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  • 1911
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three distinct parties seeking representation in Parliament? When a single seat is being contested it is doubtless sufficient if the member elected represents the average views of his constituents, but a General Election based on such a system would yield results no more satisfactory than those of the second ballots. Neither the second ballot nor the contingent vote are acceptable after their true effects are understood, a fact which explains the failure of Mr. Deakin’s Government to carry their Preferential Ballot Bill in 1906. Several of the seats held by the Australian Labour Party–as in the elections of Jarrow, Colne Valley, and Attercliffe–were won by a minority vote; the _Melbourne Age_ published the following list of seven constituencies in Victoria where Labour members represented only a minority of the voters:–

Non-Labour Labour
Constituencies. Votes. Votes

Geelong . . . . 1,704 1,153 Ballarat West . . . 2,038 1,034 Jika Jika . . . . 1,366 1,183 Williamstown . . . 1,931 1,494 Bendigo West . . . 1,654 1,248 Grenville . . . . 1,457 1,268 Maryborough . . . 1,929 1,263

Totals . . . 12,079 8,643

Preferential voting would have placed these seats at the mercy of a combination of the other parties, and, somewhat alarmed by the too eager advocacy of the measure on the part of the _Age_, the Labour Party, which had voted for the second reading of the Bill, procured its defeat on the first division in committee. It is impossible to defend the present system by which the Labour Party, which numbered two-fifths of the voters in these seven constituencies, obtained all seven seats, but, on the other hand, it cannot be alleged that a system of preferential voting, which would have enabled the other parties to have deprived these electors of all representation, was a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. In neither case would justice be done to the claims of three parties to representation.

_Probable effect of the alternative vote in England._

A consideration of the possible results of the introduction into the English electoral system of second ballots or the transferable vote in single-member constituencies will show that neither reform will solve the problem presented by the rise of a new party. It is obvious that the Labour Party could by a combination of Conservative and Liberal voters be deprived of representation in all constituencies save those in which they had the support of an absolute majority of the electorate. Nor would the conditions remain the same as they are to-day. In many constituencies in which the Liberals have allowed a straight fight to take place between Tariff Reform and Labour candidates, the Liberal Party would intervene; and should combinations at the polls result in the defeat of Labour candidates, what would be the effect upon the temper and spirit of Labour voters who found themselves under an “improved” voting system less able than before to secure representation in Parliament? Would there not possibly arise a disposition on the part of the disfranchised minority to pursue on the next occasion a wrecking policy such as has distinguished the second ballots both in Belgium and in France? Even apart from precipitate action which might arise as the result of ill-feeling, the alternative vote would afford an opportunity for a predetermined policy on the part of a minority to create dissension between the opponents. The manipulation of the alternative vote would be easily understood. An angry minority of electors could be instructed beforehand to use it, as we know from experience they _have_ used the second ballot on the Continent. Would politicians, following an exclusive electoral policy, hesitate to avail themselves of the weapon which the alternative vote would place in their hands for the purpose of annihilating any section they especially disliked, in the same way as the Liberal Party in Belgium was destroyed by Catholic and Socialist combinations at the second ballots? We cannot escape the conclusion which all experience yields, that both these electoral methods place the representation of any party at the mercy of either temporary or permanent coalitions of other parties. To an even greater degree than under the existing régime, the result of a General Election would fail to reflect public opinion.

The advocates of the alternative vote assume, with but little justification, that this method will be free from the bargainings that have distinguished the second ballots on the Continent. The bargainings naturally take place between the first and second ballots, because that is the most suitable time for the striking of bargains, for the strength of parties is definitely known. With the alternative vote such transactions would take place before the election, upon the basis of the probable position of parties as ascertained by the party agents. Even if experience should show that the transferable vote did not lend itself so easily as the second ballot to the perpetration of those bargains which are detested by all Continental statesmen, yet it is probable that the successful candidate would, like the deputy elected under the system of second ballots, become “the prisoner of the minority.” The figures of the election would disclose to what extent the member returned had owed his success to the smallest minority. This minority would be only too conscious that it held the key of the situation, and the member would doubtless be exposed to the same intolerable pressure as has been brought to bear upon members of the French Chamber of Deputies. In any case the position of the elected member would be most unsatisfactory. Were a Labour member returned with the assistance of Tariff Reform votes, would not the parliamentary relations between the various parties become as embittered as when the Unified Socialist candidate at Uzès was enabled by Reactionary votes to capture a Radical seat? What recriminations would accompany the election of a Conservative candidate whose victory was due to Labour votes given to him as an expression of resentment at the action of Liberals in other constituencies? What would be the relations between the Liberal and Labour parties if in a constituency now represented by a Labour member, a Liberal candidate, with the aid of Conservative votes, displaced him? These strained relations would not only exist within the House of Commons itself, but also and perhaps in a more pronounced form in the constituencies themselves. Such conditions would not only invite the sarcasm of all critics of democracy, they would produce the much more serious effect of crippling the successful working of parliamentary institutions.

_The alternative vote not a solution of the problem of three-cornered contests_.]

Neither second ballots nor preferential voting can solve the problem of three parties seeking representation. They may preserve the outward form of the distinguishing characteristic of the present system–that each successful candidate should secure the support of the majority of the electors voting–but this apparent conformity to the requirements of majority representation is only secured at the cost of destroying the sincerity of the parliamentary system and of rendering the composition of the House of Commons still more unstable than it is to-day. In England the competition of the three parties is most pronounced in the industrial areas, and Mr. Winston Churchill, apparently recognizing the futility of the alternative vote as a solution of the new difficulty, had good grounds for his suggestion that electoral reformers should concentrate their minds upon the proportional representation of the great cities.[7] For proportional representation attacks the new problem on entirely different lines. It provides for the realization of the essentially democratic principle, that the various sections of political’ opinion are entitled to representation in proportion to their respective strengths, and that such representation should be independent of the action of other parties. Once this democratic principle is admitted we are in view of the only effective solution of the problem of three-cornered fights–a solution which not only solves this particular difficulty, but meets those serious defects of our electoral system to which attention has been directed in the two preceding chapters. “The theory of Government by party,” says Professor Nanson of Melbourne, “is to find the popular mind by the issue of a number of contests between the ‘ins’ and the ‘outs.’ But owing to the multiplicity of political issues, this theory is now no more tenable than is the theory that every question can be answered by a plain ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ … We require a system capable of finding the mind of the people on more than one issue. With such a system all the difficulties caused at present by the existence of three parties disappear. Instead of being a hindrance three parties will be a help. For each will help to organize public opinion, and so enable the mind of the public on important issues to be more definitely and clearly ascertained.”

[Footnote 1: _The Albany Review_, October 1907.]

[Footnote 2: Reports on the Second Ballot at Elections in Foreign Countries. Miscellaneous. No. 2. 1908. (Cd. 3875.)]

[Footnote 2: _La Representation Proportionnelle en Belgique_, p. 7.]

[Footnote 3: An illuminating passage occurs in M. Guyot’s article on “The French Senate and Chamber of Deputies,” in _The Contemporary Review_, February 1910:–

“A deputy is only elected for four years, and almost on the morrow he becomes again a candidate. If he has been elected at the second ballot, with a rallying of the minority of electors, who have only voted for him as better than nothing, and who can desert him at the next elections, his position is very uncertain. Universal suffrage results in many constituencies in great instability, and it is threatening especially for the men who having had power have been obliged to act, and in acting have dispersed certain illusions which they had perhaps entertained when candidates, and have thus given offence…. Though one be an ex-Minister one is none the less a man. The greater number of men–not only ex-Ministers but men who have any reputation in Parliament–have sought to migrate from the Palais Bourbon to the Luxemburg. The result is that the Chamber of Deputies has not ceased to suffer from a species of inverse selection. No body could retain its vigour under such a system. The most experienced men have left; the composition of the Chamber of Deputies has grown steadily weaker and weaker.”]

[Footnote 4: In Australia the system is known as the contingent or preferentinal vote. In recent years the phrase “alternative vote” has been employed in England, and was adopted by the Royal Commission on Electoral Systems as a means of distinguishing the use of the transferable vote in single-member constituencies from its use in multi-member constituencies for the purpose of securing proportional representation.]

[Footnote 5: The regulations as to counting the votes contained in the Schedule to the Bill were based upon those in Lord Courtney’s Municipal Representation Bill (see Appendix VI.), the practical application of which is described in Chapter VII.]

[Footnote 6: Mr. Crawshay-Williams introduced a further Bill (based on that of Mr. Robertson) in 1910. This Bill, in its final form, was made applicable, in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commissions on Electoral Systems, to single-member constituencies only.]

[Footnote 7: Reply to deputation of Manchester Liberal Federation, 23 May 1909.]



“Celui-ci tuera celui-là. Voilà la formula du scrutin d’arrondissement.

“Ceux-ci tueront ceux-là. Voilà la formule du serutin de liste sans la representation proportionnelle.

“Ceux-ci et ceux-là auront leur juste part. Voila la formule du scrutin de liste avec la representation proportionnelle.”–J. JAURES

It cannot be a matter for surprise that the methods of election adopted in the early stages of representative institutions fail to respond to the needs of the more complex political conditions of highly civilized communities. The movement in favour of improved electoral methods is in keeping with the advances made in all other human institutions. We no longer travel by stage-coach nor read by rush-light. We cross the Atlantic with a certainty and an ease unknown and undreamt of a little while ago. Means of intercommunication, the press, the mail, the telegraph, the telephone have developed marvellously in response to modern requirements. This continuous adaptation is the law of existence and, in view of modern political conditions we cannot permanently refuse to adapt our electoral methods to the more perfect organization of a progressive democracy. By cumulative pressure the evils set forth in the preceding chapters can have but one result; they will compel English statesmen, as they have compelled or are compelling Continental statesmen, to devise an effective remedy; and although individual politicians may resist and retard the advent of reformed methods, the demand for better representative institutions will in the end overcome all such resistance.

_The essential features of a sound electoral method_.]

