A functional theory of testing mismeasured election methods.

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“Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”

(Barack Obama, state of the union address, 2016.)

19th century progress and 20th century reaction in electoral reform.

A functional theory of testing election methods.

Mismeasurement in dysfunctional election methods.

The fools paradise of first past the post. (My old address.)

19th century progress and 20th century reaction in electoral reform.

The faltering practice of democracy, in the past two centuries, is matched by a faltering understanding. Two hundred years ago, the French Enlightenment founders of election science knew there was such a thing as right and wrong, even in voting method, and disputed it amongst themselves. One hundred and fifty years ago, the British philosophical radicals, led by John Stuart Mill knew it. And following in the same tradition, one hundred years ago, HG Wells knew it, and was one of its most able advocates.

JS Mill sought to save representative democracy, by adopting the new invention of Proportional Representation, also called by Mill, Personal Representation, to distinguish it from proportional partisanship, whose Party List systems would hijack the name of PR.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn pointed out that parties only favor a part of a country. The dictator Lenin favored Party List systems. The party boss picks the individual candidates on the list, while the voters can only vote for a party. This total lack of personal appeal of the list systems may explain why some of these depersonalised democracies were thrown aside by charismatic dictators, in continental Europe in the early twentieth century.

About 1990, in the UK, the Labour Party Plant report amounted to a declaration of war against effective elections, favoring any system but transferable votings abolition of safe seats. "The Peoples Party" (against democracy) has sneaked oligarchic party list systems into various parliamentary bodies. Early in 2016, one of their MPs moved a private members bill for the Additional (List) Members System, to be used for the House of Commons. The Electoral Reform Society responded with an ingratiating “Thankyou, Mr Reynolds.” That from a chief executive also a Labour Party candidate.

Originally the Proportional Representation Society, this body was set up, in 1884, to promote the system of proportional preference by the voters, not merely proportional preference by the party lists. The idea of reform was proportionally representative democracy not proportionally representative oligarchy.

One century ago, in 1916, at the worst crisis in British history, when the army was suffering horrifying losses on the Western front, the government agreed, while it got on with the war, to entrust the problems of electoral reform to a Speakers Conference, chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
(I discussed this in my essay: Foul! Referee electoral system abuse.)

The Conference could only reach agreement by a process of give-and-take. That is why it was necessary for the complete package to be accepted, unconditionally, as the government promised it would. But when the Conference reported, the Lloyd George coalition, which replaced the Asquith coalition, singled out the unanimous recommendation of the Single Transferable Vote, to be thrown to the wolves of a safe-seats parliament. And an incumbents Commons has been sponging off this cheat, ever since.

This removal of the effective democratic content of the Conference reforms left a grossly distorted heritage to the British people. A huge lost deposit penalty effectively barred the common man from the Commons. The main exception was afforded by the collective funds of the trade unions, thus the puppet masters of Labour MPs. This hardened the mould of British politics into its two-party oligarchy.

For example, the conservative Labour leader, James Callaghan is said to have confided that following the unions was the way to get on. The Bullock report on industrial democracy allowed workers representation in the board-room to be a closed shop. This naturally alienated the Liberals and others. Once Callaghan became Prime Minister, he did resist union demands, more responsibly than imaginatively, it must be said.

The disgrace of the Lloyd George coalition governments unlawful breach of contract with the Speakers Conference was over-shadowed by the Conference provision of votes for women, enacted for the first time, in the 1918 elections, tho this did not include women in their 20s, the “flappers.” Only one woman, one very rich woman, was elected.

PR by STV in multi-member constituencies would surely have elected more.
Barbara Castle admitted that standing in a two member constituency helped her first get into Parliament. There were still a few of these left over from Englands historic two member system.

The consequence of the single-member system was to keep Parliament a middle class professional white males only zone. So, women were only able to get in to the Commons, in large numbers, by undemocratic means of women-only candidates lists, like “the Blair Babes.” Worse still, this has encouraged undemocratic attitudes in politics. Instead of changing the system, they merely want to work it in their favor.

