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Western-Style Voting 'A Loser' 614

Posted by Zonk
from the math-and-politics-two-great-tastes dept.
sethawoolley writes "In light of the upcoming elections in the US, author William Poundstone was interviewed about voting systems by Mother Jones. In it he advocates the benefits of Range Voting as a solution to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Approval, Borda, Instant Runoff, and Condorcet Voting, which are often solutions advocated by the Greens and Libertarians (in the US), are discussed, as well, in light of Warren Smith's recent empirical research using Bayesian Regret. My local party (of which I'm the Parliamentarian) uses Single Transferable voting, but we're considering using Range Voting in the future. One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system."
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Western-Style Voting 'A Loser'

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  • "Western"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by docotron (799894) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:41AM (#21931094)
    Excuse me, but a great number of what I'd call 'Western' countries use other systems than pluralist votes. For example, the German Federal Diet is elected by a hybrid of the first-past-the-post election system and party-list proportional representation. Proportional systems are also used in countries like Finland, Austria, Spain and many others. Remember: Just because the USA and the UK use it, it doesn't make it "Western" by default. (Just because -their- minds boggle when we here get along well with a four-party coalition government....)
    • Re:"Western"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:54AM (#21931142)
      Down under, I too am mystified by summary guy's "West" blooper. Australia uses preferential voting for most of it's elections. Geographically we might not be very west, but we're usually lumped in with them politically. This is going to be another "USA sucks" thread. Must .. not .. mock .. America .. *twitch* ..
      • Re:"Western"? (Score:4, Informative)

        by xaxa (988988) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:20AM (#21931254)
        The UK needs voting reform too, see http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=103 [electoral-reform.org.uk] for instance (or articles on BBC News).

        Under the current system many people think that voting for e.g. the Green Party or an independent candidate is a waste of their vote.
        • Re:"Western"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ash Vince (602485) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:42AM (#21931354) Journal

          Under the current system many people think that voting for e.g. the Green Party or an independent candidate is a waste of their vote.
          It is. The British system is much like the US system in that regard, it has been won by the same two parties for so long that it has become ingrained in the British psyche that these are the only two choices.

          It is also noteworthy that the system is rigged to benefit those two parties via the boundries of the electoral zones. In the last general election the Liberals won more votes than the Conservatives but won less seats. This was due to Maggie Thatcher redrawing various electoral boundaries via the Boundary Commission when she was in power. The British system is not designed to be democratic, it is designed to give the illusion of democracy while still allowing the same people to rule: The companies and rich people who donate money to political parties.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jez9999 (618189)
            In the last general election the Liberals won more votes than the Conservatives but won less seats.

            Excuse me? There are massive problems with first-past-the-post electing, but this statement is bollocks, as my page [game-point.net] shows.

            A better criticism is something like, "the Conservatives got more votes in England than Labour, but won 92 fewer seats".
            • by Ash Vince (602485)
              Yup, I was wrong. I was basing my argument on an old newspaper article and obviously miss-remembered.

              It is interesting to note thought that even according to the wikipedia article you base your graphs on the Liberals are still massively under represented. They get 22.2 percent of the vote and yet only get 9 percent of the seats. So my main argument still holds true: That the political system of Great Britain is designed to benefit the two main parties.

              Your point on your page about the Conservatives in Scotl
          • Re:"Western"? (Score:4, Informative)

            by sqrt(2) (786011) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:03AM (#21931446) Journal

            This was due to Maggie Thatcher redrawing various electoral boundaries
            This is called Gerrymandering [wikipedia.org]. It's quite common here in the States as well.
          • Re:"Western"? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:29AM (#21931950)
            The so called two party "rigging" is party responsible for the tremendous stability of the governments of the US and the UK. For example, I can never remember which number is the current German Reich or French Republic. It is not a coincidence that the US and the UK are among the longest lived continuous governments on the planet. In my view, minority parties almost by definition represent partisan special interests (what used to be called factions) and allowing them undue power is quite dangerous.

            A common criticism of the American two party system is that both parties are essentially identical. This is true because each party MUST have the approval or at least acceptance of nearly half the public. That is why the parties can easily swap positions, for example on free trade versus protectionism, foreign intervention versus isolationism, local versus national school control, etc.
    • by snowbrigadier (1213676) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:23AM (#21931272)
      Thank god someone knows what they're talking about.
      I'm not an expert, but I've done enough reading on the subject to know that there is no "best" system; they don't necessarily have the same goals. FPTP (or plurality system) works if you believe in mandates for parties; PR works better if you believe that having more parties in the government is the best way for accurate representation. Is a large centralized party that has to appeal to many voters going to be closest to the median voter? Or is a bunch of legislators bargaining going to work out best? Should the voters get a direct say in policy making, or do they need mediators? What about regionalism?

      All this also depends on whether the voter is rational or not, whether they vote ideologically or strategically, and whether the voter has accurate information or not.

      I'll wait until a political scientist writes about this one -- most texts I've read by non-experts are extremely flawed. Like having politicians talk about the internet, really.
      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:37AM (#21931326) Homepage Journal
        Correct, there cannot be any perfect system, except in the very limited case of exactly 0, 1, or 2 candidates/parties running. That's sort of the point of the Arrow Impossibility Theorem -- you can game any multi-candidate voting system.

        Preferential voting, range voting, whatever. There will be artifacts that will allow "dishonest" voters to game the system. Even the wikipedia page on Range Voting shows how it could be done with the Kentucky Capitol election example -- Memphis Voters artificially score Nashville low so they they are guaranteed to win the election.

        Our current system is a two-party system, with the system set up with a massive inertia to essentially discourage any 3rd party from running unless they can get a massive momentum from the start, like let's say by being a former president in the case of TR. This is bad. However, two-candidate elections also can't be gamed like preference voting can.

        Note that the primaries, which are not two-candidate elections can be gamed. For example, if I was a Libertarian living in California (a state with no chance of a Republican carrying the state, let alone a Libertarian), I might very well vote for a Democrat in a close primary election, if I think one Democrat (let's say Hillary) would be a disaster, whereas another candidate (Obama) would be less of a disaster (from the point of view of my hypothetical Libertarian sensibilities (which I'm not)).

