The United States Should Adopt the Single Transferable Vote
Debate Rounds (4)
This debate will be debating whether or not the United States should adopt the single transferable vote
Right now in the US we use the First Past the Post system.
I will argue that STV is a better system and the US should move towards this system.
The rules and format are pretty Basic
Round 1: Acceptence
Round 2: Main Arguments
Round 2: Futher arguments and responses
Round 3: Responses and rebuttle
Round 4: Final Rebuttle and Conclusion
I as the Pro will need to prove that STV is a better system, ie I shall have the burden of proof.
I accept. I will be arguing that the first-past-the-post voting system is better than the STV system.
Before we begin with this debate, it needs to be said, the FPTP system is not constitutionally entrenched. The system is made law through the US code.
Contention 1: First Past the Post Is Not Proportional, STV is Proportional and Allows for Fair Representation
The First past the post system does not allow for the views of the electorate to be accurately represented. This is because FPTP is a plurality based system, which only requires a simple majority to elect a single candidate. In an election with three candidates, the candidate who wins could win with only 40% of the vote, meaning that he was elected by a minority of the electorate. As this candidate is now the only representative for that district, more than 60% of the voters in that district are without a representative.
And by separating states and the nation into single winner districts, it eliminates the need for parties to obtain a majority of all votes cast in the state or nationwide. And this is not hypothetical. In the 2012 Congressional elections, Republicans nation wide received 47% while Democrats received 48%. However, the Republicans still won the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives. And in Kansas (my home state, which I will use as a main example from hereon out), in 2014, the Republican Party won 62% of the vote, while Democrats won 34% of the vote. Logic would state that Republicans should have won around 3 out of the 4 seats from Kansas, while Democrats would have 1. However, under the current system, 62% of voters receive 100% of the representation in that state.
Under the single transferable vote system or STV, there would be multiple members per district, and will results in a fairer distribution of seats. It will also make the national legislature more proportional, as seen in Ireland, Australia and other examples (which will be addressed in due course).
Contention 2: FPTP creates the spoiler effect, STV solves this
Another major problem with the FPTP system is that it creates something called the spoiler effect. The spoiler effect is when a third party or independent candidate pulls votes from a stronger candidates, causing that candidate to lose. The fear of being a spoiler makes it hard for third parties to win elections, and harder for them to grow. This results in tactical voting for the largest parties, creating a two party system, an effect referred to as Duverger’s law. While in other FPTP systems, like the UK, some smaller parties have emerged with some degree of success, this success is very minimal and it remains hard for smaller parties to break out into the mainstream. In the US, it is even harder.
The Single Transferable Vote allows for smaller parties to gain influence and gives third parties a fair chance at winning elections.
Right now in the US, more than 50% of voters align themselves with a third party, or no party at all, however no seats in the House of Representatives belong to a third part or to independents. While two independents currently sit in the US Senate, one of them was a well known politician and former Governor, and the other was endorsed by the Democratic Party. For a lesser known candidate to win without the support of one of the two parties, it would be impossible to win in the status quo.
Contention 3: STV solves for Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering in the status quo is dependent upon the fact that each congressional district elects only one member. By drawing the single member districts in such a way that it means that each of the seats are guaranteed to a certain party. This allows one party to hold an absolute monopoly in that district, and for that state to send a majority of that party. As shown in this image.
Under the single transferable vote, districts would be larger and consist of three or more representatives. Under STV, gerrymandering would be essentially neutralized. Since it would be impossible to draw the narrow boundaries of current district or to block a certain group of voters into an area like you would under the current system.
Using the image I posted before. Under the System of STV that would most likely be used in the US, that state with 5 districts in the status quo would now have 1 super district, and 5 representatives, and would be base on the first series of boxes in the image.
Contention 4: Examples Prove
STV is currently used in Ireland to elect the Dail (parliament), in Australia for the Senate and for Regional Elections, in Malta and in Northern Ireland. In each example the system has demonstrated to have all the effects that I have noted in this debate.
Ireland has used the system since 1922 when they separated form the United Kingdom. The intention was to protect the protestant population from being deprived of representation in the mostly Catholic nation. The result has been a very close level of proportionality between the percentage of votes cast for each party and the percentage of seats they obtain. While two parties still are heavily dominant in the country, since its introduction, there has never been fewer than 3 parties and always at least 9 independents sitting in the Dail.
Gerrymandering has never once occurred and is all but unheard of.
