Geographic Open List/Delegated (GOLD) voting

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Geographic Open List/Delegated voting (GOLD voting) is a quasiproportional voting method for electing legislators to a multi-seat body. It's the same as OL/D voting with an additional constraint that precisely one representative per area must win. It assumes the voters have been divided up into one equal-population riding (aka district or constituency) per seat being elected and that each candidate has publicly declared their preference order for the other candidates ("if I don't win, then I want the votes I hold to go to her, then him, then him, etc.").

Voters make two different choices in each race:

  1. Choose a candidate.
    • The ballot lists the candidates running locally, with their parties and their first three transfer preferences (explained below).
    • Voters may write in candidates from further away.
    • If a voter mistakenly chooses both a local candidate and a valid write-in, their vote goes to the write-in.
  2. Choose a transfer method for when your first choice is no longer in the running. There are 2 basic options:
    • Trust the voters of your chosen candidate’s party.
    • If your first choice is no longer in the running, your vote is transferred to the remaining candidates from your chosen party, in proportion to the number of direct votes they got.
    • If every voter chose this option, this would be like an “open list” voting method; that is, seats would be divided proportionally by party, and go to the highest vote-getters within the party.
    • This is the default if you vote for a local, non-independent candidate.
    • If you choose this option, your vote will never be transferred out of the party. Since independent candidates are considered to each be in a party by themselves, voters for those candidates should only choose this option if they do not want their vote to be transferred.
    • Trust the candidate (that is, the pre-declared preferences of your chosen candidate.)
    • Each candidate must publicly pre-declare ordered preferences between the other candidates. If the candidate is no longer in the running, these votes will go to the highest remaining candidate on their pre-declared preference list.
    • This is the default if you vote for a non-local and/or independent candidate.
    • If a voter mistakenly marks both transfer methods, the default applies (as if they had chosen neither).

The basic vote-counting process has 5 steps (based on Single Transferrable Voting):

  1. Tally votes
    • Each ballot counts as 1 point for the chosen candidate.
  2. Eliminate all but the top 2 candidates in each riding. Transfer those votes.
    • This makes sure that no riding is badly mis-represented just because a given party "deserves" more winners.
    • It also helps discourage voters from splintering into small single-issue parties. If a party can’t make the top two in even one locality, it won’t get seats. But those votes will still be transferred, so those voters can still be represented by a relatively sympathetic candidate from a slightly larger party.
    • There's an extra rule that candidates with over 1/3 the votes of an average riding are not eliminated in this step. This scarcely ever matters, because in order for the third candidate in a riding to have more than 1/3 of the average riding, that riding must have significantly more than the average votes. But in such a case, where many people from other ridings are choosing to spend their vote for an above-average candidate, the fact that they happen to have two above-average opponents shouldn't count against them.
  3. Find winners and transfer leftovers.
    • If V is the total number of valid (non-exhausted) votes, and S is the number of unfilled seats, then a “quota” is defined as Q=V/(S+1). This ensures that each full “quota” of voters will get a seat, with less than one “quota” of vote left unrepresented even though they still have a valid preference.
    • Any candidate with a full quota of votes at any time is elected. If their winning vote total is W>Q, then the leftover fraction (W-Q)/W of all of their votes is transferred.
    • Whenever a candidate wins, all other candidates from their riding are eliminated.
  4. Eliminate candidate with lowest total and transfer votes
    • The last candidate in a riding is not eligible for elimination.
    • See above for the transfer methods a voter can choose.
  5. If there are still seats to fill, repeat from step 3.

Proportional or semiproportional?

GOLD voting is proportional in a two-party context. If there are more than two parties, though, it is only semiproportional; smaller parties without a clear regional character may get less than their proportional share. But if that happens, their votes will not be ignored; they will have a say on which of the larger parties gets more seats, and even on which candidates from that allied larger party win. Thus, a smaller party will be able to promote their issues by favoring those candidates who prioritize those issues.

Note that other proportional voting methods sometimes are used with extra rules designed to stop smaller parties from winning seats. For instance, in the German mixed-member "proportional" method, a party that gets less than 5% or 2 direct seats does not get a proportional allotment of seats. Thus, technically speaking, even the German system is really only semiproportional, not truly proportional.


The advantages of this method are as follows. First, the advantages common to all proportional representation methods:

  • Equality: partisan gerrymandering is impossible, and each party gets its fair share of seats.
  • Representation: Almost all voters are truly represented; even if you are a minority in your district, your vote helps elect a candidate of a party you sympathize with.

This method also keeps all the strong points of the current voting system. (The current system is horrible in general, but it still has its strong points.)

  • Simplicity: you just choose one candidate, and the ballot is short.
  • Accountability: voters, not parties, choose who is elected.
  • Unity: discourages splinter parties, because candidates without a strong local base of support are eliminated up-front.
  • Geography: Everyone has a representative who lives relatively close to them.

Similar methods

OL/D voting: basically the same, but without the constraint of one candidate per riding, and with a slightly weaker elimination rule.

Proportional 3RD voting: a similar system, for a nonpartisan context without ridings.