        But once we're down to two candidates, you can no longer game the system by voting in a specific way.

        Therefore, I think that ranking or preference systems would be fine for *primaries*, but that maintaining a final election between two people is probably a good thing (for this and for the more important reason that we get to focus on the candidates more during the final cycle).
        • by pthisis (27352) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:02AM (#21931442) Homepage Journal
          Correct, there cannot be any perfect system, except in the very limited case of exactly 0, 1, or 2 candidates/parties running. That's sort of the point of the Arrow Impossibility Theorem

          No it isn't, unless you're being tautological and defining "perfect system" as "one that meets the Arrow Impossibility Theorem criteria". Just reading through the definition of Arrow, IIA didn't seem obviously necessary or correct for a fair/perfect system to me. I then looked at the Wikipedia article and it seems that in fact, altering IIA makes designing a fair voting system possible and that that is what many proposed systems do.

          Essentially, it looks like the point of the Arrow Impossibility Theorem is that "this set of criteria is too simple to accurately model what real-world voting systems are trying to do". It does _not_ say that any sufficiently non-trivial system cannot be fair; it says they cannot meet an arbitrary set of criteria.

          (The whole thing is busted, and strikes me as akin to Econ 101 arguments about people being non-rational; classes often start off talking about utility functions, then switch to dollars for simplification of math, then go on to point out that people aren't rational because they won't bet their $1,000,000 life savings on a 100-to-1 shot at $100,000,001--without recognizing all the lectures they've just gone through about how the marginal value of someone's first dollar is greater than the next and that utility is not actually equal to dollars. No, people don't always behave economically rationally. But them not agreeing with your bogus definitions isn't an example of that)
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ShakaUVM (157947)
            If you don't understand the terminology, perfect in this sense means that people get who they vote for, and the system can't be gamed. In other words, the election results will always perfectly reflect the will of the people.

            I think it's relatively trivial to show that the 0,1, and 2 candidate elections are perfect... why do you have trouble accepting that? 0 and 1 go without saying, and in a 2 party election people simply vote for A or B or not at all, and the election perfectly shows what people wanted.

            Wh
          • by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:21AM (#21931888)
            The paper referred in the article is next to worthless, too. It goes to great lengths to say that "range voting is the best, because it represents the voters' wishes the best".

            Except, they assume that people will agree to throw away their vote just because they're don't agree with one side entirely. Range voting is nothing but approval voting with a possibility of casting only a fraction of a vote. This is what the paper refers to as "strategic range voting".

            The whole reasoning is busted, because it assumes people will agree to waste most of their vote just to make someone else more happy. WTF? Rational people vote the way which gives the best chance of getting results _they_ want.

            The paper also compares range voting to systems which are pretty bad but have been used historically, disregarding serious contenders like Condorcet.
            • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @02:21PM (#21934174) Homepage

              The paper referred in the article is next to worthless, too. It goes to great lengths to say that "range voting is the best, because it represents the voters' wishes the best".

              Except, they assume that people will agree to throw away their vote just because they're don't agree with one side entirely. Range voting is nothing but approval voting with a possibility of casting only a fraction of a vote. This is what the paper refers to as "strategic range voting".

              The whole reasoning is busted, because it assumes people will agree to waste most of their vote just to make someone else more happy. WTF? Rational people vote the way which gives the best chance of getting results _they_ want.

              The paper also compares range voting to systems which are pretty bad but have been used historically, disregarding serious contenders like Condorcet.
              fractional voting doesn't screw anybody's vote up. It just allows you to better express your preferences, which, despite what you say, gets the results that they want.

              Let's say there are three people running, A, B, and C.

              You don't mind B(6) and C(10), but you hate A(0).

              They don't mind A(10) and B(6), but they hate C(0).

              B wins with A(10),B(12),C(10) as the final tally.

              That election couldn't have been done with binary voting, and everybody wins.

              If it were binary, B would have won as well, but in a more complicated case, let's say B got rated 4 by both parties. In range voting, the contest would be between A and C. B wasn't good enough for either of them to even be considered. Yes, in this extremely small case, one loses out more, but at least, neither would be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils has to at least be good enough to get past a certain point in the range, which is a pretty effective improvement over regular approval voting not least horrible plurality voting.

              The point of the paper is that the assertion that everybody wins is accurately modeled by this calculation, and they use Bayesian regret in support. If you disagree with it, then point out why, but your reasoning here doesn't make any sense.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by catbutt (469582)
                Bayesian regret is a term they invented to disguise that they toss away the concept of "fairness" and replace it with "maximum short term happiness with results only".

                Which is broken, in so many ways. If is like saying that it is better to pay the janitor the same as the chief engineer, because that will create more happiness than paying the engineer more. Of course it doesn't take into account the long term, downstream consequences.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by sethawoolley (1005201)

                  Bayesian regret is a term they invented to disguise that they toss away the concept of "fairness" and replace it with "maximum short term happiness with results only".

                  Since all of Arrow's criteria are also immediate criteria derivable from the results only, a real comparison is "Arrow's ideas of fairness" of results and "maximum average happiness" of results. Maximum average happiness is a conception of fairness to the authors of the paper, just as Arrow contributed four different criteria he thought all should be met. Not everybody agrees with Arrow's theorem, and Bayesian regret does measure something more directly than Arrow's often arbitrary criteria. It's a vali

        • by localman (111171) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:32AM (#21931590) Homepage
          Kentucky Capitol election example -- Memphis Voters

          That would be Tennessee's capitol you're talking about. Sorry, as an ex-KY resident, I had to say that :) And while I'm being a nit-picker...

          there cannot be any perfect system,

          True, but that doesn't mean that different systems aren't better than the other. I worry that because none are perfect some people might assume the argument is pointless. It's not: the voting system matters. I mean, there's no perfect presidential candidate either, but that doesn't mean we should leave Bush in office :)

          two-candidate elections also can't be gamed like preference voting can.

          Or, I might say they're pre-gamed. That is, you've somehow already limited the field to two candidates somehow. That process, whatever it is, can be gamed and is part of any two candidate system.

          in California, a state with no chance of a Republican carrying the state

          And as a current California resident, I must point out that our current govinator is Republican :)

          Sorry -- not trying to be a picky pain in the ass. I found your post interesting, but it's 5AM, I can't sleep, and those little things stood out to me.