What then are the requirements of a satisfactory electoral method? The evils to be remedied must yield the clue. Our present system–exclusive majority representation–has often, as we have seen, resulted in a gross exaggeration of the majority, sometimes in the total suppression of the minority; and, on other occasions, in the return of a majority of representatives by a minority of the electors. These evils have happened when only two parties have been seeking representation; when a third party enters the political arena the system completely breaks down, and all efforts to restore “majority” representation by a system of second ballots have proved an absolute failure. The attempts made in the past to secure the special representation of minorities, though most successful in many respects, have been of an empirical character, and have dealt with the problem in a very partial way. Yet it is not difficult to find a solution for all these problems which is at the same time satisfactory and effective. It is only necessary to return to the first principles of democracy, to keep steadily in view the meaning of that self-government which we desire to achieve through representative institutions. Self-government can only be realized when every section of the community through its own representatives can give expression to its needs in the assembly which is representative of the nation and which derives all its authority from the fact that it is so representative. This assembly acts in the name of the nation; its decisions are said to embody the national will. But if any considerable section of the nation is deprived, from whatever cause, of representation in the House of Commons, in what sense can it be said that its decisions give expression to the national will? The new electoral conditions force us, willingly or unwillingly, to the conclusion that no satisfactory solution can be reached until effect is given to Mill’s fundamental principle of democracy–that the various sections of political opinion should be represented in the legislative chamber in proportion to their strength. Only in the fulfilment of that condition can we escape from the evils of the existing system and at the same time do justice to the claims of three organized parties to representation within the House of Commons.

_Constituencies returning several members._

It is now no longer possible to accept Mill’s declaration as theoretically perfect and then to dismiss it as wholly impracticable. If the political conditions are such that the proportionate representation of parties is the only satisfactory solution of our electoral difficulties, it becomes the duty of statesmen to find some way by which practical effect can be given to Mill’s formula. There was doubtless some excuse for the cry of impracticability when, in launching in 1857 his proposals for proportional representation, Thomas Hare suggested that the whole kingdom should form a single constituency. This suggestion raised a barrier of prejudice against all proposals for proportional representation, which only to-day is being broken down, and led to a refusal to consider seriously any attempt to secure an amelioration of existing methods along more modest lines. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the first step in the direction of realizing true representation must be the enlargement of our present electoral areas. So long as single-member constituencies are retained elections must necessarily take the form of a struggle for the whole of the representation allotted to the constituency. There is but one prize–a prize which is indivisible–and the proportional distribution of that prize is impossible. For a system of proportional representation the first requirement is the formation of constituencies returning several members. These electoral areas need not be formed in an arbitrary manner. Familiar divisions of the country, such as large towns, counties or parts of counties, may be treated as single constituencies. Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds would form constituencies in themselves. Counties which are large enough to return at least five members might also be treated as electoral areas, whilst the smallest counties would be grouped and the larger counties, if necessary, subdivided.

_The proportional representation of the electors._

With such constituencies it would be possible to approximate to a true representation of the electors. Birmingham, which may be taken for purposes of illustration, returns seven members to the House of Commons, one for each of its seven divisions. The Unionists being in a majority in each of these seven divisions, are enabled to secure the whole of the representation allotted to the city, although there is a large minority of non-Unionists. If Birmingham were treated as a single constituency, and if the electors were divided as follows: Unionists, 40,000; Liberals, 20,000; Labour, 10,000, then it is obvious that any just system of representation would enable the Unionists, Liberal and Labour electors to obtain four, two, and one members respectively. Birmingham would then be represented accurately and fairly within the House of Commons; and if each large area was so represented we should, in this way, be able to build up a House of Commons which would reflect in true proportions the political opinions of the country. The undoubted fairness of such a system of representation will appeal with even more force if consideration is given to the grounds on which seven representatives are now allotted to a town of the size of Birmingham. Did Birmingham contain only 40,000 electors, all of whom were Unionists, it would only be entitled to four representatives in Parliament. The presence of a large number of electors who are not Unionists brings, however, the total electorate to 70,000, and Birmingham is granted representation on the basis of this total. Thus the additional representation, granted because of the presence of a large minority of non-Unionist electors, takes the form of additional Unionist members. The minority under the present system is not only disfranchised but penalised; the representation which is due to them is given to their opponents.

But it is not difficult to devise a scheme of proportional representation which should ensure that the electors of Birmingham and other large towns, and also of the various counties, should be truly represented within the House of Commons. Of this fact the recent history of electoral legislation on the Continent and in the Colonies furnishes incontrovertible proofs. Proportional representation has been embodied in the laws of several countries, and these laws work with perfect smoothness.

_Experience in Denmark._

The first application of the principle took place in Denmark so long ago as 1855, two years before the publication of Mr. Hare’s scheme, when M. Andrae, a Danish Minister of great eminence and ability, introduced it into the new Constitution promulgated in that year. The system of proportional representation was retained through the constitutional changes of 1863 and 1866, though, it should be added, the extent of its application was limited to the election of members of the Upper House. The citizens of each constituency, voting in two classes, choose by the ordinary method of voting an equal number of representatives. These representatives constitute an electoral college, the members of which proceed to the election of representatives of the constituency according to the method of proportional representation. This limited application of proportional representation still remains in force, and in recent years the principle has received further and increasing recognition. Parliamentary committees and committees of the municipalities of Copenhagen are chosen by a proportional method. The principle was applied in 1903 to the elections of the Congregational councils, but its most notable extension was effected in 1908, when the system was applied to all municipal elections, the first elections taking place in March 1909.


It will be seen that even in Denmark there was a considerable lapse of time between the limited application adopted in 1855 and its extension to elections of a more popular kind in recent years; and outside Denmark, although societies advocating the new principles were founded in England, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, proportional representation did not succeed in finding its way very readily to the statute book. It was not until 1890 that the first step was taken which has resulted in so rapid an extension of the system. The evils arising from the majority method of election had become so acute in the Swiss canton of Ticino[1] that proportional representation was adopted as a means of pacification. The elections in March 1889 resulted in the return of seventy-seven Conservative deputies by 12,783 votes, whilst the Liberals, with 12,166 votes, were only able to obtain thirty-five representatives. The Liberals alleged that this unfair result was due to a gerrymandering of the constituencies, and demanded a revision of the Constitution. The Conservative Government declining to take the necessary steps for this purpose, a revolution broke out in Bellinzona, in the course of which one of the members of the Government was killed and his colleagues arrested and imprisoned. The Federal Council intervened and sent its representative, Colonel Künzli, who recommended the adoption of proportional representation. After some hesitancy the party leaders agreed, and the Cantonal Council passed a law (5 December 1890), providing for the election by a system of proportional representation of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of revising the Constitution. The suspicions of the Liberals were not, however, fully allayed and, thinking that they were again being duped, they decided on the eve of the election of the Assembly to abstain. This decision was adhered to, and as a result the first assembly in Ticino elected under the proportional system consisted of Conservatives only. The Conservatives remained faithful to the agreement entered into with the Liberals and voted the law of 9 February 1891, introducing proportional representation into the cantonal constitution and applying it to the elections for the Cantonal Council, Constituent Assemblies and municipalities. The law was approved by popular vote in the following March, and the system has since retained its place in the constitution of the canton[2]. The immediate object in view–the pacification of the canton–was completely attained and its success has led to its adoption in other cantons. It is now in force in Neuchâtel, Geneva, Solothurn, Zug, Schwyz, Bâle City, Lucerne and St. Gall, and also (for municipal elections) in Berne, Fribourg, and Valais, whilst there is an active and growing demand for its application to the Federal elections. The progress of public opinion in this respect has been tested by means of the Referendum in 1900 and 1910. On the first occasion 169,000 voters supported the extension to Federal elections, and 247,000 opposed it. In 1910 the number of voters in favour of the proposal had increased by 70,000, while the opposition had increased by only 15,000, and the adoption of proportional representation for Federal elections was defeated by the narrow margin of 23,000 votes in a total poll of half a million. At the same time twelve out of the twenty-two cantons approved of the extension, and it is generally agreed that the ultimate triumph of the proportional principle cannot long be delayed.

The need for proportional representation was particularly felt in the canton of Geneva, where religious differences often form the dividing line between parties. The canton is divided into three constituencies; one for the town of Geneva, one for that part of the canton on the right bank, and one for that on the left bank of the Lake and of the Rhone. With the _scrutin de liste_ (the former method of election) the minority in each constituency was completely crushed. The Protestants of the right bank were deprived of all representation; the Catholics of the town obtained a few deputies as an act of grace on the part of the majority. In 1872, when the affairs of the Catholic church were being discussed, the Radicals and Independents succeeded in excluding from the Council all who were most directly affected by the question of the day. The proportional system was introduced in 1892, and as the election of members of the Federal Council was still conducted according to the old system the working of the two methods could be readily compared. “The elections for the cantonal councils in November 1892,” wrote M. Naville, “were keenly fought, but calm; no recriminations followed, and political life pursued a normal course…. On the other hand, the Federal elections in October 1893 were riotous, blows being exchanged. Exclusive majority representation artificially creates disturbances…. Proportional representation introduces a pacifying element into all political struggles.”


