Monday, September 01, 2008

Alternative Voting Systems

In an interesting discussion at a family BBQ last night, a few of us were discussing alternative methods for tabulating votes, as opposed to the "just vote for who you want" system we have now. My wife's brother-in-law suggested this:
You can either cast a vote "for" somebody that adds to their votes, or "against" somebody that subtracts from it. Hypothetically, you could have the McCain and Obama supporters cancel each other out by voting against the opposing candidate, and wind up with a third party winner who had fewer "for" votes than the other two.
I like that one a lot, it would be very entertaining. My suggestion was conditional votes:
You can cast a "preferred" and "conditional" vote. This would require two rounds of counting. You cast a vote that lists your preferred candidate for the office, then a second choice conditional on your preferred candidate not being in the top two for most preferred votes. So suppose you vote preferred for Libertarian Bob Barr, with the conditional being Obama. If after counting the preferred votes, if Bob Barr is not in the top two of the preferred candidates and Obama is, then your vote would be given to Obama.
I like that idea because it would make the system more competitive and you could overcome the objection to voting for third parties ("a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush", etc. etc.). However, I'm not entirely convinced that increasing political competition is actually good.

Other Alternatives? Thoughts?


Steamboat Lion said...

What you describe is the preferential voting system used in Australia for most elections. There's a good description on Wikipedia so I won't go in to detail here.

Interestingly, it has still resulted in a political system dominated by two parties.

One problem in the US context. Your ballots are already way too complex (due to insisting on having multiple elections simultaneously) to design a reliable system of tabulation. I don't think making them more complex is a good idea...

Anonymous said...

If the goal is to increase third party votes, then look to Europe with their parliamentary systems. It also creates a lot of gridlock, which I like, but I can't say that it seems to be a superior system as far as governing goes.

Justin M Ross said...

That is fascinating about Australia. I am really surprised that it still is a 2 party system. I wonder if it is because I am biased to thinking that most people are dissatisfied with 2, if the 2 just do a better job in Australia, or if the mandatory voting laws "nudge" the uninformed voters to the two parties as a default for broad views?

Thomas said...

You've seen this ( and this ( of course