          Cheers.
    • Single Transferable Vote (STV) is in use in Scottish and Ulster electoral systems (to the respective devolved assemblies. (The geographical British Isles is now moving towards a much looser confederation of mini-states with varying degrees of independence from London; thanks to the Peace Process, Northern Ireland now has full devolved control of it's own governance, as do Scotland and Wales (there are differences between each of these, don't get me started); the Republic of Ireland has had full independence
  • Wrong term ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foobsr (693224) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:46AM (#21931114) Homepage Journal
    ... 'Western style voting', while 'proportional voting' seems to have a stronghold in Europe.

    Yet, though I agree that plurality as well as proportional systems from party lists need improvement or a change, I do not see how this is to fix major problems.

    My position is that until there is no improvement regarding political ethics you will end up with the same quality of political discussion/decision making that you have today. In short, you have to create a proper set of choices first.

    CC.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jamesswift (1184223)

      you have to create a proper set of choices first.
      I know what you mean but one could argue that proportional systems force a change that bring about that set of choices. I see it in a way as a fix for abuse of what has almost become a cartel by lowering barriers to entry. However, the price is extreme view must be accepted as part of process. You can't have your cake and it.
    • Re:Wrong term ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:17AM (#21931858)
      My position is that until there is no improvement regarding political ethics you will end up with the same quality of political discussion/decision making that you have today. In short, you have to create a proper set of choices first.

      I really doubt you'd ever get the political parties fixed before you would the voting system. I'd argue that the key benefits of a proportional parliamentary system is that it limits the damage caused by one party over another.

      The problem with Western (I'm assuming American) Winner takes all is that you have 51% of the people literally telling the other 49% what to do without recourse. This gets exorbitantly bad when the same party controls both the Presidency and Congress. In fact, I'll argue that the quality of what the government does (or the fact it isn't doing as much) is when either the congress and presidency is in opposition.

      The only real good solution is to set up the system so that there is always an opposition or some sort of road block and consolation of the people who did not win the election.

      If you have ever studied US history, you will know that during the beginning the Vice President was not appointed or chosen by the winning President but rather was the person who lost but had the most votes. He didn't have veto power, but over all I think it provided some obstacles for a President who wanted to railroad the opposition.

      If we were to really reform in the United States, I would argue that the Vice Presidency go to the looser in the election and he would get veto power. Not an overriding veto though. If the President's party owns the congress and he wants to sign the legislation but the Vice President does not like it, the VP can of course veto it just like the president and congress has to get 2/3rds just like the regular President. However, if the President Vetoes a bill the VP can't unveto it and congress has to do the old 2/3rds method.

      Also, the President and VP can choose their Deputy President and and Deputy VP in case one of them dies or is hospitalized so that the Presidency or Vice Presidency stays within the same party until the next election.

      I suppose the biggest argument against this is that government won't get anything done, and I say that is a good thing because when you setup a situation in which every party must compromise with the other then usually the 49% of the losers aren't going to get railroaded with things they are vehemently against.

      As far as addressing proportional representations, I would argue that we would have to do away with the house of representatives as we know it and do a popular election. If there are a total of 500 seats then you would divide that into 300,000,000 you would get around 600,000 votes per seat. So you could run for a seat in the House and as long as you got 600,000 votes you would be guaranteed a seat. If you got more than that, it wouldn't count. Now of course since all 300 million people don't usually vote, you are going to get plenty of people who didn't get the 600,000 votes to get a seat so you just allow those runner up in the order of highest nation wide votes until you run out of 500 seats.

      That way candidates can run across states so have a more populist view.

      BUT in order to retain the power of the states, I would argue the Senate revert back to its old method of having the senators being elected directly by the state governments or a sort of electoral college for each of the states districts. Now this might seem a step backwards, but in order to balance things out and retain some sort of local constituency of the Senators, they need to be elected by the state or appointed by the State legislators.

      However, there might be better ways to reform the US government, but currently I think its quite broke that we let winners take all do whatever they want while the 49% who voted against the party have little or not say.
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:50AM (#21931134)
    I knew I'd seen something similar [slashdot.org] to this before. The link in that article doesn't seem to work anymore, but I'm sure there's plenty of insightful comments for everyone to repost to get the ball rolling...
  • PR-STV in Ireland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zoney_ie (740061) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:54AM (#21931144)
    Here in Ireland we use Proportional Representation with Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) which is pretty nifty (and apart from anything else, makes election counts a whole lot of fun and a spectator sport that can last for a week).

    The problem however is that no matter what system, we are voting for politicians. Our past election saw the Greens (a small minority party) get into government coalition with the main party here. They've already shown themselves to be well able to play the political game; and I don't mean that as praise.
    • That is why I feel elections should probably go non-partisan. (A side note. Not all places in the USA use plurality. Some places here use IRV.)
  • This is stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyfe (641811) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:58AM (#21931164)
    I think article-heading meant US-type voting, not western. Proportional and the different variants of plurality all have weaknesses, but none are as glaring as the US-type one. I would like to say one thing though, in most countries in Europe you vote for a party, not for a presidental candidate.. and a lot of the 'weirdness', like when Brown took over from Blaire stems from this fact. It's not a bug though, it's working as intended.

    Either way. Both India and the UK has winner-takes-all variants which are more or less working. In India several different parties can vote for the same candidate. For the most part, you still end up with two large blocks, but atleast you'll get *some* group-dynamics and bartering. In the UK they only use winner-takes-all on constituity-level, meaning you still can take local-phenomena into account. The Lib-Dems do get seats.

    My point is, there's probably a million really small fixes that could majorly change the whole incredibly silly voting/campaigning-dynamics you have over there. There's no need to scrap everything.. and frankly, I really believe trying to introduce a whole new, reasonably complex voting system is silly to the extreme, given how really ******* easy it would be patch up the one you have.

