Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fixing the Florida Legislature, pt3

Continued from Part 2.

            Parliaments work very much like Congress but with key differences in how votes are tallied, how seats are allocated, and overall produce a much closer voter representation than congress can.  Here is how they work.
            First you take the area you are working in, in this case Florida, and you divide things along existing lines into about a dozen large zones.  Each of those zones has their population measured, and they receive a percentage of the seats in parliament equal to their percentage of the population, so if there are 100 seats and an area has 8% of the population they will get 8 seats.
            The big difference comes next, instead of voting for a candidate, people vote for a party.  Each political party has a list of candidates for seats (again in this case it would be 100, or just 8 in this particular zone), people vote for the party, and the party gets a percentage of the seats based on what percentage of the votes they get, so if in the zone that has 8 seats the Democrats get 25% of the vote they get 2 seats and the Republicans get 75% of the votes they get 6.  You can even have third parties, Florida has a huge number of Independent voters, and if they all decide to go for the Libertarians then the Libertarian party would have 30%, 40%, or whatever percent of the vote that they get.

There are more than 3,000,000 voters in Florida that are neither Republicans nor Democrats, and yet there are no 3rd party representatives in either the House or Senate.  Hell, there are more registered Democrats but far less Democratic representatives... That is CORRUPT.
            This means that people's votes will count more directly on how representation is handled in the state.  If 40% of voters in an area are Democrats, their votes will still count even if 60% of the vote goes to Republicans.  There won't be any areas in which a candidate gets a landslide victory, because landslides are now a less meaningful concept.
            To help illustrate this Florida should look at some other countries to see how they function, there are many that could serve as good examples, but when doing so it is important to keep three things in mind.  1) the countries should be close in size and population so that regional representation is not really an issue (Brazil and Argentina are so large that having a legislature that focuses on regions of their countries is more advantageous to them, Florida is relatively tiny).  2) the comparable country should be democratic (thankfully there is an index for looking at such things).  3) we should be willing to break with the system to better fit the needs of Florida (these are federal governments with federal responsibilities and Florida might not need some aspects of their government).
            To that end take a look at Austria (New Zealand, Sweden, South Korea, and Uruguay might also work if additional looks are desired).

These are the voting regions of Austria.
            Austria is slightly larger than Florida with 84,000 square miles of territory, compared to Florida's 66,000.  But a smaller population of 8,500,000 compared to Florida's ballooning 19,600,000.  Austria is a member of the European Union, a massive political trade partnership that fills its home continent and defines much of the economic activity of the country.  Florida is a member of the United States a massive military and economic power which defines and mostly fills the continent it is on.  It is difficult to find a one-to-one comparison but this in my mind is pretty close.
            Austria's government is a parliament, the National Council being the largest and most powerful of the legislative bodies.  The country is carved into 9 zones (on the map) and each zone's population is measured, those zones then receive a number of seats in the parliament based on what percentage of the population they make up.  They have multiple political parties, with each having a small number of the National Council's 183 seats: Social Democratic 52, People's Party 47, Freedom Party 40, The Greens 24 , Team Stonach 11, and New Austria 9.  Notice how even smaller parties have a percentage of the seats, while in Florida no 3rd party has a seat in spite of a measurable percentage of Florida voters being in support of some 3rd party ideas.
            Austria also has a bicameral legislature.  The Federal Council is like our Senate, the smaller of the two houses.  But unlike our senate it is weaker politically and serves mostly as a redundant check on the National council, their version of the Congress.  Both sides use the proportional method of allocating votes, but even with only 62 seats to go around there are still 14 seats in the hands of smaller parties (I think that helps illustrate that even in tighter races smaller perspectives still get heard in a parliamentary system.  Since Austria is a federal government that has to deal with military decisions and treaties, having this split provides a second look at many of the country's national actions.  It serves a function, but I would not recommend this kind of split for Florida which has a narrow band of responsibilities.
            How would Florida be split up?  I will cover that in part 4.

             (If you have a criticism of what I have written, please comment.  If you like what I wrote, please share this on your various social networks and +1 it on Google+.  I would like more people to be aware of the failings of not only Florida, but State Governments all over the US, and this is as best attempt I can muster to illustrate the problems while still having enough humor that people can stomach reading the whole thing.  Thank you.)

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