candidate marked 3. This device is assumed to give exactly the same result as the French plan, providing only that the same electors vote at both elections, and do not change their views between the two elections.

But in reality it possesses hardly any of the advantages of the French plan. It is another instance of the danger of neglecting the factor of human nature. The French do not go to the trouble and expense of a second election for nothing. Their plan is far the better. First of all, consider the candidates. They know well beforehand that unless one of them gets an absolute majority of the votes at the first election they will be put to the expense and delay of a second election, therefore it is to their interest that the number of candidates be restricted. This tends to keep down the representation to two sections. Next, consider the electors. They know also that unless they give a majority of votes to one of the candidates they will be put to the trouble of voting a second time, therefore they will take good care the votes are not split up, even if the candidates wanted it. What is the result? Simply that in the vast majority of cases one of the candidates gets a majority at the first election, and no second election is necessary; and, most important of all, the tendency to split up is counteracted.

Now take the Queensland system. None of these checks operate. The splitting up into groups is actually encouraged, and it is to the interest of each group to see as many more groups as possible formed, in order to increase its own relative importance, for the delegates of the two strongest groups have a chance of election instead of the strongest group only.

In practice the plan threatens to break down, owing to a practical point being overlooked. It is evident that the success of the Advance Vote depends on the electors marking all the preferences. The ballot paper should be made informal unless all the preferences are given. In Queensland this has not been done, and the consequence is that a large proportion of the electors refuse to give more than one preference. No more conclusive evidence is needed that the scheme has promoted the growth of factions. These electors voluntarily disfranchise themselves rather than vote for any of the other candidates, and of course the very object of the scheme is defeated; the successful candidate cannot secure a majority of the votes cast.

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