    • by grahammm (9083) *
      One problem with the 'first past the post' system, as in the UK. is that if there are 3 parties and one party comes 2nd in every constituency (ie every result is either A B C or C B A) then they will get no seats at all despite the fact that they may have obtained more votes than either of the either parties.
    • Re:This is stupid. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ardle (523599) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:32AM (#21931308)
      The US "two-horse" election style only works (i.e. doesn't lead to social breakdown) because both sides' supporters are reasonably sure that, on average, the supporters of the opposition are not bent on their destruction. In Kenya (or, if you think about it, many countries to which democracy has been exported), citizens do not have this luxury and large-scale elections can have a more polarising effect simply because citizens have more riding on the outcome, I think...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kvezach (1199717)
      Like in any constantly changing system, the pressures matter. One of Warren's other papers say that in a two-party state, the two parties have to show opinions that look similar to that of the usual voter (with one party slightly on the left and another slightly on the right). But since the parties aren't made of usual voters, that means they have to lie, and often quite severely, to affect that picture.

      It's also easier for third parties to appear when the voters know that their vote aren't wasted, and th
  • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:00AM (#21931166)

    One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system.

    You do realise that the USA is not the only country in "the West", surely?

    Australia has had compulsory instant runoff voting (aka IRV, though we call it "preferential voting") for decades. It works pretty well. Systems like the Condorcet Method, Meek's Algorithm and Range Voting have some theoretical advantages, but they fail in one crucial respect: they are hard to count. Range Voting creates possibly hundreds of rounds of counting. The Condorcet Method creates exponential numbers of counts. The Meek algorithm is essentially only doable with a computer. In contrast, the maximum number of counts required in IRV is the number of candidates - 1. In most cases the election is settled in two rounds.

    What I've learnt over the years as an interested student of voting methods and as a politcal hack and Parliamentary candidate is that voting systems in theory and voting systems in practice are not the same. You need more than the best system in terms of Arrow's Theorem, you need something that can counted quickly and which can be trusted. This implies more about the rest of the electoral system.

    And so it is that I, like most Australians, read about the woes and tribulations that the USA goes through come election time, and I though I know it is rude to say this in public, I pity you.

    IRV is simple to count and simple to understand. Number the boxes in order of preference. That it is compulsory in Australia helps to moderate our politics by ensuring that the almost the whole population turns out to vote, not just ultra-motivated special interest groups (churchies, to pick a purely random example).

    We also go further to ensure the integrity of our vote. The Australian Electoral Commission is a statutory body, independent of government. It is appointed, not elected. Its employees are forbidden by law to be or have been members of any political party.

    Every ballot box is numbered. It is signed out by an AEC employee and at least two party- or candidate-appointed scrutineers. Every ballot box is sealed with numbered tags. These too are signed off. Every ballot is initialled by an AEC employee to ensure it is official. Every voter is signed off the Electoral Roll when they present at a booth to vote. The ballot is overseen by the independent AEC and is also watched by party or candidate scrutineers, whose mutual hostility and watchfulness ensures that rules are observed.

    The unsealing of ballot boxes is witnessed and signed off. Every box is counted going out and counted coming in. Every tag is counted going out and coming in.

    The count is watched by scrutineers, who may challenge how a vote is being counted. They may also challenge the formality or informality of a vote -- whether the vote is allowed to be counted.

    The count is conducted three times: once on election night to give a "two party indicative" count, which will usually show which party will form government. It is counted two more times, with scrutineers at every stage, before the formal declaration is made.

    Mistakes are made, but as a system it is largely immune to the shennanigans I am constantly reading about here on Slashdot and elsewhere.

    Incidentally, the Australian Electoral Commission also makes itself available for contract work. They mostly run ballots for unions and the like. They'd probably be available to run the Presidential election in November for a very reasonable rate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kvezach (1199717)
      Systems like the Condorcet Method, Meek's Algorithm and Range Voting have some theoretical advantages, but they fail in one crucial respect: they are hard to count. Range Voting creates possibly hundreds of rounds of counting. The Condorcet Method creates exponential numbers of counts.

      That's completely wrong. Range Voting consists of adding up the numbers and then taking the average. As anyone knows, that's linear in the number of candidates and votes. Even if you do it by counting "pseudovotes" (this can

    • by jez9999 (618189)
      Australia has had compulsory instant runoff voting (aka IRV, though we call it "preferential voting") for decades. It works pretty well.

      Didn't you elect John Howard in a few times in a row? :-P
      • by ockegheim (808089)
        As much as it pains me to say it, yes "we" did. We had the consolation of knowing that though he could scaremonger and lie as much as he liked, he couldn't directly fiddle with the vote count.

        When he got rid of the period where recently eligible people (ie. youth who might not vote for him) could enrol after the election is called, the AEC were very irritated and ran a big campaign encouraging young people to vote. I'm a fanboy of the AEC.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system.
      You do realise that the USA is not the only country in "the West", surely?

      Obviously, by "the West" the writer meant that realm inhabited by cowboys, ranchers and Red Indians. In that land only white men of substance are allowed to vote, I believe. Truly long overdue for reform.

  • There would have to be a major improvement in math education for concordant to be accepted here. At least with pluralities, people think they understand it. Most just skip the part about the popular vote being ignored and the whole mess decided by the electoral college.
  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:06AM (#21931192) Homepage Journal
    Put the candidates in a huge Steel Cage with various hand to hand weapons scattered about. When the bell rings everyone goes crazy. Last man or woman standing wins the election.
  • by denoir (960304) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:09AM (#21931208)
    The fundamental problem of democracy is the idea that a majority approval validates an idea or a course of action. There is no reason to assume that - on the contrary, we have many examples of very wrong majority decisions.

    In practice a democratic decision will strengthen the interest of the average at the expense of the above average. The problem with this is that it isn't your average Joe that makes society work. On the contrary, the people that produce and that create jobs are a small exceptional group that often get the short end of the stick in a democratic system. True majority rule is in essence self-destructive as the average it pulls towards isn't capable of maintaining the society.

    Our solutions up to date has been double standards. On one hand we praise majority rule democracy as the greatest of ideals while we try to make it as inconsequential as possible. There are different ways to go about it but all end up in saying one thing and doing another. These tend to be practical solutions that have worked so far (meaning that they haven't destroyed civilization) and seem to be fairly revolution-proof. Given the inherent contradiction in them, they cannot by any standard be seen as optimal. When you have a system that defines 'right' in such a way that it is not possible to do right then you have a fundamentally flawed system.