The introduction of a complete scheme of proportional representation into Belgium was also rendered necessary by the intolerable position arising from the former methods of election. The rapid growth of the Socialist Party with a distinct organization created a situation which, as already explained, was in no way relieved by the system of second ballots in force. Indeed, the coalitions at the second ballots not only discredited the system but greatly embittered the relations between the various parties. “In 1899,” says Count Goblet d’Alviella, “Belgium was on the eve of a revolution–a revolution which was only avoided by the immediate and complete introduction of proportional representation into parliamentary elections.” This, however, was not the first trial of proportional representation in Belgium, for Belgium, like Switzerland, affords an example of the gradual but certain extension of the new method of election. In 1894 proportional representation had been applied partially and tentatively to the larger municipal councils, and although this application was of a partial character it achieved a considerable measure of success. M. Braun, the Burgomaster of Ghent, speaking in May 1899, described its results in the following terms:–

“During the four years that proportional representation has been applied to the communal elections of Ghent, every one has been able to appreciate the happy effects of the reform. Everybody recognizes that, far from being endangered, the material prosperity of the city has increased, and that the ameliorating and pacifying effects of the altered electoral method have even exceeded the expectations and hopes of its advocates.” [3]

The system of proportional representation adopted for the parliamentary elections was much more complete, and so great has been its success that there has arisen a strong demand for its introduction into the elections for the provincial councils in which the old majority system, with second ballots, is still used. The parliamentary elections in May 1908 were followed by the provincial elections in the ensuing month, and thus a favourable opportunity was presented of contrasting the working of the two systems. The grossly unfair results of the provincial elections drew forth from many journals most caustic criticism. _Le Peuple_ expressed the hope that these provincial elections would be the last instance of the use of the majority system in Belgium. “Is it not,” it proceeded, “absurd, stupid, detestable that the provincial councils are alone excluded from the system of proportional representation? Once for all we must have done with this jumble of confusion, dishonesty, and corruption.” The _Etoile Belge_ declared that “One thing is certain, the provincial electoral system can no longer be maintained without exposing us to the laughter of Europe. To apply one system of proportional representation to the parliamentary elections, another to municipal elections, and to maintain the majority system for the provincial elections, is really too absurd. For once we agree with _Le Peuple_ and join our hopes and wishes to theirs.” That these comments were fully justified a few examples will show. In the province of Limbourg the forty-eight seats on the provincial council were all obtained by the Catholics, whereas in the parliamentary elections of the previous month the Liberals, owing to the proportional system, were able to obtain two seats out of six. In the “Agglomération Bruxelloise” no Catholic and only five Socialists were elected, although the Liberals numbered but a few more than a third of the voters. The provincial elections of former years afford further illustration. In 1898 at Ghent the Liberals of the first canton defeated the Socialists at the second ballots with the help of the Catholics, in the second canton they defeated the Catholics with the help of the Socialists, while in the third canton they were themselves defeated by the Catholics, who were assisted by the Socialists. In the same year at Brussels, where a second ballot took place in each of the five cantons, the Liberal minority captured every one of the forty-four seats. Sir Arthur Hardinge pointed out in his Report on the working of the Second Ballots in Belgium, that it was the failure of this electoral method that rendered a proportional system in parliamentary elections an absolute necessity; its failure in the provincial elections will result in its abolition from these also. No more convincing evidence of the satisfactory working of the proportional system can be given than this demand for its extension, the latest example of which in Belgium is its application by a new law passed in 1909 to the election of the _Conseils de Prud’hommes._

_German States._

Whilst the adoption of proportional representation in Switzerland and in Belgium was due to the pressure of particular circumstances, the marked success of the new method has not only resulted in its extension in those countries, it has also had a pronounced influence upon public opinion in neighbouring countries. The kingdoms of Southern Germany are following the example of the Swiss cantons. Würtemberg, in the new constitution adopted in 1906, decided that the seats set free by the removal of the “privileged” members of the Lower House should be filled by proportional representation. Legislative proposals have since been discussed in Saxony, and in May 1910 a vigorous debate took place in the Bavarian Parliament, in the course of which Dr. Müller declared that the advocates of the reform would not rest “until this unjust electoral system, this bulwark of short-sighted injustice and ill-omened party spirit, is set aside in the higher interests of justice and of civil and religious freedom.” The principle has received a recognition even more general in character, for a ministerial decree issued in June 1901, relative to the associated committees of employers and workmen, enabled these bodies, if they so chose, to elect their members in accordance with the principle of proportional representation. Some sixteen towns, including Frankfort-On-Main, Munich, Carlsruhe, Fribourg, Mannheim, &c., availed themselves of the privilege, and the results have been most satisfactory. Much greater interest has been taken in the elections. In Carlsruhe, for instance, the number of voters increased from 1103 in 1897 to 3546 in 1903.


Similarly, the great success of the Belgian legislation gave birth to a fresh and more powerful movement in France. Founded in 1901, under the presidency of M. Yves Guyot, the _Ligue pour la Représentation Proportionnelle_ enlisted the support of deputies drawn from all political parties. The Electoral Reform group within the Chamber of Deputies during the Parliament 1906-10 consisted of over two hundred members, and, under the auspices of this group large and enthusiastic meetings were held in the great towns. The reform has the support of many leading newspapers, and the authoritative reports of the French Parliamentary Committee, _la Commission du Suffrage Universel_, contain strong recommendations in favour of the adoption of proportional representation. The first of these reports prepared in 1905 by M. Chas. Benoist[4] contains an admirable statement of the case for the reform, a plea which is powerfully reinforced in the report prepared two years later by M. Etienne Flandin.[5] The Bill recommended in this latter report was discussed in the French Chamber of Deputies in October 1909. The first clause of the Bill read as follows: “The members of the Chamber of Deputies shall be elected by the _scrutin de liste_ according to the rules for proportional representation.” The first portion of this clause–the members of the Chamber of Deputies shall be elected by _scrutin de liste_–was carried by 379 votes against 142, or a majority of 237. The second portion–according to the rules for proportional representation–was carried by 281 votes to 235, or a majority of 46. The Prime Minister, M. Briand, urged by many of his Radical supporters, who were unwilling to forego the advantages which they obtained from the existing system, then made the question one of confidence in the Government, and the whole clause, when put to the final vote, was defeated by 291 votes to 225. A noteworthy feature of these divisions was the size of the majority by which the system of single-member constituencies was condemned. At the General Election in April 1910 no fewer than 315 Deputies were returned pledged to the reform. M. Briand at once introduced a Bill which, however, did not fully meet the demands of the reformers, and the _Commission du Suffrage Universel_ made important modifications in it with a view to securing more completely the proportional representation of all political parties within the country. On the fall of M. Briand in February 1911, the government of M. Monis announced its intention of supporting the amended scheme. The success of the movement, commenced in 1901 is now, after a decade of active effort, no longer open to doubt.


Holland, too, has felt the influence of the legislation of its neighbour. A constitutional commission, appointed by the Dutch Government, reported in favour of amending the fundamental law so as to render possible the adoption of proportional representation. The recommendations of this Commission were embodied by the Government in Bills presented to the States General in 1907, and although the proposals were subsequently withdrawn, the reform has the support of many of the leading statesmen, and a favourable report is anticipated from the new Commission to which the question of reform has been referred.


In the North of Europe an equally successful and, in some respects, an independent movement in favour of true representation has taken place. In an excellent little pamphlet, published at Helsingfors,[6] it is stated that during those calamitous years between the _coup d’état_ of 1899 and the restoration of the constitution in 1906, there arose in Finland the conviction that only a democratic reform of its political institutions would afford a sufficient guarantee for the maintenance of its internal independence. The fruits of that conviction were seen in the draft of the new constitution for the Diet prepared by a committee appointed by the Finnish Government. Provision was made for the adoption both of universal suffrage and proportional representation. The report adds that the four Estates of the Diet, satisfied that proportional representation would ensure the just representation of all parties, willingly accepted the proposals for universal suffrage, and also agreed that henceforth the Diet should consist of but one chamber. Finland thus found herself, when the new constitution was granted, in the possession of an electoral system as democratic as any in the world.[7]


In Sweden a long and arduous struggle took place over the reform of the franchise. The Liberals and Socialists demanded that less weight should be given to the possession of property. The Conservatives resisted the demand. The adoption of proportional representation as a possible way out was proposed in 1902, and from that date the fight assumed another aspect. “The method of voting,” wrote Major von Heidenstam, part author of the proposals embodied in the new law, “took from the beginning a very prominent place, strange to say the most prominent down to the last few months before the chief battle. We who went in for proportional representation had a very hard struggle for the first five years, but we won at last.” The victory was complete; proportional representation was accepted for both Chambers of the Riksdag, for the committees selected by these Chambers, for County Councils and for Town Councils. When the final adoption of the reform Bills was voted in 1909 they were carried by very large majorities; in the first Chamber only 19 out of 141, and in the second Chamber only 53 out of 225, recorded an adverse vote.[8]


In this remarkable outburst in favour of proportional representation English-speaking countries are taking their part. Inspired by the late Catherine Helen Spence, an untiring advocate of the reform, the Effective Voting League has carried on an active campaign in Australasia. Legislative proposals for proportional representation have been discussed in recent years by the Commonwealth Parliament, and also by the Parliaments of Victoria, South Australia and West Australia. Although these measures have not become law, the work of Miss Spence and her colleagues has gained considerable support. Mr. Deakin has openly acknowledged his approval, whilst the results of recent elections, and more particularly that of the election in 1910 for the Commonwealth Senate, have increased the demand for reform. Proportional representation, too, is meeting with increasing sympathy in New Zealand where the system of second ballots, adopted in 1908, has failed to give satisfaction. In Tasmania the movement has made much greater headway. An Act was passed in 1896 applying proportional representation to the urban districts of Hobart and Launceston, but although this Act was an acknowledged success so far as the representation of these two towns were concerned, the differentiation between the voting methods applied to the town and country districts gave rise to dissatisfaction, and the measure was withdrawn in 1901. But when once the benefits of proportional representation had been felt its re-introduction in a more complete form was not long delayed. In 1907 a new Act was passed applying equally to town or country. The State is now divided into five electoral districts, and the six members allotted to each district are elected by the proportional method. The first elections under the new law took place in April 1909, and the result has met with general approval.

_South Africa._

In South Africa proportional representation has, with astonishing rapidity, gained the adherence of its foremost public men, and although the delegates to the South African National Convention abandoned the proposal for the use of the proportional method in the elections to the legislative Assembly of United South Africa, yet the adoption of this principle for the election of members of the Senate and of the committees of the Provincial Councils, as finally agreed to, marks an advance which a few years ago would have been thought impossible. Nor is this the only forward step taken in South Africa. The Transvaal Municipal Commission recommended the adoption of proportional representation in municipal elections, and the Government embodied this recommendation in an Act passed in June 1909. The first elections under this Act took place with complete success on 27 October 1909, in Johannesburg and Pretoria, each of these towns being polled as a single constituency.


In Canada, although the movement has not taken so active a form as elsewhere, the Government consented in March 1909, on the motion of Mr. F.D. Monk, K.C., to the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons for the purpose of investigating methods of proportional representation. Further, the Trades and Labour Congress, the chief organization of this kind in Canada, the Toronto District Labour Council, and the Winnipeg District Trades Council, employ the proportional method in the election of their committees.


