mixed bag of goodies
2nd is Frank Hamshire who phoned all the Brian Whites in Victoria after I wrote a letter about our Deplorable electoral system here in Canada to a newspaper. I recommended the single transferable vote as a good replacement. He has made up a system that seems equally good! Long read but worth it! Click to read it
First guest author is Michael Johnson from Australia who wrote an excellent piece on pumped storage in a newsgroup.
He introduces himself below----
Just a bit of background. I'm a graduate electrical engineer, formerly specialising in environmental impact statements. This led from my interest in the natural environment,and our native peoples. I then became the "greenhouse guru" at work, having long been interested in sustainability, low energy housing and things renewable (from energy to wild food). My home has an experimental water recycling facility, and although in suburbia, not a drop of water leaves the block. Sadly work pressures have led to my more recent diversion into buying power for Canberra, Australia's capital city.
However this does at least give me a chance to buy green energy, and to get involved in some generated locally (one 600kW mini-hydro working, one bigger under construction, wind resources being surveyed.)
From: "MICHAEL JOHNSON" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Pumping water back up to damns???
I'm an ancient Australian energy engineer, buying power for our national capital in Canberra.
Pumped storage takes power that would otherwise not be taken by customers at that time, and stores the energy as potential energy in water raised to a higher level. In "green" applications this would be wind power in excess of grid requirements (say late at night), or solar power (at weekends), saved for use the next day/week when we in the community need it. Currently it is in Australia more often used to save coal powered generators from shutting down when power needs are low (saving lost start-up energy), allowing them to tick over gently until needed at full strength later. Sadly some 20% of energy is lost in the pumping/hydro cycle, but it can still be better overall (in terms of the carbon dioxide produced in total, or energy wasted), than stopping and starting coal (especially brown coal) generators. Once you stop this kind of generator, a lot of stored heat goes to waste, and likewise this has to be replaced before the restarted generator gets going again. There are other kinds of storage that can be used on big power systems, including BIG batteries (was/is? used in Berlin) and compressed air (in underground salt mines for example), but currently these are generally more lossy overall than pumps and hydro. As well as the Oz (Australian) Snowy Mountains Scheme, we have a neat pumped storage scheme on the Shoalhaven River, which pumps water for Sydney to drink when they need it, but when power is cheap and water not needed, runs it back downhill land generates later when power is expensive. There would be no point in letting water run down through one generator to pump back water into the same dam, all you do is lose your 20%. However, if there was an empty dam elsewhere, and your dam was overflowing anyway, why not let water generate rather than overflow, and top up the other drier
dam for later generation?
> Mike Johnson
F Hampshire PROPOSED ELECTORAL SYSTEM.. Sidney, B.C. 250-655-4174 CANADIAN FEDERAL ELECTIONS - 13Nov01 RevJan02 Existing System Characteristics
In the last three elections all parties were grossly misrepresented by the infamous FPTP system, even Reform ( later Alliance) which was over-represented in the West but under-represented in Central and Eastern Canada. Probably the most outrageous example of the unsuitability of FPTP occurred in Ontario (which has one third of the country's seats) and the Liberal percentage votes/seats ratio in 1997 was 49/98. All parties were grossly misrepresented geographically.
.Proposed System Characteristics Multiple Vote (MV) system, a variation of the Mixed Member Proportional (MM.) system with approximately the same number of seats as the existing system. About half would be Constituency seats (Constituencies would usually be twice the size of the present Constituencies) and be awarded using a Multiple Vote (MV) system described later. The other half would be Proportional Representation (PR) seats, also determined by MV. However, rather than fill these PR seats from Division or National PR Lists, they would largely be filled by candidates who had run unsuccessfully for a Constituency seat in the same Division.
The proposed system would have many things in common with the existing German and New Zealand systems, but also have significant differences, The country would be divided into 25 -30 Divisions. Divisions would not overlap Provincial boundaries. Each voter would receive two separate differently colored ballots one for 6 Class A votes, which would be used to elect the local Constituency member and one for 6 Class B votes which would be used to determine the make-up of party representation for the whole Division.
The Class A votes would be distributed between candidates in any way the voter chose, except no more than 4 could be given to any single candidate.
Similarly the Class B votes could be distributed to parties in any manner except no more than 4 could be given to any party. The voter must use all 6 votes but any ballot with more or less than 6 votes would be discarded. By allowing the individual voter to rate his choices, we may well get a considerably different (but more accurate) indication of the electorates overall wishes rather than limiting each elector to only one choice of candidate and one choice of party. The Class A ballot paper would have four boxes after the name of each candidate, each candidate being on a separate line, and the last line would have four boxes and be labeled none of the above.
