Saturday, May 2, 2009

LD1424 Q&A

Q & A - Unicameral in MAINE


Q: What is the difference between a bicameral and a unicameral legislature?
A legislature is bicameral if it consists of two bodies, usually a senate and a house. A legislature is unicameral if it consists of only one house.

Q: How many bicameral legislatures are there in the United States?
49 states have bicameral legislatures. Since 1937, Nebraska has been the only unicameral legislature in the United States.

Q: Do other forms of governing have unicameral systems?
Yes, almost all cities, towns, counties, and school boards are considered unicameral since only one board or council governs the body. Plus, all of Canada's Provinces are unicameral.

Q: Have other states ever had unicameral legislatures?
Yes. Most of the American colonies were governed by one-house legislatures, but this gradually shifted. By 1763, only two colonies (Deleware and Pennsylvannia) continued to use unicameral legislatures. After independence, all but three states (Georgia, Pennsylvannia, and Vermont) adopted bicameral systems. Georgia became bicameral in 1789, and Pennsylvannia became bicameral in 1790, after Benjamin Franklin's death. Franklin was was a firm believer in a unicameral legislature. * Vermont switched to bicameral in 1836.

Q: Why did Nebraska change to a unicameral?
U.S. Senator George William Norris is considered the architect of Nebraska's unicameral system. Dring the Depression, he traveled the state promoting the idea. He claimed the two-house system was "outdated, inefficient and unnecessary." The people were convinced of this arguments and the citizens passed the unicameral initiative in 1934, by a vote of 286,086 to 191,152. (See attached "History of the Nebraska Unicameral") The same year Nebraska's unicameral came into being, attempts by Legislators in 21 other states to go unicameral failed.

Q: Since 1937, have there been other serious attempts by states to change to unicameral?
Yes. In 1960, the United States Supreme Court ruled that both houses in State Legislatures must be apportioned according to population, instead of one house elected based on population and one house elected based on geographical lines. This made it illegal to set up Senate seats by county, and it set the legal basis claiming that States did not need to have two houses. This set off a flurry of legislation being introduced in states to change to unicameral systems.

Q: Why didn't more states change to unicameral?
In most states, in order for the citizens to be able to vote on a Constitutional change it requires a 2/3 super-majority of both the Senate and the House members to approve sending the measure out to the citizens for a vote. As Nebraska's first clerk, Hugo Srb, predicted, "who wants to vote to legislate themselves out of a job."

Q: How long has the Maine legislature been a two-house body?
Maine became a state in 1820, and has had a bicameral legislature since that date.

Q: Has Maine ever had other bills submitted to the Legislature to make it unicameral?
Yes, many bills have been submitted over the years. The last time the Maine legislature seriously debated this issue was in 1995. In order for the citizens to be able to vote on this Constitutional change, it requires both the Senate and the House to approve of the bill by a super-majority, 2/3 vote in each chamber. The Maine Legislature has never voted to allow the Maine citizens to vote on this issue. See accompanying handout for additional information.

Q: Why don't the citizens in most states petition for a change?
Both Maine and Nebraska allow for citizen inititives to be placed on the ballot, but most states do not allow this procedure. In Maine, this item could be placed on the ballot it 56,000 certified people signed petition forms. Most people do not know about a unicameral legislature. LD 1425 should prompt a healthy debate on the subject.

Q: How many legislators are in the Maine Legislature?
There are 186 members of the Maine Legislature - 35 Senators and 151 members of the House of Represenatives. (By statute, there are also two Tribal Representatives that serve.)

Q: How many legislators will serve in the Maine Legislature under LD 1424?
The bill proposes to have 105 legislative members. (By statute, Two Tribal Representatives will still be elected, as they are presently.)

Q: Nebraska only has 49 legislators, why does LD 1424 call for 105?
Although Maine and Nebraska both have part-time citizen legislators, going from 186 to 49 would be be a very dramatic decrease. 105 members translates into three "Senators" representing the same amount of people that one Maine Senator currently represents. This still puts the elected official "close" to their constituents.

Q: Which half of the present bicameral legislature will still exist in Maine under LD 1424?
The Senate is the legislative body that will be retained if the voters approve of changing the Constitution. Therefore, members of the legislature will be referred to as "Senators."

Q: How many citizens does a Maine Senator and a Representative currently represent? How many will a new "Senator" represent?
Currently, each Senator serves about 36,426 and each Representative serves about 8,443 constituents.** Under LD 1424 each Senator would serve about 12,400 citizens based on the present census.

Q: How does that representation compare to other states?
Currently, Maine has more Senators and Representatives per person than 44 other states. Even if it changes to one legislator for 12,400 people, Maine citizens will still maintain a unique closeness to their legislator. Every Senator in California represents 846,791 constituents. Even though Senators are full-time, and have staff in California, that is a lot of people to "get back to" when they call or email. Idaho has the same population as Maine and has 105 legislators.

