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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

The Venetian Method

The Venetian Method.

For the sake of simplicity, I describe this method for the case of three candidates only. Two scrutinies are held; at the first scrutiny each elector has two votes, which are given to the two candidates, one to each, who stand highest in the elector's order of preference. The candidate who has fewest votes is then rejected, and a final scrutiny is held between the two remaining candidates. At the final scrutiny each elector has one vote, which is given to that one of the remaining candidates who stands highest in the elector's order of preference. The candidate who obtains most votes at the final scrutiny is elected.

This method is very faulty; it may lead to the rejection of a candidate who has an absolute majority of the electors in his favour. For we have seen, in discussing the double vote method, that such a candidate may be rejected at the first scrutiny. In fact, unless the candidate who has fewest votes at the first scrutiny has less than N votes, where 2N is the number of electors, we cannot be sure the result is correct. For, for anything we can tell, the candidate who is rejected at the first scrutiny may be, in the opinion of an absolute majority of the electors, the best man for the post. If, however, the candidate who has fewest votes on the first scrutiny has less than N votes, then the method will certainly give a correct result. For, since there are only three candidates, to require an elector to vote for two candidates comes to exactly the same thing as to ask him to vote against one page 13 candidate. Now, if with the two votes any candidate get less than N votes, it is clear that there are more than N votes against him, for each candidate must be marked first, or second, or third on each paper. Thus, in the opinion of an absolute majority, the candidate is worse than each of the other candidates, and, therefore, ought not to be elected. Unless, therefore, the lowest candidate has less than N votes, this method violates the fundamental condition.

I do not know that the method has ever been used in the form here described; but in the still more objectionable form of the second class, which differs from the one just described only by dispensing with the preferential voting paper, and allowing the electors to vote again after the result of the first scrutiny is known, it is exceedingly common, and is frequently used by committees. An instance which was fully reported in the Melbourne papers occurred some time ago in the selection of a candidate to stand on the constitutional side at the last election for Boroondara. It is fair, however, to say that the result of the method appears to have been correct in that case; but that was due to accident, and not to the method itself.

If there be more than three candidates the method is very complicated, and the defects are more serious. It seems, however, hardly worth while going into any details in these cases.