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Two steps to make Indian elections fairer and truer

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Two steps to make Indian elections more truer, more representative

 

Step1 : The Vote123^ Electoral Method

 

What is Vote123

A voter, instead of voting for just one candidate, has an option of voting for her 1st, 2nd and 3rd preference of candidates.

 

Why this proposed change

In the present system, for a candidate to win, she^^ need not be endorsed by a majority of voters, but needs only more votes than the next candidate. So as often happens, in a multi-cornered contest, a constituency may not only end up sending a representative who has far less than half the votes, but more importantly, it is possible that the majority of the voters did not want her to represent them. This is the core problem making our democracy undemoratic !

From a voter perspective, a voter not voting for either of the top two candidates, is a wasted vote, it is irrelevant to the outcome, whereas the voter could have had a definite preference between the top two candidates. So as often happens, the voter may have a particular preferred candidate, but if she feels the the candidate does not stand a good change of winning, will not want to waste her vote. So the voter then votes for a preference between whom she thinks are the primary contenders. In effect, for the voter, in addition to the numerous factors to judge a candidate, also has to act like a psephologist and guess voting patterns and trends, a highly complex and totally unneccesary task for an individual voter. An additional negative, the other voters have already influenced this individual voter before she has cast her vote, albeitit subtly, which is contrary to the spirit of democracy.

From a candidate or party perspective, a candidate may be liked by a good number of voters, but it they all feel, like the voters above, that the candidate does not stand a good chance of winning, the candidate does not get their votes. So it is not enough for the candidate to convince the voter that she is the best person to be their representative, but more importantly she is famous enough to be a strong contender, resulting in the candidate having to spend time, money and resort to cheap gimmicry on popularising herself. This acts as a deterent for good candidates and is not a selection based purely on merit.

 

How does the vote123 work

In this method, a candidate is selected only if she is endorsed by a majority(>50%) of the voters. So if no candidate gets more than 50% of the first preference votes, then the second preference votes of the candidates, starting from the bottom are redistributed upwards, until a candidate crosses the 50% threshold. In the extremely unlikely case that the threshold is not crossed at the end of counting the 2nd preference votes, the 3rd preference votes are taken into account in a similar fashion.

 

How is this an improvement on the existing method

#For the voter:

  1. Simplifies the system significantly. She can vote her true intent, without having to guess and worry what other voters are thinking.

  2. Opinion always counts in the selection of final candidate, which will increase the faith in the system and result in better participation

  3. Easy to understand and do. Every person, even illiterate, rural or poor people can understand 1-2-3.

  4. In the unlikely case that a person does not want to give three preferences, she can continue to vote for just a single candidate as of now. Nothing changes for her vis-a-vis the present system, it is totally backward compatible !

 

#For the parties and candidates

  1. Each party can contest independently on its own ability.... does not have to depend on complex or unprincipled alliances.

  2. Even among alliance partners, parties do not have to get into seat sharing trying to guage voter sentiment. Since the voter has multiple votes, votes to the alliance partner are not neccessarily 'lost' as they can take up the second preference voters. In effect, each party is now 'free' to contest all seats it is interested in..

  3. Parties and candidates can contest on performance and ability. One does not have to convince voters on winnability or popularity.

 

#For the Election commision

  1. There is more work for the election commission. It now has to take in 3 votes and keep track of the preferences. Counting is also a little more complicated, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the first preference votes.

  2. However, from a technology point of view, this added complexity is negligible. As an example, a sim card of a cellphone holds a million times more data and there are already 800 million sim cards in the country. Or the calculations can be done by a high school student with a pen and paper and a calculator. In practice, this will be implemented using a very basic computer and some very simple software which will automate the counting and selection.

 

Democracy has to be 'voter centric' and not Election Commission centric. The Election Commission exists to serve the voter and their representative candidates/parties and not the other way around.

No system an be ever 100% perfect. Neverthless, the Vote123 represents a significant improvement in making our democracy more truer, simpler, participatory and representative over the existing system.

 

Step 2: Adding proportional representation

 

What inadequacy remains after implementing vote123

With vote123, each constituency sends the candidate to parliament who is truly preferred by the majority. However, the final composirtion of the parliament may not be representative of the wishes of the people. For example, a party which comes a close second in many constituency may not find any representation (or very low representation) in parliament. The voice of a large number of people remains underrepresented. This is because, in the final tally, the opinion of the people who voted for the non-winning candidates did not count at all, nor those whose votes where in excess of the required 50%. These limitations can be resolved by proportional representation.

 

What is proportional representation ?

In a fully proportional system, each party gains seats in direct proportion to the total number of votes it obtained. The current system, where candidates are representative of constituencies is called First past the post (FPTP) system.

A majority of the democracies of the world have proportional representation to some degree. Many are a mix of the two in some form in between either extreme.

 

How is proportional representation implemented with vote123 ?

The voting remains the same and the candidates are selected to the constituencies as before. Once that is done, in every constituency, the votes secured by independents and parties which failed to secure a minimum percentage (i.e. Lost their deposit or say 5%) are discarded and their second/third preference are redistributed to the remaining parties. All votes across constituencies are added up to the next level (State/National).

Here again, the parties which fail to secure a minimum percentage votes are discarded and their next preference are redistributed upwards.

In order to get in proportionality, a certain percentage of additional seats needs to be created. Then by a formula, these extra seats are alloted to parties to best correct for disproportionate representation. The additional seats are constituency-less and can be given to candidiates of parties who secured the highest number of votes but did not make it or to a seperate predecided party list. The former has the advantage that they are still voters preference. The exact percentages, modalities etc need to be precisely worked out by mutual consultation.

 

How do things change

# For voter

Nothing changes. He continues to vote simply 123 as before knowing that her vote is also valued, always !

 

#For Candidates and Parties

Nothing changes. Parties have the additional motivation to work harder since every vote now counts, whether they win by a huge margin or loose by a small margin, actually numbers matter.

 

#For Election commission

There is still more work for the Election commission. But as mentioned in the previous mechanism, it is just additional counting, which is really a non-issue.

 

The two steps represent a seamless and easy way to transistion to a more representative and fairer democractic system.

 

References

1. http://loksatta.org/cms/documents/advocacy/change.pdf

2. http://ceri.in/

 3. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

 

^ Vote 123 is a simplified form of what is also known as the Single Transferable Vote or Alternate vote

^^ He or she is used interchangably to denote candidates and voters. No gender discrimination is implied

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