Q: Why don't we just reduce the size of the Senate and House membership , but keep the bicameral system?
We could ask the voters to vote on that, but it would not increase the accountability, transparency, and efficiency that LD 1424 is trying to accomplish. Plus, the fiscal savings would be minimal compared to a projected savings of $15 million dollars for a unicameral legislature over the bienneum budget.

Q: Why propose this now?
The country is in an economic recession. The State of Maine is facing a $900 million shortfall in revenue while trying to produce a new, balanced budget. The legislature is asking everyone to consolidate, reduce, and take less. It is time for the legislators to do their part.

Q: So is it all about the savings?
Absolutely not. $15M in projected savings is wasted if it does not produce better government. LD 1424 aims to recognize the need for a modern day government. Technology has changed since Maine became a state in 1820. We no longer travel by horse and buggy, nor do we send all correspondence by mail. The car made traveling easier to get around from town-to-town and the internet has created a valuable, instant link to our constituents.

Q: How will a unicameral make government more accountable, transparent, and efficient?
Accountibility will happen when all legislators know that their vote will be directly tied to the outcome of a bill. Many times people vote for a bill "to be on the record." They want to be on the popular side of an issue, but they know that either the Senate will kill the bill, or Appropriations will not fund it. A unicameral will force our elected officials to make tough decisions for the betterment of the entire state. Transparency will occur with only one body. Many times bills are referred to Committees, changed by Committee, then sent to the House and amended, then sent to the Senate and amended, and then back to the House. People are not able to easily track what is being done to a bill, and why it is being done. Efficiency will happen when we stop debating the same issue in two different venues. All of our committees are joint committees with Senators and Representatives on the Commiitee. We work together in committees and we can work as one on the floor. See attached handout for more details.

Q: Wouldn't the lobbyists have more power if there are less members?
No. Right now anyone and everyone who deals with the Maine Legislature knows that if you want something "killed" you lobby the Senate. In order to pass a law, you need BOTH bodies to agree to the exact same language in a proposed bill. Since the Senate has only 35 members, it only takes 18 members to vote down a bill. Example: The Senate is split 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans, if the bill is partisan, all the lobbyists have to do is persuade 3 D's to vote against the bill. They don't even need to talk to anyone in the House.

Q: What is the present term of Maine legislators and how many consecutive terms can they serve under term limits?
Legislators are elected for a two year term. Under term limits, they are only allowed to serve four consecutive terms, for a total of eight years.

Q: Does LD 1424 propose to change the length of the terms or term limits?
No, these are two separate issues. LD 1424 keeps the two year term in the Maine Constitution. Term limits are governed under the Maine Revised Statutes, not the Maine Constitution, therefore, they are not changed under LD 1424.

Q: What are the requirements for an individual to become a member of the Maine Legislature?
According to the Maine Constitution, both Senators and Representatives must be a registered voter, must live within the district in which he or she is running at the time their name is placed into nomination, and have been 5 years a citizen of the United States. Senators must be 25 years of age and Representatives 21 years of age at the start of their term. LD 1424 proposes the Senators in the Unicameral be 21 years of age and other qualifications will stay the same.

Q: Will the Maine Legislature remain a part-time citizen legislature?
Yes. It will still be a part-time citizen legislature.

Q: How often is the Maine Legislature in session?
The first regular session starts in January and adjourns no later than the 3rd Wednesday in June. The second regular session starts in January and adjourns no later than the 3rd Wednesday in April. LD 1424 makes no changes to these times.

Q: What is the pay of Maine Legislators?
Senators and Representatives receive the same amount of pay and the same amount of reimbursable expenes. These amounts are set by statute, not the Constitution, therefore, LD 1424 makes no changes to these amounts.

Q: Does LD 1424 propose to follow Nebraska's nonpartisan election format?
No. LD 1424 continues to have partisan elections with primaries and general elections, just as we currently currently conduct our elections.



* data from NCSL website

22 comments:

Kathleen Dziadzio said...

The proposal is sound but I still question the need for 105 member legislature. Maine's population does not seem to support a group that large. If we can consolidate school districts, we should be able to do that for voting districts. The savings would be greater and the proposal more attractive.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

"In Maine, this item could be placed on the ballot [if] 56,000 certified people signed petition forms."

Not for a Constitutional amendment like this. See the Maine Constitution, Article IV, Part Third ( http://www.maine.gov/legis/const/Constitution2005-06.htm#P142_24539 ), Section 18, subsection 1 (italics added):

'Section 18. Direct initiative of legislation.

