Proposal for Alternative Voting System
I am proposing a system somewhat analogous to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), but simpler and more adaptable. Imagine no political parties or primaries, no "spoiler" effect, voting for the candidate you prefer rather than the biggest challenger to the one you most oppose, a larger pool of diverse candidates, greater opportunities for alternative candidates to gain a footing and perhaps win an election.
Our country is ruled by two crappy political parties. Independent-thinking or other party candidates have no chance in hell of being elected, because voters have a strong tendency to either: (1)- think that a vote for a candidate who won't win is a wasted vote, or (2)- vote for the candidate most likely to defeat a candidate they least want (e.g. vote for lesser evil Kerry to keep Bush out).
Personally, I admit that in the last presidential election (2) applied to me. I voted for Kerry because I felt the risk of Bush winning was awful, even thoe I didn't particularly support Kerry either.
Wouldn't it be nice if independent and alternative-party candidates had an equal standing during elections? Wouldn't it be nice if the pool of candidates represented a wider variety of views so that, perhaps, we might actually feel like supporting one of them? Wouldn't it be nice if we COULD vote for them -even if the have no real chance of winning- without thinning out the vote for similar candidates more likely to win (i.e. no "spoiler" concerns)? Wouldn't it be nice if we could vote for the candidate that we want to win, rather than the biggest challenger to the one we want most to lose?
The system I propose is actually somewhat similar to a system called Instant Runoff Voting. IRV addresses basically the same problem. I am not an expert on this by any means. The significant difference is that, with IRV, each voter must rank all of (or some of) the candidates to redirect them if their primary candidate loses; whereas with this system the candidate makes the decision (which I assume is legally more challenging). There are advantages to both of those. With IRV, the voter keeps control of the alternative choices their vote goes. With this system, it can better adapt to a larger pool of candidates. You can't use IRV, for example, with 100 different candidates and have each voter rank all 100 of them; waayyy too burdensome, but this system can deal with it. And if you compromise IRV by limiting the number of alternative candidates a voter can select, then you haven't fully solved the problem (e.g. if you have just one alternative, then you would have changed from just a two-party system to just a two-or-three-party system as only one other party would have any hope of being a contender, and personally I would like more choices that even that).
Maybe I am a minority and most people will prefer the IRV system and attack this. That is still a good thing, because IRV is a hell of a lot better than what we currently have and any such debate will only draw attention to something better, regardless of whether it is this or IRV or something similar.
Also, this eliminates the need for a primary election, saving fuss and saving money of doing that.
I propose we start a movement to make this happen in local elections. Perhaps it will catch on in other states as well, and someday, national elections can work this way.
Ok, so here is how my proposal works:
1. No formally-recognized political parties. All candidates are considered "independent". There can be a large number of candidates.
2. Hold election. Each voter votes for one candidate that is their favorite.
3. Count the votes. All of the candidates are assembled somewhere along with the people tabulating votes, and the following process is performed until a winner is determined. The intermediate lists and the vote transfers that take place are all public record.
3a. Count the votes and produce a list of candidates sorted in order of decreasing votes. That is, the candidate at the top of the list has the most votes. If two or more candidates tie somewhere in the list, then resolve the tie via sorting them into a randomize order (this is an easy computer problem, given a good entropy source for random number generation). Do not put candidates on the list that have zero votes.
3b. If the the candidate at the top has more than 50% of the total votes, then stop. The candidate at the top is the winner.
Note: If the result is an unusual exact two-way tie, continuing with the steps below will resolve it.
3c. Give the current list to the candidates and take a 15-minute (or whatever) recess. Candidates can go meet and make plans for transferring votes as they choose. Candidates will also be permitted to contact outside consultants during this process.
3d. After the recess, call for candidates to volunteer to transfer their votes. Any candidates may transfer their votes to other candidates higher up on the list (obviously the top candidate cannot do this), or just erase their votes completely if there is nobody higher up that they would choose to transfer to. A candidate who does this must do so for all votes they have from the list given at Step 3c, so they result in having zero votes, unless some other candidate transfers votes up to them.
Also note that candidates may choose to split their votes among multiple candidates higher up, if they choose.
3e. If none of the candidates volunteered to transfer or delete their votes, then the one at the very bottom is required to do so. Since nobody is below them to transfer votes up, this candidate would end up with zero votes and be eliminated from the list.
3f. After the vote transfers have taken place, go back to step 3a to re-assemble the list and continue down from there.
Some advantages of this system:
1. You can have a large number of candidates (hundreds?, thousands?, ...). Voters do not need to keep track of all of them and their platforms; only of those "in their camp" so they can pick one that reflects their position. Candidates would be assumed to be responsible for researching either other as needed to make responsible vote transfering decisions during the vote counting phase (after all, if you are going to vote for them for a political office, you can trust them to do that, can't you?).
2. There is no sense of a "spoiler" effect. Less popular candidates can be voted for with the general assurance that, even if the candidate you vote for does not win, your vote will almost certainly go towards getting a candidate to win that is more aligned with your views.
3. Because of the above, people will be less afraid to vote for alternative candidates. Alternative candidates who better reflect the wishes of the people are more likely to win the election.
4. Political power is shifted from the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties to the people.
5. Since the party affiliation of politicans will be less important, less middle-school style partisan bickering. More focus on actual issues rather than party platforms.
Some weaknesses (I'm sure others will think of many more, but if you can think of something better, propose it):
1. If you have a large number of candidates, voting can be more complex and error prone, as voters would have to choose from a large number of candidates so it would be easy to mistakenly pick the wrong one. However, if we have an intent of creating a relaible voting system this seems to be very solvable.
2. If you have a large number of candidates, the vote tabulation process can be very burdensome. If candidates are generally unwilling to voluntarily transfer their votes, then we have to go through that cycle for just about every candidate (if it takes about 1/2 hour to make it through one recess-vote-transfer-recount cycle and you have 1000 candidates, that's 500 hours). However, I'm sure the system can be tweaked to deal with that. For example, steps 3b/3e can be adjusted when the list is long, as an example:
- if the list is >100, you can only transfer votes to the first 100 and Step 3e applies to everyone after the 100th position.
- then, if the list is >50, you can only transfer votes to the first 50 and Step 3e applies to everyone after the 50th position.
- perhaps do an analogous step again if the list is > 30.
- then proceed normally, one at a time, the rest is only 15 hours of work at most.
3. The losing candidates are making decisions of where the votes they receive should go among the remaining candidates, rather than the voters themselves. I think this is normally alright, because voters would vote for candidates most reflective of their positions and, thus, would tend to transfer their votes in a way that best represents what the voter who voted for them would have wanted. But there would be times this is not the case. A voter may have a different set of priorities regarding the issues, and, thus, prefer someone else as an alternative than what the candidate would prefer. This difference would tend to grow as candidates transfer votes to candidates, who transfer votes, and so on. If this is thought of as a signficant problem, then IRV is an alternative.
I'm not a political process and legal expert by any means. I am just someone out there a bit fed up with the system throwing an idea out there, on the dream that it might spark a discussion and more movement towards an effective solution.
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