History and Current Use
The concept of transferable voting was first proposed by Thomas Wright Hill in 1821. The system remained unused in real elections until 1855, when Carl Andræ proposed a transferable vote system for elections in Denmark. Andræ's system was used in 1856 to elect the Danish Rigsraad, and by 1866 it was also adapted for indirect elections to the second chamber, the Landsting, until 1915.
Although he was not the first to propose a system of transferable votes, the English barrister Thomas Hare is generally credited with the conception of STV, and he may have independently developed the idea in 1857. Hare's view was that STV should be a means of "making the exercise of the suffrage a step in the elevation of the individual character, whether it be found in the majority or the minority." In Hare's original STV system, he further proposed that electors should have the opportunity of discovering which candidate their vote had ultimately counted for, to improve their personal connection with voting. This is unnecessary in modern STV elections, however, as an individual voter can discover how their vote was ultimately distributed by viewing detailed election results. This is particularly easy to do using Meek's method, where only the final weightings of each candidate need to be published.
The noted political essayist John Stuart Mill was a friend of Hare and an early proponent of STV, praising it at length in his essay Considerations on Representative Government, in which he writes, "Of all modes in which a national representation can possibly be constituted, this one affords the best security for the intellectual qualifications desirable in the representatives. At present... the only persons who can get elected are those who possess local influence, or make their way by lavish expenditure...." His contemporary, Walter Bagehot, also praised the Hare system for allowing everyone to elect an MP, even ideological minorities, but also argued that the Hare system would create more problems than it solved: " is inconsistent with the extrinsic independence as well as the inherent moderation of a Parliament – two of the conditions we have seen, are essential to the bare possibility of parliamentary government."
Advocacy of STV spread through the British Empire, leading it to be sometimes known as British Proportional Representation. In 1896, Andrew Inglis Clark was successful in persuading the Tasmanian House of Assembly to be the first parliament in the world elected by what became known as the Hare–Clark system, named after himself and Thomas Hare. H.G. Wells was a strong advocate, calling it "Proportional Representation."
Meek also considered a variant on his system which would have allowed for equal preferences to be expressed.
STV was also adopted in the first half of the 20th century to elect several city councils in the United States. More than twenty cities used STV, including Cleveland, Cincinnati and New York City. As of January 2010, it is used to elect the city council and school committee in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the park board in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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