1. Petition procedure.
The electors may propose to the Legislature for its consideration any bill, resolve or resolution, including bills to amend or repeal emergency legislation but not an amendment of the State Constitution, by written petition addressed to the Legislature or to either branch thereof and filed in the office of the Secretary of State by the hour of 5:00 p.m., on or before the 50th day after the date of convening of the Legislature in first regular session or on or before the 25th day after the date of convening of the Legislature in second regular session, except that the written petition may not be filed in the office of the Secretary of State later than 18 months after the date the petition form was furnished or approved by the Secretary of State. If the applicable deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period runs until the hour of 5:00 p.m., of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.'

See also the Maine Constitution, Article X ( http://www.maine.gov/legis/const/Constitution2005-15.htm ), Section 4:

'Section 4. Amendments to Constitution. The Legislature, whenever 2/3 of both Houses shall deem it necessary, may propose amendments to this Constitution; and when any amendments shall be so agreed upon, a resolution shall be passed and sent to the selectmen of the several towns, and the assessors of the several plantations, empowering and directing them to notify the inhabitants of their respective towns and plantations, in the manner prescribed by law, at the next biennial meetings in the month of November, or to meet in the manner prescribed by law for calling and holding biennial meetings of said inhabitants for the election of Senators and Representatives, on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November following the passage of said resolve, to give in their votes on the question, whether such amendment shall be made; and if it shall appear that a majority of the inhabitants voting on the question are in favor of such amendment, it shall become a part of this Constitution.'

JasonB said...

How about a 105 member unicameral legislature based on proportional representation?

See

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/BeginnningReading/howprwor.htm

for more info on proportional representation

Kevin Lamoreau said...

That's not going to happen, at least not being passed this term (niether will a unicameral Legislature I don't think), but it's interesting to think about. Which PR method would you support, JasonB? And how many legislators would you have elected per district? You could have 35 3-member districts or 21 5-member districts, among other options.

To have districts with a substantially equal population per districts as mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court's "one person, one vote" rulings of the 1960s, multi-member Legislative districts in rural northern and eastern Maine would be humungous. Piscatiquis County (the second largest county in the state with 64% as much combined land and water area as Aroostook County), would not have enough people for even a 2-member district in a 105-member unicameral Legislature (it basically has 2 House districts out of 151 now, and contains less than half the population of its one Senate district).

JasonB said...

Hi Kevin,

Personally, I think I like closed-list PR better. If you want to affect the order of a party list, then join that party. (You could call it a little extra incentive to get involved in the political process!)

But even open-list PR would be better than what we have now. I think district-based representation is archaic. Think of it this way...who's going to represent **you** better?

(A) Someone with whom you share a geographical location with but disagree with on the issues?

or

(B) Someone with whom you share positions with on the issues but live in different geographical locations?

In other words, what defines **you** more...where you live or what you believe?

To answer your second question...

...don't have any districts. Make each party list the same for every voter in the state. Yes, it would be a pretty large ballot, (in principle, each party list could have 105 names, but I doubt it would be close to that in practice), but I think it would be worth the end result:

A multi-party legislature that proportionally represents the political positions of the Maine people in an optimal manner.

With a 105 open seats, a party would need less than 1% of the vote to get one seat. So I would guess you would get some Greens and Libertarians at least in the legislature. And that would be good IMO...the more ideas and perspectives, the better.

And for those who might be concerned about a lack of checks and balances in a unicameral system, a legislature with multiple parties would most certainly keep each other "checked and balanced", so to speak.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

Hi JasonB,

I doubt PR through one statewide district (particularly in a Unicameral Legislature - there might be a slightly greater chance in the Senate if the House was kept as it is as you would still have local representation which matters to a lot of Legislators) will happen in Maine anytime soon but it's interesting to think about. Perhaps you could still have primaries for the Legislature, but with candidates being able to run together on ranked list and the same seat allocation method that will be used in the general election used in the primary to determine the candidates on the list (if more than 105 candidates are on primary slates of a party) and their order on the list.

Determining candidate order on a general election list "proportionally" as a result of the primary would require a highest averages method (like d'Hondt, the same as the Greatest Divisors or Jefferson method used as an apportionment method after the first several censuses in the U.S., or Sainte-Laguë, the same as the Major Fractions or Webster apportionment method used in the apportionments resulting from the 1910 and 1930 censuses at least) rather than a largest remainders method like the old Hamilton apportionment method. I prefer d'Hondt (even though I think it was not method of apportioning congressional seats among states, where it was biased toward the larger states) as there's never any benefit toward a state dividing in half or more, and it gives the same results that you would have in Cumulative Voting or the Single Non-Transferable Vote if the backers of the candidates of each would-be list ballanced their vote most optimally with 100% awareness of the level of support and optimal ballancing of competing groups (not a realistic scenario, of course, but you probably get what I'm talking about). Each candidate on a slate (including solo candidates who would be 1-candidate slates, so to speak) would get a priority value equal to the number of votes his or her slate received divided his rank on the slate (with ranks beginning at 1 for the first named candidate and increasing by 1 for each following candidate). The candidates with the top 105 priority values would get in. I'm not sure how I'd handle ties but there are a few options that I won't get into here. If a Senator (that's the title Representative Valentino wants the Unicameral Legislators to have) or Senator-elect died or resigned or declined to take the oath of office like Janet Mills did last December as she was set to be elected Attorney General, the highest ranked candidate on the departing Senator or Senator-elects list who was not elected would be given the opportunity to take the seat and if he/she refused the following candidate on that list would be offered the seat and so on until the list was exhasted (which would be the case from the get-go if a solo candidate who was elected died, resigned or refused to take the seat), whereby the seat would go to the candidate with the next highest priority value and then following candidates on that slate until that slate was exhausted, and so on.

