ST. JOHN — Adam Parr, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of the Virgin Islands, appeared Wednesday before the Committee of the Whole on St. John, where he gave a ringing endorsement of an initiative to reapportion the V.I. Legislature.
Parr, who claims to have studied voting theory for 30 years, said skeptics of the initiative should understand that democracies have no choice but to accept “flawed voting systems.
“No democratic voting system can perfectly reflect the preferences of the voters,” he said. “Because of this, democracies such as ours, should not waste time searching for a perfect election system, but instead look for a very good, but flawed, system whose positive attributes outweigh the negative.”
According to Parr, a major problem with the current system is its reliance on the block voting method, where, for example, voters on St. Croix are required to vote for up to seven candidates at a time for Senate.
“With block voting, it may be in a voter’s best interest to not cast all of his or her votes,” he said. “This is because your most preferred candidate has a less chance of winning if you cast your votes for other less preferred candidates.”
Parr cited the fate of Sen. Neville James, who in the recent Democratic primary, came in eighth place after losing to Oakland Benta by just seven votes.
“If those eight people had instead only cast six votes, withholding their vote for Mr. Benta, then Mr. James would have been the winner,” Parr said. “This puts a Virgin Islands voter in a bit of a bind. If you really want one candidate to win, only vote for him or her and nobody else because those other votes may cause your preferred candidate to lose.
Doing that, however, would mean that you are not utilizing all of your voting power, he added.
Parr said the measure doesn’t go as far as it might because it still includes several multi-member area districts. Still, he said, it is a “significant step” toward the goal of proportional representation.
“Our current system utilizes a voting method that tends to result in non-proportional representation,” he said. “This can lead some group of voters to justifiably feel that they are not represented. With the proposed measure, it is probable that more Virgin Islands voters will think that they do have at least some representation in the Legislature. It is my understanding that this the primary reason why this measure is being proposed.”