NCCPR's Voice For Democracy, April 1999 - Page Three

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Electoral choices for Great Britain

On March 24th., Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott announced plans to let towns and cities elect mayors (currently they are elected by the city or town council) and they would be chosen by the "supplementary vote system of proportional representation" (a diluted form of IRV).

This is the latest in a string of changes from a country that a few years ago had one electoral system: first-past-the-post (winner-take-all without runoffs). Now, at least five different ways of choosing representatives may face voters, depending on where they live.

In May, voters in Scotland and Wales will elect new assemblies by the "additional member" system - under which individual constituencies choose

representatives and the remaining seats are filled from a top-up party list. (This is called MMP in New Zealand and was first used in Germany in 1949)

In June, England, Wales and Scotland will elect 84 MEPs (member of the European parliament) by way of regional "party lists" - the most common voting system in Western Europe.

In Northern Ireland, however, the election of their three MEPs will be through the single transferable vote form of proportional representation, (also known as Choice Voting, the system used in Ireland, Australia and Cambridge, MA.).

Local elections in May in England, Wales and Scotland will be on the old first-past-the-post basis.

While this is happening, the whole country is debating the Jenkins Commission proposal to introduce a new form of proportional representation for electing the Mother of Parliaments, the House of Commons.

The Jenkins proposal called AV+ would have most Members of Parliament elected in single districts using the Alternative Vote (British name for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)), while 10%-15% of MPs would be elected from top-up party lists in relatively small "regions". While this sounds very similar to MMP, the small number of list MPs (usually one or two per region) means that less proportionality would be achieved than is found in either New Zealand or Germany.

Nonetheless, if adopted - and the government has promised a referendum - this would be a major advance for PR in all those countries, whose system of voting has been derived from the British.

Illinois makes strides to cumulative voting

From Illinois Citizens for Proportional Representation.

Peoria, Illinois uses cumulative voting to elect its city council. In the April 7th edition of the Peoria Journal-Star, columnist Pam Adams defends the proportional voting system and shows how cumulative voting, in practice, creates a more inclusive, more representative government. The next election is April 13th. If it plays in Peoria. .

From the Peoria Journal-Star 4/7/99


by Pam Adams

They get it in South Africa. South Africa, where 74 percent of the population is black, 14 percent is white, and the rest are colored or Asian, understands majority rule isn’t necessarily fair or representative.

At the dawn of their first-ever multi-racial democratic election in 1994, South African leaders negotiated a voting system that assured whites and other minorities a place in the national legislature.

They get it in most of the world’s democracies. They get it in major corporations. In fact, they used to get in Illinois.

The "it" they get is proportional representation, the idea that minorities, be they racial, religious, labor, political, shareholders or something else, deserve an elected voice in proportion to their numbers.

They understand they can’t have representative government if minority groups are locked out of participation. So they use alternatives to the United States’ beloved, but flawed, winner-take-all voting system.

The mildest alternative, by far, is cumulative voting. But you wouldn’t know it by the angst-filled rumblings buzzing through Peoria this campaign season.

Here, you’d think cumulative voting was some kind of kooky, unconstitutional, undemocratic conspiracy designed to destroy local government and elect narrow, special-interest crazies to the council’s five at-large seats. It’s not.

You wouldn’t know Illinoisans used cumulative voting to elect state representatives from 1870 to 1980 and there’s a movement to bring it back statewide. You wouldn’t know a number of major corporations use it to make sure minority shareholders get a voice at the table.

Actually, what we have here in Peoria, with our mix of district and at-large council representation, is a mild, hybrid version of proportional representation - a system much tamer than the one used to guarantee white minority participation in South Africa and fuller participation, period, in other democracies. Ours is

... continued on page four

Voice for Democracy is published by Northern Californians for Proportional Representation.

Our web site at has more up-to-date information. Please submit articles/letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 68 Penzance Street, Salinas, CA. 93906 or e-mail to

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