This discussion is probably purely academic but it's interesting to think about. What do you think about my expansion of your suggestion?

JasonB said...

Kevin wrote:
I doubt PR through one statewide district (particularly in a Unicameral Legislature - there might be a slightly greater chance in the Senate if the House was kept as it is as you would still have local representation which matters to a lot of Legislators) will happen in Maine anytime soon but it's interesting to think about.

JasonB {NEW}:
What matters more is whether or not local representation matters more to the legislated as opposed to the legislators, correct? :-)

Here's a question: would proportional representation require a change to the Maine Constitution? I only ask because I read somewhere recently that a Constitutional amendment wouldn't be required if we went to PR at the Federal level...which actually surprised me! I'm a bit skeptical about that claim, though I'm no Constitutional scholar by any stretch of the imagination!

I'm not too familiar with the various methods you mentioned to make much of a comment on them, though I have heard of them. (You definitely seem quite knowledgeable about various voting methods!) Whatever method is used, it would certainly have to be some kind of ranking method. Perhaps each party could determine their own method for determining their list. Maybe each party could have a state convention of some sort to sort it all out.

Here's another thought: I believe Germany uses a mixed approach in their legislature with half PR and half district-based. So perhaps have 52 or 53 districts with geographical representation, and the rest could be PR. That way you'd only have a 52 or 53-person list for each party for proportional representation. That would certainly be more manageable!

And a party would only need less than 2% of the vote statewide to gain a seat in this mixed representation scenario, so third parties would still have a pretty good chance of gaining some seats... which I think would be a really good thing. (Nothing against Democrats and Republicans...I just think the more ideas and perspectives, the better!)

And it would be an interesting compromise between both types of representation...roughly half geographical representation, roughly half proportional representation.

Or perhaps, (in the mixed scenario), leave it up to the citizenry to decide how many districts there will be through a vote every 10 years, (that would coincide with the census), with the remaining seats being proportionally represented.

Just bouncing some ideas around!

Thoughts?

JasonB said...

From the Q & A...

"Q: Since 1937, have there been other serious attempts by states to change to unicameral?

A. Yes. In 1960, the United States Supreme Court ruled that both houses in State Legislatures must be apportioned according to population, instead of one house elected based on population and one house elected based on geographical lines. This made it illegal to set up Senate seats by county..."

JasonB:

If members of the U.S. Senate can be elected on geographical lines, (i.e., 2 senators per state), then what's the justification for not allowing states to do the same thing for state senates, (e.g., 2 senators per county)? It seems like the same concept on a smaller scale.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

JasonB wrote:

If members of the U.S. Senate can be elected on geographical lines, (i.e., 2 senators per state), then what's the justification for not allowing states to do the same thing for state senates, (e.g., 2 senators per county)? It seems like the same concept on a smaller scale.

Kevin:

The U.S. Constitution specifies that there are to be two Senators from each state, so the U.S. Supreme Courts "Apportionment Decisions" of the 1960s (including Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, which is what established that both houses in State Legislatures must be apportioned according to population - Reprsentative Valentino got the year wrong) didn't affect that apportionment.

When it comes to apportionment within states, however, the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution reads in part, "No state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." (the "equal protection" clause). If each county had two Senators, than a resident of Maine's smallest county, Piscataquis, would have over 15 times as large a share of each of his two Senators as a resident of Maine's largest county, Cumberland, with over 15 times as many people as of the 2000 census and over 16 times as many people according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. A resident of Cumberland County would therefore be denied equal protection under the law, as some of our protection under the law comes from our ability to vote for people who make the laws and thus unequal representation means unequal protection. The Supreme Courts apportionment decisions are controversial, but that any house of a state Legislature (and most any state or local body with legislative powers) must be apportioned according to population is, as I've heard one politically active Maine lawyer say, "black letter law".

JasonB said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the response. BTW, In case you didn't realize, I had some comments on PR above the question on senators if you're interested.

Well here's another question on senators...

What if, instead of the people voting for senators, the town selectmen of all towns within each senate district appointed the senators from their district?

Now I realize you'd have to change the Maine Constitution for that. But would that be against the U.S. Constitution?

