In this easy example, 92.41% of the voters got their representative.
There are many variations to the voting system that Thomas Jefferson (and later Victor D’Hondt) devised, but let’s keep it simple. Here is one example, using the purest format of Proportional Voting, and applying it to a city with eight council seats.
In this example, there are twenty candidates in the running, and you get to pick just one of them. It is a bit like having $10 in your pocket and going to a store with twenty items exactly for that price. You will likely walk around once, perhaps twice, and rather quickly you will see the items you definitively don’t want, and the couple that you do like. Then, among those last few items, you make a choice.
In local elections in the United States, candidates are not allowed to run on party lines. They each have to pronounce their own political ideals and give it their best. This actually simplifies Proportional Voting, and none of the candidates runs on a collective agenda.
Therefore, reviewing this list of twenty candidates, each is considered for his or her own merits. The choice I made here for you is that Ms. Harris got picked as the preferred candidate.
Notice the (A) behind her name. Because there are just eight seats, something must happen to the votes that do not add up to a full seat. The candidates themselves pick the persons they want your vote to go to if they do not capture a seat. For Ms. Harris, she is aligned with all other candidates in Vote Alignment A. I will make sure — as a voter — to check out these other candidates and see if this makes me not want to vote for Ms. Harris or whether I am fine with this Vote Alignment.
It is similar to shopping in the store with twenty items for $10 on display. When I pick the item I want, there is a good chance I will get it. But in case the item is sold out, I will get a similar item and not one of the items I definitively do not want.
Before moving on to the inner workings of the voting system, let’s pause for a second because the ballot shown above is all the voters get to see. All voters see the same ballot, and all pick just one candidate as their favorite. The election always involves the total number of seats, never a subsection.
The next image shows the intrinsic workings of the voting system, and no one influences it but the voters and their choices. In normal circumstances, we do not need to see how the inner workings function and we can simply look at the end results. But… here it is.
In total, 4775 people cast a valid vote in this example. Dividing that number by eight seats and the votes then needed for a seat (NS) is 596.875 votes. There is no rounding this number. When a candidate got the required NS or more votes, then that candidate got a seat straight out.
In this case, five candidates won a seat straight out with more that 596.875 votes. They are shown in green.
Ms. Harris also wins a seat right away, shown in blue, but the votes for her seat are based on the votes for her and for other candidates in Vote Alignment A. For instance, Ms. Douglass won a seat with 28.125 votes to spare. These votes are counted toward the next person in Vote Alignment A with the highest number of votes, which is Ms. Harris.
Long calculation short: Vote Alignment A received a total of 1200 votes. Subtract the votes of one seat for Ms. Douglass and we have more votes than needed for an additional seat. Therefore, Ms. Harris immediately gets her seat as well because she is the one in Vote Alignment A with the highest remaining number of votes.
Then, Vote Alignment A has 1200 -(2 x 596.875) = 6.25 votes left. That’s not going to help anyone else into a seat.
- Note how voters for other candidates in Vote Alignment A did not get the specific candidate they wanted, but they did get the second-best candidate of the Alignment. That is of course much better than seeing your vote go to someone you despise, politically speaking.
In this example, the setup was created in such a manner that there are two seats left that did not reach the full NS number of votes required, just to get a good look at this.
Reviewing the Vote Alignments, D has now the largest vote remainder and E the second largest vote remainder. That means that the best-performing candidate in Vote Alignment D got seat number 7, and the best-performing candidate in Vote Alignment E got seat number 8. They are shown in lime green.
Candidate Johnson decided to run by himself. He got lucky and got a seat right away, shown in green. Without the help of other candidates in a Vote Alignment, the chances of turning certain political ideals among the voters into an actual person in a seat are certainly diminished. Yet in this example Mr. Johnson did succeed. Had he won twice as many seats though, then no one else would have benefited from his choice to not Vote Align.
No one in Vote Alignment B won a seat.
That’s proportional voting in a nutshell.
Let’s add up all voters that can either point their finger to the representative they hand-picked themselves or to the representative they are fairly happy with as second-best.
1193.75 (Vote Alignment A) +
596.875 (Vote Alignment C) +
596.875 (Mr. Johnson) +
1025 (Vote Alignment D) +
1000 (Vote Alignment E) =
— — — — — — — — — — — -
That means that out of 4775 voters 92.41% of them either got the one they wanted or they got the second best.
- If we add the superfluous voters (Vote Alignment A, for instance, has 6.25 votes that are not counted in this total) that nevertheless got the representative they wanted, then the percentage is higher still.
Close to everyone got the one they wanted or got a candidate representing similar political ideals.
The Vote Alignment is not in the hands of the voters, but a smart candidate will Vote Align with those others that will not hurt his or her chances to win a seat. As such, the voters are definitively the ones helping make that decision.
Also, Vote Alignment cannot be larger than the number of seats. In this example, no Vote Alignment will have more than eight candidates. The letters are appointed by the Election Commission and they are valid for just one election.
Let’s show how this is not a political-party alignment:
When a Latina with business ties decides to Vote Align with a Latino bicyclist aficionado, then they ensure that voters voting for them would get a Latino representative if they get enough votes for one seat.
If it turns out that both got enough votes to receive their own seat, then next time around the Latina may join a business-centered Vote Alignment, while the Latino may join other grassroots candidates instead. Their decision will be made with their chances, and therefore the voters, in mind.
No candidate will actively run for another candidate. That will only hurt their own chances to get a seat. Each candidate must optimize their candidacy and the Vote Alignment is ultimately put in place so the voter will not see his or her vote go to a candidate they abhor; Vote Alignment salvages their votes.
The intrinsic part of the system is ordinarily not visible. It functions all by itself and no one influences its working other than the voters and their votes.
There is no cleaner voting system in the world.
The US Constitution (to be precise, the Bill of Rights) guarantees that you should have this voting system in place in your city or county. It makes the voter twice as strong as a voter voting in districts.
Sorry, Folks, but the State and the Federal levels are a different story. The voter demand for the local level (read about that demand here) cannot be repeated at these other levels of government. At the local level though, you should have it in place already. Here’s how to get it: