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Western-Style Voting 'A Loser'

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the math-and-politics-two-great-tastes dept.

Math 614

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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FIRST TROUT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931070)

Vote for me! I am a fish!

Is it just me? (-1, Offtopic)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931080)

Does that whole summary reek of smug? Or is that troll that I smell? Ahh I got it, a troll driving a Prius that explains the troll stink and the smug.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931294)

In other words he used lots of words you did not understand so you try and dismiss it any way you can.

I have a better idea, try and look up all the bits you did not understand and then you might learn something.

Re:Is it just me? (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931528)

Does that whole summary reek of smug? Or is that troll that I smell?

The number of links in the summary should give you a tip. Plenty of theories, most of them without real proof.


No voting system will be perfect while we keep voting for people instead of issues. Instead of inventing ever more complicated systems for choosing representatives, why not develop a system where every person is allowed to give an opinion on the law articles themselves?

Re:Is it just me? (1)

porl (932021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931746)

i always thought that. i'm not so sure now though, as i have a feeling it would come down to just the same 'popularity contest' but driven by media towards the law they would prefer you to vote rather than towards a particular person. i'm not sure of any better alternative though, just some idle thoughts of mine :)

porl

"Western"? (5, Informative)

docotron (799894) | more than 6 years ago | (#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"? (5, Informative)

Anomolous Cowturd (190524) | more than 6 years ago | (#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"? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931246)

I think the ultimate point of the article is 'lol wst sux'.

Re:"Western"? (3, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#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"? (4, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931354)

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:"Western"? (2, Informative)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931438)

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".

Re:"Western"? (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931630)

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 Scotland bears this out. In Scotland they are the a minority part that very few people vote for (15% of actual votes). The system is not designed to benefit any particular party, just to ensure that the most popular parties are more likely to get a massive majority over the others.

Disclaimer - I am not affiliated with the Liberals in any way :)

Re:"Western"? (0)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931658)

Also note that the stats on your page about which party got the most actual votes are wrong. Please re-check the wikipedia page you supposedly use as a source. It shows that Labour got 9,562,122 votes while the Conservatives got 8,772,598.

If your page is based on a different source please quote it so we can see for ourselves.

Re:"Western"? (0, Troll)

Peter Nikolic (1093513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931720)

And the sooner we can get this labourite SCUM out the better i dont know with tony (airy fairy)blair(Y) and gordon(the gofer)brown need i say more .. and as for immigration controls dont make me laugh blow to frikin tunnel up i say maybe .5 kiloton of nukes should work .

Re:"Western"? (3, Informative)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931446)

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"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931280)

There is another "Western" democracy "across the ditch" that uses Mixed Member proportional voting, much like the German one.
Unlike Oz, voting is not compulsory, but we do get 85-90% turnout. Part of that is due to having the election on a Saturday, so (most) people can get to the polls. The idea of having elections on a Tuesday (like the USA) seems silly when (nearly) everyone is working.

Re:"Western"? (5, Informative)

Malekin (1079147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931418)

Voting is not compulsory in Australia. Attendance on polling day is. What you do once you're in the booth is entirely your business. You may vote, or you may fold your ballot into a jaunty hat and draw a picture of a happy flower.

Re:"Western"? (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931540)

Actually, if I recall correctly, voting is compulsary. It just happens that the existence of the secret ballot is considered more important that enforcing it. I remember hearing of a few incidents of people being fined for encouraging others to lodge invalid votes.

Re:"Western"? (2, Informative)

cbunix23 (1119459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931628)

As the difficulty of voting increases the participation of voters drops off but not uniformly. It tends to be Democrats that drop off more than Republicans. Everyone knows this but doesn't say it in public, except on slashdot where people say anything. The US State of Ohio -- has a Democrat for governor now and executive branch -- is kicking around the idea of making elections last over a few days and making it easier to vote, but that's going to be a hard sell to the Republicans in the legislative branch.

Re:"Western"? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931226)

"the German Federal Diet is elected by a hybrid of the first-past-the-post election system and party-list proportional representation."

But is it effective at losing weight?

There's more to it than voting and legislatures! (5, Insightful)

snowbrigadier (1213676) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:There's more to it than voting and legislatures (5, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931326)

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).

Re:There's more to it than voting and legislatures (4, Interesting)

pthisis (27352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931442)

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:There's more to it than voting and legislatures (2, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931544)

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.