The reason I ask that hypothetical question is that prior to 17th Amendment, U.S. Senators were appointed by state legislatures. Personally, I wonder if the 17th Amendment was a bad idea. Before that, we had one chamber represent the people, (the House), while the other represented the states, (i.e., the Senate). That, I would think, would have kept an added check and balance between the states and the federal government. (I'm sure senators, since they represented state legislatures, wouldn't have been crazy about having the federal government "step on the toes" of the state governments.)

In similar fashion, I'm speculating that if state senators were appointed by municipality selectmen, that might help create a check and balance between local government and state government. But I'm just speculating! :)

Nevertheless, now that both chambers are voted for by the people, it's just redundant. So it seems to me that if we're going to have a bicameral legislature, then have the members of each chamber chosen by different methods. If not, then get rid of one of them.

Or here's another hypothetical thought that just occurred to me...what if the House was voted on by geographical lines, (as it is now) and the senate was voted with proportional representation? With only 35 members, that would certainly be manageable in terms of a state-wide, single district chamber. And a party would only need about 2.86 % of the vote statewide to gain a seat.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

“would proportional representation require a change to the Maine Constitution?”

Yes. Maine Constitution, Article IV, Part First ( http://www.maine.gov/legis/const/Constitution2005-04.htm ), sections 2 and 5 (with italics added by me):

Section 2. Number of Representatives; biennial terms; division of the State into districts for House of Representatives. The House of Representatives shall consist of 151 members, to be elected by the qualified electors, and hold their office 2 years from the day next preceding the first Wednesday in December following the general election. The Legislature which convenes in 1983 and every 10th year thereafter shall cause the State to be divided into districts for the choice of one Representative for each district. The number of Representatives shall be divided into the number of inhabitants of the State exclusive of foreigners not naturalized according to the latest Federal Decennial Census or a State Census previously ordered by the Legislature to coincide with the Federal Decennial Census, to determine a mean population figure for each Representative District. Each Representative District shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory and shall cross political subdivision lines the least number of times necessary to establish as nearly as practicable equally populated districts. Whenever the population of a municipality entitles it to more than one district, all whole districts shall be drawn within municipal boundaries. Any population remainder within the municipality shall be included in a district with contiguous territory and shall be kept intact.

Section 5. Election of Representatives; lists of votes delivered forthwith; lists of votes examined by Governor; summons of persons who appear to be elected; lists shall be laid before the House. The meetings within this State for the choice of Representatives shall be warned in due course of law by qualified officials of the several towns and cities 7 days at least before the election, and the election officials of the various towns and cities shall preside impartially at such meetings, receive the votes of all the qualified electors, sort, count and declare them in open meeting; and a list of the persons voted for shall be formed, with the number of votes for each person against that person's name. Cities and towns belonging to any Representative District shall hold their meetings at the same time in the respective cities and towns; and such meetings shall be notified, held and regulated, the votes received, sorted, counted and declared in the same manner. Fair copies of the lists of votes shall be attested by the municipal officers and the clerks of the cities and towns and the city and town clerks respectively shall cause the same to be delivered into the office of the Secretary of State forthwith. The Governor shall examine the returned copies of such lists and 7 days before the first Wednesday of December biennially, shall issue a summons to such persons as shall appear to have been elected by a plurality of all votes returned, to attend and take their seats. All such lists shall be laid before the House of Representatives on the first Wednesday of December biennially, and they shall finally determine who are elected.
-----
Maine Constitution, Article IV, Part Second ( http://www.maine.gov/legis/const/Constitution2005-05.htm ), sections 1 through 4 include similar language.

So Instant Runoff Voting or any other method (even a single-member district one) would require a Constitutional amendment as well, although some Legislators have tried to bring about IRV by statute anyway.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

The German system actually aims to create a proportional result (not just proportional aside from the single-winner seats), as the additional seats are awarded to make the overall partisan seat tally proportional. Because of the way it’s done, however, it’s common for the larger parties to win seats in some states (while the PR vote is tabulated nationally the seats are apportioned among the states by population and the parties are awarded those seats roughly proportionally to its vote while giving each state the right amount of seats) beyond the number of seats the party is would get in that state based on the list (proportional) vote tallies nationwide and in each state. The parties keep those seats, called [url= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overhang_seat]overhang seats[/url] or overhang mandates, which are added to the base membership size of the Bundestag (the German lower and more powerful house, although the upper house, elected by state governments (kind of like another idea of yours) has some power (it’s not like the U.K. House of Lords). Even if there was no regional component, if parties would keep all single-member seats won even as extra seats in the Legislature (as in Germany) or at the expense of other parties (as in Bolivia and Lesotho according to Wikipedia), such a system could give parties incentive to create “decoy” parties to win single-member district seats so that the party could win more proportional seats and thus effectively more seats overall. What you describe seems more like the current Japanese system, in which the single-member district results don’t affect how many proportional seats a party wins, although Japan’s proportional seats are elected from regions rather than nationwide.