Women-only lists, ethnic diversity lists or other such engineered election results manifest the party list mentality within a first past the post system. In truth, the single-member system has always been worked (rigged) behind the scenes, around a game of musical chairs that party candidates play for safe seats.

A great book could be written about the safe-seats hand-outs into Britains doss-houses of parliament, Old Corruption, up to the present day. Britains so-called representation of the people is a farce, with some parliamentary seats held by one party longer than the Communists monopolised the Soviet Union.

In 2016, besides mourning the dead of the Great War, and the loss of their promise, we might mourn the death of democratic progress, in the sabotaged Speakers Conference.

The twentieth century reaction against democratic practice extended to a failure of democratic theory. The latter half of that century was taken up by social choice theory, whose icon was the so-called Impossibility theorem, which perpetrated the myth that the possibility of consistent democracy was a myth. As the saying goes, the tree is known by its fruits, which presumably Jesus would have withered, had he seen it.

The technicians of social choice theory have produced no presentable new election method to the world, in half a century. Indeed, since this is held to be an impossible task, it is not clear what they’re supposed to be doing, unless it is stalling in favor of the status quo, and prudently not biting the hand that feeds them.

I think it is fair to say, that in terms of the electoral machinery of government, the nineteenth century did more for democracy than the twentieth. Progress was followed by reaction. I must admit that the only major contribution to electoral progress, in the twentieth century, that I can think of, is Meek method (which is what I took my cue from).

The Centenary of the first Speakers Conference and its subsequent sabotage marks a centurys defeat of democracy, rather as the Versailles Conference marked a defeat of the peace, since the German request for a negotiated settlement (supported by HG Wells) was rejected in 1917, losing the chance to show that the Allies were not vindictively degraded to the level of the militaristic bully of Europe.

A historian called her book about the Great War: the war that ended the peace. This was a clever reversal of the HG Wells phrase: the war that will end war. Neither statement was conspicuously true, because the nineteenth century peace on the continent, was haunted by the Prussian mugger, and territorial sneak thief of Europe. Having started with Frederick the Great Pickpocket, the malpractice was continued by Bismarck, and only ended in the ruins of Hitlers bunker.

A functional theory of testing election method.

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To honor this Centenary of the Speakers Conference, and HG Wells, I dedicate a new theory for the testing of election systems. This is a theory of whether any given election method is functioning properly.

This differs from the existing Social Choice theory, which is of standards of electoral design, according to certain criteria, thought to be desirable. Social choice is an axiomatic theory, based on certain preconceptions of how a logician thinks they ought to work, which then finds fault because they don’t.

Axiomatic theory is modeled on Euclid geometry. But geometry was already a science thousands of years old, rooted in practical experience. Social choice theory or electoral axiomatics only had a hundred and fifty years of election science behind it. And they focused on the very first thinkers, virtually starting from scratch, and the single member contests studied by Condorcet and Borda. Curiously, they by-passed the nineteenth century developments in proportional representation.

The obvious explanation for this is that Hare system PR had been blocked in the English-speaking world. In America, it was nothing more than a relic.

And on the continent, the party list systems of PR, that were confounded with the English countries individual choice PR, had been helpless against dictatorships and war. Tho some contemporary electoral reformers insist on promoting these Continental European veterans as modern systems of democracy.

Iain Maclean, in Democracy and New Technology, describes how social choice theory frames its critique of democratic elections in terms of single majority counts of preference voting.

No doubt this is a tunnel vision, indeed a squinting tunnel vision of electoral methods. But one can see why these academics were mesmerised by the march of history, not appreciating that it was a march backwards. It would be unthinkable to them that single-member elections are only a special case of multi-member elections, and that they were remiss intellectually in neglecting the general case, no matter with how much mathematics they larded their deductions.