    I'm not sure what would constitute a better system, but what we have right now certainly isn't it.

    • by steelfood (895457)
      All I know is that any voting system that can be simplified to 0 (No) or 1 (Yes) probably would be in the hands of the average person. So long as people aren't required to pick a second or third choice, it wouldn't really change a thing.
    • For starters, why should anyone dependent on the government for income or benefits have a say in how the system is run? It is in their financial interest to see the status quo maintained or expanded. The right to vote should be tied to at least two things:

      1) Gainfully employed on your own, even if it's at McDonalds
      2) Not drawing any income from the government. I'm dead serious on this one. Not even the military, of which I am a big fan and supporter (like most people that straddle the fence between conserva
    • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:53AM (#21931404)

      The problem with this is that it isn't your average Joe that makes society work.

      That of course is a demonstrable falsity, promulgated by our would-be "betters" since times immemorial. It wasn't the peons that made empires and kingdoms "work", it were the "nobility", right? Starting with examples such as an idiot named Cheops who made thousands of men align stones on top of each other so that his "glorious" and "totally above average" ass can ascend to Heaven as a bigger yet king. No one remembers those "averages" who actually built the thing, never you mind those who fed the empire and its oh-so-superior parasites.

      And so human societies were always constructed on the basis of this fundamental idiocy, that "special" people, who are "naturally" (or who in some very rare cases ascend the social strata) born to rule the rest of us mucky-mucks whose destiny is to make sure golden crappers of our "betters" run properly and that the exotic lobster is delivered on time. Anything else would be "class warfare" and frowned upon ... by the said betters and their sycophants.

      On the contrary, the people that produce and that create jobs are a small exceptional group that often get the short end of the stick in a democratic system.

      Total bullshit. The core of any economy are tradesmen (such as the majority of Slashdot readership), very small and small businesses, many millions of which operate in every country. Their owners are no more "special" then their employees and usually work hands-on in their chosen trade, as opposed to "managing" things or "investing" as is the case in larger operations. In most sane countries these owners also earn no more then double (after expenses and taxes) of what their employees make. In places such as Japan, even the CEOs of very large corporations make only about 10 times (on average) more then their workers. In neo-feudal nations, such as USA, that ratio is exceeding 500 and is on the way up.

      The rarefied club of "exceptional betters", without whom we would surely not know how to tie our shoe-laces, is actually shrinking (as a percentage of total number of humans on Earth) and now less then 2% of humanity owns more then 50% of its private property (not income - assets!). Those numbers are worsening every year. If the trend continues, less then 0.5% will own 90% of Earth's assets in just few decades.

      The would-be corporate royalty and the multi-mega-billionaires add nothing to the society as their activities are confined to "owning" land, machinery and people, people who in turn employ others who in turn do something actually useful. A process which would have gone on just as lively if the mega-billionaires were removed from the picture. Far more efficiently actually as a large number of small businesses competing in a marketplace is far more society-friendly then a few mega-bazillionaire corporate oligopolistic fiefdoms.

      I'm not sure what would constitute a better system, but what we have right now certainly isn't it.

      Whatever it is, neo-feudalism (this time with hereditary "business" royalty) isn't it.

      • If for no other reason than to have a sensible counter-point to the GP.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It wasn't the peons that made empires and kingdoms "work", it were the "nobility", right?

        The "peons" have always been the foundation of the empires that lets them survive and maintain their prosperity. But they alone are not enough to go further.

        Also note that classifying people into "peons" and the "elite" does not (and indeed, should not) have to be along class lines. What matters is one's contribution to society, both its size and its shape. The "peons" work their daily jobs, keeping the economy going

        • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:24AM (#21931908)

          The "geniuses" come up with bright new ideas every now and then, which eventually get adopted, raising the productivity of both the "peons" and the "managers".

          Not forgetting of course that every "genius" that ever existed based his achievements on the work of countless others who went before him and that all his/her contributions never amounted to more then a few percentile points of the knowlege he was given by those predecessors. A matter of perspetive which is usually lost in human propensity for "hero" worship and other unwarranted personality cults.

          The Soviets tried that experiment in the early years after the revolution on a smaller scale, letting soldiers elect their officers, and workers run their factories. The result was economic disaster.

          That is of course another mis-conception. The Soviet economy started as a total disatser inhereited from the Tzarist feudal nightmare, further impoverished by the WWI. Under those circumstances one cannot easily attribute these effects to such experimentation as you would like. In the latter years the "managers" and other "betters" did precisely what you suggest: took charge from the goofy "unqualified" peons, "for their own good". The results we all know.

          You do need trained managers for things to go smoothly, and they will inevitably form the "elite" simply by virtue of being different.

          Not so. A "manager" is just another worker, his expertise is simply in a different area. That however does not make him "elite" in any objective way, other then his and his peers desire to re-create soeme degree of feudal stratification. The "elite" forms simply because it wants to be "elite". Its members see themselves as "superior" and require hordes of "inferiors" to validate their self-worth.

          Politicians are really just a different breed of managers, meant to handle the large-scale tasks (well, they are meant to be, at least; mind you, I'm not considering the present-day USA a good model!).

          That maybe so, but large-scale tasks do not automatically warrant "superiority" to those who manage them. That is a self-serving lie spread by those who wish to be "superior" to the rest of us.

          Also, even if you take all the small business owners, they are still the minority. The vast majority are still working class and white-collar office workers.

          Those are the "tradesmen" I mentioned. Remove them and the whole economy dies. Managers and investors would starve to death within days. Reverse is not true, remove the investors, managers and moneyed classes and the economy would suffer loss of efficiency but it would not cease to function permanently. That, if anything, is proof positive of the relative "merit" of these social strata.

          While this is true, the interesting side note is that in any of the "class struggle" revolutions we had so far, it's the small businesses that are targeted first in the anti-capitalist witch-hunts. Probably precisely because they "usually work hands-on in their chosen trade", and are thus easiest to reach for the mob.

          I am not advocating revolutions, nor trying to somehow glorify past ones. I am merely pointing out that the patently false idea that we are all somehow completely indebted to tiny "meritorious" "elites" and thus in obligation to worship them and shower them with wealth and power is a rather old and worn out one. Its ugly and self-serving nature did not improve with the passage of centuries.

