Want to understand the essence of proportional representation in a minute or two? Look no farther than the results of the Australian Federal elections held on Saturday 21 August.
Like the US, Australia has a two-house legislature, with a Senate with 12 seats per state (and four territorial seats), half of which is elected at time, and a House of Representatives with 150 seats, all elected at once.
The Senate uses proportional representation (STV-PR), with six senators at a time elected from each state. The House of Representatives uses IRV with single-member districts: not proportional.
In the current preliminary results, the Greens received 11.4% of the first-place House votes, but elected only 1 of 150 seats: 0.67% of the seats.
In the Senate, the Greens received about 13% of the first-place votes, and ended up with about 12% of the seats (9 of 76).
An eighth of the population is left with virtually no voice in the non-proportional House, but with an eighth of the seats in the proportional Senate.
It’s really as simple as that. As Ernest Naville wrote in 1865, “In a democratic government the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”