When you start doing things like Result Voting, then you get the Russians voting low scores for the Americans in Ice Skating, so that they drag their numbers below the scores for their own team... and the Americans reciprocate by doing the same thing. Or if you have a rival video on Youtube or something, you score them with 1 star (especially if the vote count is low) so that your own video appears higher on the sort-by-ratings list.

The wikipedia article isn't the whole story on the Arrow Impossibility Theorem -- the reality is worse. You can always game a system that has >= 3 candidates. That's the end of the theory. The practical suggestion I made is that we thus use one of these alternative voting systems for primaries, and do a simple 2-party final election. That would eliminate the spoiler effect, while not penalizing people to freely vote for 3rd party candidates. Plus, it has the practical side effect that one simply cannot track the positions of large numbers of candidates.

Re:There's more to it than voting and legislatures (5, Insightful)

localman (111171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931590)

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.

Actually the UK does use other systems (2, Informative)

Cally (10873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931586)

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 since 1922 of course.) Some form of PR, a party-list based system IIRC, is also used in the UK for elections to the European Parliament.

Wrong term ... (3, Insightful)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931114)

... '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:Wrong term ... (2, Insightful)

jamesswift (1184223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931266)

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.

4-year dupe cycle (3, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#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...

Re:4-year dupe cycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931314)

Much as we need a better system, it won't catch on if it can't be explained in one simple sentence.

Re:4-year dupe cycle (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931582)

Systems broke, it needs to be fixed.

There, is that simple enough for you? Or do I have to include the solution as well? Because I don't think I could explain America's current system (which is the weirdest I've ever seen) in one sentence.

PR-STV in Ireland (5, Interesting)

zoney_ie (740061) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:PR-STV in Ireland (0)

crush (19364) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931686)

The problem however is that no matter what system, we are voting for politicians.

Even if you weren't voting for a politician you would still be voting for someone that you have to trust to implement their promised platform. There is virtually no means by which an ineffective (or down right duplicitous) office holder (I guess that's nearly a definition of a politician!) can be removed from office under any of the available systems. Looking at your country's description [citizensinformation.ie] of the voting system certainly doesn't seem to indicate it, and the only instances [geocities.com] which I can think of in N.America was a brief movement by the left-wing CCF in Canada in the 1930s and then by the right-wing Reform Party in the 1990s.

Really, the idea that we have to trust some professional sleazebag to do what they promise even when we know they won't -- so much so that it's almost a cliche -- makes me wonder how anyone can rationalize voting to themselves. Still, I guess MTV told us to "rock the vote" or something.

Anyone want to bet that in a cringeworthy display of how we just don't get it [counterpunch.org] that Barrack Obama becomes the next president and keeps on implementing the agenda of the wealthy coterie that runs politics?

Libertarian is the only vote that makes sense.

Re:PR-STV in Ireland (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931688)

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. (4, Insightful)

hyfe (641811) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

grahammm (9083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931200)

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. (4, Interesting)

ardle (523599) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:This is stupid. (1)

kmarshallbanana (1192023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931392)

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.

If my understanding of the US system is correct then were the President (Bush) to step down then the Vice-President (Cheney) would be in charge. Thus this particular 'weirdness' is present in the US too.

Re:This is stupid. (2, Informative)

s7uar7 (746699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931588)

That's not quite the same. In the US you vote jointly for a President and Vice President, so you know who's going to take over. In the UK you vote for the party, and anyone in the party could take over as leader.

Re:This is stupid. (2, Interesting)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931400)

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 the results inform others that third parties can be a viable choice. This is what happened in New York in 1936 [mtholyoke.edu] when they introduced the Single Transferable Vote; prior to it, the democrats pretty much controlled everything, but afterwards, many parties appeared. (It was eventually repealed - the main parties' Red Scare tactics with regards to elected Communists worked.)

The point here is that a shift does not only change the situation today, but it changes the preconditions for the situation tomorrow. Changing the method could lead to more parties, and more parties would mean it's harder to bribe them all, weakening the power of capital, for instance.

"The West", you say? (5, Insightful)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:"The West", you say? (1)

MaXMC (138127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931212)

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

Well, I'd say he's right, we're more in the middle.
I mean, You got the west on the left and the east on the right, that makes Europe in the middle.

Re:"The West", you say? (3, Informative)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931292)

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 candidate got that many ones, twos, threes, etc up to nines), the granularity of the ballot is a constant, so it's still linear.