      • by denoir (960304) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:10PM (#21933122)

        That of course is a demonstrable falsity, promulgated by our would-be "betters" since times immemorial. It wasn't the peons that made empires and kingdoms "work", it were the "nobility", right? Starting with examples such as an idiot named Cheops who made thousands of men align stones on top of each other so that his "glorious" and "totally above average" ass can ascend to Heaven as a bigger yet king. No one remembers those "averages" who actually built the thing, never you mind those who fed the empire and its oh-so-superior parasites. And so human societies were always constructed on the basis of this fundamental idiocy, that "special" people, who are "naturally" (or who in some very rare cases ascend the social strata) born to rule the rest of us mucky-mucks whose destiny is to make sure golden crappers of our "betters" run properly and that the exotic lobster is delivered on time. Anything else would be "class warfare" and frowned upon ... by the said betters and their sycophants.

        Wow, it takes some skill to misread a post like that. Did you miss the part where I identified the exceptional ones as the producers and the ones that create jobs? No, royalty do not qualify in the exceptional category. Neither do those that have inherited money and have not done at least as much as their forbearers that actually made that money. That is not the elite I'm talking about. No, they are parasites exploiting and in many cases destroying the achievement that isn't theirs.

        Total bullshit. The core of any economy are tradesmen (such as the majority of Slashdot readership), very small and small businesses, many millions of which operate in every country. Their owners are no more "special" then their employees and usually work hands-on in their chosen trade, as opposed to "managing" things or "investing" as is the case in larger operations. In most sane countries these owners also earn no more then double (after expenses and taxes) of what their employees make. In places such as Japan, even the CEOs of very large corporations make only about 10 times (on average) more then their workers. In neo-feudal nations, such as USA, that ratio is exceeding 500 and is on the way up.

        Now you are getting there. Yes the tradesmen are the core of any working economy - trading value for value. Then there is also the question of ability. Being a trader makes you honest, but it doesn't mean that you fall in the exceptional category. All the progress of civilization is tied to technological progress so there is our clue. The people I call exceptional are able to invent and to produce.

        They are the people of mind that through centuries have endured and silently counteracted the destructiveness of the tyrants, the mystics and the mindless mob. Not only that, but they have fed them and ensured their survival. Man's mind is the root of all our progress. If you don't believe me, try to obtain your food by means of just physical force or try to grow wheat without the effort of the mind of the people that learned process for the first time. So when I'm saying "the exceptional" or "the strong" it is not the strength of weapons or of muscles - it is the strength of mind. The man that invented the combustion engine did not do so at the expense of the ones that didn't. He got paid for it but the value of that invention was many orders of magnitude higher. We all benefit from the work of his mind. It is people like that our existence depends on and they are also the first ones to get screwed in a system ruled by the ideal of mediocrity.

        You say that the small business owners are not different from their employees. In many cases they are as they had the ambition and the ability to implement their idea. If you look back through history you'll see that technological development is seldom a collective effort. Almost all major technological inventions have been done by individuals or at most a handful of people. In case they have a sense for business t

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fyoder (857358)
          The problem with Ayn Rand and her philosophy is in its absence of compassion for regular people. She may have come up with it with Hank Reardens and John Galts in mind, but this lack of compassion makes it most appealing for assholes looking to justify greed and the ownership of more and more by fewer and fewer people. That's not to say there's no value in it if one looks at it purely for what it is, and to condemn Rand without reading her is contemptible, but it is incomplete. Recommended reading, espec
    • "...it isn't your average Joe that makes society work. On the contrary, the people that produce and that create jobs are a small exceptional group that often get the short end of the stick in a democratic system."

      Keep drinking that brand of kool aid and that "small exceptional group" will beat you to death with the stick.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      The truth of the matter is that whoever is in power for the most part make society better for them, not for the rest. The "people that produce and that create jobs" get the short end of the stick in a democratic system, but they're the ones handing it out in a plutocracy (rule by money = campaign contributions). They want to sell high (mass consumerism), buy low (cheapest labor) and don't want social benefits, unions, worker safety laws, environmental protection or anything else that lowers their profits. A
  • Huh, I have no idea that the "West" counts as "The US". What about Australia with STV? European countries with d'Hont or other similar systems? Even if you take "West" as geographically "western hemisphere", it still...

    Oh. I just RTFA. No mention of "The West" in the article. So I guess it was just the summary. Meh.
  • Range voting is quite common in questionnaires, where the form is often:

    Q) You boss is an idiot.

    [ ] Totally agree [ ] Partially agree [ ] Indifferent [ ] Partially disagree [ ] Totally diagree

    I always answer those using the extremes for those cases where I'm not indifferent, in order to maximize the influence of my vote.

    The range voting advocacy center acknowledge [rangevoting.org] this as the optimal strategy in the generic case, but are able to find some corner cases where an honest voting strategy is better.

    It is worth
  • by ben there... (946946) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:31AM (#21931302) Journal

    In it he advocates the benefits of Range Voting [wikipedia.org] as a solution to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem.
    Ever been to a site that allows people to vote on articles on a scale of 1-10? It rapidly degenerates into everyone either voting 10 or 0, based upon whether they think the article is overrated or underrated. Basically, if you don't vote in a binary fashion like that, your vote doesn't count as much.

    Might as well just go with the simpler Approval voting, mentioned in the wikipedia article you linked:

    However, approval voting is range voting with only 2 levels (approved (1) and disapproved (0)) and forms of approval voting have been used for example, in Venice in the 13th century.
    It's simpler, and more effective in my experience.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:36AM (#21931320) Homepage
    Make a huge wiki of all the countries laws, policies and decision making.

    The government that anyone can edit.
  • One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality [wikipedia.org] voting system.
    Among all the pluralities listed they missed the only one that ultimately counts; only the 2 Americans (USA) have nuclear weapons.
  • Range voting has many nice properties that are very appealing. However, there are 3 major properties of voting systems that it fails to meet:

    1) Majority Property: If over 50% of voters prefer a single candidate over all others than that candidate should win the election.

    2) Condorcet Winners Criterion: If a candidate would win any head-to-head election then that candidate should win the election.

