Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 86 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/29/14

What Might be the Best Voting System?

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   11 comments, In Series: Balanced Voting
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Paul Cohen
Become a Fan
  (3 fans)

The second article of this series, What's Wrong with First-Choice Voting?, explored deficiencies of First-Choice Voting (Plurality Voting), the voting protocol that we generally use today. That article was intended to make the point that we should use a better voting system.

The first article, Are More Political Parties Possible Here? argued that a better system would be balanced, meaning that a voter could choose to cast a vote against a candidate as easily as for a candidate. Described in that article seems to be as simple a balanced voting system as possible - allowing each voter to cast a single vote but to require it specified whether that vote is for or against a specific candidate. When counted, a vote for a given candidate adds one and a vote against subtracts one from the net vote tally. This simple and natural example of balanced voting we will call, BV-1.

Other possibilities come to mind, however. A voter could be allowed two (BV-2) or three (BV-3) votes in place of just one. Is there a voting system that is best? It is not clear how to make that judgment, but as important as voting is for democracy, it is surely a question that is worth asking.

We can't dismiss the possibility that one of these systems, BV-5 for example, might be judged to be the best voting system, but that choice does seem arbitrary. But a system that does not seem so arbitrary is to allow a voter to cast as many votes as there are candidates. Accustomed as we are to casting only a single vote this may seem overly generous, but on further consideration, it appears to be a particularly good alternative.

Ballot for Balanced Approval Vote
Ballot for Balanced Approval Vote
(Image by Author, Author: User:Dantadd)
  Details   Source   DMCA

A voter is asked to cast either a for or against vote for each candidate in the race; but abstention is offered as yet a third option. In effect, the voter partitions the candidates into three disjoint sets:

  1. The candidates that the voter likes (or at least finds acceptable) will get a vote For (+1),

  2. those the voter dislikes (or finds unacceptable) will get a vote Against (-1) and

  3. about all the remaining candidates, the voter is undecided or ambivalent (0).

Thanks go to Steve Unger for pointing out the system of Approval Voting (AV is discussed at that is similar, though not balanced. With that system, the voter partitions the candidates into only two sets,

  1. The candidates that the voter votes For (+1),

  2. all the remaining candidates (0).

Recognizing the great similarity, this balanced system (with a three-way partition) will be called Balanced Approval Voting (BAV). Is this the best system of voting?

A curious feature of BAV is that typically, a voter does not indicate a first-choice candidate; the only way to do this would be to forgo the opportunity to vote For more than a single candidate. In this respect, BAV is nearly at the opposite pole from FCV which asks the voter only to specify a first choice from among the candidates. But much the same can be said of AV.

After the polls close, for BAV the votes For and Against each candidate are tallied and a net vote for each candidate is computed as the difference. These net vote counts tells us the net satisfaction with electing that candidate. A positive net vote means that number more voters would feel pleased than would feel displeased with the election of that candidate. Electing the candidate with the largest net vote would mean that the largest possible number of voters would be pleased rather than displeased with the outcome. Surely that is a result that we should be ready to accept and defend in a democracy.

A consideration in judging a voting scheme should be how stressful it will make voting. To a large extent this comes down to how accurately the ballot allows the voter express what he or she wants. Voters who feels unable to accurately express preferences for the candidates may feel cheated at the polls and may grow less inclined to vote in future elections. Much the same can be said for voters who feel pressured to make arbitrary (flip of a coin) decisions to satisfy what may seem like arbitrary demands of the ballot.

The first article of this series, Are More Political Parties Possible Here?, notes that balanced voting encourages elections to competitions between mort than just two viable candidates and that having more than two viable candidates naturally discourages polarized politics with its negative advertizing.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Paul Cohen Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Attended college thanks to the generous state support of education in 1960's America. Earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Illinois followed by post doctoral research positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Who Pays Taxes?

What Might be the Best Voting System?

Perverse Delivery Charges

What Could be Wrong with Ranked-Choice Voting?

Liberate Yourself from the Mainstream Media

Conservatives Without Conscience

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend