First past the post helped cause USA shut-down

Submitted by editor on Sat, 19/10/2013 – 10:05

Rob Richie, Executive Director of Fair Vote (in the USA), and his colleague, Devin McCarthy, have written excellent articles in Washington Post and Huffington Post and we recommend you to read them. Fair Vote is an excellent electoral reform organization that concentrates on its core objective of promoting ranked choice voting (Single Transferable Vote or STV to UK readers).

Rob and Devin explain how first past the post (winner takes all) elections encourage confrontational politics in which politicians are motivated to serve their core voters more than the national interest and this exacerbated the recent political deadlock in the USA, which closed many functions of the US Government, made the USA something of a joke abroad and threatened the world economy. They then explain how ranked choice voting can reduce the problem.

Although there is not a precise parallel in the UK to the US Government’s shut-down, the lesson is universal. Voting systems matter. Voting systems affect political attitudes, election results and political decisions.

One of Rob and Devin’s points is that the Democrats won more votes but the Republicans won more seats in the House of Representatives. This gave the Republicans more power than the voters wanted to give them and more power than a fair and democratic voting system should have given them. It created the incorrect impression that the Republicans had a mandate from voters to oppose Obamacare at all costs. Of course, we have seen examples similar to this in the UK and in other countries that still use first-past-the-post voting.

Fair Vote sets an example to other electoral reform organizations. It does not campaign for proportional representation generically but specifically for ranked choice voting (STV):

“We are not proposing the party-list forms of proportional representation used in many parliamentary democracies. Although highly successful in Germany and Holland, party lists would clash with U.S. political culture. Americans want Congress to reflect our differences, avoid groupthink and have more members with an electoral incentive to reach across party lines to find policy solutions.”

Party lists would also clash with UK political culture. UK reformers also want Parliament to “have more members with an electoral incentive to reach across party lines to find policy solutions.”

To read the articles and comments on them, please see:…


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