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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

Wake's Method

Wake's Method.

This method is called Ware's method because it appears to have been first proposed for actual use by W. R. Ware, of Harvard University.* The method was, however, mentioned by Condorcet, but only to be condemned. This method is a perfectly feasible and practicable one for elections on any scale, and it has recently been adopted by the Senate of the University of Melbourne. It is a simple and obvious extension of the French system, and it is obtained from that system by two modifications, viz.:—

(1.)The introduction of the preferential or comparative method of voting, so as to dispense with any second voting on the part of the electors.
(2.)The elimination of the candidates one by one, throwing out at each scrutiny the candidate who has fewest votes, instead of rejecting at once all but the two highest.

In the case in which there are three candidates only, the second modification is not necessary. It will, perhaps, be convenient to give a more formal description of this method. The mode of voting for all methods of the third class has already been described; it remains, therefore, to describe the page 11 mode of conducting the scrutinies in Ware's method.

At each scrutiny each elector has one vote, which is given to the candidate, if any, who stands highest in the elector's order of preference.

The votes for each candidate are then counted, and it any candidate has an absolute majority of the votes counted he is elected.

But if no candidate has such an absolute majority, the candidate who has fewest votes is excluded, and a new scrutiny is proceeded with, just as if the name of such excluded candidate did not appear on any voting paper.

Successive scrutinies are then held until some candidate obtains on a scrutiny an absolute majority of the votes counted at that scrutiny. The candidate who obtains such absolute majority is elected.

It is obvious that this absolute majority must be arrived at sooner or later.

It is clear, also, that if on any scrutiny any candidate obtain a number of votes which is greater than the sum of all the votes obtained by those candidates who each obtain less than that candidate, then all the candidates having such less number of votes may be at once excluded.

Ware's method has been shown to be erroneous for the case of three candidates in the remarks on the French method, of which it is in that case a particular form. It is easy to see that if there be more than three candidates the defects of this method will be still more serious.

The objection to this method, concisely stated, is that it may lead to the rejection of a candidate who is considered by a majority of the electors to be better than each of the other candidates. At the same time, the method is a great improvement on the single vote method; and the precise advantage is that whereas the single vote method might place at the head of the poll a candidate who is considered by a majority of the electors to be worse than each of the other candidates, it would be impossible for such a candidate to be elected by Ware's method.

To illustrate fully the difference between the two methods and the defects of each, suppose that there are several candidates, A, B,C, D, . . P,Q,R, and that in the opinion of the electors each candidate is better than each of the candidates who follow him in the above list, so that A is clearly the best, B the second best, and so on, R being the worst. Then on the single vote method R may win; on Ware's method A, page 12 B, C, D, . . P, may be excluded one after another on the successive scrutinies, and at the final scrutiny the contest will be between Q and R, and Q, of course, wins, since we have supposed him better than R in the opinion of the electors, Thus the single vote method may return the worst of all the candidates; and although Ware's method cannot return the worst, it may return the next worst.

A great point in favour of Ware's method is that it is quite impossible for an astute elector to gain any advantage for a favourite candidate by placing a formidable competitor at the bottom of the list. On account of its simplicity, Ware's method is extremely suitable for political elections. In cases of party contests, the strongest party is sure to win, no matter how many candidates are brought forward. The successful candidate, however, will not always be the one most acceptable to his own party.

* See Hare on Representation, p. 353,

Œuvres, 1804, vol. xiii., p. 243.