It’s called the D’Hondt Method, and you can ask a thousand friends and family at home and probably get the same dumb look on their faces, so don’t feel bad.
It’s the name of the mathematical design behind the Spanish electoral system, and its creator was an 18th Century Belgian mathematician who devised it for party-list elections. That is, unlike in the States, where members of Congress are voted on directly by the populace, here, as in many European countries, the people vote for entire parties which have prepared their lists for parliamentary representation. No head-to-head brawling. Most people have no idea who represents their district.
This system is considered extremely fair, and only slightly favors large parties, while allowing for small concentrated regional parties to get their representation in the legislature. I’m no math expert, but I say that’s bollocks. I mean people whined and bitched about the Electoral College in 2000 when Bush ran off with the elections with a lower popular vote (I’m still one of the few who argue that if a candidate’s own state doesn’t vote for him, as was the case with Gore, then he doesn’t deserve to be elected), but this can get just as dicey.
Look at the supposed representation. Izquierda Unida under this method gets reamed big time. Last 2008, the party pulled off its worse showing in decades, but still ended up being the third most voted for of all. It tallied 969,871 votes in all, earning them 3 seats in parliament. The Catalan party CiU grabbed 779,425 votes, yes that’s about 20% less, but somehow ended up with ten members of parliament. How can that be? The CiU’s support came from four provinces in Catalonia while the IU disputed 42 provinces. The votes were greater but all over the goddamn country. The Popular Party, another pan-Spain competitor, won a little over 10 million votes and landed 154 seats. Now let’s do a little rounding for simplicity’s sake. IU won about a million votes and got 3 seats. PP walked away with 10 million votes and took home 154. The conservative party outdid IU with ten times more votes but 50 times more representation in parliament. But wait, they said this was fair.
It gets better…