In the fight for the more popular control of politics in the United States proportional representation will apparently play no mean part. The object of the People’s Power League of Oregon is to free the representative assemblies of the State from the domination of political bosses, and an amendment to the constitution, providing for the adoption of proportional representation was, on the initiative of this League, submitted to the electorate in 1908 and carried with a large majority. The Oregon Legislature, which met in January 1909, was bitterly opposed to the change, and refused to pass the Representation Bill which was required to give effect to the decision of the electorate. A new proportional representation amendment, which was self-enactive, was submitted to the popular vote in November 1910, in conjunction with other proposed constitutional changes, but failed to meet with approval owing to the unpopularity of the measures with which it was combined, the most striking of which was a six-year term for the legislature. There may be a long struggle for supremacy between the “machine” and the reformers, but in that revival of interest which is being taken throughout the United States in the conduct and working of representative institutions it can be confidently predicted that the reform of the existing methods of election will take a prominent place.

_The United Kingdom._

In the United Kingdom the Proportional Representation Society, founded in 1884, was revived in 1905, and since its revival has secured the adherence of a considerable number of members of Parliament. The Royal Commission on Electoral Systems, appointed in December 1908, was the outcome of its activity and, although this Commission did not recommend the immediate application of proportional representation to the House of Commons, its Report marks a very considerable advance in the history of the movement in this country.[9] The Commission reported that there would be much to be said in favour of proportional representation as a method for the constitution of an elective Second Chamber, and intimated its approval of this method of election for municipalities. The views taken by the Commission in respect of an elective Second Chamber and municipalities have found expression elsewhere. The Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Lords, presided over by Lord Rosebery, recommended that the election of Lords of Parliament to represent the hereditary Peerage should be by the cumulative vote or any other scheme of proportionate election,[10] and since this Report was issued all proposals for the introduction of an elected element into the House of Lords have recognized the need for an adequate representation of minorities.[11] The Municipal Representation Bill, introduced by Lord Courtney of Penwith, was passed by the House of Lords in 1908 after careful examination by a select Committee of that House, whilst a motion, moved by Mr. Aneurin Williams, on 30 March 1910, in the House of Commons, in favour of applying the system to municipal elections was carried without opposition.

_The success of proportional representation in practice._

The movement in favour of more accurate methods of election is becoming world-wide in its scope, and the brief summary[12] already given of the progress made in recent years furnishes in itself abundant proof of the practicability of proportional representation. In every country in which the new methods have been introduced fears were expressed that it would be impossible for the average elector to fulfil the new duties required of him, and that returning officers would collapse under the weight of their new responsibilities. The same apprehension still exists in England, and it may therefore be desirable to refer in greater detail to the experience of those countries in which the new methods have been put to the test of popular elections. Nowhere do we find that the new systems of voting have presented any serious difficulty to the electors, and although the task imposed upon the returning officers has been in some cases unnecessarily severe, yet they have not only carried out their new duties with credit, but have made the introduction of the new system a brilliant success. After the first elections in Geneva, in November 1892, the journal _Le Génevois_, which had fought desperately against the introduction of the reform, stated that the counting of the votes had been quickly and correctly carried out. “We readily acknowledge,” it added, “that in this matter we were greatly deceived.” “From the point of view of practicability,” wrote the _Journal de Genève_, “the new system has been a brilliant success.” _La Suisse_ declared that the outstanding triumph of the day was proportional voting. The first elections in the canton of Bale-town were equally successful. “The elections,” said the late Professor Hagenbach-Bischoff, “took place on 26 June 1905; the polling places were open till 2 P.M., the counting was finished at 7 P.M., so that the newspapers were able to publish the results the same evening. Everything went off well, and the journals have acknowledged the great success of proportional representation.”

Six General Elections have taken place in Belgium since the law of 1899, and now no one in the country speaks of the impracticability of proportional representation. Count Goblet d’Alviella states that “all the objections that were brought against the system before its introduction have been set at naught. The proportional method instead of complicating, as was foretold, both the voting and the counting, has worked with greater ease than the old one. The electors understood at once what they were to do, and the counters made fewer mistakes than before.” Wurtemberg furnishes another instance of the ease with which the new system can be introduced. _Der Beobachter_, a leading journal of Stuttgart, stated that: “The new electoral system, which only a short time ago was unknown to the electors, worked without a hitch in the whole country, just as it worked a few weeks ago in Stuttgart. The first feeling is one of surprise. The number of votes was enormous; the candidates were numerous, the ballot papers from the different districts were in various forms, and yet the whole machine, from the district officials to the employees of the Government office, who collected the results, worked with promptitude and ease. The next feeling is one of pleasure at the complete success of this first experiment in proportional representation on a large scale in the German Empire.”

The success of the first elections in Finland, in which more than half the voters exercised the franchise for the first time, was equally complete. According to the account of a Finnish journalist[13]: “The first election under the new system took place on 15 and 16 March 1907. The total electorate amounts to some 1,300,000 people, or 47 per cent, of the whole population. Of these about 887,000, or nearly 64 per cent., polled. In the more thickly-populated electoral divisions the percentage was much higher: thus, in the Nyland division, which comprises Helsingfors, it was 74.2 per cent.; in several polling districts as many as 95 and even 98 per cent, came to the polling station. The often-used argument against proportional representation, that the system is too involved to be understood by the average voter, was in Finland completely refuted. The number of spoilt ballot papers in the whole country probably is less than 1 per cent.; in the Nyland division, the largest of all, returning twenty-three members, the ballot paper contained ninety-five candidates, and yet only 0.59 per cent, were spoilt.” Small as this number is, the official returns for the succeeding elections show a still smaller percentage. In November 1910 the number of spoilt papers throughout the country amounted to .25 per cent, of the whole. The first elections in Sweden were equally successful. There was only one spoilt paper in the elections witnessed by the author at Carlskrona in May 1910.

Nor have English-speaking peoples shown themselves less able to adapt themselves to new voting methods. An official report presented by the chief returning officer of Tasmania to the Senate of the Australian Commonwealth[14] contains convincing evidence as to the practicability of the single transferable vote for the purpose of parliamentary elections. The report deals with the election of members of the Commonwealth Senate and House of Representatives in 1901 by means of the single transferable vote. For this purpose the State of Tasmania was treated as a single constituency. The percentage of spoilt papers due to the new system of voting was 1.44 in the Senate elections and 1.80 in the election of the House of Representatives, but the returning officer adds that “this would have been much less had it not been that the old defective system previously in force in Tasmania required the actual scoring out of every rejected candidate instead of, as in most countries, the marking of a cross or sign only against those candidates who were selected. Had this better form of marking been in practice in Tasmania previous to the introduction of the Hare system of voting, it is probable that there would be very few invalid papers due to the Hare system of marking with preference numbers.” Professor Jethro Brown, in describing these first elections, states that “the work of the returning officer, whilst less simple than that of the elector, demands no exceptional qualifications; he need display the industry of an average clerk–scarcely more.”[15] The more recent elections in Tasmania, those of 1909, were carried out with equal ease. The percentage of spoilt ballot papers due to all causes was 2.86, and this percentage compared favourably with the number of spoilt papers in the election of 1906, in which the majority system of voting was used.[16]

The Transvaal municipal elections also afford excellent evidence of the ease with which the new system of voting can be introduced. Most of the electors made their first acquaintance with the system during the electoral campaign. In Pretoria the number of spoilt papers due to all causes amounted to 38 out of a total of 2852, or 1.33 per cent., while the number of spoilt papers which could be attributed to the new system was only 27, or less than 1 per cent. The percentage of spoilt papers at Johannesburg was larger, but it must be remembered that the electorate in this town is perhaps as cosmopolitan as any in the world. At some of the public meetings addresses were given in English, Dutch, and Yiddish, and the task of instructing the electors in their new duties was considerably more difficult than in a more homogeneous constituency. Nevertheless the number of spoilt papers due to all causes was only 367 out of a total number of 12,155, or 3 per cent., whilst the number of spoilt papers attributable to the new system was 285, or 2.35 per cent. Moreover, the returning officer was very strict in his decisions as to the validity of papers, so that the number of spoilt papers attributable to the new system included all those in which voters had in any way departed from the letter of the instructions. The press bore striking testimony to the success of the elections. The _Transvaal Leader_ declared that “the consensus of competent opinion is that the system is a perfect success, considered as electoral machinery…. The municipal elections have demonstrated that every section can secure that amount of representation which it can justly claim.” The _Rand Daily Mail_ expressed the view that “…Both here, and in Pretoria, it may claim to have proved a success. The ten councillors elected under it here may fairly claim to be representative of every shade of public opinion…. We should like to see it extended to all municipalities, and ultimately to parliamentary elections.” The _Johannesburg Star_ stated that “The authors may fairly congratulate themselves that they have proved it practicable in working and fair in results. The business of counting the votes and allotting the preferences was sure to be a slow one at the first time of asking, but there was no hesitation and no confusion. The proceedings in the Wanderer’s Hall went forward with the steady certainty of clockwork…. The whole trial was a high one in a town like this with a considerable element of illiterate voters; but taking it all through we have no hesitation in saying that the working of the new system was a conspicuous and unqualified success.”

_An election by miners_.]

After such a mass of testimony as to the satisfactory working of proportional methods in parliamentary elections, it is perhaps hardly necessary to refer to the success of those model elections carried out from time to time by the Proportional Representation Society in England.[17] Yet it may be as well to recall the novel and entirely successful experiment, organized in 1885, by Mr. Albert Grey, M.P. (now Earl Grey, Governor-General of Canada). “Mr. Grey,” according to the account in _The Times_[18], “was returning officer, and was assisted in the count by thirty miners–a body of utterly untrained men whose hands, accustomed by daily usage to the contact of pickaxe and shovel, were new and strange to the somewhat delicate task of fingering and separating flimsy ballot papers. They had received no instructions before they were assembled in the room as to the duties they would be required to transact, and the expedition, good-humour, and correctness with which they got through the several stages of the count justly earned for them the admiration of those who had come from a distance, as well as the compliment which Mr. Grey deservedly paid them at the conclusion of the day’s proceedings.” On this occasion some 6645 papers were counted, the number of spoilt votes being 44, considerably less than 1 per cent. The election is of interest as the members of Northumberland Miners’ Association have ever since that date used the transferable vote in the election of their agents.