Even in modern times, the data-mining community looked back to the French Enlightenment for voting methods, to use instead of simple plurality, for purposes of representative information retrieval from data-banks.

As distinct from Euclid analysis of the millennia-mature science of geometry, a weakness of the axiomatic approach, to a new science of elections, is that no two theorists ever would devise independently the same set of axioms or fundamental postulates. It is a subjective choice. In effect, the theorist is electing his own personal choice of election theory. The social choice theorist is treating his vote on elections, as what counts for elections.

In principle, social choice theory mistakes a vote for a count, and is an example itself of a disfunctional election, and illustrates my functional theory of election method.
To put it another way: The vote is a seeking and the count is a finding. Social choice theory treats its seeking as a finding. True, the theory arrives at certain findings to its seeking, but they are only the findings of its founders and followers personal seekings. That is not an election, in the sense in which Euclid is the inheritance of ancient civilisations worth of geometry.

A scientific consensus requires objective evidence, as to the universal nature of elections, that all observers can agree on. In the introduction to Elections and Electors, JFS Ross gives this deep and simple truth: all elections consist of a vote and a count. (At any rate, this is true of formal election procedures, which is all that is at issue, here.)

My functional theory of the fitness of any election method tests wrongful cross-over of vote and count functions. The functional theory is also itself testable, as to its limitations, in diagnosing potential faults in election methods, which might not be covered by vote and count functions misplaced with each other. This openness to new knowledge characterises the progressive purpose of a scientific theory.

My idea for a functional theory of fit elections came from a particular insight. For half a century, in the UK, the two-party system blackmailed the electorate against wasted votes for other parties or candidates. If one is not to be over-come by this political scoundrelism, what is the technical meaning of this so-called wasted vote? What is the nature of the dysfunction?

Well, it is this. The voter, who is told his vote will be wasted, because unlikely to elect anyone, is pressured into being his own returning officer, by excluding his first prefered candidate for a second preference. Or indeed the voter may have to fall back on a third or fourth preference, in which case the voter, as returning officer, conducts a personal count thru more than one exclusion round.

Note the peculiar inconsistency of this. The voter is obliged to suspend being a voter, while commandeered to returning officer duty. Note also that an election, of more than two candidates, is bound to become more than one stage or round of counts. This fact exposes the futility of all those academic election designs that seek to encompass elections within a single stage of counting. Indeed, it exposes the futility of nearly all the worlds official election methods, confined to spot voting, which is a voting instruction for one round of counting only.

This then was my first example of a functional theory of fit elections or conversely a theory of dysfunctional elections. The wasted vote blackmail is a feature of a dysfunctional election, in which a count function is illegitimately pushed into a role for the voters.

This also belies the falsehood that simple plurality voting is a simple operation, faced by more than two candidates. And that under-mines simplicity as a case for keeping FPTP.

There is also a counter-part dysfunction in election systems, whereby the count illegitimately acts as a vote. This is the case of party list systems. X-votes or spot votes for closed party lists go to individual candidates on the list, that the voters are not suffered to vote for.

Open lists allow voters to express a personal preference but that vote is still transferable to another candidate on the list, regardless of the voters wishes. The voters personal preferences are usurped by a partisan count. Party list systems are dysfunctional vote-usurping counts.

Whereas, the single transferable vote is a comparatively functional voters preference list not over-ruled by party list counts.

It was noted that for more than two candidates, that the single X-marks-the-spot vote, rather than be wasted, dysfunctions as an exclusion count. Cumulative voting, which allows voters to choose how many X votes to give to each candidate, is another kind of count-usurping vote. It is similar to a points system (range voting or score voting) where voters are allowed to decide what number of points or “price” they will pay for given candidates.

Both these multiple vote systems have the disadvantage that the votes count against each other and more or less cancel each other out. This inefficiency has long been known but still finds promoters, acting on variants of old ideas under new names.

In terms of a functional theory, the inconsistency is in a voter being treated as a counter of many votes, as if that voter is many voters, to be counted by the voter, in a returning officer role.

