The Hare System of Proportional Representation


The Hare System is intended to secure the representation of every shade of the electorate’s opinion in direct proportion to its numerical strength.

What it seeks to rectify

Under the usual form of voting for a list of people for a committee or representative body where several are to be chosen, a bare majority of the votes or even a plurality is sufficient to elect. The outstanding example of this system is the method used in this country for presidential electors. Equally glaring is the inequality where but one person is chosen to office in a representative assembly. The following example of a congressional election in Indiana indicates this:

Party Votes Representatives Elected
Democratic 291,288 13
Republican 166,698 0
Progressives 127,041 0
Others 55,807 0

In this instance, while 349,546 voters, a majority, went without representation, a minority elected all the representatives. This occurs with considerable frequency in American legislative elections.

The Mechanics of the Hare System


Nominations are made by a petition signed by a stated number of voters. Candidates for the Council of the University Senate are placed in nomination by three or more members of the Senate. Any number of nominations may be made regardless of the number to be elected.

The Ballot and Method of Voting

A sample ballot is as follows:

Sample Ballot

Directions to Voters

Put the figure 1 in front of the name of your first choice. If you want to express additional choices, do so by putting the figure 2 in front of the name of your second choice, the figure 3 in front of the name of your third choice, and so on. You may express as many choices as you please, without regard to the number to be elected.

Your ballot will be counted for your first choice if it can help him or her. If it cannot help your first choice, it will be transferred to the first of your remaining choices whom it can help. You cannot hurt any of your favorites by marking lower choices for others. The more choices you express, the surer you are to have your ballot count for one of them. But do not feel obliged to express choices that you do not really have.

A ballot is spoiled if the figure 1 is put opposite more than one name or if checks are used instead of numerals to indicate choices. See the following example:
2 Jones Smith
1 Brown
5 Black
3 Green Grey
4 Wood Stone Clark Etc.

The voter in the above case has voted for five candidates in the order of his or her preference. The voter has said, in effect, “Brown is my first choice, but if her is not chosen, or if he already has enough votes to elect, I desire that you count my second choice, Jones, and so on down the list.”

The Counting of the Ballots: The Quota.

The first step in counting the ballots is to ascertain the number of first choices necessary to elect a candidate. This is obtained by the following formula:

the number of votes cast divided by (the number to be elected + 1 ) + 1 = quota

For example, in an election in which there were 425 votes cast in balloting to elect 17 members on one ballot, the quota would be:

17 + 1 +1 = 24

Remaining fractions are always discarded. The quota of 24 represents the least number of first choices a candidate may receive and still be declared elected. The extra “1” is added (after the division) because, without it, the quota would be 23, making it possible for 18 candidates each to receive 23 votes, when only 17 are to be elected.

The Counting of the Ballots: The Transfer of Votes.

The ballots are divided into piles according to the first choices indicated. It will then be found, we may suppose, that 27 have marked Jones as the first choice, that 25 have marked Brown as first choice, etc. In tabular fashion, the results might be as follows, according to the first choices marked:

27 Jones
25 Brown
14 Black
23 Green
16 Wood

Jones and Brown, having secured the quota of 24, are declared elected.

Jones has 3 more votes than needed for election. As these three ballots can no longer help Jones to be elected, they are transferred to help elect other candidates. Thus, the three ballots are transferred to the second choices indicated on each. If any of these second choices are for Brown, who also has already been elected, the third choice is given the ballot instead.

Brown’s extra votes (i.e., those in excess of 24), are then distributed according to second choice, etc.

If there are vacancies and if there are no surpluses, all the votes of the candidates securing the lowest numbers are taken from them, there being little chance of their election, and they are distributed according to their second or third or fourth choices, and so on.