DO WE NEED A NEW ELECTORAL SYSTEM?

(above is an open source image of a German ballot paper, which is something like what some have advocated we introduce in Ireland)

Finally, the Irish general election is upon us, scheduled for February 25th, 2011. I’ve been asked to give a talk on Monday 7th February at Monroe’s (Upstairs) from 7pm, for for the grassroots organisation Claiming our Future, see: http://www.claimingourfuture.ie/

There has been some debate in Ireland about changing our existing PR-STV system (Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote). Three obvious points are:

(a) what is so wrong with that system?

(b) how feasible is it to change PRSTV given that our existing voting system is specified in our constitution and that it can only be changed by a popular referendum?

(c) even if we think we do need to change our electoral system…how could we change it…and to what different system?

For examples of the Irish ‘change  PRSTV’ debate see the influential Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole who has argued in his latest book [Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic] that we should:

(a) Dump our PR-STV system for national elections and replace it with what he calls the ‘ADDITIONAL MEMBER SYSTEM’…by which I take it to mean he wants us to use an electoral system something like Germany or New Zeland-where is it is usually called the MULTI-MEMBER SYSTEM.

(b) He thinks that maybe we should keep the PR-STV system for local elections however, on the basis that people know and like the PR-STV system and it maybe useful at the local level in helping voters choose an effective local representative.

(3) Finally, he suggests that political parties should be forced by law to select women for at least 30% of their candidates (this of course does not necessarily mean that 30% of elected TDs would be women). Apparently one early estimate of the number of female candidates for election 2011 is merely 17%. There is a lobby group formed looking for 50% gender parity in elected representation. See: http://politicalreform.ie/2011/01/31/the-5050-group-manifesto-for-gender-parity-in-irish-politics/

For more detail on Fintan O’Toole ideas see his website: http://fintanotoole.ie/category/publications/

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