Voting / Elections

We use the mechanism of elections to choose those who will wield political power in order to keep this important decision-making power from falling into the hands of just a few people.  Obviously, the overall process of electing candidates is critical to putting the best people into office and thereby achieving high quality government.  That means the primary objective of elections is to make the best possible decisions for the overall well-being of all qualified electors.  Every aspect of the process needs to be carefully examined and engineered to achieve this primary objective while ensuring the integrity of the process.

Unfortunately, there are several areas where this has not been done well at all.  It is a particularly good time to re-examine everything since the technology available in the second decade of the 21st century, when very carefully utilized, can enable us to do a better job than was previously possible.  It should be noted here that some attempts to utilize modern technology which are already in service have been steps backward in that they do not provide a durable, human-readable audit trail; their use should be discontinued.

It has been well known for more than two centuries that the widely-used plurality voting method (the option receiving the largest number of votes wins) is the worst possible voting system.  It works well only when there are just two options.  When there are more than two options and no option receives a majority of the vote, plurality completely falls apart and is utterly incapable of picking the option that should win.  Also, it is the limitations of plurality voting which cause the almost irresistible pressure to vote insincerely for “the lesser of two evils.”

IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) is one alternative method that has gained some popularity and was recently adopted in Maine.  IRV does achieve some small improvement over plurality at an acceptable increase in complexity.  But unfortunately, IRV still has very serious flaws.  There still are important and common situations in which IRV is utterly incapable of rendering an intelligent choice, just like plurality.  IRV is just one of many ranked-choice voting (RCV) systems and much better methods than IRV are known.

MRCV was proposed in 2007.  It is a small variation on IRV which makes a huge improvement and is the best that can be done with a ranked-choice voting method.  In 2016, TWV (True Weight Voting) was proposed and may be the ultimate voting system.  However, it is a large departure from the familiar and it needs to be tested.  (TWV is a cardinal, not an RCV or ordinal method.)  Read all about it in the below articles.

“Voting For Better Decisions”

“A Comprehensive, Conclusive Analysis of Ordinal Voting Methods”

“Why MRCV Is the Best Possible Ordinal (ranked-choice) Voting System”

For reference and additional background information, the 2007 MRCV article is posted here:

View Essay

Another well-known problem is the practice of gerrymandering — defining electoral districts in a way which makes it easy for an incumbent to win re-election, or which favors the election of candidates from a certain political party.  Most proposals for reform revolve around attempting to form an “unbiased” commission, which then figures out how to draw the boundaries.  However, there is a much better, simpler, faster and lower cost solution which is laid out in the following short article.

 “How Best to Impartially Draw Electoral Districts”