Do we need a new voting system?

I recently received a comment from a reader that proposes a new voting system to help remove the conflict between voting for an individual or a party.

I thought it made some really interesting points, so I have copied it in full and posted it here. I’d be interested to hear what people’s views are on this.

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Can I recommend a system of voting which would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system?

Direct Party and Representative Voting

Despite the recent vote in the House of Commons and consequential public debate, the chances of a move to Proportional Representation for Westminster elections are remote. Those in favour of PR cannot build a coalition. The different forms of PR vary in their ability to deliver PR, and are often complex and difficult to understand.
PR also challenges the simplicity of the single member constituency.

An underlying problem with the existing system is that the voter is faced with the dilemma of voting for the party or for the candidate. This works very heavily against independent candidates. These voting issues should be separated as follows.

To meet the demand for political renewal, we need

1 One vote for a party to form the government.

2 One vote for the Constituency MP. This could be by the FPTP system.

And all on one ballot paper – that is the only change we need in the public voting system.

A further change would be needed in Parliament where one MP one vote is ditched, and a fractional voting system introduced. The elected Government’s strength in Parliament would be determined by the first vote. In parliament each MP would exercise a fractional vote. If a party got 40% support in the ‘Government’ vote but 50% of the MPs, each of their MPs would have a vote value 0.8 Independents would have a vote value of one. Non government bills (Free Votes) could be determined by one vote per MP.

Swipe card voting should make it foolproof and simple.

The Government would then have very precise proportional support, not in MPs but in votes. Why should it have more or less?

This system, Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR), would have the key advantages of a PR system and single member constituencies.

• No longer would people be disenfranchised. Every vote would count.
• It would be easy to vote, and easy to count, and the outcomes would be quick and easy to understand.
• There need no longer be a conflict between voting for an individual or a party. You could vote for your party but not necessarily for the particular local representative.
• Yes, it would be difficult for new parties to get started – but arguably less so than at present
• It would make it easier for exceptional individuals or independents to get elected.

This system would not satisfy the ‘Strong Government’ lobby – those who want the system to throw up a big majority for the ‘winning’ party regardless of their actual democratic support. But at least the battle lines and arguments would be simplified.

Not only would this system lead to more independent MPs, it would give all MPs a measure of independence since they will have been elected as individuals rather than just party representatives.

This system, DPR, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected, would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system.

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Very interesting. Do you agree?

5 Responses to Do we need a new voting system?

  1. Dr Philip MacDougall says:

    I think the idea is worth considering and adds to the overall debate regarding our unique and somewhat rigid system of voting. Amongst those who oppose change this will generate even more opposition than AV, STV etc. Also, it could be argued, that you are creating a government that might never have a majority. If people simply indicated the party of their choice then it would always lead (no party since the war has had more than 49% of the vote) to a coalition. Not that I am against coalitions – Italy has proved to be the country with least change having had (since WW2) the Christian Socialists and Christian Democrats constantly in power. In contrast, we lurch from one party to another roughly every ten years. So, from the point of continuity – this very much a guarantee.

  2. In a General Election, the desire to choose a government proves a barrier to Independent candidates. This is less apparent in by-elections when clearly only one seat is at stake.
    If the vote for the Government is separated, as in Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR), candidates are elected much more on their individual merits rather than their party affiliation, and this gives Independent candidates a more equal chance of getting elected.
    Single member constituencies (compared with multimember constituencies) are easier for the independent candidate to campaign in. The smaller geographical area is easier to get around, the smaller electorate reduces costs, and it is easier to become better known the smaller the patch.

    It is worth noting that a ‘None of the above’ vote in the Government vote would have a tangible consequence.
    more at http://www.dprvoting.org

  3. Tom Austin says:

    This is certainly an idea worthy of serious consideration.
    Alas, as with any idea that involves a reduction in Power for the Government; on the floor of the House (HoCs) and behind the scenes, it requires a degree of munificence from the very people set to ‘lose out’.
    How then are we (we the people) to bring about such an alteration in the minds or the make-up of the HoCs?
    Should we each perform at this election as we have previously little is likely to change. Unless we vote other than for any of the big three partys. This is my personal long term focus, this next election and how to proceed, with my “Vote for option 4 or more” campaign [small ‘c’].
    This question as to how to proceed, again and again, comes down to the old saw…”(to get you where you want to go) I wouldn’t start from here.”

  4. Further to Tom Austin’s comment, some thoughts on why Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR) might not be rejected by Parliament.

    Parliament would consider DPR more carefully if the system gets public support – and it might, because it is so similar, from the voters point of view, to the existing system. Multimember constituencies and Party list systems are a voter turn off.

    DPR for the voter

    If you describe DPR in terms of what it means for the voter, it is very simple. The one change is that the voter has an extra vote to cast for the voter’s preferred party (or none of the above). In practice that is how people think when they are voting. Arguably it is more voter friendly than our current system.

    DPR for Members of Parliament and political activists

    From the viewpoint of a member of the House of Commons, DPR retains the existing single member constituencies, and thus does not pre-empt decisions on changes in constituency boundaries or numbers of MPs in the house (and related redundancies amongst MPs). Since there is very little change to the voting system, local constituency organisations will be able to carry on much as before.

    Thus DPR retains many of the features of our existing system of constituencies, so that MPs and their local associations are not faced with a system that will sweep away their constituency and wreck their campaigning machine. The Turkeys would not be asked to vote for Christmas.

    Proportional Representation Government
    Yes the parties would be asked to embrace PR. Those against would have to justify why the Government should have more or less voting power in the House of Commons than they won in terms of votes in the General election.
    They would not have all the baggage of Multimember constituencies or Party lists to bolster their argument. It comes down to a question of Fairness.

  5. Tom Austin says:

    This DPR of yours Mr Johnson is a good idea and you sell it well. I am not against it. You do also go some way to debunking the fears [Aunt Sallys] raised by various people at work within our current political system.
    P.S.
    I shall now pop along to your site to see the whole thing laid out.

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