By Richard Wood
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been nothing short of disruptive, fascinating, and, at times, downright bonkers. The content generated by AI models like Chat GPT has shown both terrifyingly accurate results and ludicrously inaccurate or even fake outputs. Instances of GPT writing essays and conjuring realistic-sounding sources highlight the AI’s remarkable abilities, as well as its inherent flaws.
We find ourselves at the forefront of the AI revolution, still in its nascent stage. The technology will undoubtedly continue to evolve, and how we harness its potential will significantly shape our world.
Taking this into consideration, I decided to have some fun and pose a question to Chat GPT: “Write an article outlining the flaws of the Additional Member System used to elect MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and make the case for using the Single Transferable Vote.”
The output was lacking in examples from elections so I asked Chat GPT to adapt its content: “In this essay, add real life examples from Scottish Parliament elections.”
Here’s what the AI produced, followed by an analysis of the output.
Title: The Case for Single Transferable Vote: Addressing the Flaws of the Additional Member System in Scottish Parliament Elections
Introduction: The Additional Member System (AMS) has been the electoral system used to elect Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) since its establishment in 1999. While AMS has some positive attributes, it also suffers from significant flaws that hinder the democratic process and representation. In this article, we will outline the shortcomings of AMS and advocate for the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system as a superior alternative for Scottish Parliament elections.Chat GPT
So far so good. It’s not beautiful writing but it reads like an essay or article and doesn’t have any factual inaccuracies so far.
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Flaw #1: Disproportionate Representation
One of the key flaws of the AMS is its tendency to yield disproportionate representation. For example, in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, despite securing 4.7% of the regional vote, the Scottish Greens won only six out of the 129 seats. This overrepresentation of larger parties can marginalize smaller parties and distort the true will of the electorate.
Solution: STV provides a more proportional representation by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. In the 2019 Scottish local elections, STV enabled the Scottish Greens to secure 12.5% of the first-preference votes, translating into a fairer distribution of seats.Chat GPT
This is where it gets a bit hazy. The statement that AMS tends to “yield disproportionate representation” is an interesting one. Chat GPT doesn’t get into the nuances of AMS resulting is fairly proportionate elections, at least compared to First Past the Post. At the same time it doesn’t go into the reasons behind AMS only having limited proportionality: overhang seats, regional not national lists and the ratio of FPTP seats to regional seats.
The next point makes no sense at all. Chat GPT is wrong to say the Scottish Green secured 4.7% of the regional vote. In fact, they won 6.6%. Furthermore, the assertion that this doesn’t tally up with the six of 129 seats they won is absurd. 6 out of 129 seats is in fact 4.7%, the previous wrong figure mentioned. The next sentence is even more baffling: the Scottish Greens are not one of the large parties although Chat GPT’s assertion that over parties can be overrepresented by AMS is a fair one, for example the SNP.
The solution to this “problem” is accurately identified by Chat GPT, however, the example is completely wrong. There were no local elections in 2019. There were EU elections in 2019 where the Scottish Greens won 8.2% and no seats.
Flaw #2: Limited Voter Choice
The AMS restricts voters to two separate ballots, limiting their ability to express preferences across both ballots. This constraint deprives voters of the opportunity to support specific candidates irrespective of party affiliations. Furthermore, it can disenfranchise voters when their preferred candidate is not standing in their constituency.
Solution: STV eliminates the need for separate ballots and allows voters to rank candidates from all parties in order of preference. This flexibility empowers voters to support individual candidates, promoting a more diverse representation that reflects their true preferences. In the 2017 Scottish local elections, STV provided voters with a wider array of choices and enabled them to elect representatives who closely aligned with their views.Chat GPT
Here, the problem with AMS when it comes to limited voter choice is correctly identified and reasonably well argued. Similarly, the solution offered by STV is presented well. Unlike the first flaw of AMS, the example here is accurate. There were Scottish local elections in 2017.
SEE MORE: First Past the Post fails English local democracy – this time it’s different
Flaw #3: Safe Seats and Tactical Voting
AMS tends to create “safe seats” where one party consistently wins, impeding competition and voter engagement. This lack of competitiveness can discourage political diversity and encourage tactical voting, where voters opt for strategic choices rather than voting based on their genuine preferences.
Solution: STV promotes greater competition by offering voters a broader choice of candidates and parties. This encourages candidates to actively engage with constituents and increases voter participation. In the 2019 European Parliament elections, STV in Scotland facilitated the election of MEPs from various parties, breaking the monopoly of safe seats.Chat GPT
Safe seats are correctly identified by Chat GPT as a flaw of AMS, however, the details of why this is (due to the retention of FPTP seats), is omitted.
Again the solution of STV here is accurate, however, the AI fails when it comes to giving specific examples. There were EU elections in 2019 but Scotland (when the UK was part of the EU RIP) used the party list system to elect MEPs rather than STV. Perhaps Chat GPT was thinking of Northern Ireland?
Flaw #4: Lack of Direct Accountability
Under AMS, MSPs can be elected through the regional list without having a direct connection to a specific constituency. This absence of direct accountability weakens the link between elected representatives and their constituents, potentially compromising effective representation.
Solution: STV ensures that each MSP is directly elected by a specific constituency, strengthening the connection between elected representatives and the people they serve. This geographical mandate enhances accountability and fosters a closer relationship between constituents and their elected representatives. In Irish local elections, STV has successfully maintained strong links between representatives and their constituents.Chat GPT
This is an interesting argument which is well argued. I don’t necessarily agree that regions don’t provide a direct link with constituents but I see the argument from the point of view of “constituency link” First Past the Post advocates.
Unlike other examples, the one about Irish elections using STV is accurate although further explanation is somewhat lacking.
Conclusion: While the Additional Member System has provided some level of proportionality and stability in Scottish Parliament elections, its flaws cannot be overlooked. The Single Transferable Vote system offers a more democratic and representative alternative. By addressing the issues of disproportionate representation, limited voter choice, safe seats, tactical voting, and lack of direct accountability, STV has the potential to enhance the democratic process and ensure a fairer and more representative electoral system for Scotland. As AI continues to shape our world, let us harness its potential to embrace an electoral system that truly reflects the will of the people.Chat GPT
Okay, so the conclusion is quite a mechanical summary of each of the points made above. It could be written better but there’s nothing particularly wrong with it.
Well until that last sentence:
“As AI continues to shape our world, let us harness its potential to embrace an electoral system that truly reflects the will of the people.”
I’ve no idea where this came from. It certainly didn’t exist in the initial output before I asked for specific examples. This implies that Chat GPT sees it as an example…
Will we one day be electing artificial intelligence as MSPs? Does Chat GPT think that AI will be drafting motions, voting on bills and making governance decisions? That’s quite the thought.
(Plot twist: the start of the article was also produced by Chat GPT.)
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