Monday, May 28, 2007

Saving Democracy

A computer scientist named Don Lindsay has an idea that could fix democracy. I imagine it's been on his website for a long time, but it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

It's a pretty simple idea. When you vote, you put down a first choice and a second choice. If your first choice isn't in the top-two, your second choice is used instead. This would allow people to vote for third-party candidates without absolutely wasting their votes.

It might not fix things immediately, but even I am sometimes reluctant to vote for the third-party (although I always want to) because I know that I need to add my vote to the real tally or else very bad things could happen, like the Bush reelection.

If you like this idea, please pass it on.

By the way, this guy also publishes the longest list of informal fallacies I have ever seen.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The idea is not particularly new, nor particularly novel. I would recommend that you survey the multitude of existing electoral processes with very similar schemes, and the relevant problems. You shouldn't fall prey to tunnel vision. Expand your readings into comparative politics. This doesn't have to be done through the scholarly articles you find so hard to locate and read. You could simply investigate sources that aren't personal web sites.

undergroundman said...

However, it is pertinent and extremely effective, which is what matters. And it's not widespread, as I haven't heard of it, and I'd bet you that most politicians (who are the only ones with a chance of implementing the system) are unaware of the idea. It deserves to be spread virally rather than poo-pooed. :p

But you're definitely right, there is more research in this area than I'd realized. There are a few different preferential voting systems, but I'm not exactly sure what this one would fall under. It's certainly not a Borda system, and it doesn't seem like an instant-run off system It's a form of. I think I like Don's idea more than either of those two, but the best is the Condorcet method. It's interesting to note that it isn't used by any government in the world. It might be stretching it a bit to call the existing systems in use a multitude.

There are other preferential voting systems with limited use in government, notably the Single Transferable Vote, which is a very good alternative to the flawed party list proportional representation system used by many European countries.

The fact that the Republic of Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote may help explain their rip-roaring GDP growth of 7%-10% for the past ten years or so, and their subsequent rating by the Economist Intelligence Unit as having the highest quality of life in the world.

This page explains why I dislike party list proportional systems.

ADHR said...

Ontario is currently considering a mixed-member proportional representation system, much like currently exists in New Zealand and other places. It seems to survive all the criticisms of PR in the link you gave.

"Weak links between elected legislators and their constituents. ..."

This is the genesis of the "mixed-member" business. Everyone votes for both a local representative and a party. Each party gets a number of seats proportional to the proportion of the vote it receives. If it receives a greater proportion of the vote (translated into #'s of seats) than ridings/districts won, then the difference is made up from the list.

"Excessive entrenchment of power within party headquarters and in the hands of senior party leaderships—especially in closed-list systems. ..."

This seems more a general defect of party politics. Even in first past the post, whether or not a given candidate is allowed to run in a riding/district is a matter, at least in part, of currying favour.

"The need for some kind of recognized party or political groupings to exist. ..."

Goes back to the previous point -- I think, really, these critiques are basically anti-party. I'm not opposed to that; but, given that parties do exist, and aren't going away any time soon, MMP seems a good compromise.

STV isn't a bad system, but implementing it in either the US or Canada would seem to require some fairly serious overhauls of the system. Baby steps....

undergroundman said...

This is the genesis of the "mixed-member" business. Everyone votes for both a local representative and a party. Each party gets a number of seats proportional to the proportion of the vote it receives. If it receives a greater proportion of the vote (translated into #'s of seats) than ridings/districts won, then the difference is made up from the list.

Hmm. I completely don't understand how people would vote for both the party and the candidate. Why not just vote for the candidate, and then have that party be attributed to the party? And who ultimately decides who will be elected - the people or the party? I just don't get the process that's going on.


This seems more a general defect of party politics. Even in first past the post, whether or not a given candidate is allowed to run in a riding/district is a matter, at least in part, of currying favour.


Yeah. But it's a huge problem.


STV isn't a bad system, but implementing it in either the US or Canada would seem to require some fairly serious overhauls of the system. Baby steps....


I guess...although I'd rather we didn't get a system that worked "well enough" that we became satisfied with it. One overhaul is easier than two overhauls -- you know? Refuse to compromise. :p

Although I suppose a proportional party system would reduce the power of the two most entrenched systems, which by themselves have just about zero chance of ever completely eliminating themselves.

The only person who could possibly be open to shaking things up and helping third-parties would be Ron Paul and maybe Barack Obama in the United States.