The purpose of counting is to sum or aggregate the wishes of individuals into a community profile. Cumulative voting or point systems are trying to give a returning officer role of aggregating or summing the votes to voters, who are individuals not aggregates.

Mismeasurement in dysfunctional election methods.

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So far, I have analysed dysfunctional voting methods in terms of distinct vote functions and count functions being misclassified, as vote functions when they should be count functions, and count functions when they should be vote functions.

This is fine but there is a deeper meaning behind erroneous election methods being functional misclassifications. For, classification is but the first step in the logic of measurement, that goes on to measure order and proportion.

Thirty-five years ago, in 1981, I put forward a measurement theory of scientific elections, in my first surviving essay (in French) which received the acknowledgement of a UNESCO copyright from the editor, M. Jacques Richardson.

It has taken me all this time to come up with a converse mismeasurement theory of unscientific elections. The reason, why I eventually have done this, is the unsatisfactory nature of the scholasticism or dogmatic rationalism of the likes of Social Choice theory, as an arbiter of election methods, which yet seems to preoccupy academe.

It is said that science is measurement. And it seems to be of the very nature of intelligence. It is a “given” of existence, as if it were hard-wired into the brain. Or perhaps more to the point, it is as if there were some eternal rules of creation that all the chances and mischances of evolution would have to follow, somehow.

And so it is with election methods, whose creations are so many chances and mischances of right and wrong mensural logic. But here is the thing. All the dysfunctional voting methods still use the same logic of measurement, as functional voting method. They just use it in a wrong way, often without even knowing that they are using it at all.

The evolution of thought has remained stunted, in politics and the social sciences, in the form of crude binary classifications. This is shown in the dogmatic black and white logic of exclusive ideologies, like communism versus capitalism, two half-truths masking false societies. This philosophical schizophrenia also is shown in academes radical dualism of ethics and science, ignoring Immanuel Kant, who countered with a bridging conception of the more universal natural sciences graduating to the more individual moral sciences.

This simplistic all or nothing logic, in the X marks the spot vote, dominates the worlds voting methods. In the logic of measurement, however, the next step is a graduated choice, of more or less prefered candidates. Generally, people do not prefer one candidate, or one party, absolutely, and nobody else, under any conditions.

Approval voting offers a binary choice between voting or not voting for every candidate. It otherwise says nothing about the voters over-all order of choice for candidates.
In that respect, it has not got beyond the limitations of the Condorcet pairing method of staging binary contests between all the candidates.

The reality is that choice is relative. This is expressed in a preference vote of ranked choices. Its absence stunts the subtlety of thought to the tribal antagonism of “not one of us.”

Thus, the terms of my theory of dysfunctional election methods, broadens from misclassifying the vote and count functions, to the misuse of order and proportion, in defective election systems. A general test of dysfunctional elections is of their nature as mismeasurement systems.

Opponents, of elections measuring preference in the vote and proportion in the count (which defines STV) cannot abolish measurement. They are merely supporters of mismeasuring elections.

Given a mensural perspective, I now continue the analysis of vote and count crossed functions in elections.

With regard to simple plurality elections, this is a mistreatment of a relative majority (first past the post) stage of the count, as a definitive preference vote. This can be seen more clearly when first past the post is used in multi-member constituencies. In a three member constituency, for instance, there is an order of election of the candidate with more votes than any other, then a second candidate with more votes than each of the rest, and a third candidate with more votes than each of the remaining candidates.

Tho the voters are denied a preference vote, the preference vote still has to be smuggled into the count. In this respect, simple plurality is a count-usurping preference vote.

The misapplication does not end there. Again, first past the post in multi-member constituencies shows the dysfunction more clearly. Partisans use all their votes for one partys candidates, typicly gaining almost equal numbers of votes. The party with more voters, than each one of the other parties, has the quota or elective proportion of votes (a roughly equal number of votes for each candidate of the same party) to win all the seats.