To demonstrate the practicability of proportional representation does not, however, dispose of all of the objections which have been urged against the system, but before dealing with these objections it will perhaps be useful to outline those schemes which have emerged so successfully from the test of popular elections. These methods, although they vary in detail, range themselves under two heads–the single transferable vote and the system of lists. The first of these systems–the single transferable vote–bases representation upon electors who may, if they so desire, group themselves into parties, whereas the list systems base representation upon parties as such. And as the single transferable vote, in basing representation upon electors follows English traditions, we will begin with the consideration of this system.

[Footnote 1: The story of the introduction of proportional representation into the Canton of Ticino is told in full by Professor Galland in _La Démocratie Tessinoise et la Représentation Proportionnelle_ (Grenoble, 1909).]

[Footnote 2: The application was extended in 1892, 1895, and 1898 to the election of the Executive Council, of jurors and of Communal Councils. In 1904, however, when the Liberals were in a majority, a change was made in the election of the Executive Council. The proportional system, which had given them only three seats out of five, was replaced (for the election of Executive Councils) by the limited vote. Under the new system, which is less favourable to the minority, the Liberals obtained four out of five seats.]

[Footnote 3: Goblet d’Alviella, _La Représentation Proportionnelle en Belgique_, p. 92.]

[Footnote 4: No. 2376, _Chambre des Députés, Huitième Législature_, 1905.]

[Footnote 5: No. 883, _Chambre des Deputes, Neuvième Legislature_, 1907. (See App. X.)]

[Footnote 6: _The Finnish Reform Bill of_ 1906. The new method of voting is described in Appendix IV.]

[Footnote 7: The Russian Duma has since passed a law (1910) by which the powers the Finnish Diet have been considerably curtailed.]

[Footnote 8: The Swedish system is described in Appendix III.]

[Footnote 9: Report of Royal Commission on Electoral Systems, 1910 (Cd. 5163).]

[Footnote 10: House of Lords Report, 1908 (234), par. 18.]

[Footnote 11: In the article, “Two Chambers or One,” in _The Quarterly Review,_ July 1910, the writer recommends that elected members, if introduced into the House of Lords, should be chosen in large constituencies by a system of proportional representation. Professor Ramsay Muir in _Peers and Bureaucrats_ advocates the formation of a new Upper House, wholly elected under a proportional system.]

[Footnote 12: This summary is necessarily incomplete; the list of countries is continually lengthening. Uruguay has adopted a form of minority representation (1910); Lisbon and Oporto, under the electoral scheme of the new Portuguese government, will choose representatives by a proportional system (1911); a new movement, under the leadership of Prince Teano, has arisen in Italy.]

[Footnote 13: _The Daily Chronicle_ 1 June 1907.]

[Footnote 14: Reprinted in Report on Municipal Representation Bill, House of Lords, 1907 (132), p. 125.]

[Footnote 15: _The New Democracy_, p. 47.]

[Footnote 16: The percentage in the Federal Senate election of 1906 was 4.48; in the election of the House of Representatives, 3.94. A full report on the General Election of 30 April 1909 has been published by the Tasmanian Government–Tasmania, 1909, No. 34.]

[Footnote 17: See Chapter VII.]

[Footnote 18: _The Times_, 26 January 1885.]



“The law regulating the form of voting may be thus expressed. Every vote shall be given on a document setting forth the name of the candidate for whom it is given; and if the vote be intended, in the events provided for by this Act, to be transferred to any other candidate, or candidates, then the names of such other candidate, or candidates, must be added in numerical order.”–Thomas Hare, _The Election of Representatives_ (Fourth edition, 1873)

The single transferable vote was the distinguishing characteristic of the scheme of electoral reform proposed by Hare in 1857, but it was associated with the proposal to treat the whole kingdom as a single constituency. The later advocates of this new method of voting have recommended its application to constituencies of more moderate size, such as counties and large towns, and in this form the system has found a more ready acceptance and has been used with success in parliamentary elections.

_Its present application_.]

The first application of the single transferable vote took place in Denmark[1] in 1855, and it is still being used under the Constitution of 1867 in the election of members of the Danish Upper House. It is also used, as provided by the South Africa Act of 1909, in the elections of the Senate of the United Parliament and in the election of the Executive Committees of the Provincial Councils. In each of these cases the electorates are small, and the electors possess special qualifications. The Danish Upper House is elected in two stages, the transferable vote being used only in the final stage in which electors of the second degree alone take part. In South Africa the members of the first Senate were elected by members of the local parliaments of the several Colonies,[2] and the Executive Committees of the Provincial Councils by members of the Councils. The system has, however, been subjected to the test of popular parliamentary elections in Tasmania and of municipal elections in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Ever since the publication of Hare’s scheme, proposals for proportional representation have been associated in English-speaking countries with the idea of a transferable vote. Hare’s proposals were warmly endorsed by John Stuart Mill first in _Representative Government_, and again in a memorable speech delivered in the House of Commons on 30 May 1867, when he moved an amendment to the Electoral Reform Bill.[3] Mill’s amendment was defeated, but he retained to the full his faith in the great value and need of the improved method of voting, as the following passage from his _Autobiography_ shows: “This great discovery,” said he, “for it is no less, in the political art, inspired me, as I believe it has inspired all thoughtful persons who have adopted it, with new and more sanguine hopes respecting the prospects of human Society, by freeing the form of political institutions towards which the whole civilized world is manifestly and irresistibly tending from the chief part of what seemed to qualify and render doubtful its ultimate benefits. … I can understand that persons, otherwise intelligent, should, for want of sufficient examination, be repelled from Mr. Hare’s plan by what they think the complex nature of its machinery. But any one who does not feel the want which the scheme is intended to supply; any one who throws it over as a mere theoretical subtlety or crochet, tending to no valuable purpose and unworthy of the attention of practical men, may be pronounced an incompetent statesman, unequal to the politics of the future.”[4]

_An English movement_.]

The English advocates of proportional representation who have succeeded Mill have equally favoured the single transferable vote. This system was embodied in the Bill introduced into the House of Commons in 1872 by Mr. Walter Morrison, Mr. Auberon Herbert, Mr. Henry Fawcett, and Mr. Thomas Hughes; it was advocated in the important debates which took place in the House of Commons in 1878 and 1879; and the Proportional Representation Society, founded in 1884 in view of the Electoral Reform Bill of that year, created, under the leadership of Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Leonard Courtney, a strong movement in its favour. Owing to the agreement between the leaders of the Liberal and Conservative parties in favour of single-member constituencies this movement had no immediate result. Since its revival in 1905 the Proportional Representation Society has continued to press the claims of the single transferable vote, and with some success. The practicability of the system was admitted by the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to examine the Municipal Representation Bill introduced into that House by Lord Courtney in 1907; the model elections organized by the Society in 1906, 1908, and 1910,[5] have to some extent familiarized the British public with its details; it found, as already mentioned, a place in the South African Constitution of 1909, whilst the Royal Commission on Electoral Systems reported in 1910 that “of schemes for producing proportional representation we think that the transferable vote would have the best chance of ultimate acceptance.”

_The system in brief_.]

What then is the single transferable vote, and how does it help to secure a true representation of the electors? Its mechanism and advantages will best be understood by a comparison with the existing system. The city of Birmingham is at present divided into seven single-member constituencies, with the result that the majority in each of these constituencies secures a representative, while the minority in each case is unrepresented. Suppose there were in Birmingham 40,000 Unionist, 20,000 Liberal, and 10,000 Labour voters: it might easily happen that the Unionists would be in a majority in each of the seven divisions and, if so, the 40,000 Unionist electors would obtain the seven seats and the remaining 30,000 voters none. The transferable vote, as will presently appear, would enable these 70,000 citizens to group themselves into seven sections of equal size, each returning one member, so that there would be four Unionist groups returning four members, two Liberal groups returning two members and one Labour group returning one member; and this is the ideal representation of such a community.

_Large constituencies_.]

In order to achieve this result several changes in electoral mechanism are required. In the first place, Birmingham, instead of being divided into seven constituencies, must be polled as one constituency, otherwise the necessary grouping could not take place. This change is not in itself sufficient, because if Birmingham were polled as one constituency electing seven members, and if each elector could give, as with the “block” vote, one vote apiece to seven candidates, then the seven nominees of the majority would all receive a higher number of votes than the seven nominees of the minority. In the numerical case cited above, each Unionist candidate would command 40,000 votes, each Liberal 20,000, and each Labour candidate 10,000, and the largest party would win all the seats.

_The single vote_.]

It is therefore necessary, however many may be the number of members to be elected, to limit the voting power of each elector to one vote–hence the name “the single vote.” An obvious result of this limitation is that if a group numbering 10,000 electors concentrates its support upon one man, then the group is certain of returning that candidate, because not more than six equally large groups can be formed out of the remaining electors. With open voting the grouping of electors could be arranged with comparative ease, for if more electors than were sufficient to constitute his group desired to vote for a particular candidate, those who arrived late at the poll could be asked to give their votes to another candidate, and so help to build up another group of the requisite size. Or, if a candidate was receiving so little support that he had no chance of election, the small group that had gathered round him could be disbanded and these electors, instead of having their votes wasted, could make their selection from among the other candidates available. In this way seven groups could be formed, each of which would obtain a representative.[6]

_The vote made transferable_.]

As, however, the ballot is secret and the result of the voting is not known until the close of the poll, some provision must be made to facilitate the equal grouping of the electors upon which fair representation depends. This will be made clear by an example. Were Mr. Joseph Chamberlain one of the Unionist candidates for Birmingham, the group of voters who would record their votes for him would probably considerably exceed the number required for his election. His Unionist colleagues might, in consequence, find themselves left without adequate support, and the party might fail to secure its fair share of the representation. In order to prevent a mischance of this kind the very simple device has been adopted of making the vote transferable. By this means the necessary accuracy in grouping is secured automatically.

_How votes are transferred_.]

The transferable vote enables the elector to instruct the returning officer to whom his vote is to be transferred in the event of his first favourite _either_ receiving more support than he requires _or_ receiving so little as to have no chance of election. Continuing the example already given, an elector who desired to vote for Mr. Chamberlain would place on the ballot paper the figure 1 against his name. If, in addition, he placed the figures 2, 3, &c. against the names of other candidates in the order of his choice, these figures would instruct the returning officer, in the event of Mr. Chamberlain obtaining more votes than were necessary to secure his election, as to whom the vote was to be transferred. The votes given to Mr. Chamberlain in excess of the number required for his election would thus be rendered effective. They would be used and not wasted. If, on the other hand, an elector had recorded his vote for a candidate who, after all excess votes had been transferred, was found to be at the bottom of the poll, the returning officer would similarly give effect to the wishes of the elector as recorded on the ballot paper by transferring the vote to the elector’s second choice. Again the vote would not be wasted, but would be used in building up a group sufficiently large to merit representation.