As for Condorcet, counting a ballot takes quadratic (0.5*n^2) time with respect to the number of candidates. If A, B, and C are ranked on a ballot, then you just check if A is more highly ranked than B, A more highly ranked than C, and B more highly ranked than C.
Finding out who the winner is is linear in the best case - that there's a candidate who's preferred to all the others one-on-one and that's the first candidate you checked, and quadratic in the worst case if there's still a candidate who's preferred to all the others. If there is a cycle, the methods vary, but in public elections, that would be exceedingly rare. Though for the case of completion, I'll note that most of the good Condorcet methods (like CSSD [wikipedia.org] which Debian uses [debian.org] ) are n^3 in the very worst case. In either case, determining the winner once the votes have been totaled up into the matrix takes logarithmic time in terms of the number of ballots (since all you have to do is compare numbers in the matrix or the averages list).

Another advantage with Range or Condorcet is that you can count the ballots where they're gathered and then only transmit a small amount of data (the pairwise counts for Condorcet, or the numerators and denominators for the average for Range), instead of having to count everything at the central place as in IRV.

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).
Too bad about the how-to-vote cards then, no? Though there's nothing about IRV that demands you have to rank absolutely all the candidates, the implementation you have is flawed.

Re:"The West", you say? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931490)

"Too bad about the how-to-vote cards then, no?"

WTF is wrong with the "how to vote" cards?

Re:"The West", you say? (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931556)

They give power to those with infrastructure, i.e. the parties. But if you want to have a party-based system, why not go straight to party list PR?

Re:"The West", you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931352)

IRV has horrible weaknesses and actually supports a two party system. Read more about it.

Re:"The West", you say? (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931452)

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

Re:"The West", you say? (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931696)

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:"The West", you say? (0)

Wellspring (111524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931668)

This is a very interesting system you're describing. You're right that confidence in the integrity of the system is paramount. If even 10% or 5% of the electorate gave up on democracy and decided to take up arms, the country would collapse. Every technological advance makes that critical threshold number go down as our infrastructure becomes from complex and fragile and as individuals become more empowered.

I think what most people miss, though, is the real goal of voting. Yeah, you're trying to pick the "best" people for the job, whatever that means. But you're also trying to exert influence on the voter. Every time someone exerts a force, there's a counterforce, and I've long felt that this reverse effect was the most important.

People get so caught up in the mathematics of voting that they lose sight of the fact that the result of the process is supposed to be a coherent national policy. In the article, Poundstone tries to claim that Senators and Presidents weren't directly elected because the Framers realized Poundstone's problem and couldn't resolve it. If you actually read the history, though, it turns out that they were worried about the policy outcome of too much popular participation. They were worried that left to themselves, the people would be fickle and prone to passions of the moment. Long, staggered terms for senators, indirect elections, and a very hard-to-change Constitution mean that big changes in national policy require sustained, broad-based, long-term effort. Not to mention convincing an entire branch of government that isn't elected at all.

I'd say that the sole purpose of democracy isn't to select the government that people want. That's important, but even more important is that it exists to take a naturally balkanized, radical electorate and integrate them into a cooperating, moderate whole. It's to gel the mix of narrow, contradictory, ever-shifting popular impulses into a stable and consistent policy. And its to invest people in the process sufficiently that they are comfortable with its outcome, especially since no policy can completely satisfy more than a tiny minority of the public.

This can't be accomplished mathematically. It has to be argued out in a necessarily messy process. All the slicing and dicing in the world won't produce a policy that satisfies a majority, because such a policy doesn't exist. Candidates, factions, coalitions and parties are just proxies for these policies.

Having tried to follow debian elections (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931180)

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.

Re:Having tried to follow debian elections (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931324)

People should be able to follow Range voting; practically every review has an "out of five" or "out of ten" verdict. It's not as good as Condorcet (IMHO, but Warren disagrees). Still, it's a lot easier to explain if there's any chance of a cycle in a Condorcet election. (If not, both are probably as easy to explain: "Rate each candidate, and the candidate who has the highest average wins", versus "Rank the candidates, and the candidate who wins against all the others in a round robin wins".)

I Prefer Cage Voting (5, Funny)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931192)

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.

Re:I Prefer Cage Voting (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931380)

Why do I feel you are a Clinton supporter?

Re:I Prefer Cage Voting (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931570)

Perhaps he's a Putin [wikipedia.org] supporter?