“What if, instead of the people voting for senators, the town selectmen of all towns within each senate district appointed the senators from their district?

Now I realize you'd have to change the Maine Constitution for that. But would that be against the U.S. Constitution?”

I think so. For one thing, getting municipalities in a Senate district close enough in population per selectman or town/city councilor so that you wouldn’t have individual voters in some towns having substantially more or less weight than others would be very difficult, not realistically possible given the U.S. Supreme Court’s standards for equal representation. But even leaving aside the difficulty of varying populations, I’ve read somewhere that the [url= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_v._Sanders]Gray v. Sanders decision[/url] that struck down Georgia’s “County Unit System” (kind of like an electoral college although with the “electoral votes” awarded to the candidates directly rather than electors being chosen who are pledged to vote for one of those candidates) for statewide elections (which gave smaller counties more weight per capita) rendered it impermissible to have any electoral college-like system for positions below the presidency. That decision was after the 17th Amendment, which transferred the election of U.S. Senators from the Legislature to the voters directly. Town Selectman and Town/City Councilors electing State Senators would be kind of like an electoral college, even though unlike Presidential electors Selectmen and Councilors have other responsibilities. There are a lot of appointed positions in state government, but the Legislature, as its name implies, has a major Legislative role so Legislators being elected from a smaller pool than all the voters in the state (together or in separate districts as at present) would be different than, say, their electing the Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer and State Auditor as they presently do.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

“Or here's another hypothetical thought that just occurred to me...what if the House was voted on by geographical lines, (as it is now) and the senate was voted with proportional representation?”

I thought of that myself since our correspondence here began. I like the idea and think it would be a harder one for Legislators to vote against than either a Unicameral Legislature or reducing the size of the House, as you wouldn’t be getting rid of a “check and balance” (although there is the Governor and the state judiciary and the primacy of the U.S. Constitution and (after that) federal law) and you would still have as local representation in the House as you have now (House representation will get gradually less local in northern Maine over time due to its declining share of Maine’s population, but that will happen even if we don’t change anything). The next term would be a good one for that to be proposed in as that will be the term before the one in which the next apportionment will be done (Maine doesn’t redistrict until after the 2002, 2012, 2022 etc. elections), and the change could go into effect for the 2014 elections when the Senate district lines would be otherwise changed anyway.

JasonB said...

Kevin:

"I thought of [a proportional representation-based senate] myself since our correspondence here began. I like the idea and think it would be a harder one for Legislators to vote against than either a Unicameral Legislature or reducing the size of the House..."

I agree with the points you make on a PR senate. So let's bat this around for a little bit...

I like the idea of closed-list over open-list. How about you?

Single statewide district or more? (I'd go with the single district myself.)

Keep the 6-year term? (I'd say shorten it to at least 4 years.)

I also like the idea of voting on all 35 seats every term, (which I think would be manageable). That way, parties would only need about 2.86% of the popular vote to gain a seat, which would give third parties a good chance to gain at least a few seats.

Thoughts?

Kevin Lamoreau said...

Jason,

"I agree with the points you make on a PR senate. So let's bat this around for a little bit...

I like the idea of closed-list over open-list. How about you?"

I like closed-list better also, although I would prefer "list melding" as a result of the primary I described in an earlier post on this thread, with primary lists and Unenrolled (including Libertarians, Constitution Party candidates, and probably the Greens after 2010 when I doubt they'll get the 5% Gubernatorial vote necessary to keep official ballot status) candidate lists ordered by unanimous consent of the candidates on those lists. I'm not a fan of caucuses choosing party nominees below Presidential nominees, and I prefer primaries even there although not as strongely. Let candidates run on one-candidate "lists" of their own either in the the primary election (for party candidates) or the general election (for Unenrolled candidates) if they want. I'd use the d'Hondt seat allocation method both in the list melding as a in the primary and in the seat allocation in the general election.

"Single statewide district or more? (I'd go with the single district myself.)"

A single statewide district is fine with me, and under the d'Hondt seat allocation method or under a largest remainders method using the Droop or Hagenbach-Bischoff quotas, any party or list of one or more Unenrolled candidates with over 1/36 (2.7 repeating %, approx. 2.78%) of the vote would get at least one seat. Any party getting over 2/36 of the vote would get at least two seats, and any party getting at least 3/36 of the vote would get at least three seats, and so on. Under Sainte-Laguë or the Hare quota the minimum percentage needed to be assured of one seat (not sure about more than one) would either be the same or lower, I'm not sure. But those methods have a quirk which I touched on in an earlier post but don't want to get into here.

"Keep the 6-year term? (I'd say shorten it to at least 4 years.)"