At two different times the Fianna Fail party attempted to amend the constitution to replace STV with FPTP, however in both cases it failed, the most recent time by a margin of 22% against FPTP.
In Northern Ireland it was implemented to halt sectarian gerrymandering by the Protestant led government against the Catholic population. Since its introduction, the percentage of Nationalist (Catholic) and Unionist (Protestant) seats has been dependent on the percentage of votes, which has better mirrored the population. It also has allowed non-sectarian parties to enter the political process. Previously, voting was tied closely to your sectarian group and voting for a non-sectarian candidate could introduce the spoiler effect and cost the election to go to the candidate from the other sectarian group.
In Australia STV has allowed for smaller parties, which were underrepresented in the House of Representative, to obtain a larger number of seats and have a greater say in the government. The Australian Greens for Example, have consistently held seats in the Australian since the Early 2000s, however no green took a seat in the House of Representatives until 2010. This allowed them to become a significant force in Australian politics and provide representation for Australians who agree with the Greens, or other parties.
The first-past-the-post system is simple.
Voters go to the polls to vote for one person and the candidate with the most votes wins.
The STV is unfair.
Consider this scenario: During a presidential election, the following candidates recieve votes:
Democratic Party- 63 million votes
Republican Party- 61 million votes
Independent- 3 million votes
Libertarian Party- 1 million votes
Green Party- 200,000 votes
Constitution Party- 100,000 votes
Independent- 70,000 votes
Reform Party- 50,000 votes
If this election used the first-past-the-post system, the Democratic candidate would win and the election is over without any problems. If the STV system were used, the Democrat would not meet the quota for votes and voters would be required to split their votes between him and the Republican.
The more popular Independent candidate is a fascist. Everyone who voted for him transfers their votes to the Republican candidate because he has an ideology with more similarities than the Democratic candidate, although his political views are very different from the fascist's. The Republican now wins despite the Democrat being more popular and more agreed with.
The Green Party candidate is very liberal and has views similar to the Democrat's, but her supporters were outnumbered by fascists who voted for, but didn't support, the Republican. Now the less popular candidate wins due to the STV system.
I don't have to say much. The full burden of proof is on Pro.
Con's 1st Argument
While FPTP may be simplistic, it is not proportional, creates the spoiler effect, and is prone to gerrymandering. Single Transferable Vote would only be complicated in the way the votes are tabulated. For the average voter who is not counting the votes, it is relatively simple: You go into the booth, rank the candidates on the ballot in order of preference, and place the ballot in the box. It is really not that hard.
The Con's argument also highlights one of the main problems with the FPTP system: Minority rule. While the candidate with he most votes may win, FPTP only requires a simple majority. In a race with more than two candidates, the winner is only required to have 34% of the vote. Under STV you would have multiple members who would be required to reach a certain threshold. This allows more views to be represented, as I addressed in my first contention in round 2.
Con's 2nd Argument
To begin with, it is very clear that the con is confusing Single Transferable Vote with Instant Runoff Voting. While similar the two are different systems. Both systems are based on a form of preferential (ie Ranked Choice) voting, Instant Runoff Voting (also called the Alternative Vote) is a system for single winner elections, Single Transferable Vote is a system for multi winner elections. While IRV could be implemented under the current, single member congressional districts, STV would require larger congressional districts with 3, 4 or 5 representatives in each district. Furthermore we are not discussing presidential elections, we are discussing elections for the House of Representatives.
Additionally the scenario cited by the Con is not an accurate depiction of either IRV or STV. In all preferential systems, after the first choice votes are counted, if no candidate achieves the quota, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and candidates are eliminated until someone reaches the quota. In his example, the con completely ignored the Reform Party, the Libertarian Party, the less popular independent and the Constitution Party.
And while the Democrat may have been more popular with a simple majority of people, he was not as well liked as the Republican candidate, because by eliminating the less popular candidates, we are able to see what it would have been like had they not run.
The con has thus far failed to address any of my contentions, those being the spoiler effect, proportionality, gerrymandering and empirical examples of STV in practice, and this has conceded these arguments, and I shall extend all of my arguments from round two.
You have explained how FPTP does not give proportional representation, but you haven't explained here why STV would be a better option. You have merely asserted that "Under the single transferable vote system or STV, there would be multiple members per district, and will results in a fairer distribution of seats." You didn't explain why this is true.
Again, you have shown how bad FPTP is, but you haven't proven STV to be better. You claimed that "The Single Transferable Vote allows for smaller parties to gain influence and gives third parties a fair chance at winning elections." You haven't proven that to be true.