Re:I Prefer Cage Voting (2, Funny)

Ikipou (1193603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931478)

Unfortunately, the Cage Voting system have a huge bias in favor of Chuck Norris

Re:I Prefer Cage Voting (5, Funny)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931560)

oohhhhhhhhhhhh... So that's what happened in California?

Re:I Prefer Cage Voting (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931602)

..Brockian Ultra-Cricket!

Right choice vs Majority choice (3, Insightful)

denoir (960304) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Spectator choice vs Participant choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931270)

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

The reason it doesn't work is because too many people are spectators doing commentary on it not working, and too few being participants in making it work. You'll never have a working system that depends on people doing nothing.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931288)

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.

So take away the right to vote for some (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931374)

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 conservatism and libertarianism), should be allowed to vote. If someone wants to sign up for the reserves, and really volunteer their time, they should have to choose to receive no pay at all while they maintain their right to vote.

#2 is critical. How many welfare babies have you heard of that are down with the idea of limited government?

I live in Fairfax County, VA, a place where a significant number of the wealthy voters are contractors and federal employees. It shows in their voting, as we are by far one of the most statist counties in Virginia.

Re:So take away the right to vote for some (1)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931466)

I say, take the right to vote from anyone who disagrees with me, since they are simply wrong.

Re:So take away the right to vote for some (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931510)

I'm in the United States Military.

In response to your #2, FUCK YOU. I put my LIFE on the line, you bigoted piece of trash. You want to take my vote away for it? FUCK YOU. Why the living hell don't I get to have my voice heard? I am a CITIZEN SOLDIER. I'm not a conscript, a mercenary, a slave. I don't get a god-damned welfare check from the government, I get a fair wage for an honest day's labor. FUCK YOU.

/AC for OPSEC.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (5, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931504)

Of course I spend my mod points exactly two seconds before I encounter your post. The GP's ludicrous assertion that it is the rich corporate heads who build our society and are somehow naturally better than everyone else seriously encouraged me to reply while logged in and ruin my moderation of this discussion. Thankfully, you said almost precisely what I was planning to.

Hopefully, you'll get modded +5 to negate the insane +5 mod of the GP.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

forand (530402) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931666)

If for no other reason than to have a sensible counter-point to the GP.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (2, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931698)

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. The "managers" direct the "peons" to where they can perform with maximal efficiency. 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". Both are equally important in the end, but this has little relevance as to who should be in charge. 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. You do need trained managers for things to go smoothly, and they will inevitably form the "elite" simply by virtue of being different. 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!).

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.
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.

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.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931406)

"...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.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (1)

yariv (1107831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931410)

Democracy is not perfect, obviously, but in the words of Winston Churchil:

"Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (1)

kmarshallbanana (1192023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931518)

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.

I disagree.

Firstly I would say that it is your average Joe that makes society work (I don't quite see how you could have it without cleaners, factory workers & teachers) (they may not be important in moving society forward through technology and art but thats another issue).

Secondly, who are these exceptional people creating jobs and how are they being done over. Are they the executives of large firms that employ thousands? Because they seem to do pretty well for themselves. Or maybe they are small business owners? They can hardly be described as getting the short end of the stick, and I would hardly describe cafe/bar proprietors and hardware store owners as exceptional.

Re:Right choice vs Majority choice (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931672)

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. And most of all, they don't want company. They want the freedom to throw their weight around either legally (IP) or economically (monopolies) to make sure no creative upstarts steal their thunder. Does it create jobs? Sure, it generates bulk jobs at decent rates in megacorps but that's also it. Almost every time, every revolution it's the little people tired of seeing the fat cats run off with all the profits. Every time it turns out that workers can better conditions and yet the world doesn't go to hell, they just have to fight tooth and nail for it.

Does it get better in a democracy? Well, there's a lot of things I can see wrong about that too, mostly people awarding money to "themselves" that they haven't earned but simply take from the net tax contributors. Still, we haven't seen a single revolution yet where the workers have rebelled and told their unemployed, sick, eldery, disabled, children to frigging care for themselves and stop relying on the government to take care of them. And while you might say they "pay the bills" for society, I'm not sure I'd want them to rule on every other decision on how society should work.

