Back to the future: ‘nonpartisan’ proportional representation

Yesterday, I received an email from the Open Primaries organization. It included the following words. What’s interesting is the suggestion that proportional representation (PR) be designed to cater to independents. Independent-politics reformers typically oppose PR, and PR supporters typically have party proportionality in mind.

There is an accelerating conversation about electoral reform happening. Proportional representation, ranked choice voting, nonpartisan and open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting (and more) are all hot topics.

We’re particularly interested in conversations, campaigns and activities that bridge the gap between structural reform and rising independence. For reform to be maximally effective it needs to be grounded completely in where the American people are and where they are headed.

And they are going independent!

Chapter 3 of More Parties or No Parties documents a similar fusion at the height of the Progressive Era. It didn’t end well!

Superb article on primary reform

By Kyle Sammin for Real Clear Pennsylvania. The piece is all about replacing primaries with nomination-by-convention — a proposal that many political scientists likely would support. Here are my favorite lines:

Progressive–Era reformers thought they were returning power to the people by letting states interfere in party business. Instead, they wound up confusing the people, making them think of primary elections as a “first round” that precedes the general election. Returning to a convention system would let parties be parties again, help party members reach consensus instead of shouting past one another, and enable a party collectively to affirm its vision in choosing candidates who share its values.

And if you don’t like a party’s vision? Start your own party.

Also note the list of countries mentioned in the article. Several of them are frequently held up as examples of ranked-choice voting.

Minor parties also use conventions to select their candidates; so does nearly every political party around the world. Rather than spending taxpayer money on an election that benefits only themselves, the parties must pay their own way. And they do! In Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, and nearly any other democracy you can think of, this is how a party’s nominees are chosen.

This piece interestingly was written by a conservative.

Interwar Fabians on ‘instant runoff’

The following is from a 1924 pamphlet on electoral reform by the Fabian Society. The context involves the Labour Party replacing the Liberals as the UK’s main opposition to the Conservatives. The pamphlet itself is about proportional representation, but this excerpt is from a section called “The Alternative Vote.” It is interesting to compare the attendant circumstances with some that now obtain in American nominating primaries.

The method is suggested as a safeguard against minority seats. It is true that the successful candidate would be able to boast of a mathematical majority as proof of his representative quality. But this mathematical majority would not be a majority in the English political sense of the word, i.e., a majority of positive supporters [emphasis in original]. The candidate would be returned partly by the votes given to him to keep other candidates, considered as less desirable, out; and this is no morally decent basis for a Representative Assembly. Moreover, as it is likely that within 15 years the Liberal Party will be electorally defunct, we shall then be troubled with fewer of such multiple-candidate contests. It would be the height of political unwisdom to introduce a new and vicious element into the constitution to counteract a temporary ill.