Democracy Requires Fair Elections and Full Representation
Rulers Boss the Citizens
Below is the text of a radio broadcast.
Are you satisfied that you really have sufficient control over the actions of governments, or do you feel, as so many other thoughtful people do, that governments tend to control us, rather than we to control them? Don't you feel that the accent is perhaps rather too much on "government OF the people" and too little on "government BY the people," and very little "FOR the people?"
If this is so, it's a pretty fair indication that democracy isn't functioning properly. After all, it is we, the ordinary people, who have to pay the bill, and it is we who have to suffer for the government's mistakes. When bad or foolish policies, for instance, lead the country into war, it is the ordinary man and woman who must suffer. So it IS important that we should be able to keep a fairly tight rein on our government, irrespective of what party label it may wear at any time.
Well, let us see how much control we really have. Once each few years it is our privilege to vote at an election, and in theory at any rate, can elect a government to carry out our wishes. Normally we each have two, or perhaps three, candidates to choose between. Not any of them may really represent your views, but one will be elected. Perhaps the lucky person will be the one you placed at the bottom of the ballot -- you voted most emphatically against him. Although he will work against the things you believe in, he is supposed to be your representative. Can you feel in that case that you are really represented?
Yet in every election, this is the position of nearly half the voters; nearly half the votes are cast for defeated candidates. (And in some cases more than half voted for candidates other than the winner.) Such voters are not only UNrepresented, they are MISrepresented by members who oppose what these voters want.
The trouble is, of course, that our method of election is faulty. When, for electoral purposes, we divide the country up into a lot of districts that each choose ONE representative, obviously the people must be divided into those whose votes elect a member, and those whose votes are wasted. The remedy is to have only a few very large electorates, and to let each choose several members. And since more than one member is to be selected, a candidate does not need just over half the votes to be successful, but he needs only a QUOTA, which can be very much less than half.
This is the well-tried method of Proportional Representation, used for forty years for Tasmanian elections, as well as in many other parts of the world. Proportional Representation means that nearly all voters usually elect their first choice, and because there must be a bigger, wider choice of candidates, we can elect better members. We can elect the candidate with whose policy we agree on quite a number of points, and not merely some pre-selected party yes-man, as frequently happens today.
This is a way to restore control of parliament to the people. It is an important part of the policy of the Justice Party. For we really believe in democracy, and know that it is wise to have all substantial points of view represented in our legislatures, in proportion as those views prevail amongst the people. Of course, we believe that our own views on economic matters are correct, and because we do, we shall try to convert as many as possible to our way of thinking. It is an essential part of democracy that groups must be free to attract others, and perhaps become in turn, the majority. If a free world is to prevail against the evil forces opposing it, it is essential that effective control of government must be given to the people; Proportional Representation is the necessary first step.
--- Harcourt Bell
For further explanation and information, see
- our classic Fair Elections and Full Representation and
- Norman Thomas on Two-Party Monopoly and the Need for Electoral Reform and
- John Anderson Calls for Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What's your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?