Front Page Titles (by Subject) 151.: The Cumulative Vote 13 FEBRUARY, 1871 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873
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151.: The Cumulative Vote 13 FEBRUARY, 1871 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The Cumulative Vote
Sessional Proceedings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, IV (1870-71), 234-5 (fascicle for 16 February). The meeting was devoted to a paper by Thomas Hare, “On the Suggestions Afforded by the Application of the Cumulative Vote, and by the Other Incidents of the School Board Elections, for Improvement in the Constitution of Municipal and Local Governing Bodies” (ibid., pp. 215-26). Mill was in the Chair, and, as was customary, made the concluding remarks.
the chairman said that a more satisfactory debate than this he had not often had the pleasure of hearing. There was not one speaker who did not show that he was entitled to be heard on the subject, and he thought that there was not one who had not contributed something useful to the debate. It was also extremely satisfactory to find that it was not necessary to defend Mr. Hare’s system; no speaker had contested it. On the contrary, every one had shown a strong sense of its importance. The great principle of Mr. Hare’s system was that one member of the community was entitled to as great a share in the representation as another—that the representation ought not to be engrossed by one portion of the community because it was the most numerous, but that every portion was entitled to be represented in the ratio of its numbers. This was the principle of Mr. Hare’s system, and such a general assent had been given to it, such a strong sense has been manifested of its importance, there being no contrary opinion expressed, he did not think it at all necessary that he should use any argument, or give any summary on this point. He should only touch on a few other points that had been adverted to. The cumulative vote is, as everybody must see, a very imperfect mode of obtaining—partially—or a part of the results that would flow from Mr. Hare’s system. Other systems have been proposed by several speakers which, in their opinion, though still imperfect, would approximate more nearly than the cumulative vote to the results which Mr. Hare aimed at; but he (the speaker) thought that these plans, if more closely considered, would be found not to approach so near as the cumulative vote. The disadvantages which they all have—which the cumulative vote has—is that a number of votes are thrown away. No doubt if Mr. Hare’s plan were adopted, the cumulative vote might be cured of a certain portion of this inconvenience. He did not know that it would be necessary to spread the election over so long a period as contemplated. It was suggested that there should be a periodical statement of the poll, as a way in which the cumulative vote might be made less a failure in the way of a waste of power. Other speakers spoke as if it were an easy matter to turn over surplus votes to another candidate, but no one had shown how this was to be done, nor did he see how it could be done. To whom should the transfer votes go? If there was a means of transferring them, it was a pity that it had not been stated. Sir William Fraser’s recommendation of having a large constituency—the whole of London, for instance—was a very important and desirable thing;1 but if it were adopted without Mr. Hare’s plan of the quota that would make matters worse than they were now, because now, opinions in the minority may be represented in some districts; and in that awkward way people would get a representation to which they were entitled. But if they took the whole of a very large constituency—if they took the whole of Great Britain, in that case, without the system of the quota, no minorities would be represented anywhere—none but the strong party in the nation would have any representation at all. With the quota, nothing could be more desirable than that they should go to that extreme point of taking in the whole nation, because they would attain by that means, not only the representation of minorities in a more complete manner than on a limited scale, but the most striking advantage of Mr. Hare’s plan, namely, that the electors would have the whole country from which to choose the best men, instead of having to choose the best out of a small portion of the country. It had been suggested by Mr. Edwin Chadwick that the plan of allowing one vote to every elector for one single candidate would be a better plan than the cumulative vote,2 but he thought it would be attended with considerable disadvantage unless the principle of the quota were adopted with it. If one constituency could return no more than one representative, then they would lose the representation of minorities. This was not what Mr. Chadwick supposes; he must contemplate that under this rule of a single vote, the constituency should return a certain number of representatives, so as to admit of the representation of minorities. Under this system it would, perhaps, happen that every party would be represented, but certainly the majority were entitled to more than an equal representation. No one wished that minorities should have the same representation as majorities. The matter must be so regulated that majorities shall be able to have more than an equal representation. By the plan Mr. Chadwick proposes, unless the quota were combined with it, it would be only favourable to candidates of the majority. The quota was the essence of Mr. Hare’s system. By the principle of it, they got beyond the cumulative vote. The debate had been extremely valuable.
[The session adjourned after votes of thanks to Hare and Mill.]
[1 ]William Augustus Fraser (1826-98), author of London Self-Governed (London: Harvey, 1866) and former M.P., had spoken before Mill: “On the Suggestions Afforded by the Application of the Cumulative Vote, and by the Other Incidents of the School Board Elections, for Improvement in the Constitution of Municipal and Local Governing Bodies,” Sessional Proceedings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, IV (1870-71), 228-9.
[2 ]Chadwick, ibid., p. 228.