Maine State Senate terms are currently two years, the same as Maine House terms. Several state legislatures have four-year terms either for both chambers or just the Senate, but no state legislative chamber in the U.S. has terms of more than four years (although I read of a D to R party switcher in the Kentucky State Senate who had been elected as a Democrat in 1998 moved in the 2001 redistricting to a district that wouldn't elect a Senator until 2015, or at least that being attempted by the Republicans who held a majority in that chamber at the time; Kentucky has four-year staggered terms for its State Senate at least). I would prefer keeping the length of terms for both houses of the Maine Legislature at two years, although I wouldn't seriously object to extending the terms of either or both chambers to four years.

The U.S. Senate has six-year terms with 34, 33 or 33 Senate seats up for election (not counting any special elections held at the same time to fill unexpired terms) every two years (with the number being 34 every three Congressional elections or every six years), one from each of 34, 33, or 33 states. I don't like that a third of the states don't get to elect a U.S. Senator when the other two thirds of states do, even though it alternates in a regular cycle. Changing that though (by say, reducing U.S. Senate terms to four years or having three U.S. Senators elected from each state rather than two, with one elected from each state every two years) would require a U.S. Constitutional amendment, and I don't see such an amendment getting adopted.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

"I also like the idea of voting on all 35 seats every term, (which I think would be manageable). That way, parties would only need about 2.86% of the popular vote to gain a seat, which would give third parties a good chance to gain at least a few seats."

I agree with that, except that again the minimum percentages would be a bit lower than you said. It's complicated how it works but trust me. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Hondt_method#Statistical_unbiasedness , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droop_quota#Count_under_the_Droop_quota and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droop_quota#Comparison_to_Hagenbach-Bischoff_quota .

Is there another blog in which you discuss electoral system changes like this? I ask because Representative Valentino might close this site soon now that her Unicameral bill has been killed.

JasonB said...

I stand corrected on the senate terms...for some reason I thought it was 6 years like the the U.S. Senate. I like the 2 year term much better!

In regards to various electoral methods...

I'm not too familiar with a lot of these methods, but I am curious.

Judging from the Wikipedia articles, it would seem that there are two broad categories:

(1) Highest averages method (e.g., d'Hondt & Sainte-Laguë)

(2) Largest remainder method (e.g., Hare quota, Hagenbach-Bischoff quota, & Droop quota)

I assume you prefer highest averages method since you've mentioned that you like d'Hondt.

Any thoughts on Sainte-Laguë?

---

In case this site does close down, how about the Yahoo! Group, "Pro Liberty Democrats" at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/prolibertydemocrats/

There hasn't been any discussion there for about a month now. But there's been some good discussions in the past on topics like electoral reform and proportional representation, (amongst other things!). People there are quite supportive of such changes in general, but often differ on the details.

Basically, I think you'd like the group!

I can even start the topic there, if you'd like...

----

Also, I wonder what Rep. Valentino would think of a PR Senate? Since the unicameral idea didn't pan out, maybe she'd consider this as a proposal. And perhaps the Maine Senate would be more open to that type of reform.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

"Judging from the Wikipedia articles, it would seem that there are two broad categories:

(1) Highest averages method (e.g., d'Hondt & Sainte-Laguë)

(2) Largest remainder method (e.g., Hare quota, Hagenbach-Bischoff quota, & Droop quota)"

You are correct as far as party-list PR goes (closed v. open list being a distiction that can cut across those lines, i.e. either method could be used with either category or indeed with d'Hondt, Sainte-Laguë or any of the various quotas in a largest remainders method). Single-transferable vote (STV or PR-STV), which you must have heard about on the Pro-Liberty-Democrats Yahoo Groop site, is another beast altogether.

"I assume you prefer highest averages method since you've mentioned that you like d'Hondt."

You are correct. I'll explain why and give my thoughts on Sainte-Laguë sometime later today. I need to take a break from this (I've responded to the other parts of your last post below).

-----

I've checked out the discussion on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/prolibertydemocrats/ , and it's interesting. Some people there have views that are more "outside the box" (or outside the planet, I mean, random selection? - reminds me of some consevative's remarking that he would rather be governed by the first some thousand names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty) than what we are discussing. In my posts on this issue here I've been trying to keep as much of Maine's existing election law as possible while changing to closed list proportional representation in the Senate and having a method of succession that wouldn't result in the proportionality being comprimised. That was part of my rationale for proposing to keep the primary for the State Senate as that's what we have now. It would keep the changes to Maine's election law to a minimum. Some of the discussion of alternative election methods in the Pro-Liberty Democrats Yahoo Group site seems to lack such concern. It's still educational though, and it would be a good place to move our conversation to if this site was closed (although I'm more of a populist Democrat myself, pro-Life and somewhat pro-direct democracy but otherwise center-left).