You said that under STV, districts would be larger and consist of more representatives. If you were arguing for a new district system, you should have specified that in round one. From what you said in the first round, I gathered that you would be arguing for a voting system. You haven't explained why these things couldn't be solved while maintaining FPTP.
Both of these examples depict a government with STV, but they do not prove that STV was responsible for the proportional representation. If they showed a significant improvement after a transfer from FPTP to STV, than it would be evidence. There are also examples of STV causing problems:
In the 1981 election in Malta, which used STV, the Labour Party won most of the parliament seats despite the Nationalist Party winning the majority of votes.
This example seems to prove the opposite of what you have been saying.
I'm short on time, so I won't defend my previous arguments, which doesn't matter anyway because you have the BoP.
STV is a proportional system, and is considered that because it has granted Proportional results when it has been used. This is expliained in the video posted in round one which explains how STV works.
In further detail, like all Proporional systems it requires a quota and allows any party or candidate that reaches said quota to get a seat until all seats are filled. Under the FPTP system, which is a plurality system, the single candidate who gets the plurality of the votes wins.
The Con seems not to understand why FPTP creates the spoiler effect. With FPTP voters only get to select one candidate, and by voting for that one candidate they are not voting for another candidate. By voting for a third party which has little chance of winning, they have taken a vote away from a less preferable candidate who has a higher chance, potentially causing that candidate to lose to the least favoured option.
STV, like all Ranked Choice systems, eliminates this by allowing voters to rank the candidates. When the ballots are counted, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second choice votes are counted and this is continued until a candidate reaches the quorum or all seats are filled. With STV all votes surpassing the Quorum are also transferred to other candidates.
By allowing voters to rank the candidates, they are more willing to vote for the candidate they like the best, even though they will likley be eliminated early on. Once their first choice is eliminated, their second choice vote is counted and this goes to the more likley but more preferred candidate.
The Con seems not to understand that Gerrymandering is simply an advantage of the STV system. While there are other ways to eliminate Gerrymandering, STV nullifies Gerrymandering, in addition to other advantages. This debate is about the single transferable vote system, not about alternate solutions for Gerrymandering. If the Con would like an alternative plan to solve for this, the con was abel to propose it in previous rounds as a counterplan.
The article cited by the Con regarding the use of STV in Malta stated "..there are sometimes unique circumstances that lead to unexpected results." This is exactly what happened in Regards to Malta in 1981. In that year Malta had a strict 2 party system, even more so than in the United States, as here in the US third parties do exist and can accumlate strength at locla levels, in Malta at the time they did not exist in practicality, even though they do exist today. Furthermore, it was a common practice in those Maltese elections for parties to nominate many more candidates than could possibly win in a district. This makes transfering the votes to other candidates very difficult and votes become exhausted very quickly. These practices have only been seen in Malta, and in Australia and Ireand the system has never seen anything of this sort.
The artice also stated that "STV has many favorable characteristics in theory and has worked well in Ireland, Malta, and Australia in practice." This is a clear endorsement of my contention and this argument should be flowed to the Pro.
I can only see a vote for the Pro in this debate for the followng reasons:
For these reasons I can only see a Pro vote in this debate and I encourage the voters to take these into consideration when voting.
Under the STV system, districts are given more representatives and more proportional representation. However, the FPTP system could accomplish the same thing. The top five candidates would be elected; in my example, the Democrat, the Republican, the more popular Independent, the Libertarian, and the Green would win an election whether the STV was used or the FPTP was used.
If there are five representatives for a district, third parties can get representation with the STV or the FPTP. In my example, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party would have representation regardless of what system was used.
Gerrymandering can be solved while maintaining the FPTP system. Pro says my argument is irrelevant because "This debate is about the single transferable vote system, not about alternate solutions for Gerrymandering", which completely ignores the fact that Gerrymandering is part of this debate. If there is an alternate solution, I can use that as a response to his argument.
While my Malta argument may have failed, the burden of proof is on Pro, so his arguments are what matters. He has shown that STV is a success in some countries, but he has not proven that such a success could not be accomplished with FPTP.
Pro has shown that STV would likely succeed in giving citizens proportional representation, eliminating the spoiler effect, and solving the problem of Gerrymandering, but it is all based on a district system. Pro said the district system would have 3 to 5 representatives in each district, which would solve the previously mentioned problems. He has not proven that STV must be used in order for the district system to work, so he has not fulfilled the burden of proof.
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