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Network models and biproportional rounding for fair seat allocations in the UK elections

Akartunali, Kerem and Knight, Philip A. (2017) Network models and biproportional rounding for fair seat allocations in the UK elections. Annals of Operations Research, 253 (1). pp. 1-19. ISSN 0254-5330

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Systems for allocating seats in an election offer a number of socially and mathematically interesting problems. We discuss how to model the allocation process as a network flow problem, and propose a wide choice of objective functions and allocation schemes. Biproportional rounding, which is an instance of the network flow problem, is used in some European countries with multi-seat constituencies. We discuss its application to single seat constituencies and the inevitable consequence that seats are allocated to candidates with little local support. However, we show that variants can be selected, such as regional apportionment, to mitigate this problem. In particular, we introduce a parameter based family of methods, which we call Balanced Majority Voting, that can be tuned to meet the public's demand for local and global ``fairness''. Using data from the 2010 and 2015 UK General Elections, we study a variety of network models and implementations of biproportional rounding, and address conditions of existence and uniqueness.