Thursday, July 23, 2015

Voting Systems, With Pictures!

So after watching a series of videos by the YouTube producer CGP Grey on voting systems. I want to add some thoughts.

1) The merit of "First Past The Post/Winner Take All" is it's simplicity. There's no dispute over who won, everyone understands it, and there's no question about it. The downside, as CGP Grey lays out, is that strategic voting corrals voters into two similar, static groups.

Height represents votes

2) The major alternative, proportional voting, is even worse. It is, in fact, the absolute worst kind of "democracy."

In proportional voting, each party receives the number of seats in the legislature close to the number of votes they win in the national election. But it is the party who decides who is actually the representative.

The party will create a list of candidates, and assign those candidates to the seats they win in order of priority. Those candidates will be absolutely loyal to the party, not the people, and focus only on those national issues that decide national elections, not local issues.

This strips representation away from local communities, ends local control of politicians, eliminates accountability and buries any local problems away from any solutions. You can't go to your local representative and ask for help with a problem, because you don't have a local representative. At most, you have a party representative officially voting in your name, but without regard for what you want.

Not only that, but should the party lose seats, it is the party that decides who stays and who goes. Popular politicians who go against the party may find themselves out of office even when the party gains seats, because they're bumped to as low as possible, expressly to get rid of them. Party loyalists who are not supported by the people may maintain office with a high ranking - as long as they don't harm the party brand too much.

3) Probably the best system is the Alternative Voting System. This one is similar to First Past The Post, in that the winner is the one who gets the most votes in the end. But the system is a little more complex.

Everyone gets 3 choices, ranked by preference. Everyone's first vote is counted normally, and the votes are tallied. If a candidate clears 50% of the voters, they win. If not, the candidate with the least votes is dropped from the race, and the second choice of the people who voted for him is counted instead.

Here, we have three votes for A and two for B, the established parties, two for C, and one for D, out of eight votes. None have a majority, but A has the lead. Here, D has the least votes, so he is removed from the race, and his voter's second choice is used instead.

So now we have three votes for A, two for B, and three for C. Because the voter for D was confident that a vote for D would not take away from his second choice, he was able to express support for D and C, instead of voting for the "least bad" choice.

Even though B is an established party of long standing, it has the least votes, and its candidate is dropped from the election, and the second choice of B voters is used.

And here we have the final outcome, where C wins. While A had a hardcore plurality of supporters that would've given them the election in a simple "Winner Take All" system, over half of the voters actually preferred someone else, and  compromised on C.

But in a WTA election, the actual votes may have been split between A and B, as the voters would be voting to avoid the "most bad" option, and sticking with the traditional parties as the most reliable wins. That skews the results in favor of older, established parties and against other parties. It also encourages at least one of the two major parties to benchmark itself against the other - to be just different enough to attract opposing voters, but similar enough so as to not scare off moderate voters or opposition voters.

So the next time you see a Republican and Democrat run basically the same campaigns with basically the same issues except for some difference around the edges, remember this system.
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