Thanks to another blogger (Thank you Paul Z Templeton) I now know the name of the voting system I have been advocating (SEE TITLE, I know, I should have known this!).
Paul is a big advocate of another system - the Single Transferable Vote (STV). But I'm not so impressed with STV.
The main problem I have with STV is the complexity of the system.
I know it is easy enough to rank candidates in order 1,2,3, but I think it is really important for the legitimacy of the system that the counting process is also easily understood.
Also, preference voting itself, tends to favour centrist candidates. Centrist campaigning is one of the big flaws of our present first-past-the-post system as well.
Virtually all those elected are centrist non-entities, or at least pretend to be, which is even worse. Our extremists are hidden in the FPTP or STV systems.
By definition, in a more proportional system, the majority will still be fairly centrist, but minorities will also (shock, horror!) get a MINORITY of the seats. This allows more radical (and yes sometimes extremist) views to get a hearing. But we ALL get more honest and open MPs as a result.
Presently our candidates are forced into compromising their principles. The most honest candidates have to be really careful that their policies always appeal to most (if not all) of the population. Which I think leads to bad politics, because necessarily unpopular or radical policies are just hidden till after the election and not properly debated.
Looking to Irish politics is not a good advert for STV. STV has not enabled Ireland to form long lasting social and economic policies. The countries that do best in terms of social, economic and environmental policies have the most proportional systems. Which brings me on to the next flaw of STV, it's lack of proportionality.
To keep the number of candidates on the ballot down to manageable levels and to keep candidates local, there is a necessity to limit the magnitude of multi member districts to 3 to 6 seats in STV systems. This limits the proportionality considerably, with effective thresholds that are far too high - from 14% to as high as 25%. This shuts out minority parties and views from being elected and heard.
This is where we get to the key advantages of the Single NON transferable vote (SNTV), which is the system I am advocating.
Because surplus and split votes are not transferred, parties have to manage their wasted votes themselves by limiting the number of candidates they stand, to those with a good chance of election and targeting different candidates at different constituencies within the multi member district. These are both desirable aims.
This enables SNTV to operate at much higher magnitude districts (10-16 seats), which guarantees high proportionality (effective thresholds from 3% to 7%), but still provide ultra local candidates and manageable ballot papers.
Looking at where SNTV has operated worldwide. Where it is used exclusively, it provides extraordinary proportionality and ensures minorities get a say.
The weaknesses in terms of wasted votes tend to happen where districts are too low magnitude or too many "no hope" candidates are allowed to stand.
It is important for SNTV to work well that the nominations process acts to filter out candidates with no chance of winning.
This is easily achieved by setting a high bar in terms of the number of supporters required to get on the ballot paper. I suggest each candidate needs 500 local electors who have donated to their campaign in the 12 months preceding an election.
I prefer this to garnering signatures and large deposits, because someone's wealth should not be an issue. And each donor could donate as little as £1 and it shows much more of a commitment to a candidate than a signature.
Overall, I think that to be inclusive to ALL voters, we need a voting system that is very simple to understand, provides ultra local candidates and proportional results. SNTV does all these things. A simple X by the candidate of your choice and the candidates with the most votes are elected. Simple and fair.