Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By-Elections or Filling Vacant Seats with RCV

Image of ballot box.Sometimes it happens that an elected office becomes unexpectedly vacant. The person who held the office may resign, be kicked out, or have died. When this happens, the office may remain vacant until the next scheduled election or a special election or by-election may be held specifically to fill the vacant seat.

One cool feature about ranked-choice voting is that it is REALLY easy to reuse the ballots to fill a vacancy. This avoids the expense and hassle of having people come out to vote again to fill the vacancy. We'll address single-winner and multi-winner elections separately because there are different considerations.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why We Love Online Voting Tools (And You Should, Too!)

Making the switch to online voting can prompt some understandable concerns. Voters who are used to physical ballots may wonder what happens to votes that are collected and tallied with the help of online voting software. But as the advantages of online voting tools quickly reveal themselves, your voters will love online voting as much as we do.

Online Voting Is Convenient for Organizations and Voters

You can set up and distribute ballots in minutes, rather than the days or weeks it can take to get ballots printed and mailed or completed at a polling location. OpaVote's ballots are easy to read and voters can vote from any device at any location.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Proportional vs. Majoritarian Representation

Image showing distribution of seats of Congress among 9 hypothetical political parties. When electing a group of people, such as a congress, council, or committee, you need to decide which philosophy of representation that you would like to use. At a very high level, there are two basic options: proportional representation or majoritarian representation.

Proportional Representation

As an example, we'll use a hypothetical election of the U.S. House of Representatives described by Daily Kos and illustrated by the diagram above. The Daily Kos article hypothesizes what the House might look like if U.S. elections used proportional representation. You can see 9 different political parties with different levels of support.

With proportional representation, the percentage of seats held by a party will be approximately equal to their percent support by the voters. In this example, about 6% of voters prefer the Green party, so the Green party gets 26 of the 435 seats or about 6% of the seats.

The most common voting methods that provide proportional representation are the single transferable vote (STV), party list voting, and mixed member proportional representation. STV is the only one that makes sense for non-government elections since the other two are based on political parties. OpaVote provides several variations of STV including Scottish STV, Meek STV, and ERS97 STV.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meek STV Explained

Photo of Brian Meek, the inventor of Meek STV.
Brian Meek
Meek STV is the creme de la creme of STV counting rules. For you math nerds, I would even call it a beautiful algorithm! To appreciate all that beauty, we're going to have to get our hands dirty. I'm going to assume that you have a solid understanding of STV and that you've read our previous post describing Scottish STV. Feel free to brush up on STV and come back later if you need to.

Meek STV is named after Brian Meek (1934-1997) who first came up with these counting rules. I spent a lot of effort tracking down a photo of him to give him some publicity for his work!

As with all STV rules, there are two types of vote transfers: (i) vote transfers from eliminated candidates and (ii) transfers of surplus votes from candidates who have too many votes.

The magic of Meek STV is in transferring the surplus votes. Recall that STV rules have a winning threshold or a quota, and any votes held by a candidate above this winning threshold are surplus votes that need to be transferred.