Pete and PR
NOW SHROUDED in the mists of time -- the major media are not anxious to revive the memory -- PR was a method used in New York City Council elections from 1937 through 1945. Adopted by city-wide referendum in 1936, PR gave New York what most objective observers agree was the best and most representative legislative body in its history.
Known as the Hare System -- it was devised by a British barrister, Thomas Hare, in the nineteenth century -- the form of PR was a simple method for the voters to choose candidates in order of preference. Thus if seven candidates were running -- we'll call them Baker, Cacchione, Cohen, Johnson, Jones, Roberts and Smith -- the voter numbered his preference, 1, 2, 3, as far as he or she had any choice.
Let's say the voter was a left-wing worker whose first choice was Cacchione. He put the figure "1" next to Cacchione's name on the paper ballot used for the Council race. The voter had one vote under PR and this voter's vote would go to help elect Cacchione if he proved to have a chance.
But then the voter thought, "Suppose Cacchione can't make it? What's my second choice?" Well, maybe it's Cohen, an American Laborite. The voter thereupon put the figure "2" next to Cohen's name. But suppose neither Cacchione nor Cohen can get enough votes to be elected, who is his third choice? Maybe it's Rev. Johnson, a liberal Democrat. So he put the figure "3" next to Johnson's name. And so on.
The purpose? To give the voter a choice and not to put him in the difficult position of voting for someone he doesn't really want but who, he feels, "has a chance." Under the PR system as then practiced in New York and some other cities, if Cacchione was eliminated, at least the voter's second choice, Cohen, had a chance of election with the help of his vote. (In fact, when Cacchione was eliminated in the 1939 elections, his second-choice votes helped to elect a Laborite.)
And if, to pursue our example, both Cacchione and Cohen were