The ideas which have led up to the single transferable vote are, therefore, of a simple character. Constituencies returning several members are formed. A representative is given to every group of electors which attains to a definite proportion of the whole, the proportion depending upon the number of members to be returned. If a candidate receives more votes than are sufficient, _i.e._ if too large a group is formed, the surplus votes are transferred. If, after all surplus votes have been transferred, there still remain more candidates than there are vacancies, the lowest candidate on the poll is eliminated from the contest, _i.e._ the smallest group is disbanded. The transfer of surplus votes and of votes recorded for the candidates lowest on the poll are all carried out in accordance with the wishes of the electors as indicated by them on the ballot paper at the time of the poll. The proportionate representation of all the electors is secured; each party obtains the number of members to which it is entitled.

_The Quota._

A few questions will at once occur to the reader as to the application of these simple rules. How is the number of votes required for success to be determined? In what way are the surplus votes to be distributed? What is the order in which the elimination of unsuccessful candidates shall proceed? The number of votes necessary to secure the election of a candidate is called the “quota.” At first sight it would seem that this number should be ascertained, as suggested in the preceding paragraphs, by dividing the number of votes by the number of vacancies. But a smaller proportion is sufficient. Thus, in a single-member constituency a candidate has no need to poll all the votes; it is evident that if he polls more than a half he must be elected. No other candidate can equal him; the quota in this case is, therefore, one more than a half. So, in a two-member constituency the quota is one more than a third, for not more than two candidates can poll so much; in a three-member constituency, one more than a fourth, and so on. In a seven-member constituency, like that of Birmingham, the quota would be one more than an eighth. In general terms the quota is ascertained by dividing the votes polled by one more than the number of seats to be filled and adding one to the result.[7]

_A simple case._

The processes involved in distributing the votes are described at some length in the account which appears further on in this chapter of the model election organized by the Proportional Representation Society in 1908, but the method of transferring votes and deciding the result of an election may be more easily understood from a simple case. Let us imagine there are six candidates for three seats, of whom A, B, C belong to one party and X, Y, Z to another. On the conclusion of the poll the ballot papers would be sorted into heaps, or files, corresponding to the names against which the figure I had been marked, and in this way the number of votes recorded for each candidate would be ascertained. Let us assume that the result of the sorting is as follows:–

A is marked 1 upon 1801 papers, and therefore has 1801 votes B ” 1 ” 350 ” ” 350 ” C ” 1 ” 300 ” ” 300 ” X ” 1 ” 820 ” ” 820 ” Y ” 1 ” 500 ” ” 500 ” Z ” 1 ” 229 ” ” 229 ” —- —-
Total number of papers 4000 Total number of Votes 4000

As there are three seats the quota is one more than a fourth of the total of the votes polled. The total in this case is 4000, and the quota is therefore 1001.

A, having obtained more than the necessary quota of votes, is declared elected.

_The transfer of surplus votes._

It will be seen that A has obtained nearly two quotas of votes, and his supporters, in the absence of any provision for the use of his surplus votes, would not obtain the full share of representation to which they are entitled. The next step is therefore to transfer A’s surplus votes in accordance with the wishes of his supporters. These have indicated on the ballot papers to whom they desire their vote to be transferred. The different methods in which the transfer of votes can be carried out will be described, but for the present it may be assumed that the result of the operation was to transfer:

648 of the 800 surplus votes to B (a member of the same party as A) 132 ” 800 ” C (also a member of A’s party) 20 ” 800 ” Z

The votes transferred to the several candidates are added to those already obtained by them as follows:–

Original Votes. Transferred Votes. Total. B 350 + 648 = 998
C 300 + 132 = 432
X 820 nil = 820
Y 500 nil = 500
Z 229 + 20 = 249

_The elimination of the lowest unelected candidate_.]

Had any candidate, as a result of the transfer of A’s surplus votes, been raised above the quota he would have been declared elected and his surplus distributed in the manner just described. In this case no candidate, as the result of the transfer, has obtained the quota, and there are, therefore, no further surplus votes to distribute. There are, however, two vacancies still remaining unfilled, and the next operation is to distribute the voting papers of Z, who, being the lowest on the poll, is clearly out of the running. Z’s papers are sorted, as in the previous process, according to the candidates who are marked by the voters as their next preferences, and it may be supposed that the result is as follows:–

B is marked as next preference on 20 papers X ” ” 200 “
Y ” ” 29 “

These papers are then added to the heaps of the respective candidates, B, X, and Y, and, with these additions, the votes credited to each candidate may be shown thus:–

Previous Transfer of
Total. Z’s Votes. Total.
B 998 + 20 = 1018
C 432 + nil. = 432
X 820 + 200 = 1020
Y 500 + 29 = 529

Since B and X, as a result of the distribution, each obtain a quota of votes, they are declared elected, and all the vacant seats now being filled, the election is at an end.

_The result._

The candidates elected, A, B, and X, each represent a “quota” of voters. Each considerable section of the constituency is thus able to choose a representative, whilst the party to whom both A and B belong return two members, these candidates taken together having secured the support of two quotas of voters. The voters who failed to secure a representative, namely the supporters of C and Y, number less than a quota.

_Different methods of transferring surplus votes.–The Hare Method_.]

There are several methods by which surplus votes may be transferred. In the case imagined the simplest way to distribute A’s surplus votes is to take the 800 papers last filed and to sort these papers according to the second preferences indicated thereon. This method, which was recommended by the advocates of proportional representation in the movement of 1884-85, is based upon that contained in Mr. Hare’s proposals. It has, however, been objected that if some other 800 voting papers are taken the result may be different, and that in this way an element of chance is introduced. This objection is considered in detail in Appendix VI., and it will be sufficient to state here that, when large numbers of votes are dealt with and the papers are well mixed, this element of chance is negligible. But small as it is it can be eliminated by adopting more accurate methods of transferring the votes.

_The Hare-Clark method_

One of these more accurate methods was embodied in the Tasmanian Act of 1896, and also in the Municipal Representation Bill approved by the Select Committee of the House of Lords in 1907. It is known as the Hare-Clark system, its inception being due to Mr. Justice Clark, of Tasmania. With this method the surplus votes of any successful candidate are transferred to the unelected candidates in such a way that each unelected candidate marked as the voter’s next preference on the successful candidate’s papers receives a proportionate share of the surplus. Continuing with the illustration already given, the returning officer, instead of taking from A’s heap the 800 papers last filed, takes the whole of A’s heap and sorts all these papers according to the next preferences. Assume that the result is as follows:–

B is marked 2 on….. ……………… ..1296 papers C ” 2 on……… ………….. .. 264 ” Z ” 2 on…………. ………. .. 40 “

Total papers showing second preferences .. 1600

Papers on which no further preferences are shown …201

Total of A’s papers……………….. …1801

In this case there are 800 surplus votes, whilst there are in all 1600 papers on which next preferences have been marked. It is therefore clear that each of the candidates B, C, Z is entitled to receive one-half the papers on which his name has been marked as the next preference. Each of the three bundles of papers showing next preferences for B, C, Z are divided into two portions. One portion is transferred to the next preference, the other is retained for the purpose of constituting A’s quota, in which is included the papers on which A’s name is alone marked.

The complete operation is shown below:–

Candidate indicated as Number Number of Number of next Preference. of next Papers Transferred Papers Preferences. to the next Retained for Preference. A’s Quota.

B 1290 648 648 C 264 132 132
Z 40 20 20 —- — —
Total of next preferences 1600 800 800

Papers showing no
further preference 201 — 201 —- — —-

Totals 1801 800 1001

In this way each of the candidates B, C, and Z obtains in strict proportion that share of A’s surplus to which he is entitled, and, so far as this operation is concerned, the element of chance is wholly eliminated.[8]

The papers selected for transfer, however, are those last filed in the process of sorting, and should it become necessary to transfer these papers a second time there would enter in this further distribution an element of chance which, as explained in the Appendix already referred to, is so trifling as to have no practical effect upon the result unless the number of electors is small as compared with the number of members to be elected.

_The Gregory Method._

A third method, in which the element of chance is eliminated from every transfer, has been embodied in the Tasmanian Act of 1907. Whenever it is necessary to transfer surplus votes, the whole of the successful candidate’s papers on which preferences are marked are transferred, but at a reduced value. In the example given the whole of A’s papers on which next preferences had been marked for B, C, and Z would be carried forward to those candidates, but each paper would be transferred at the value of one-half, the remaining portion of the value of each paper having been used for the purpose of electing A. This method is known as the fractional, or Gregory, method of transfer, having been first suggested by Mr. J. B. Gregory of Melbourne, in 1880. The regulations for the conduct of elections contained in the Tasmanian Act are given in Appendix VIII.

The committee which investigated the working of this system as applied to the Tasmanian General Election of 1909, made a very valuable comparison between the rules contained in the Municipal Representation Bill[9] and the more exact rules of the Tasmanian Act. A fresh scrutiny, based on the rules of the Municipal Representation Bill, was made of all the ballot papers used in that election. It was found that in each district the same candidates were excluded in the same order and the same candidates returned as at the actual election. The same results would, therefore, have been attained and much labour saved if the rules of the Municipal Representation Bill had been used. This committee, however, in view of the fact that the more exact method had already been established in Tasmania, and that the ascertainment of the results only involved an expenditure of a few hours more time, and that there were no data available to show the frequency of close contests in which a small change in the distribution of votes might possibly affect the result, recommended that no change should be made in the law. Still it would seem that the rules of the Municipal Representation Bill are sufficiently exact for all practical purposes except where the number of electors is small. The fractional transfer is of course the most perfect from the mathematical point of view, but the Royal Commission on Electoral Systems, after a careful examination of its working, report that “we agree with the Proportional Representation Society in regarding the additional labour involved as greater than it is worth.”[10]

Where the number of electors is small, however, it is not only desirable to carry out the transfers with the exactness prescribed by the Tasmanian rules, but in important elections, such as those of the Senators in South Africa, it is desirable to introduce a further modification. In transferring the votes in ordinary elections fractions of votes are ignored, because such fractions do not affect the result. Where, however, there are only a few electors such fractions may become important, and, for this reason, the regulations (see Appendix IX.) adopted by the South African Government for the election of Senators provided that each ballot paper should be treated as of the value of 100, or, in other words, that fractions should be taken into account as far as two places of decimals. The application of these regulations presented no difficulty; the counting of the votes in each of the four Colonies proceeded without the slightest hitch.