In this case, a party vote has usurped a proportional count. The situation is less obvious but essentially no different in single-member constituencies. The largest faction, which can be quite small, as long as it is bigger than each of the others, effectively sets an – arbitrary – elective quota.

A party vote-usurping quota count is implicit in simple plurality systems. While, in Party List systems, a quota count (or its variants in divisor counts) is explicitly in terms of party votes. The party vote has usurped the quota count, in turn usurping preference votes, still there, but undemocraticly confined to party lists.

The innocents or ignorants who oppose “proportional representation,” are actually using it, in their own undeveloped voting systems, depending for their very legitimacy on some rudimentary element of it, in their own unreformed or mal-reformed systems.

Anti-reformers can misrepresent proportional representation but they cannot do, or even think, without it.

Consequently, the Conservatives in Britain (and Canada) oppose proportional representation, even as they claim legitimacy by equalising single-member constituencies, which is nothing more than a feeble proportional representation between constituency electorates. Of course, it is no accident that a most partial kind of PR (which they would never dream of calling PR) maximises their number of seats, for the most disproportional representation they can obtain in Parliament, to form a single party government.

More, to the same effect, can be said of the United States. As Barack Obama said: “I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.”

That’s a beautiful example of how the wires can become crossed in the voting system. Transfering enough supporters to a district gives a congressman an elective quota. This malpractice known as malapportionment is a perverse or autocratic form of proportional representation by transferable voting.

That this is a system of proportional misrepresentation is clear from the malpractice of the incumbent party, manufacturing a higher quota per seat, that the opposition party needs to win. That way, the incumbents win more seats, needing fewer votes per constituency.

The single transferable vote more or less avoids the worst of the other systems mismeasurements. STV elects candidates to representation on their achieving an elective proportion or quota of votes in a multi-member constituency. Their votes in surplus of a quota are transferable to their voters next prefered candidates. But STV has one flaw in common with other systems, if not to such an extent.

When the surpluses run out, there is no other option but to exclude the candidate who happens to have the least votes, at that stage in the count.

This fault can be explained, in terms of our dysfunction theory, as the count short-cutting the vote, by excluding a candidate, without the voters direct say in the matter.

This drawback is known as premature exclusion. I solved this problem with Binomial STV, which introduces an equivalent exclusion count, to the election count.

The moral is clear that blocking proportional representation inevitably means proportional misrepresentation. Without scientific method of election measurement, there is only unscientific method of elections mismeasurement.

The fools paradise of first past the post. (My old address.)

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The conventional wisdom about elections is perhaps about as wrong as it is possible to be.

The assertion that an X vote or spot vote is the easiest voting method is only true in the sense that it is easier to dig with a spoon than a spade, when you are using the sugar bowl. But that does not imply you have to use the spoon to dig the garden. For, that is essentially the argument of those who insist on the X vote, for more than two candidates, instead of a ranked choice or preference vote.

Such ease, as the X vote has, is not because it is some better way of voting, but simply the fact that it most restricts a preference vote to the least possible choice.

An X vote, as an inadequate tool for multiple choices, does not make it easier to use. Nor is it necessarily a simpler choice, to cast an X vote among more than two candidates. All sorts of tactical or strategic considerations have to be taken into account, against wasting ones vote. A voter is obliged to be his own returning officer, counting out a first preference or higher preferences, unlikely to be elected. One needn’t gamble about this, given a preference vote to make a straight-forward ranked choice.

Moving from the vote to the count, similar considerations apply to so-called simple majority or simple plurality counts. Again, the alleged simplicity of this count, as well as the supposed simplicity of the X vote, is really a misnomer for incompleteness. It is the failure to realise that there may be more than one stage, or round, to an election, both in the vote and correspondingly in the count.

