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Thomas Hare

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Thomas Hare (March 28, 1806 - May 6, 1891) was an English barrister who was involved in the theory and advocacy of election methods.

Hare lends his name to the following:

An English barrister, political reformer, and close friend of philosopher John Stuart Mill, Hare "invented" the method of elections technically referred to today as STV (the Single Transferable Vote). Thomas Hare was not a mathematician, thus never subjected his STV system to a rigourous mathematical analysis.

This method of elections has since become the favorite of advocates of electoral reform, has been used throughout the world. While continuing to be the main method of elections in Australia and the Republic of Ireland, it has been widely used in numerous corporations and organizations, and has been employed as a single-member variant in local elections in a few jurisdictions of the United States.

Mill described Hare's system as "the greatest improvement of which the system of representative government is susceptible; an improvement which…exactly meets and cures the grand, and what before seemed inherent, defect of the representative system". Indeed, the popularity of Instant-runoff voting today could be attributed to Mill's pronouncements about STV, rather than actual scientific merit.

Yet, despite the impact Hare made on his contemporaries and the continuing influence his ideas have played in modern politics, he is little known, let alone read, today. Hare's system is usually, mistakenly, lumped together with others under the broad heading of "proportional representation." Mistakenly because, rather than proportionality being the underlying principle behind Hare's theory, Hare philosophically designed a method to ensure the principle of "personal representation." Indeed, it was a deliberate — and first — attempt, to devise a concept of representation consistent with the principle of democracy.

(In part taken from Charles Grapski's excellent webpages: see http://homepage.mac.com/cgrapski/Representation/Hare/hare.html)

Works

  • A treatise on election of representatives, parliamentary and municipal (1859)
  • The election of representatives parliamentary and municipal : a treatise (1865)
  • The machinery of representation (1875)
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