A: Overhang Resolution (OR) Preventing Spurious Majority
- District Winner phase
a) SIngle Seat FPTP districts, with expanded options:
i)Vote with a single vote for the office of district representative for a single candidate running in the district as USAians are accustomed.
ii)But as an option, a voter who chooses to abstain from influencing the identity of this district representative may instead cast their vote for a party, or individual candidate running in another district in the race; this is the only difference in the mechanics of voting from typical FPTP single winner in single district races. (The accommodation of the out-of-district or party only options can be done as simply as providing a write in line, especially aided by the voter being able to look up and write in a code for a party or candidate, to prevent ambiguity. Note that this means a person can vote for a party while withholding voting for the candidate who might be running in that party in their district, but cannot vote for a person without also voting for the party the candidate they select is affiliated with). All votes always specify a party.
Note “party” is defined by the electoral machinery in an inclusive way that avoids dependency on formal party machinery. For instance an independent with no affiliations is treated as a party of one. This definition starts from a fundamental basis of all races being between persons as individual candidates, but the priority here is to get representation the voter can best count on to meet their goals. As historic practice shows, most voters value party existing toward this end, and the approach is designed to give voters maximum options in getting one they closely align with–by whatever values they deem important.
a) Determining overhang magnitude:
i) Each vote has necessarily recorded a partisan choice; these partisan votes are now added up across the entire system. Using Hamilton’s method of Greatest Remainders, proportional shares of the standard legislature size are computed. (Reasons for favoring Hamilton will be presented with examples).
ii) Grouping the individual district winners also by their registered partisan affiliation, the totals for each party from the district votes are counted and compared to proportional shares.
iii) If any party has more than their proportional shares, the differences in each case are added together for total overhang. This number is doubled, and added to the standard seat number of the body being elected, and the proportional shares for each party again computed based on the larger seat count thus generated. (If this fails to fully raise any overhanging party, that could be a partner in a multi-party coalition controlling a majority of seats, which coalition however falls short of a majority in its combined popular vote share (this is what I mean by “spurious majority”), another iteration of overhang top off as above must be done–small parties might retain an overhang, but this can remain if the excess cannot enable a spurious majority.
Top off using the district candidates who did not win plurality district seats:
a) Using the proportional shares computed with the smallest expansion after the first pass needed to adequately resolve overhangs to prevent spurious majorities as above, we now subtract the district wins from each party’s proportional share.
b)Then we rank the list of each party’s votes in each district where they did not win the district race. For each party having N seats above their plurality win count remaining, take the top N ranked candidates to become the top off delegation to complete the party delegation.
c) Special case of party shares greater than candidates contesting for that party: It may be that a party wins more seat shares than it ran candidates, so a procedure to choose extra representatives who did not stand for election would then be required. (Party lists are not satisfactory aside from other objections to them, since not all entities treated here as a party are actually parties. I have a suggested general procedure in mind, but note in this version of the basic proportionally by top off approach, this will happen mainly because of parties not choosing to contest all races but proving popular anyway).
As an option the system may consider seeking to maximize representation of all voters by an asset voting procedure to fill another iteration of top off additions providing opportunity for parties failing to get any direct representation, in numbers proportional to the share of unrepresented voters taken together.
B: Fixed Top Off Seats (as in MMP).
Here, instead of the number of top off seats floating based on plurality discrepancies, we have a fixed house size larger than the number of districts. I think in terms of a doubled size, or doubled plus one to maintain an odd number for tie breaking if that is valued. Thus, the US House of Representatives (method might not be fully Constitutional to apply as is, variations will be offered in another topic) would be raised to 871 members, but states will be apportioned 435 districts for single seat plurality races. (Approach might be modified to allow for other modes of choosing the single seat district reps, provided an acceptable way of determining proportionality is possible–this holds for OR top-off approach too of course).
the same as for OR, the voter has the same voting experience, essentially identical to current prevailing US practice but with added choices as described above.
Here the proportionality is computed for the full size house, not the district number. Overhangs ought to be rare and small but can still happen and if they do the same principles as in OR apply–one guaranteed round of overhang compensation if any overhangs occur, followed by elimination of those which involve parties that can create a spurious majority in coalition. But generally we can hope overhangs will not occur at all, though scenarios to cause them are easy to describe.
The top off seats are filled as in OR by identifying the top vote winning candidates not elected in phase 1. The possibility a party has not run enough candidates to fill their share is much more likely here, and is sure to happen if any party gets a majority of popular votes–as voters spread their choices around more, that might happen rarely in practice, but with almost twice as many seats the likelihood of a party failing to contest enough seats for their total share rises generally anyway. I mean to describe an option to fill those seats meant to both keep voter choice meaningful and relevant, and enable non-party independents and coalitions of them to be exactly as capable of realizing their claim. I am aware in some MMP systems as in New Zealand this is not done, but this is not an MMP system though there are resemblances, or if it is it is a special kind, and the philosophy of the system serving voter interests is the reason to insist all parties be able to fill their full share somehow.
again as an advanced option to explore, provision can be made for maximal possible representation of all voters with some indirection via an asset voting plan to fill a final, small, set of seats based on the number of voters as yet still unrepresented by any elected members.
Posts on theory and philosophy may follow soon, but first I would like to offer at least one example; I have many others I have worked on over the past few years. These are mostly entirely based on real world election returns–one reason that while I am interested in exploring options to improve the system with perhaps better ways to do the district wins, such as AV, Score voting etc, I want people to bear in mind the system as conceived is grounded on simple single choice voting with no further elaborations for the voter.
The idea is, if the voter knows their vote will not be wasted and will result in a proportional share for their prime choice, that is sufficient because other benefits of other systems will occur in legislature operational dynamics. It becomes important to reform those institutions too of course, but we should be doing that anyway! The mechanics of the vanilla top off model are those of plurality single district FPTP races, but the outcomes should differ significantly as do the options for the voter.
Therefore the choices voters make will presumably, and we rather hope, change from those they make with FPTP, but we can always conceive these examples as showing what could happen even with current voting patterns, and as instances where the unfamiliar new system is met with conservatism by the voters initially, before they learn their way around.
I am open to criticism that points out pitfalls, but optimistic that these will overall be far less harmful than the reality we in the USA generally currently live with, and trust that on that, we can at least all agree!