Andrew Inglis ClarkPrimary architect of Australia's constitution
Making Democracy Work - At a Price : The Hare-Clark System
There have been many controversies as to whether the possession of a vote should be regarded as a natural right or as a privilege to be acquired by some exertion or exhibition of merit, or as a trust conferred by the community.
For my own part I believe that it should be regarded as partaking of each of these three aspects, and that only those persons who are prepared to exercise it spontaneously with intelligence and honesty have the right to elect the makers and administrators of the law. The man who does not sufficiently value the suffrage to use it for his own welfare and protection, and who requires to be tempted in some way to use it, has ceased to have a right to exercise it for the purpose of creating a legislature which shall make laws for the government of other people besides himself.
It may be that it is beyond the wit of man to devise an electoral system which shall eliminate every influence that impairs the purity of representative government at its base, but among a number of more or less imperfect methods we may find one which affords less scope than the others for the operation of detrimental agencies, and the use of which will bring us much nearer than we are at the present time to government by the most capable.
It was long ago recognised by discriminating students of political science that a system which gives absolute power to the chance majority of the day might produce results as bad as any that have attended the rule of despots and oligarchies in the past, and to some of them it seemed that the surest protection against such an evil was to be found in a due representation of minorities. But the representation of minorities would not necessarily secure the election of the most capable legislators. It would, however, give another chance for the election of the most capable; and from this starting point we advance to the position that the most perfect electoral system is that which gives the greatest possible number of chances for the election of the most capable and minimises the opportunities for the operation of all sinister influences and agencies.
Such a system has, in my judgment, been offered in that proposed by the late Thomas Hare, and now generally known by his name. A few years ago a modification of it was contained in a Bill introduced into the Parliament of New Zealand to amend the law relating to Parliamentary elections in that Colony, but unhappily the Bill did not become law. The proposal was to divide the Colony into large electorates returning from six to eight members each, and to apply Mr. Hare's system of election to each separate electorate.
Under this plan a further modification of Mr. Hare's method could be introduced which would enable each elector to give more effect to his preferences than is possible under the original system, by assigning progressive values to the successive positions of the names placed by the elector upon his voting paper. By means of this further modification the votes given by every elector for every candidate could be counted and the element of chance would be entirely eliminated from the system.
From Clark's paper Machinery and Ideals in Politics , Clark Papers C4/F24.