Of the various schemes which have been adopted to ensure representation to minorities, one is the Limited Vote Plan. Under this system there are multi-member constituencies with at least three seats.
Each voter is allowed to cast a smaller number of votes than there are seats to be filled. Moreover, he must not give more than one vote to any single candidate. His votes should be spread over to as many candidates as there are votes to cast.
For example, in a five-member constituency each voter may be allowed to vote for four candidates or even less. In this way minority parties become reasonably certain of electing one or two members. This method had been used at various times by Britain, Italy and Japan for election to lower Houses, but it no longer prevails.
In practice the limited vote plan secures representation only for fairly large minorities. It does not work when there are many parties. Then, it does not allow proportional representation. It is a method intended to give only limited representation.
The method can be employed only under an electoral system in which three or more members are to be chosen from each constituency. It cannot be applied under a system of single-member constituencies. Finally, it tightens the party machine, increases the power of the party bosses and does not permit independence to the members thus elected, of course, with no choice to the voter.
The Cumulative Vote System:
The cumulative vote system allows the elector to cast as many votes as there are representatives to be chosen from a constituency. He is permitted either to cumulate all his votes on one single candidate, or distribute them among the different candidates as he pleases.
If there are five members to be elected from a constituency, it is the option of the elector to give all his five votes to one member, or give one vote to each, or distribute them in any other way. The cumulative method is popularly known as “plumping.”
The advantage of this method is that it enables even a small minority to elect at least one member by cumulating all votes on one candidate. But minorities must be well organised in order to ensure the election of their candidates. It also requires strict party discipline and careful instruction to the voters as to how they are to distribute their votes.
All this entails rigidity of party control and the evils connected with it. It may even happen that where five members are chosen; the minority party elects two or three and the majority only one or two.
The cumulative method also involves a waste of votes. The surplus of votes accruing to a popular candidate cannot help other candidates. It does not secure proportional representation.
Finally, the constituencies should be large enough so that the members elected from each constituency should be more than three. If the constituencies are small, returning, say, only three members, the results of the Limited Vote Plan will be repeated.
The Second Ballot System:
Another method of minority representation is the Second Ballot System. When there are only two candidates contesting election for a single seat, the one who secures a simple majority is declared elected. But when there are more than two candidates, it may happen that the candidate elected secures only a relative majority and not an absolute majority.
For example, if in a constituency three candidates are contesting election, candidate A may secure 5,000 votes, candidate B 4,000 and candidate C 3,000 votes. A has secured a majority over B and C, but candidates B and C have more votes between them than those secured by A.
That is to say, candidates B and C secured 2,000 more votes than candidate A. The representative elected under such an electoral system represents only a minority of votes. To avoid such an unjust nature of representation the system of Second Ballot is adopted.
The Second Ballot System makes a new vote for the second time necessary. But all the candidates do not contest this time. The candidate who secured the least number of votes is dropped out. The contest now remains between A and B only, the idea being that the voters who previously voted for C may now vote either for A or B and the candidate securing a majority of votes may be elected.
If at the second poll a majority of votes go to candidate B, then B, and not A, would be elected. If the system of relative majority had prevailed, then, A would have been elected.
“The second ballot (there might be a third or further ballot where there are many seats),” says Gilchrist, “secures a more just reflection of the opinion of the electorate where three or more candidates seek election.” The Second Ballot System demands a single-member constituency, and it does not secure proportional representation.
The Alternative or Contingent Vote:
The Second Ballot suffers from serious defects and to avoid its evils and shortcomings, the Alternative or Preferential or Contingent Vote method has been put forward. The system proposes only one election, but every voter is permitted to mark his preferences on the different candidates, thus, indicating his first, second or third choice.
The candidate of the first preference is declared elected if he gets an absolute majority. If none of the candidates gets an absolute majority, then, the candidate who has got the least number of first preferences is dropped and his votes are distributed to other candidates according to the second choice of the voters.
The candidate securing an absolute majority after the redistribution of votes is declared elected. If no candidate even now gets an absolute majority, the candidate at the bottom will again be dropped and his votes similarly transferred according to the third choice of the voters.
The candidate who secures an absolute majority will then be declared elected. This method, too, necessitates a single-member constituency system and it does not ensure proportional representation, although it is an improvement on single-member constituencies with a relative majority. Secondly, certain small minorities may still not be represented at all.
A novel device for the representation of minorities found its origin in India during the British regime. This was representation on communal basis. Under this system of representation parties were not divided on political or economic issues, but on differences of religion, faith and creed. Every religious community secured a separate representation. This was done in two ways.
First, by separate electorates where voters of each community voted separately for candidates of their own community, e.g., the Hindus voted for Hindu candidates, the Muslims for Muslims, the Sikhs for Sikh candidates, and so on. The second method was the reservation of seats under a system of joint electorate as in the case of the Scheduled Castes.
Under such a system a voter may cast his vote in favour of a candidate other than his own community, but in deciding the result a candidate of the community, for which the seats are reserved, who gets the highest number of votes from amongst the candidates of his community will be declared elected even if a candidate belonging to another community might have secured the highest number of votes.
To divide the people on the basis of religion is to destroy root and branch of the national solidarity of a country. Such a system creates a new mentality among the leaders of various communities.
They hug the system and agitate for its continuance and extension. A vicious circle is created. Communities which have not hitherto received separate recognition begin to agitate for their rights.
National solidarity is torn asunder, threatening even the unity of the country. The system of communal representation has been abolished from the Indian Republic, but the separatist trends so systematically encouraged and nursed by the Britishers have left behind a trail of sinister forces which still appear in various forms; reservation being the most cherished.