The scheme most commonly connected with proportional representation is called the Hare system and it is associated with the name of Thomas Hare, who formulated it in 1857 and then elaborated it in his book, the Machinery of Representation.
But Thomas Hare’s scheme cannot claim to be the first exposition of the idea of proportional representation.
The idea appeared in the French National Convention in 1793, “without leading to action.” It was further elaborated by the mathematician Gergonne in 1820 and developed independently by Thomas Wright Hill in Britain. Hill’s son took it to Australia in 1839.
In 1842, the idea gained popularity in Switzerland and Victor Considerant proposed a proportional representation system to the Council of Geneva. Two years later Thomas Gilpin brought out another plan of proportional representation.
Finally, twelve years later a Danish Minister of Finance, Carl Andrae, worked out a system resembling the Australian plan and the years following it came Thomas Hare’s publication, “The Machinery of Representation.”
The Hare system is sometimes termed Single Transferable Vote System as the surplus of votes of the candidates who are declared elected are transferred to other candidates whom it can help. Others call it Preferential System, because of the preferences which a voter is required to give to different candidates on the list.
With whatever name it may be called, this system of representation provides for the election of representatives by general ticket. The constituencies are multimember with at least three seats. No maximum is considered necessary, although Lord Courtney suggested a fifteen-member constituency as a reasonable limit.
Whatever be the number of the representatives to be returned from a constituency, each voter has only one effective vote. Every voter is, however, asked to indicate on the ballot paper his first preference or choice, second preference, third preference, against the names of the candidates. He can vote for as many candidates, by denoting his preference, as there are seats to be filled from that constituency.
The candidate in order to be elected requires a certain quota of votes. Different methods are followed to determine the quota. The simplest is to divide the number of votes cast by the number of seats to be filled from the constituency, and the quotient is taken as the quota or the number of votes necessary to elect a candidate.
For example, if the total votes cast are 8,000 and there are 8 members to be elected from that constituency, the quota necessary for election will be 1,000. But Droop suggested another method of determining the quota.
He found that in constituencies of 3 to 8 members sometimes inaccurate results were achieved in the practical operation. He suggested determining the quota by dividing the total number of votes cast by one more than the number of seats to be filled and then by adding one to
In counting the votes only the first preference or choices are counted first and a candidate securing the required quota is declared elected. His surplus votes, if any, are passed on to candidates not yet elected, in the order expressed in the preferences. The process of transferring surplus votes to the next preferences continues down the list until the necessary number of representatives has been elected.
Not only surplus votes of successful candidates are transferred to later choices, but, if need be, of those candidates as well who have secured so few votes that they have no chance of being elected at all. The idea is that no vote is to be lost. The voter is, thus, assured that if the candidate of his first choice does not require his vote his second or other choices will gain by it.
This method of proportional representation prevailed in Great Britain in the election of the members of the four University constituencies to the House of Commons. In South Africa it is used for Senatorial elections and in certain municipalities.
In India, it has not been much in vogue. Members of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) are elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. The same system is used for the Presidential election.
The obvious defects of the Hare System are that it is a complex scheme and is unintelligible to the ordinary voter. There is also the probability of mistakes to occur in counting and recounting the votes.
As it conceives of multi-member constituencies, undue advantage would be taken by party knots, cliques and sectarian combinations. It, therefore, perpetuates sharp cleavages which undermine the unity of the nation.