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A List System with Single Candidate Preference

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Harold F. Gosnell
University of Chicago


This article is not intended as a criticism of the objectives of proportional representation. The election of the New York City council in 1937 and the seven Cincinnati council elections under the Hare system of proportional representation have undoubtedly resulted in the improvement of the caliber of the legislative bodies in those cities. The aim of this article is to suggest certain rules which may secure some of the advantages of the Hare system without a long and costly count.

American Government and Politics
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1939

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1 Annual Report [of the Board of Elections], The City of New York (1937), p. 45Google Scholar. It has been pointed out to the writer that this sum includes the salaries of two extra clerks who were not absolutely needed at every polling place. The amount is also larger than it might have been if the count had not been prolonged by the system of hiring people at $10 a day for as long as they could make the job last, instead of putting the work on a lump-sum basis.

2 It has been pointed out to the writer that the psychology of the voters may be different under a list system from under the Hare plan. Under a list plan, a great many people might think that the independents had no chance and would choose between the major party lists. Since no list system has been tried under American conditions, this remains a speculative matter.

3 Gosnell, H. F., Why Europe Votes (Chicago, 1930), p. 126Google Scholar.

4 Under both plans, the successful candidates would be: Baldwin (Republican), Carroll (Democrat), Nugent (Democrat), Spellman (Democrat), Straus (Fusion), and Vladeck (American Labor).

5 New York's First Use of P.R.—A Study in Contrast,” National Municipal Review, Vol. 27, p. 52 (Jan., 1938)Google Scholar. It has been indicated to the writer that the meaning of the word “independent” in this connection is ambiguous. Four members of the New York City Council were elected who did not have the support of the Republican, Democratic, or American Labor party. Three of the four had City Fusion party backing, but it is questionable whether the City Fusion party delivered many votes. It may be that these members were elected on their individual merits rather than as representatives of the City Fusion party. Only in Queens did the City Fusion party have a well-developed organization. In this same borough, James A. Burke, who headed the poll, represented one wing of the Democratic party, but he had no party designation after his name.

6 Some years ago, the writer anticipated the recent activity of the business machine companies in connection with the count of ballots under the Hare plan. See his A New Method for Counting Proportional Representation Ballots,” National Municipal Review, Vol. 14, pp. 397398 (July, 1925)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 The Irish Free State had a similar experience with the Hare plan when it tried to use it for the country as a whole. See Gosnell, H. F., “An Irish Free State Senate Election,” in this Review, Vol. 20, p. 117 (Feb., 1926)Google Scholar.