Saturday, August 08, 2009


More about a new Constitution for California

The public is not fairly represented in our State legislature. Each Senator or Assembly Person is elected from a district on the basis of "winner takes all" election rules. At the general election voters of a district have a choice among a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a Peace & Freedom, a Green, and an American Independent. The winner will be either the Democrat or the Republican. Voters with all the other preferences will not be represented by the winner. If the winner is a Democrat, he or she will not represent the Republicans; if a Republican, the Democrats will not be represented. As a result of having single-member districts, nearly half of the people in the State will not be represented by their elected representatives.

A consequence of this underrepresentation is voter apathy. If the district almost always elects a Democrat, the Republicans will not take much interest in elections, except to grouse about the winning Democratic candidate. If the district is "safe" for Republicans, the Democrats will not take much interest in elections. The voter turn-out in "safe" districts may be low, with only a small percentage of the eligible voters showing up at the polls on election day. This apathy may not affect the outcome of the election for the legislator but it can affect the outcome of the state-wide election for governor. Low turn-out for the legislator usually means low turn-out for the governor. In a close election, a governor candidate may lose because the turn-out in districts that are "safe" for his or her party is lower than in competitive districts.

I have some different ideas about electing representatives to a legislature. They're not my own ideas, but I have them anyway. Two of them are: (1) elect members from districts in which several candidates are elected; (2) do away with primary elections and use instant-runoff counting in general elections. I do not think these are radical ideas. Such voting schemes are used in many countries, particularly in countries that were never former British colonies. In former British colonies - Canada, United States, Australia, South Africa, etc. - legislators are elected from single-member districts. In many European countries, all or some of the legislators are elected from multiple member districts. The objective is to achieve proportional represenation in the legislature, so that Greens can elect five percent of the members if they constitute five percent of the voters, and so on. In the United States and Canada it is highly improbable that any minority party candidate can ever be elected to a legislature. The voting system is designed so that only candidates of the two major parties can be elected.

I won't bore you with details of how to conduct instant-runoff elections. I suggest you consult Google or some other good search engine for references.

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