_The Gove or Dobbs Method._

The methods of transfer hitherto described all enable the voter to maintain complete power over the disposal his vote. It has, however, been suggested that the candidate for whom the vote is recorded should have the privilege of deciding to whom it should be transferred. The suggestion was first made by Mr. Archibald E. Dobbs, who, in 1872, in a pamphlet entitled _General Representation_, made the proposal that before the date of the election each candidate should publish a schedule of the names of any of the other candidates to whom he desired his vote to be transferred. This method of transfer by schedule is usually known as the “Gove” method, and was contained in the Bill submitted by Mr. W. H. Gove to the Legislature of Massachusetts, in 1891. Section 7 of this Bill reads as follows: “Votes shall be transferred according to the request of the candidate for whom they were originally cast to a person named in the list furnished by said candidate before the date of the election.” With this method the elector in recording his vote for any one candidate would have no independent power of indicating to whom the vote should be transferred, and Mr. Dobbs, in a later pamphlet[11] has suggested that the elector should be given the option of accepting the schedule of preferences published by the candidate, or of indicating his own. Mr. Dobbs thus gets rid of the compulsory acceptance of a schedule of preferences, a proposal to which most English-speaking electors would have an instinctive dislike. But even to an optional schedule certain objections remain. The system has lost in simplicity, and the order of the candidates in the particular schedules would be determined in most cases by the party organizations.

The _transferability_ of votes is the connecting link between all these systems; it is the essential feature upon which depends the proportionate representation of the contending parties, and the mode of transfer is properly regarded as a matter upon which different views may be held. As regards the second and third systems of transfer outlined above–which so far are the only ones which have been put into practice–experience confirms the theoretical conclusions of mathematicians that, save in the case of small electorates, both methods yield the same result. The second method was that used by the Proportional Representation Society for the purpose of its model elections, and is now applied in the election of Municipal Councils in Johannesburg and Pretoria. A description of the Model Election of 1908 will serve to illustrate the various processes involved in the sorting and counting of votes.

_The model election of 1908._

In this election it was assumed that the voters in a constituency returning five members were asked to make their choice among twelve candidates. These candidates were all well-known political men, and were chosen with an attempt at impartiality from the Liberal, the Unionist, and the Independent Labour parties. As no Irish newspaper was publishing the ballot paper, no Nationalist was included.[12] This ballot paper, a copy of which appears on page 147, was sent, accompanied by a short explanatory article, for publication to, and appeared in, the following newspapers: _The Times, The Morning Post, The Spectator, The Nation, The Daily News, The Financial News, The Manchester Guardian, The Yorkshire Post, The Yorkshire Daily Observer, The Western Morning News, The Western Daily Mercury, The Glasgow Herald, The Dundee Advertiser, The Woolwich Pioneer_, and _The Labour Leader_. Readers of the newspapers were asked to cut out the ballot paper, mark it and return it to Caxton Hall by the first post on the morning of Tuesday, 1 December 1908. Ballot papers were also circulated independently among members of the Proportional Representation Society and their friends. About 18,000 papers were returned by newspaper readers, and about 3700 by members of the Society and their friends. In all a constituency of 21,690 electors was formed, a number whose votes were enough, but not too many, for counting in a single evening.




In this Illustrative Election FIVE members are to be elected for a single constituency, such as Leeds. The following TWELVE Candidates are supposed to have been nominated.

Order of
Preference. Names of Candidates

……….. ASQUITH, The Rt. Hon. H. H.

……….. BALFOUR, The Rt. Hon. A. J.

……….. BURT, The Rt. Hon. Thomas

……….. CECIL, Lord Hugh

……….. HENDERSON, Arthur

……….. JONES, Leif


……….. LLOYD GEORGE, The Rt. Hon. D.

……….. LONG, The Rt. Hon. Walter H.

……….. MACDONALD, J. Ramsay

……….. SHACKLETON, David

……….. SMITH, F.E.


A. _Each Elector has one vote_, and one vote only.

B. _The Elector votes_

(a) By placing the figure 1 opposite the name of the candidate _he likes best_.

He is also invited to place

(b) The figure 2 opposite the name of his _second choice,

(c) The figure 3 opposite the name of his _third choice_, and so on, numbering as many candidates as he pleases in the order of his preference.

_N.B._–The vote will be spoilt if the figure 1 is placed opposite the name of more than one candidate.

* * * * *

This Ballot Paper should be filled in and returned not later than _Tuesday_, first post, 1 _December_ 1908, in open envelope (halfpenny stamp), addressed to

THE RT. HON. LORD AVEBURY, Caxton Hall, Westminster, S.W.

_The counting of the votes. General Arrangements_.

The votes were counted at the Caxton Hall, Westminster, on the evening of Thursday, 3 December. Unfortunately, it was not found possible for all the newspapers to reproduce the ballot paper in its exact dimensions, and the unevenness in the sizes of the papers, which would not occur in a real election, caused some trouble to the counters. The method on which the room was arranged may best be gathered from the plan shown on next page.


In the centre of the room was the sorting table, where the votes were in imagination discharged from the ballot boxes. At this table were stationed a number of helpers, chiefly Post Office sorters, who through Mr. G. H. Stuart, of the Postmen’s Federation, and Mr. A. Jones, of the Fawcett Association, had kindly volunteered their services. Here also were a dozen sets of pigeon-holes, each set having twelve compartments, and each compartment being labelled with the name of a candidate. As soon as the count began, the sorters started sorting the ballot papers according to the names marked 1, placing in each candidate’s compartment the papers in which his name was so marked, and setting aside spoilt or doubtful papers. Printed instructions to the sorters had been issued, thus:–

1. Sort the ballot papers according to the names marked 1.

2. Place spoiled or doubtful papers on top of the case (right-hand side).

As the papers were sorted the two assistants supervising these processes took them to the small tables (checking and counting tables) ranged on either side of the sorting table. These tables were appropriated to the various candidates, and when it was expected that a candidate would poll a large number of votes–_e.g.,_ in the cases of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Balfour–several tables were allotted to him. At each of these tables sat two counters who acted in accordance with the following instructions:–

1. Count the papers into bundles of fifty.

2. See that the figure 1 appears against the name of the candidate whose papers are being counted.

3. Place mis-sorts at the side of the table.

4. Count each bundle twice.

5. Place on the top of each bundle a coloured slip bearing the candidate’s name (already printed).

6. Note the final bundle with the number of papers therein contained.

The counters thus checked the accuracy of the sorters’ work, and labelled the bundles of each candidate’s votes with a card of a distinctive colour bearing his name. These bundles of votes were then taken to the returning officer’s table, where there awaited them a row of twelve deep, three-sided open boxes, each labelled with the name of a candidate. The returning officer’s assistants at this table made up the bundles of 50 into parcels of 500, and ascertained the total number of votes for each candidate, carefully keeping each candidate’s papers in his own allotted box.

Lastly, the results as ascertained were shown on large blackboards. If and whenever any doubt arose as to the validity of a vote, it was taken to the returning officer by the supervisors and adjudicated upon by him. The accuracy of the sorting may be judged by the fact that when the 9043 votes attributed to Mr. Asquith on the first count were subsequently analyzed, it was found that only one paper was wrongly placed to his credit, a Liberal vote which should have gone first to Mr. Lloyd George.

As to these arrangements, one suggestion may be made for the guidance of future returning officers: it was found in practice that the work at the returning officer’s table was too heavy for the two assistants to keep pace with the rapidity with which the votes were sorted and counted. Two assistants are required for the purpose of keeping a record of the various processes; two others for receiving and distributing the ballot papers.

_The first count._

The first duty of the returning officer, as already explained, was to ascertain the total number of votes polled by each candidate, each ballot paper being a vote for the candidate marked 1 thereon. This was a simple task, which took about an hour and a quarter, and yielded the following result:–

Asquith (Liberal) 9,042
Balfour (Unionist) 4,478
Lloyd George (Liberal) 2,751
Macdonald (Labour) 2,124
Henderson (Labour) 1,038
Long (Unionist) 672
Hugh Cecil (Unionist Free Trader) 460 Shackleton (Labour) 398
Burt (Liberal) 260
Leif Jones (Liberal) 191
Smith (Unionist) 164
Joynson-Hicks (Unionist) 94
Total 21,672

_The Quota._

It will be seen that, with this method of election, the general result, showing the relative strength of the parties, can be quickly ascertained, but, some time elapses before the definitive result, with the names of all the successful candidates, can be published. The first step necessary in determining which candidates were successful was to ascertain the _quota_, and this, in accordance with the rule above stated,[13] was found by dividing the total number of votes by six and adding one to the result. The number was found to be 3613, and the table given above shows that on the first count Mr. Asquith and Mr. Balfour had each polled more than a quota of votes. Both these candidates were, in accordance with the rules, declared elected, and, as some misapprehension prevails on this point, it should be stated that the order of seniority of members elected under this system would be determined by the order in which they were declared elected. In this case Mr. Asquith and Mr. Balfour would be the senior members in the order named.

_The transfer of surplus votes._

The peculiar feature of the single transferable vote now came into play. Both Mr. Asquith and Mr. Balfour had polled more votes than were sufficient to ensure their election, and in order that these excess votes should not be wasted and a result produced such as that already shown to be possible where the votes are not transferable, it was the duty of the returning officer to transfer these surplus votes, and in doing so to carry out strictly the wishes of the electors as indicated on their ballot papers.