Just as an X vote is only the limiting case of a preference vote, so a majority count is only the special case of a proportional count. The Droop quota is a rational generalisation from the over-all majority, winning half the votes, in a single-member constituency. For equitable elections, a two member constituency requires a quota of at least one third the votes, to elect a candidate, for a proportional representation of two thirds the constituency. Thus, a constituency returning three members, on one quarter the votes each, proportionally represents three quarters the voters. And so on.

A many-majority count of a many-preference vote is just the consistent generalisation from a one-majority count of a one-preference spot vote. Each order of preference, that the voters give on the ballot paper, is an elective instruction to the returning officer, for each successive stage of the count.

Lack of this functional consistency makes most of the worlds voting systems illogical. Social choice theory, and the like, prides itself on being nothing if not consistent. But academe is as wayward as the wide world in its election practice, because its consistency is “a priori” or before the facts. These deducers don’t realise that elections are not obliged to follow personal preconceptions but rather abide by function.

The signal failures of these “a priori” schools, generally speaking, include not clearly distinguishing between the distinct election spheres of the vote and the count, and confounding their separate functions; not appreciating the functional relationship between the vote and the count, in general, a one-to-one or isomorphic relationship, of voters order of choice, governing successive stages or rounds, to an equitable count. STV uniquely follows this procedure, to make the most functional election system.

Without consistency, there is no standard of comparison, to make progress possible. One just wonders about lost, without direction. Consistency may not seem much but the whole of science is lost without it.

So, coherent election method requires not only that the vote and the count keep to their own functions but that those functions keep in step with each other, as individual voter profiles are transformed into a community profile.

Some election designs are based on a number of spot votes or a number of points, giving new names to variations on old election experiments, trying to build the count into the vote, to construct (or gratuitously constrict into) a one stage election.

Or they equally gratuitously confine themselves to a preference vote, without the proportional count that a consistent relationship, between the two functions of vote and count, requires.

Then they construct castles in the air, of proportionality, such as by vesting the votes for a candidate, in the candidates votes in parliament, which the voters have not voted for. This is yet another form of (anything-but-democracy) illegitimate vote transfering (as in single member malapportionment and list systems proportional partisanship) irrespective of the voters wishes. It is another way of transfering the vote, without giving the voters a transferable vote. It s another form of vote-usurping count.

Yet another misconception about genuine proportional representation is that its multiple stages of the count are too complicated. This is another misnomer. In this case, complicated merely means completed by specialists. And without specialisation there is no civilisation.

The vote is easy (a ranked choice) but the count is hard (summing vote transfers) so much so, that it can only be done approximately by hand count. New Zealand has already recognised that the future of the STV count (the most democratic system) is with computers. And I have worked out an extension of the Meek concept of the re-adjustable keep value, for a Binomial STV of systematic re-counts. This relies further on computer counting.

If I had to choose between administering the single-member system and the single transferable vote, I know STV is much the easier and also much the cheaper, once bedded in. Yet “complicated, bureaucratic and costly” are ever repeated propaganda falsehoods, thrown against STV as proportional representation, which actually apply to the single-member system.

The continual fragmenting and re-fragmenting of districts, to maintain more or less equal single-member constituencies, is a never-ending, destabilising, distorting, obliterating assault on community identities.

The very opponents of proportional representation rely, for their legitimacy, on precisely that principle, in the form of equal constituencies, which is to say proportional representation between single-member constituencies.

The single-member system is the irrelevant proportional representation of voting with ones feet, by moving the boundaries after how people move about.

Whereas the single transferable vote merely adjusts the number of seats in proportion to changes in the size of a stable recognised community. This properly respects local identity and autonomy.

Having sacrificed local integrity, to a national two-party system, a further confusion of thought claims that first past the post gives decisive majority governments. They are neither decisive nor majority. In the overwhelming number of cases, these are only make-believe majority governments, supported by declining portions of the electorate.

Moreover, they do not decide, so much as proceed under the inertia of their own opinions, without effective consultation with other factions, on which thoughtful decisions might be based.

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