What I miss is a different kind of "above average", the men and women of principles and freedoms that manage to see beyond the tip of their own viewpoint to secure fundamental rights and equal opportunities for all. The ones that realize that "free speech zones" is like boxing people together so they can preach to the choir, while restricting the public dissemination that is the point. The ones that realize what it means to deny suspected terrorists the right to trial. The ones that understand what it means to torture people, treat foreigners like criminals, collect the new STASI archives, massive wiretapping of the general public and so on and so forth. Not just "The terrorists are lurking at every corner, do anything you want". That is if they even have a clue what is happening around them.

Wikipedia agrees (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931214)

Simple majorities are outdated. All it does is give you 49% of people pissed off at the other 51%. Achieving consensus is often impractical, but you can get a pretty good compromise by allowing for weighted votes, where each voter can specify the degree of his liking or not liking each candidate. That way, you end up with someone that perhaps the majority doesn't love, but everybody can accept. Ultimately that seems to be a much more sensible way of determining the leader of an entire nation. The fact that Wikipedia works as well as it does, despite being perceived as an anarchy, is due to the policy that people should agree mutually on what goes into an article, rather than simply reverting each other until one side "wins". For all of WP's faults, it so far has made a better example of a society than any globalized nation I can think of.

Re:Wikipedia agrees (2, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931440)

>>The fact that Wikipedia works as well as it does

LOL

If we implemented the wikipedia system, our president would be chosen by who could yell the loudest for the longest period of time, and then Jimbo would come in and put his brother in the Oval Office.

Wikipedia is a very dysfunctional community. I'm rather amused you'd consider that an effective system of governance.

"The West"? (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931218)

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 becomes Approval voting (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931238)

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 noting that Kuro5hin experienced the same effect, and switched from range voting to approval voting on comments.

For general elections, I'd recommend either approval voting (because the mechanics is so much simpler) or preferential voting because several of the vote counting techniques for preferential voting makes strategic voting very difficult.

Democracy is for dictators who lack confidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931300)

There is no 'right' system.

People favour the system they see as being most likely to give them the results they would like.

Approval voting makes more sense than Range voting (5, Insightful)

ben there... (946946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931302)

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.

Scrap voting completely (5, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931320)

Make a huge wiki of all the countries laws, policies and decision making.

The government that anyone can edit.

Re:Scrap voting completely (1)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931340)

But you just *know* that sooner or later there would be secret mailing lists... then a scandal about the emails being deleted...

Probably sooner.

Wikipedia plurality description misses something. (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931332)

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.

Rating voting is far from perfect (2, Interesting)

dml_42 (448729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931334)

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 should not win the election.

Arrow's theorem implies that EVERY voting system has MAJOR flaws. This includes range voting, instant runoff, etc.

However, I have to say that I do like range voting (in particular its reduction of regret). But it should not be considered a panacea for alls the problems with voting methods.

Re:Rating voting is far from perfect (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931542)

There's also the strong defensive criterion, which means it shouldn't hurt if a majority votes for two parties instead of just the one they prefer the most. Range fails it because if you vote for say, Green and Democrat, your Democrat vote will counter your Green (and if all Green voters do the same to hedge, then the Green can never win). Condorcet passes...

... but in the case of cycles, Condorcet is complex. Since Range dynamics matter, not all is lost, however; when the parties become about equal in size, some of the Greens may stop rating the Democrat highly. So both Condorcet and Range are better than plurality and (one'd expect) escape the third party spoiler problem.

The above shows that Range (and its reduction, Approval) is not flawless -- and Bayesian regret only makes sense if you accept that you can sum up utilities. Arrow didn't, so his theorem doesn't apply to Range; he constructs a mostly-circular tie and then shows that excluding a certain candidate makes a certain other win, where the situation is symmetric, so the system can't be perfect.

It would be interesting to see a theorem showing that no rated voting system is perfect either (or that there is some perfect system), but Arrow isn't it.

Two party system? (5, Insightful)

sucker_muts (776572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931336)

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

Re:Two party system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931390)

I'm from Belgium, and here there are a lot of parties.

Hahaha... and it takes them over half a year to form a government, if at all...

