It is important that we not be confused by the false choice that there are only two viewpoints on any issue. This is why it is important that there to be enough candidates in the general election to challenge common wisdom, talking points and the implicit agreement in the two-party duopoly to avoid discussing issues that actually affect us.
Instead of our current (Single vote) system, I would prefer a voting method that does not force one to vote for a compromise based on assumptions of what other voters would do.
Range voting could be implemented immediately on current optical scan ballots, and would, in most cases, select the candidate closest to the centroid of political opinion. With range (AKA score voting), there is no need for a primary. However, if the slate of candidates is not well-known, it may necessary to hold a runoff if the candidate with highest total score has less than 50% of the maximum possible score. In that case, I would encourage a runoff with the following criteria:
- Include all candidates whose score sum is at least half that of the maximum score sum, including at least the top three scoring candidates.
- Also include the top three candidates with highest average score, provided they meet some quorum rule (e.g., score sum greater than or equal to 5% of the maximum).
- The number of runoff candidates should be at least three, not two. Why? Since Range does not penalize a voter for rating more than one candidate, the extra choice will increase the level of debate. With the current two-party duopoly, there is an implicit agreement to avoid discussing complicated issues.
Why do I favor Range voting over Approval? It lets the voter express more nuance in their selection. While it may be better strategically (from an individual voter's point of view) to give maximum score to all acceptable candidates, ratings allow the voter to express partial approval for other viewpoints, if only to encourage them to keep contributing to public discourse.
- All ranked ballot methods are subject to Arrow's impossibility theorem, but Score Voting is not.
- Score Voting is better able to choose the centroid winner in single-winner elections than any Condorcet method.
- Score Voting is simple to implement and would give better results quickly.
You can contact me at araucaria dot araucana at gmail dot com.
Election Reform Priorities
My highly opinionated views on what can be done to improve the US form of government:
Trust in the process
Before anything else, we need to trust the mechanics of voting:
- Did your vote count?
- What's so special about voting?
- Trustworthy Cryptographic Voting Systems
- Trust but Verify. Use a machine to enter the ballot, but print it out in a form that is readable by both humans and machines. Count the paper ballots only. This lets people enter their vote by hand if they need to, in the event of machine malfunction, ink running out, etc.
- In my personal opinion, the voting period should be longer than 7 AM to 8 PM. Let it be 2, 3 or even 7 days. And ballot verification should be available online.
Redistricting is too entwined with partisan politics. By federal law, states should be required to enact non-partisan restricting reform along the lines of Iowa's successful law. In a nutshell:
- First, after the census, the state sets up a 5 person redistricting commission. The Democrats and Republicans choose two members each. These four then choose a fifth non-partisan member who serves as the chairperson. By law the fifth member cannot be a holder of any political party office and cannot be a relative or employee of any member of the legislature.
- This five member commission then sets about redrawing the districts using several legal guidelines. Among these are:
- Population - The districts must be as equal in population as possible.
- Respect for political subdivisions - for example county lines.
- Contiguousness - The district must be contiguous. Iowa law says that any area that meets only at the points of the corners is not contiguous.
- Compactness - This is the relative "squareness" of the district. As much as the other factors will allow, the district must be as compact as possible. This gets rid of those oddly shaped districts seen in other states.
- Political and racial neutrality - The Iowa Code states that districts shall not be drawn to favor any political party, an incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or any other person or group. The district also cannot be drawn for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.
- To insure compliance with number 5 above, Iowa law prohibits use of the following data:
- Addresses of incumbents
- Political affiliation of registered voters
- Previous election results
- Any demographic data other than population headcounts.
Transparency and efficiency of legislative process
The current US legislative process moves at the same leisurely pace it did in the mid-19th century.
- Riders are attached with no warning and bills are not always voted on by all members.
- There is no reliable way to determine accountability. This harkens back to the days of "smoke-filled rooms".
- Career politicians are relying on lobbyists to write legislation.
- The only way to debate is on the floor of the House.
We need a method of legislation that would works quickly and transparently, whatever the size of the legislative body, be it 50, 500 or 50000. The rules need to be open and non-partisan. And the system of making those rules needs to be protected by checks and balances.
One way to streamline legislation would be to compress the highly inefficient technique of Robert's Rules of Order, which reduces every decision to a series of Yea/Nay votes. A strong Condorcet method could be used to resolve the preference between many options at the same time.
The House of Representatives is not representative
The US House of Representatives has been frozen at 435 members for nearly 100 years. That's one member for every 640,000 people. The Founders originally thought there would be one member for every 30 to 50 thousand people. The number of representatives should be increased to at least 600. This would also decrease the over-representation of small states and under-representation of large states in the Electoral College.
I favor an increase to 600 districts with 5 members per district.
Local representation is best implemented using Proportional or Full Representation, with at least 5 members per district. Single_transferable_vote (STV) is the method used in most of the world to implement PR, but it is complicated and is difficult to scale. Instead, I favor Asset Voting. Each voter would have 10 votes, which they could distribute among any number of candidates (up to 10, of course). After the first round of voting, the candidates would treat their votes as assets and could trade votes to accumulate a Hare quota and win a seat.
A better single-winner Voting system
Proportional Representation (PR) proponents tend to think that if STV is good for multi-winner elections, it will be good for single-winner elections also, in the form known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). But it isn't. That's because STV is very good at ensuring representation of a wide variety of different viewpoints but isn't so good at aggregating many different viewpoints into a single compromise.
- Unlike IRV, it doesn't require recounting ballots after each elimination.
- Unlike IRV, all preferences are accounted for, not just those for the eliminated candidates.
- An imagined conversation between James Madison and Arnold Schwarzeneggar
- The Wisdom of Crowds. Under what circumstances can a group make the best decision?
- See third Letter to the Editor on this page. It is a proposal to use First Choice plus Approval as an alternative to the Top 2 primary.
- Why IRV gets worse results.