-----

I'm not sure what Rep. Valentino would think of a PR Senate. While she might be keeping an eye on comments on her web site (perhaps less so now that her bill has died, although she still might be checking to make sure there is no obscene language), you could e-mail her with your suggestion at lmvalentino54@yahoo.com and/or RepLinda.Valentino@legislature.maine.gov .

JasonB said...

I can certainly understand the need to take a break. This discussion has gotten pretty deep! LOL

---

The Pro Liberty Democrats discussion is basically a philosophical discussion affiliated with the Democratic Freedom Caucus, (www.democraticfreedomcaucus.org), which could be variously described as a left-libertarian / classical liberal / Georgist caucus within the Democratic Party. Discussion regarding caucus-building is supposed to be the focus of dfc_talk (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dfc_talk/),
but that goes off into philosophical discussions quite a bit.

As I recall, there's only one person there who advocates random selection for legislatures...but perhaps I'm wrong. (Though most there advocate random selection of juries.) I think most there like the idea of some form of PR for legislatures. But I like your approach which strikes me as, "How do we get proportional representation in the least radical way?" Basically, you seem to be trying to strike a balance between idealism and pragmatism.

---
That's an interesting description of your politics. I'd probably consider myself a left-libertarian with strong Georgist tendencies, (after the 19th century political economist, Henry George).

I like direct democracy too, provided that there are mechanisms in place to protect the rights of the minority.

Nevertheless, I'm sure the folks at the pro-liberty democrats site would enjoy discussions with you, (it makes for healthy debate to have someone with some different views get in on some discussions! But I think there would be a lot of agreement as well)

Kevin Lamoreau said...

Why I prefer a highest averages method of seat allocation to the largest remainder method in party list PR:

In the largest remainder method, using any quota, additional votes for a list A could potentially result in list B getting a seat instead of list C (more votes having been cast for list C than list B), as it could raise the quota high enough that list C's fraction of an additional quota (beyond the whole quota it already has) falls behind list B's fraction of an additional quota (which would also drop but not by as much, as the increased denominator would be the same but its numerator, or number of votes, is smaller). That won't happen in a highest averages method, although the absolute or relative difference in seats won by lists B and C be affected (by one list or the other losing a seat to list A).

Also, the largest remainder method, using either the Hare, Droop or Hagenbach-Bischoff quota, allows for a few paradoxes. One is the so-called Alabama paradox, resuting from a phonomenon noticed in that state in the Congressional Reapportionment (which used the largest remainder method with the Hare quota, also known as Hamilton's method after the first U.S. Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton, who invented the largest remainder method) after the 1880. The size of the House was not fixed as it is now (although it could be changed by law, as is proposed under the D.C. Representation Act), and changed, mostly increasing in size, after each census. If the size of the House for the next decade (from 1883 to 1893) was set at 299 members, Alabama would get 8 seats. But if the size of the House was set at 300 members, Alabama would only get 7 seats as the fractional portions of both Illinois's 19th quota and Texas's 10th quota passed the fractional portion of Alabama's 8th quota. As both Illinois and Texas had more people than Alabama, their precise (non-integer) number of quotas grew faster than Alabama's precise number of quotas. I've checked and that same paradox can also happen in the largest remainder method using the Droop or Haganbach-Bischoff quotas.

Other paradoxes that exist in the largest remainders method, using any quota, are the "new states" paradox (you could call it the "new lists" paradox for proportional representation), in which a list could gain seats if a new list were added with a certain number of votes no change in the votes for any that or any other list and no increase in the total size of the chamber being elected, and the "population paradox" (here it would be more of a "votes paradox"), which I'm not sure is more than a possible paradoxical outcome using the other two paradoxes or the extension of the new states paradox to include more people (or more votes) being added to an existing state (or list), but I've read the largest remainder method suffers from using any quota.

Kevin Lamoreau said...

I forgot to mention that the highest averages method doesn't work well with candidate-based methods like STV, so the largest remainder method, with some quota, is usually used in those methods.

Regarding d'Hondt v. Saint-Laguë:

Very simply, Sainte-Laguë does tend to be more proportional, but d'Hondt maximises the minimum number of votes per seat and slightly favors the larger parties, which means it is more likely to get the support needed to adopt such a method. d'Hondt would give the same results as statewide Single Non-Trasferable vote (howevermany seats, like 35 State Senators, but each voter only gets one vote) if each party ballanced its vote optimally given the vote breakdown by party and each other party ballancing its vote optimally. If, hypotetically, only 2 State Senators were to be elected, and one party got 70% of the vote and the only other party got 30%, than that's closer to 50-50 than 100-0, but if the first party was divided in half than each half would have more votes than the other party and thus each half of the bigger party would get one seat. d'Hondt gives the 70% party both seats, taking away any incentive for that party to run multiple lists, while Sainte-Laguë would give each party 1 seat. That's all for now.

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