Quick & dirty open-list PR allocation of 2018 US House seats

Here is what part of the US House would have looked like, 2019-20, if seats had been allocated under open-list PR based on votes in primaries. The results assume statewide allocation. I used a Hare quota and largest-remainder rule. I also removed runoffs from the data.

What is open-list PR? In this case, you vote for one candidate. This vote counts both for a person and a party.

This is not really the right way to do this. I used primary votes as a way to see how intra-party factionalism might find expression… and as a way to see what might happen if parties just ‘got rid of primaries,’ instead letting anyone who wants join the list (subject to whatever ballot access rules exist for primaries). Problems with my math are: (a) fewer people vote in primaries than generals; (b) not all districts saw primaries.

Anyway, maybe someone will find something interesting in the results. Let me know if you do!

Thanks to this crew for making the primary data available:

A modest and timely proposal

Democrats are fundamentally disadvantaged when it comes to winning U.S. House majorities. This is because their votes concentrate in population-dense areas. Independent redistricting cannot fix this. On all this, read Rodden (2019) and McGann, Smith, Latner, and Keena (2016).

Depending on the outcome of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs, Democrats may be in a unique position to fix their “geography problem.” Unified government would make it possible to adopt a modest form of proportional representation.

If Democrats do not do this, they are likely to lose the House again in 2022. That will mean a return to gridlock — and all that it entails for Democrats’ brand.

Here is one plan going forward:

Continue reading “A modest and timely proposal”

I do not have a favorite reform

We are going into another season of reform. A friend asks: “do you have a favored electoral reform or does FPTP make the most sense given America’s racial diversity?”

The short answer is: no favorite, and my (personal) yea/nay mostly depends on comparing the specific status quo with the specific replacement proposal.

Beyond that, here are some things I tend to think about when evaluating reform proposals. These are just quick thoughts, written on my way to bed.

1. The composition of a reform coalition is a pretty good signal of possible policy effects.

2. Generally, the public does not shape its own preferences. We form opinions about candidates (and reforms!) by consuming media and talking to friends (who also consume media). The same probably goes for marking ballots.

3. Every community tends to cleave into two opposing camps. This is related to the process by which our views get shaped. It may not happen immediately, but if you have to place a bet, you should bet that it will happen.

4. No coalition lasts forever, which probably is good, but you still have to live with the winning one, which might (or might not) be bad.

5. Details are crucial, even if they tend to fly under the radar. Even with PR writ large. For example, is there some guarantee that the minority (which might be you) will be at the table?

6. The fact that we’re even talking about reform is interesting in itself.

7. We live in a context of diminishing voting rights. Things may or may not get worse.

8. Fundamentally, people matter more than rules. People make the rules!

Good luck!