The largest surplus, that of Mr. Asquith, was first dealt with, and the transfer of votes, as already mentioned, was effected in accordance with the provisions of Lord Courtney’s Municipal Representation Bill. All the votes recorded for Mr. Asquith were re-examined, all the ballot papers contained in his box being taken to the central table and re-sorted according to the next available preferences indicated by the electors. For this purpose the names of the elected candidates were removed from their former pigeon-holes, and one of the compartments vacated was marked “exhausted” and used as a receptacle for those papers which contained no available next preference. The instructions to sorters were:–

1. Sort the ballot papers according to the highest available preference.

2. When no further preference is indicated, place the ballot paper in the compartment marked “exhausted.”

The term “next available preferences” needs definition. As a rule the next preference was the candidate marked with the figure 2; but if any supporter of Mr. Asquith had indicated Mr. Balfour (already elected) as his second choice, then the elector’s third choice became the “next available preference.” The papers for each next preference were made into bundles of 50, but, instead of a coloured card with the name of the candidate, a white “transfer” card was placed with each bundle. The transfer card was marked with the name of the candidate whose papers were being re-sorted and also with the name of the candidate who had been indicated as the next available preference. The instructions issued to the counters were as follows:–

_(a)_1. Check the sorting of the papers, _i.e.,_ see that the candidate whose papers are being counted is the highest available preference.

2. Place mis-sorts at the side of the table.

_(b)_ 1. Count the papers into bundles of fifty.

2. Count each bundle twice.

3. Place on the top of each bundle a “transfer card” showing from and to whom the votes are being transferred.

4. Note each bundle with the number of papers therein contained.

These bundles were placed in a second series of open boxes on the returning officer’s table, each box being labelled with the name of a candidate and being smaller in size than the boxes containing the first preferences. The number of next available preferences for each candidate was then ascertained. It was, of course, not the duty of the returning officer to transfer all the re-sorted papers; it was necessary to retain a “quota” for Mr. Asquith; and an operation which requires some care now took place. The papers contained in each of the second series of boxes were divided into two portions, bearing in each case the same proportion to one another. One portion was transferred to the candidate who had been indicated as the next preference, and the other was placed in Mr. Asquith’s box, the portions reserved for him constituting his quota; the actual papers transferred to each next preference were those last placed in the box bearing his name. The details of this process are set forth in the table overleaf.



Distribution of the Rt. Hon. H. H. ASQUITH’s surplus.

Surplus Votes 5429

No. of Papers showing a next preference 9009

Surplus 5429 Proportion to be transferred = ————————- = —- Total of next preferences 9009

Column Headings:
A. Names of Candidates indicated as next preference. I. No. of papers on which Candidate is marked as next preference. II. No. of Votes transferred to next preference. (Fractions ignored.) III. No. of Votes retained for Mr. Asquith’s Quota.

A. I. II. III.

Balfour, The Rt. Hon. A. J. — — — Burt, The Rt, Hon. Thomas 468 282 186 Cecil, Lord Hugh 132 79 53 Henderson, Arthur 261 157 104 Jones, Leif 176 106 70 Joynson-Hicks, W. 17 10 7 Lloyd George, The Rt. Hon. D. 7,807 4,704 3,103 Long, The Rt. Hon. Walter H. 46 27 19 Madonald, J. Ramsay 51 30 21 Shackleton, David 35 21 14 Smith, F. B. 16 9 7 —– —– —–
Total of next preferences 9,009 5,425 3,584

Preferences exhausted . . 33 — 33 —– —– —–
Total 9,042 5,425 3,617[14]

This table needs, perhaps, a further word of explanation. The first column shows the result of the re-sorting of Mr. Asquith’s papers, Mr. Burt having been indicated as the next preference on 468 papers, Lord Hugh Cecil on 132 papers, and so on. The papers for each next preference were, as already staked, divided into two portions, and the second and third columns show the result of this division. The division is carried out in a strictly proportional manner, according to the following principle. If 5429 surplus votes are to be transferred from a total of 9009 unexhausted voting papers, what portion should be transferred from 468, from 132, and so on. The proper numbers, which are given in the second column, are found by a simple rule of three process; each of the numbers in the second column is obtained from the corresponding number in the first column by multiplying by the fraction 5429/9009, that being the fraction which represents the proportion of unexhausted papers to be transferred. The figures in column III., which are the votes retained in each case to make up Mr. Asquith’s quota, are obtained by subtracting the corresponding numbers in column II. from those in column I. Ten separate calculations were thus necessary, and for this part of the election it is desirable that the returning officer should have two assistants who are accustomed to figures. These should check one another’s work. In Belgium the returning officer is assisted by two “professional calculators.”

The ballot papers with the votes constituting Mr. Asquith’s quota were replaced in his original box and never touched again. The ballot papers transferred were placed in each case on the top of the papers already contained in the box of the candidate to whom the transfer was made.

As the result of the transfer of Mr. Asquith’s surplus it was found that the total of Mr. Lloyd George’s votes amounted to 7455, and as this number exceeded the quota, Mr. Lloyd George was declared elected, he being the third member chosen. Mr. Balfour’s surplus was then distributed in a similar manner. The number of votes transferred is shown in the result sheet, pp. 160-61. As Mr. Lloyd George’s total exceeded the quota, it was also necessary to dispose of his surplus. In the latter case only the papers transferred to Mr. Lloyd George, and not his original votes, were re-examined, as his surplus consisted of votes originally given to Mr. Asquith.

The poll now stood:–

Asquith (Liberal) 3,613 \
Balfour (Unionist) 3,613 > Elected Lloyd George (Liberal) 3,613 /
Macdonald (Labour) 2,387
Henderson (Labour) 2,032
Burt (Liberal) 1,793
L. Jones (Liberal) 1,396
Long (Unionist) 1,282
Cecil (Unionist Free Trade) 822 Shackleton (Labour) 683
Smith (Unionist) 258
Joynson-Hicks (Unionist) 167

Votes lost through neglect of fractions 13

It will readily be seen that these transfers have been in accordance with what might have been assumed to be the general political preferences of the electors. The Liberal surplus votes from Mr. Asquith naturally went on chiefly to Mr. Lloyd George, and the overflow from Mr. Lloyd George, after filling up his quota, went on to Mr. Burt and Mr. Leif Jones, whose positions were greatly improved in consequence, though neither obtained the quota. At the same time a formidable addition of 834 votes was given to Mr. Henderson, the votes doubtless of Liberal sympathisers with Labour; and Lord Hugh Cecil received 88 votes, presumably from moderate Liberals who lay chief stress on Free Trade. On the other hand, Mr. Balfour’s smaller Unionist surplus was divided mainly between Mr. Walter Long, who received 526 additional votes, and Lord Hugh Cecil, who received 195.

_The elimination of unsuccessful candidates_.]

After the transfer of all surplus votes had been completed, the work of the returning officer again became very simple. Three members only had been elected, two more were required, and there remained in the running nine candidates, none of whom obtained a quota of votes. Another process now began, namely the elimination of candidates at the bottom of the poll, beginning with the lowest and working upwards. The group of electors who have recorded their votes for the candidate lowest on the poll are evidently not sufficiently numerous to have a direct representative of their own. The process of elimination allows these electors to re-combine with other groups until they become part of a body large enough to be so entitled. The supporters of the lowest candidate are treated as being asked (and answering, if they care to do so, by their next preferences) the question: “The candidate of your first choice having no chance of election, to whom now of the candidates still in the running do you prefer your vote to go?” By this process, first the two candidates, Mr. Smith and Mr. Joynson-Hicks, who at this stage were at the bottom of the poll and whose combined votes were less than those of the third lowest candidate, were eliminated and their votes transferred to the next preferences of their supporters. No one was elected as a result of this operation, and accordingly the votes of Mr. Shackleton and Lord Hugh Cecil, now lowest on the poll, were transferred in the order named.

These and all other eliminations were of the same character. _All_ the papers of the eliminated candidates which showed an available next preference were transferred, and no calculations such as were required in the case of the transfer of surplus votes were needed. It will be sufficient if the details of one process–the transfer of Mr. Shackleton’s votes–are given; for the details of all other similar transfers the full table on pp. 160-61 should be consulted. The votes of Mr. Shackleton were disposed of as follows:–


Names of Candidates Number of Papers
indicated as next for each next
preference. preference.

Burt 89
Cecil 18
Henderson 233
Jones 57
Long 8
Macdonald 252

exhausted 45

Total 702

The transfers of the votes both of Mr. Shackleton and of Lord Hugh Cecil were completed, but still no fresh candidate had the quota, and Mr. Lief Jones’s 1500 votes came next for distribution. These 1500 votes might have been expected to go to Mr. Burt, the sole remaining unelected Liberal, who had already 2025 votes, and make his election practically secure. But here came a surprise; Mr. Leif Jones’s supporters (who had, of course, in most instances, come to him from Mr. Asquith and Mr. Lloyd George) had in some cases marked no further preferences, so that their votes were no longer transferable, and in many other cases had marked Mr. Henderson or Mr. Macdonald as their next preference; thus at the conclusion of this operation the result of the election was still doubtful.

Two places had still to be filled, and the poll stood:–

Asquith (Liberal) 3,613 \
Balfour (Unionist) 3,613 > Elected Lloyd George (Liberal) 3,613 /
Macdonald (Labour) 2,851
Henderson (Labour) 2,829
Burt (Liberal) 2,683
Long (Unionist) 2,035

Mr. Long’s votes had now to be distributed; the majority of his supporters were Unionists who had not marked any preference for either of the two remaining Labour candidates or for the remaining Liberal candidate, and their votes consequently were not capable of being transferred. But some 370 of Mr. Long’s supporters had shown a preference for Mr. Burt (presumably as being reckoned not so Socialistic as his competitors) as against some 27 for Mr. Macdonald and 80 for Mr. Henderson, so that the poll stood:–

Asquith (Liberal) 3,613 \
Balfour (Unionist) 3,613 > Elected Lloyd George (Liberal) 3,613 /
Burt (Liberal) 3,053
Macdonald (Labour) 2,938
Henderson (Labour) 2,910

Mr. Henderson, being at the bottom of the poll, was then eliminated, but it was unnecessary to proceed with the transfer of his votes as, after his elimination, there were only five candidates remaining, and five was the number of members to be elected. The work of the returning officer was at an end, the following candidates being elected:–

Asquith (Liberal)
Bafour (Unionist)
Lloyd George (Liberal)
Burt (Liberal)
Macdonald (Labour)

The whole process of the election is shown by the returning officers’