The number of candidates if Final Five Voting were applied to STV

Voters’ ability/willingness to rank candidates is an issue in ranked-ballot systems. Final Five (Four) Voting (FFV) aims to solve this problem with a plurality winnowing round. Voters are asked to consider only five (four) candidates at the ranking stage. What does this look like in STV?

The minimum number of decisive-round candidates is district magnitude. It cannot be less than 5 in a 5-seat district. So, for two slates of 3 that run in a competitive 5-seat district, voters are asked to consider six options. (I chose that scenario because it feels like an equilibrium.)

This number grows or shrinks in response to the number of slates, the sizes of slates, the number of independents, and the number coming out of an FFV winnowing round.

Someone should make a graph.

Relative performance of STV and OLPR in providing descriptive representation

I was honored to be asked to share thoughts last week on institutional change and its relationship to the state of politics. I tried to be as brief as possible.

One of my points was that electoral reform largely involves making proposals that politicians may or may not run with later. Diffusion matters, and we may not be able to control that process.

Another was to ask the question in the title of this post. I therefore have been replicating and extending a 1939 study of high-profile U.S. STV elections. Part of the extension is to analyze a larger set of elections. The other is to focus on various dimensions of descriptive representation.

Some early results can be found here. It unfortunately is not possible to combine them with a modern-day analysis of racially polarized voting. (Such an analysis would be needed to establish which candidates were candidates of choice.) However, the secondary literature on the candidates is unusually good.

The simulations are done with a D’Hondt allocation. I also have done them with largest-remainder Droop, which lets us better understand why STV produced the results it did. All of this is still in progress, and I am happy to discuss what I am learning.

I have been thinking a lot about two papers as I work on the project.

What does Philly suggest about the future of the party system?

I am keeping an eye on Philly for what it may say about the future of the Democratic Party and/or institutional change.

Philadelphia Magazine has a good story on Sen. John Fetterman’s (D) endorsement of two Working Families (WFP) candidates for city council. (Gov. Josh Shapiro [D] also has endorsed one of these candidates.) Does this reflect a broader willingness within the Democratic Party to empower WFP as a coalition partner?

It is worth remembering that Fetterman did not have to make endorsements.

The backdrop is an upcoming election to seven ‘at-large’ council seats. By law, a party may not nominate more than five candidates. This had the effect, until 2019, of reserving two seats for the Republican Party. Now the party is down to one, and November’s election may reduce that to zero.

As of late spring/early summer, three potential approaches to the situation were apparent.

One was to go to nonpartisan elections, potentially with instant runoff or Approval Voting. That buzz surrounded the mayoral nominating primary, but it reasonable to believe there is a constituency for similar reforms of the council electoral system.

Another was to try to remove WFP from the ballot. That effort was unsuccessful.

A third approach was along the lines of what Fetterman (and Shapiro) are now doing.

One might add a fourth approach, which I have not seen discussed: increase council size, and impose some form of proportional representation (PR). ‘At large’ elections are often thought to shut out numerical minorities, but they also let groups (like parties) aggregate their votes over larger areas than what a single-seat district typically encompasses. A greater number of at-large seats could help the GOP if this were twinned with PR, such that the threshold of exclusion were brought down to the party’s share of voters.

Thought experiments aside, this is an interesting situation to watch. Parties are not unitary actors. One often finds different views within them on how to approach situations like the one in Philadelphia.