No really, bad example! :-)

Re:Two party system? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931502)

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? (5, Informative)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Re:Two party system? (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931760)

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 the city I grew up in Plymouth. The complete conservative council killed all the services and ran it into the ground, under the last ten years the complete labour council has brought buses every ten minutes to everywhere, brought in lots of markets, carnivals, displays, restored old public swimming pools and updated massive amounts of the city centre. But this has come with a cost, Plymouth has one of the highest council tax rises (each year) in the country. The last local election came down to two issues council tax increase and the dramatic remodelling of the city (unpopular with the older folks.) The Labour candidates promised continued investment but it would mean high council tax rises, the Conversatives promised no more council tax increases but it would mean killing a bunch of the city centre services and stop all investment, the Lib Dem candidate promised a high council tax rise but no new services or investment, while my local green candidate was only concerned about stopping wind farms being built. The young people like myself want to see the investment, we like the fact that we have a massive city centre which on weekends will have a big screen and seating for tennis, world cup,etc.. a place were bands are paid to come and play, the fact the labour candidates want to take the most dodgy area of the city and massively improve it, the old folks all wanted an end to 12% increases, no one liked the idea of a 9% increase (lib dem suggestion) with the dodgy area remaining.

While more complex, the same thing happens on a larger scale. In my last general election I could have voted for a Labour, Conservative, Green, UKIP, BNP, two independents and even one of the Cornish nationalists. The BNP and Green party do get seats in parliament.

Any voting system is fraud (2, Interesting)

kanweg (771128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931346)

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 expensive poll with a large sample (yet still very often biased). It could be less biased by asking only 1% of the population to vote (computers select the voters randomly).

Also, voting takes away any nuance you may have. For example, I'm a democrat in the sense that I'd want that civilians can influence the outcome of decisions by the government by supplying facts, arguments and ideas, and that the process is transparent. The party that defends democracy in the Netherlands, but they are old hat proponents of chosen mayor etc. More elections doesn't give an individual voter any more effect!! I want someone capable, not someone popular!!

My idea of democracy is a kind of public wiki per topic that the government decides on, but it must be a moderated wiki to keep things organized, and civil. Politicians will be smoked out when they say stupid things that have been proven wrong in the wiki. Media will have a field day. So, politicians will pay attention. And yes, it is possible to do that without the moderators giving too much power.

Bert

meh (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931362)

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.

spoilers? Or serious candidates. (5, Insightful)

frietbsd (943773) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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".

Yes. Any system is better ... (1)

Mirzabah (866477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931486)

... except for all the other systems that have been tried.

time-consuming.. (1)

anmol2k4 (1188867) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931492)

In my view range based voting will be too time-consuming.

Information Technology. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931514)

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 expensive so to work around this limitation we can use this shiny tech sitting in front of us and encourage people to express themselves on policy. This raw data can be statistically turned into useful Information for representatives to consider when they cast their vote in our name. I hesitate to endorse the extreme where a resource such as this would dictate policy as it should be filtered through some kind of rule-system that would prevent tyranny of the majority situations. Everyone's waiting for their government to do something like this but that is not necessary, for now any citizen has the freedom to tabulate what their fellow citizens think. And that would be very useful when it comes to measuring exactly who is divergent when it comes to the principal of representation. A history of divergence without corresponding "good of the many" justifications would also provide valuable feedback when it comes time to choose the next representative. The most difficult aspect initially would be just making citizens aware that such a resource existed.

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931552)

Voting should be as simple as what it was designed to be, there's just been a whole lot of extra cruft added on by various world governments for political purposes (some areas claim they should have more influence and thus, more votes, others claim their voting system should be different, it's a mess).

Voting -itself- is not a mess, and if it were implemented properly, it would work:

- you place a vote for a candidate. Check it off on a box, on a piece of paper. Or for that matter, one of those "fill in the circle" forms that they use for some statistical surveys that can be read by computers -- this leaves a paper-trail while speeding up the counting process. No "chads," no rigged voting machines, no bullshit.

- when the votes are counted, a simple majority = win for that candidate. One recount should be mandatory in cases in which the vote is close -- but if the candidate who wins is ahead by two votes after that recount, then they still win. The whole point of having votes is to establish with certainty who the majority of the voting population believes should win.

I don't know, I'm sure people with more knowledge of political science will chime in and tell me how wrong this is...but why should voting really be any more difficult than checking a box, counting the boxes that are checked, and giving the win to the man/woman with the most checked boxes? Isn't this the most neutral way possible of conducting a vote?

gn4a (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931554)

not a troll (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931568)

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...

True "Western-style" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21931660)

A truly western-style election would include guns and back-to-back aligned candidates.

Only in America can you come up with these crazy ideas!

I would be wary (4, Insightful)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

First-past-the-post (1)

dskoll (99328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21931754)

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 by fewer than 50% of voters. I believe first-past-the-post is a reasonable compromise that keeps the power of splinter groups in check and prevents them from hijacking the agenda.

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