A voter who wished to give maximum support (4 votes} to one particular candidate or party, and no support to anyone else, would fill in two boxes in this None of the aboveâ line. The Class B ballots would be treated in exactly the same way. This system would lend itself very nicely to feeding ballot papers into a machine quite similar to those used on 6/49 lottery i.e., only ballots with precisely six boxes filled in would be counted. The voter would feed the ballot in himself and the possibility of human error or fraud would be virtually eliminated. The awarding of Division seats would be in such a way as to compensate for over- or under-representation in the distribution of Constituency seats. The Division PR seats could be filled almost entirely by the best losers in the Constituency elections in the same Division. It would only be necessary to fill a seat from a list if a party had well over 50% of the PR Class Bvote (a fairly rare occurrence), or if a place had to be found for a party leader. The best losers would be graded either on percentage or total number of Constituency votes received, at the particular party's option. By using unsuccessful ( but still decidedly popular ) Constituency candidates to fill practically all the PR seats , we get rid of the objection sometimes raised against the MMP systems of Germany and N.Z., i.e. that there are two different classes of MP, one who has had to fight for a seat, and one who gets a seat merely by position on a list. There will be only a few of the latter in our case.
PR members should be expected to do their share of Constituency and Division duties, and in fact seem to do this satisfactorily in Germany and NZ. The leading national politicians could also have their names at the top of party PR lists, as well as contesting Constituency seats if they so chose, and this is quite often done in elections to the Bundestag. Such leaders could bump their way into a Division ahead of other candidates of the same party. It is obvious that the percentage of total votes going to each party is likely to change quite considerably from that under the FPTP system.
This multiple vote feature is a considerable improvement over the practice in other systems of the same general type, as it allows the voter to give a separate weighting to both choice of party and choice of local Constituency candidate. In this respect it is superior to the German or NZ type of MMP system. Since the voter must become acquainted with the MV system for the Class B votes, it makes sense to also use this for the determining the Constituency winners by means of Class A votes.
This MV system would be far more likely to produce a majority (rather than a simple plurality) of Class A votes for some candidate than would FPTP. When calculating distribution of seats to parties from the Division Class B vote figures, it is proposed to use the Droop Quota method.. The four provinces with relatively large population (Que, Ont ,Alta, B.C.) would each have several Divisions whilst the other provinces would have one each. As a general principle, perhaps we should try to keep Division size in the 10-14 seat range though there could be one or two outside these limits. Unlike the German and New Zealand practice, there would be no party legal thresholds limit, below which PR seats are not awarded. The rationale for a 5% threshold (according to official German Government sources) is to deny smaller groups the procedural privileges available to the larger parties.
This is a reasonable objective, but it can be achieved if members of small parties we retreated on the privilege issues in exactly the same way as if they were Independents. Any group that fields a certain minimum number of candidates (possibly 25) should not be ruled out of participation in PR lists. Another obvious (though never admitted) reason the majors like legal thresholds is that seats which, in the absence of thresholds would be awarded to the small fry, are now distributed among said majors. These major parties also exhort the voters not to vote for any of the smaller parties as your vote is liable to be wasted. Such advice is essentially unethical, peevish and thoroughly misleading. Compulsory voting,(or more precisely, compulsory attendance at a polling station) is practiced in many countries (e.g. Australia, Belgium) none of which is populated by docile creatures who blithely obey orders from party headquarters.
The fact that there is general acceptance of compulsory voting in these countries is a strong recommendation for its use.
When there is opposition, it seems to come mainly from the right, which usually claims it is a terrible infringement on personal freedom.
However. It has not stopped the Aussies from electing (relatively) right wing governments. It must be stressed that we are not actually forcing anyone to vote; the person who is determined not to vote can spoil his ballots, and it is fatuous to claim that he is being oppressed. Conventional wisdom unfairly classifies anyone who does not vote as a mindless slob, who doesn't really deserve a vote, anyway. This is a ridiculous allegation, often coming from people who vote for a particular party merely as a matter of tradition, with no regard for current party policies and performance.
Many people do not vote simply because the chance of the vote(s) of a single voter actually determining the winner(s) of an election (with an electorate of tens of thousands) is ridiculously small. The requirement to vote should be considered as a civic duty and people who do not carry out a duty are generally penalized. One may not ignore the duty to pay income tax, refuse to do jury duty or give evidence in court, or avoid similar obligations. The solution is to impose a fine for failing to vote (in the case of Australia the amount is A$50). There are exemptions for reasonable cause, but the turnout seems to average about 96.5%. After invalid votes (or informal votes, as the Aussies call them) are removed, about 93% of the total electorate actually cast valid votes. Incidentally. In the last election, when over 11,000,000 votes were cast, legal proceedings for failure to vote were started in only 6,000 cases. There also seems to be considerable experience that compulsory voting leads to greater interest and understanding of political issues. The turnout record at Canadian elections is abysmally low, particularly as the country is going through an identity crisis over the Separatist threat.
In the 1997 Federal election the national turnout was 67.0%. In the 1999 Election the vote was just slightly over 60%. The corresponding figure for the 1994 election to the German Bundestag was 79.0%, and this figure had already been dragged down by low figures from Eastern Germany, where the populace was apparently taking a little time to realize that voting is not merely an exercise in futility. Germany does not have compulsory voting if they had, the turnout would probably have been comparable with Australia's. It would also get rid of a considerable number of complications associated with the German System. It would make the voter turnout virtually uniform across the country and make unnecessary any elaborate adjustments, such as those made in Germany, for different turnout rates in different parts of the country. Even though turnout tends to rise considerably whenever FPTP is discarded, compulsory voting is still recommended.
Elections should be staggered, with one third of seats filled every 2 years, and MPs serving a 6 year term. Every experienced politician knows one of the first maxims of politics is â The public has a very short memory and this fact is outrageously exploited ! If the public has an opportunity to reward or punish parties in a relatively short time, rather than several years later, when memories have faded, there should be far more responsible performance in Parliament. Rather than this proposal leading to unstable government, it is more likely to increase stability, as the parties will gradually adapt their policies and practices, so that they do not risk the prospect of a blood bath down the line. The staggered election system is used in the US Senate (6yr term-one third every 2 years) and the Australian Senate (6yr term-one half every 3 years). This latter arrangement is obviously another feasible alternative, as is the system of the Australian House of Representatives (complete new election every 3 years). Our election dates should be firm and not variable to suit any particular party or group. Special arrangements for Prince Edward Island and Northern territories are out of the scope of this proposal All results should be released simultaneously regardless of time zones. CONCLUSIONS The proposed system may be regarded as a two-tier system with seats awarded (a) in each Constituency by Class A votes, (b) PR seats by Class B votes to give overall proportionality within the Division. Probably for the first time ever, each voter would have a good chance of seeing someone of whom he actually approved being elected, and this is what electoral reform is really all about. There would be very few wasted votes. This system would result in election of local candidates to almost every seat, and would give far more freedom of choice to the individual voter and less power to established party machines. As far as being able to maintain stable government this system should perform as well as any other it has been demonstrated that even the FPTP system can produce unstable government. This system would tend to encourage compromise and good government, particularly as the publics opportunity to reward or punish past performance would never be very far away. MV would be immune to anomalies which can occur (though very infrequently perhaps) in STV systems due to no-show, truncated voting, untransferable votes, and inconsistency .. .
At first glance, the proposed system may seem to be rather complicated, but this is an illusion. Actions required of the voter are very simple, and with an intelligent design of ballot papers, should present few problems. The necessary counting would be done by machine and final results are also extremely easy to determine in comparison to those for STV or other alternatives.
There is much less labour involved with the MV system and little chance of human error. The STV system seems to be limited to constituencies of 6 seats or less but the MV system can go much higher than this. In the most important parameter of proportionality MV and STV systems would probably be quite close together. . This proposal invites each voter to acknowledge that all virtue does not reside in any one candidate or party. Politics is not a world of absolutes and a system allowing the voter to show graded preferences is desirable. Systems such as STV (or its single seat version AV ) also try to get the voter to grade the candidates and our requirement is not exactly revolutionary.
Though this proposal is made for Canadian Federal Elections, much of the above could equally well apply in Provincial elections, and elections in other jurisdictions. Also the recommendations regarding staggered elections, compulsory voting etc. are well worth consideration whatever electoral system is used..
Frank Hampshire is a retired electrical engineer, living in Sidney, B.C. He has no qualifications in Political Science, has never been a candidate for any political office and is also the worlds lousiest typist. IF ALL ELSE FAILS THE PRESERVATIVE PARTY OFFERS YOU JAM ON IT
mixed bag of goodies