    3) Condorcet Losers Criterion: If a candidate would lose every head-to-head election then that candidate sh
  • Two party system? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sucker_muts (776572) <sucker_pvn.hotmail@com> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:39AM (#21931336) Homepage Journal
    I'm not trying to flamebait here, but I have big doubts with the two party systems in the USA and in England (or the UK?). It seems like those two parties are certain to have the almost absolute power from time to time, and smaller parties are never able to get enough votes to rule the country. (I also have big questions with corporate sponsoring of the parties in the USA, this makes the country being run by the corporations and not it's inhabitants, the way it should be.)

    I'm from Belgium, and here there are a lot of parties. The orange (catholics), the blue (they seem to be for the people not working for the state, people who like to keep as much money they earn), the red (the socialists, but do not think this is some kind of communism, the world is not black & white you know ;) ), the greens, and so on...

    When the elections are over, the winning party needs to form a government, and they do this by making a coalition with one or two other parties so they represent more than 50% of the voting people in the country. This way all major opinions should be represented in a government. A new party might not be a part of a new government, but they are able to use there representation power in the parlement, for example when new laws are discussed and voted for.

    I fear that the hunger for power will keep the system in England and the USA just the way it is, and also the corporate sponsoring. I guess those countries are screwed for eternity. Perhaps I'm missing some extreme good thing about their systems? I only see abuse of power, greed and the same thing happening over and over again. (Slightly offtopic: it's nice to know that Microsoft is loved a lot in exactly those countries.)

    PS1. I know it's a lot more complicated than this in our country, you've got flanders, brussels and wallony with their own governments and parties, but I'm just making a point here.

    PS2. Those who are up to date with belgian politics know this time is kind of worrysome, but this has nothing to do with the point I'm making. :-)

    And I can't resist saying this: Now the American patriots can mod me down into oblivion for my rant against their best country in the world! :P

    • by xaxa (988988)
      You're right about the UK, it's generally Labour against the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats are the third-biggest party, but they're often a second choice so they're under-represented (since you can only vote for one). Wiki has a list [wikipedia.org].

      http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ [electoral-reform.org.uk] -- it might get somewhere, but it will probably take a long time :-(
    • Re:Two party system? (Score:5, Informative)

      by WaZiX (766733) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:59AM (#21931734)

      I'm from Belgium, and here there are a lot of parties. The orange (catholics), the blue (they seem to be for the people not working for the state, people who like to keep as much money they earn), the red (the socialists, but do not think this is some kind of communism, the world is not black & white you know ;) ), the greens, and so on...

      When the elections are over, the winning party needs to form a government, and they do this by making a coalition with one or two other parties so they represent more than 50% of the voting people in the country. This way all major opinions should be represented in a government. A new party might not be a part of a new government, but they are able to use there representation power in the parlement, for example when new laws are discussed and voted for.

      Well, I'm from Belgium as well, and our electoral system is one of the worst ones around! For these reasons:

      - As a resident of Flanders, I can only vote for Flemish parties, this means that, at best, I'm only allowed to vote for a bit more then half the decisions made in this country... This means that I, being Flemish, can only vote for Flemish interests, how absurd is that?

      - Up until a month ago, the 3 major tendencies (Liberals, Conservatives/Catholics/Humanists and socialists) were all in the government (either regional or national), and guess what, we will now have the same 3 tendencies (except for the Flemish socialists) in our future government! How is it exactly that the people chose if everyone is still in the government anyways?

      - Whatever party you chose, you _know_ that they won't be able to fulfill what they promised us, since they will have to make a coalition and find middle solution for everything anyways...

      The Belgian system in all its glory has become a particracy, where the heads of the different political parties have much more to say about who rules what then the people. Our system is probably one of the most anti-democratic systems there is around, and this had grave consequences... In Flanders up until the last elections, the biggest party was an extreme rights party (well duh, they're the only opposition), in Walloon, the French socialists have had their hands on on local and regional matters for the best part of the last and the beginning of this century, leading to corruption scandal after corruption scandal, and since they have only been thought to think for themselves, their education system is so lame language wise that most of them never even get a chance at working in the Flemish part. Our country became just two cultures stuck together round a common economic interest (Brussels), without any prospect of ever forming a true nation.

      Bravo, please copy our electoral system, it's great!
    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      The UK has a three party system, with the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democats. The liberal democrats have neve been in second place because their message is so mixed and confused and when it wasn't it was more or less identical to the oposition.

      In many local elections things are much tighter and parties like he BNP can end up in control of local councils, I even know one council made up of Green party members.

      We appear to have a two party system because the other parties aren't that good, take th
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Perhaps I'm missing some extreme good thing about their systems?

      Well, the biggest is that it is said when two people share a responsbility, there's one percent left for each. What has annoyed me countless times with coalitions is each party claims the success for anything good, and blames the others for everything bad because they had to compromise. It is casually made to explain why they deliver only a small fraction of their grandious and totally unrealistic election promises. At least in the US, they have to stand for their own actions. The downside is that there's

  • All voting system are bad because they give the voter the idea that by voting he can influence the outcome of the voting process. That is only the case if there is a draw. Even if there are only 2 voters, that chance is only 1/3rd. Voting inaccuracies (have you never been surprised that if they do a recount after an election, that they don't end up with the same outcome, but may be hundreds off?). People who believe in voting suffer as much from delusion as a creationist. An election is just a very expens
  • by Weezul (52464)
    Any voting system that expects all voters to rank all candidates is a loser. It's still a big improvement. But someone should take into account the incomplete information inherent in voting.
  • by frietbsd (943773) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:47AM (#21931378)
    The fact that third party candidate are called spoilers is a indicator that the system is not fair. The article states that any system where voters have even the slightest influence on the process should be called democratic. I disagree.

    Well, in that case, Iran is a democratic country (a list pre-approved by the clergy of candidates) Or former east germany. (garanteed 50% of the parliament for the communist party, other 50% up for vote)

    If a system favors 1 party, we usually call it a dictatorship. If it favors 2 parties, it is suddenly fair and thus the "western style democracy"? People living in Texas don't have much reason to go vote. The outcome is pretty much set to be republican. Why bother going to the polls then? Turnout is tradionally low in Texas. This makes the argument: "Gore won the popular vote" also less valid. If in all the guaranteed R states everybody would have gone to the polls, i wouldn't know if Gore would still have won the popular vote.

