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Toward better elections

This week's Science News has a good overview of voting systems, and the particular disadvantages of the United States system, "plurality" voting.

You'd think, given our most recent presidential election, there would be at least a little political impetus for raising this issue; it's too bad no one seems to be talking about it (except for the mathematicians, of course). Maybe it's too complex and subtle — it doesn't exactly succumb easily to sound-bite politicking. But if it's true that an alternative voting system would better serve all the people, isn't there at least some chance a strong plurality would vote for one?

November 5, 2002 1:24 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

I think instant runoff is the best option for the US. I think we should also look at some alternative system to get rid of the negative effects of congressional districts. In states with huge numbers of house reps, it would be a pain, but I think unifying all the races and picking the X candidates with the most votes from the lot is a better way to represent people.

Posted by Dave A on November 6, 2002 10:10 AM

Editor's note: When this site was moved to its new web servers, 6 comments below (including this one) were accidentally omitted. The dates for these comments reflect when they were added again, not when they were originally posted.

I favor approval voting. Here is the link to a post I made back in June there are a couple of links to sites about approval voting and voting systems in general.

There is also this post from Jonathon DeLacour's Site that discusses the Austrailian System.

Of course the existing political parties have no reason to want a change since the current methods benefit them. Perhaps if the Green's or a coalition of third parties got together forming petition drives for a system such as approval voting it would be adopted in some states.

Posted by Norm Jenson on November 10, 2002 5:10 PM

the existing political parties have no reason to want a change since the current methods benefit them.

It hardly seems to benefit the Democrats, as far as I can tell. But even if it did benefit both parties, if just one candidate were to make it a campaign issue, I don't see how his opponent could afford not to address it. What are they going to say -- "No, I do not favor election systems that better represent the people's wishes"?

Posted by M on November 10, 2002 5:11 PM

It benefits a two party system. sometimes the Democrats and sometimes the Republicans, recently it seems to have benefited the Republicans more, but neither party wants a multi-party system, so it will never be mentioned by either party. The evidence that systems such as approval voting are better is overwhelming. Have you ever seen a Republican or Democrat raise the issue. There is a good reason for that,. It is simply not in their self interest.

Posted by Norm Jenson on November 10, 2002 5:12 PM

It benefits a two party system.

I don't doubt there's something to that. But isn't there room for at least one politician to campaign on what's good for the country? (Especially if it's good for him or her, too, and his party in at least the short term -- as it would've been for, say, Al Gore?)

But, I agree -- good government does not good politics make. It wouldn't help keep anyone in power.

Posted by M on November 10, 2002 5:14 PM

I'm going to try and get something done locally, but haven't even begun to determine if it is practical Your point is a good one though. It would be easiest to persaude Greens and Libertarians that it was a good idea, and I suppose the best approach with the major party folk would be to argue that they wouldn't have to worry about losing like Gore did in Florida if they had approval voting when talking to Democrats and find a good example where a Republican lost because of some Libertarian somewhere. Hmmm.

Posted by Norm Jenson on November 10, 2002 5:14 PM

What are they going to say -- "No, I do not favor election systems that better represent the people's wishes"?

Only if you've convinced the population that what looks like a convoluted and complicated system really is better. Those in favor of the status quo will just claim that the complexity distorts democracy or violates the unwritten "one man, one vote" principle.

Posted by Dave A on November 10, 2002 5:16 PM


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