    Dividing up the country in seats to vote on favors the 2 party system. In California they are working on a law to split the electoral college like the Californian vote is split up, but if that is not done throughout the country that's not fair either. The electoral college is from a time where small states feared to be ignored. Now it's almost the reverse. Iowa and NH get way more attention than the bigger states. It is outdated. I hope C will have the guts and give their ec to the winner of the national popular vote. That would propel everybody in the US to get their butts to the booth. (And make presidential elections more fair).
  • Other Countries (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:07AM (#21931472)
    I never understood why the US keeps mucking about with these increasingly bizarre voting systems. Pretty much every other democracy - Western democracy - I know off either has a 1) parliamentary system, or 2) uses multiple votes.

    Parliamentary systems: Here, the populace elects parliaments, usually with proportional representations. The parliaments then elect the 'single seat', such as the head of government.

    Multiple votes: Here, the populace elects the 'single seat' directly. If in the first n [n>0] votes no candidate achieves an absolute majority, then a final plurality vote is conducted.

    As said, pretty much every "Western" democracy other than the US seems to use some variant of those two. I personally like the first better as it keeps the center of power in the parliament, which is sort of a good thing for a democracy. But either solves the problem in a clean, easily understood and verifiable manner. So... what's the deal with the US and their funky voting systems craze?

    Also, I'm rather thankful for the various people pointing out the blatant mis-use of the term "West".
  • I think we need something new; something that has only become recently practical. Sitting here in front of this box of plastic, steel and various pieces of silica I think that it's the key to a powerful resource. We have statistics, we have a bi-directional communication system, we have the ability to make finer-grained decisions we just need to do it. What I would like to see is a geography based opinion gathering system. Referendums are the most accurate measure of an aggregate citizens pulse but are
  • i seriously think the voting system in the USA is a farce and the democratic process is dieing if not dead already, it just seems fishy with the obvious flaws and vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines yet the people in charge of implementing electronic voting machines seem to ignore this issue...
  • I would be wary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:56AM (#21931716)
    Of any system declared dead by fringe groups like the Greens (in the US) and Libertarians. The problem with proportional voting and accommodating small parties with narrow agendas is that you're going to be politicizing legitimizing the message and empowering people on the fringe with extremist views. Don't disrupt a 200+ year old system because you don't like George Bush.

    In the US, this means that anti-abortion parties, libertarians, socialists will begin to wield real political power. And although they won't win alot of seats, their power will be magnified because they will become swing votes. In New York from the 1840's until the mid-20th century, Tammany Hall was a corrupt political machine based out of New York City that dominated state politics. They did so because the Republicans had about 40-48% of the legislative seats, the mainstream democrats had 40-48% of the legislative seats, and the Tammany Hall democrats kept around 10%. When people vote, the swing people matter.

    Personally, I feel that over time, the good ideas advocated by fringe parties get absorbed into the mainstream party platform. I think that's healthier for democracy than having Senators waving pictures of dead fetuses on the Senate floor.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vidarh (309115)
      The "fringe parties" would only gain power in a voting system like this if people support them. Your example of Tammany Hall is flawed, because swing votes rarely become a problem in systems where there are many parties. They become a problem in systems like the US when a small number of seats end up with a third party. In a system with fully proportional voting, if a party panders too much to a small party exploiting a swing position, you will tend to see splits and the swing party will soon find itself ha
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The problem with proportional voting and accommodating small parties with narrow agendas is that you're going to be politicizing legitimizing the message and empowering people on the fringe with extremist views.

      As opposed to empowering major parties with extremist views? I'll take that deal any day. The fact that the USA is governed effectively by two parties means that no matter how bad those parties get, they will still be in power. There is no way to get your opinion represented if, for example your vie

  • In Ontario, we use a first-past-the-post system. We had a referendum a while back to switch to a mixed-member/proportional system and it was soundly defeated.

    The proponents of alternate systems are all for democratic reform... but naturally when they lost, they had all kinds of excuses... anything but admit that most people are happy with first-past-the-post.

    You can prove mathematically that any representational voting system is "unfair" where "unfair" means that decisions can pass that are supported b

  • STV sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:52AM (#21932108)

    One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system.

    Not so. Single Transferrable Voting fails the monotonocity criterion [wikipedia.org]. Basically, ranking someone higher can cause them to lose, and ranking someone lower can cause them to win. There's debate on how often this might come up in practice. It might be missing the larger point, though, which is that in STV, it's very hard to predict what impact your vote will actually have.

    STV is the only mainstream electoral method which fails the monotonocity criterion. Even the much maligned plurality method, which everyone is familiar with, passes. Voting for someone will never cause them to lose, and not voting for someone will never cause them to win.

    Arrow's Theorem says we can't have everything, but I consider the monotonocity criterion as something which is an absolute must. At the very least, if you are contemplating switching away from the plurality system to something else, be sure that it is strictly better than plurality, which STV is not.

  • Wrong premise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Henry V .009 (518000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:02AM (#21932170) Journal
    The article seems to imply that the best voting system is the one that is most democratic. Is that really proven? Will Western-style voting systems really bring about worse governments than other systems? There are almost certainly places where a benevolent dictator would be (or is) better than a popular government.

    There isn't really much difference between the life of the average person in Britain, Canada, and the U.S., despite each nation's hugely different history. It seems likely that culture and genes have as much if not more to do with how good your government is than the particular system you use.
  • by Spazmania (174582) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:13AM (#21932656) Homepage
    Range voting reduces the ability of minority parties to influence the political system.

    Right now, major candidates have a strong incentive to prevent serious spoilers by subsuming those spoilers' key ideas into their own campaigns. The Republican candidate will preach small government because if he doesn't the libertarian candidate will pull away enough voters for the democrat to beat him.

    In a range system, why bother? Folks who oppose his rival will rank him high anyway to assure that his rival loses. If the third party candidate can't spoil your race, why bother paying any attention to his supporters' desires at all?

    Truth is, our government stays pretty centrist (even in times of crisis like 9/11) and the reason it does is that whenever a candidate strays too far, a spoiler comes in and wipes him out. With range voting, nothing prevents large unstable swings in governance.

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