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Thinking about voting systems... - Habemus plus vis computatoris quam Deus
Ramblings of a Unix ronin
Thinking about voting systems...

perspicuity mentioned the Australian multi-party system and suggested some kind of vote-for-and-against system for the US, in which candidates had to receive more yes than no votes in order to be able to win.  This got me thinking, and I ended up wondering whether something like the following would work:

  1. Your ballot lists all declared candidates for each position, plus two write-in candidate boxes per position, plus a line for NONE OF THE ABOVE.
  2. For each of the above, you award a number of points from 1 to 5, where 5 points is STRONGLY LIKE, 3 is DON'T CARE, and 1 is STRONGLY DISLIKE.  Any line left blank, including NONE OF THE ABOVE, scores an automatic 3 (neutral/don't care).
  3. When tabulating votes, 3 is subtracted from the points awarded, to yield an actual adjusted vote score in a range of 2 (STRONGLY LIKE) through -2 (STRONGLY DISLIKE).  All votes cast for that candidate, for and against, are then summed to arrive at a total.
  4. Every candidate (except write-in candidates not otherwise appearing on the ballot) who does not receive more net adjusted votes than NONE OF THE ABOVE is eliminated, and is disqualified for life from running again for that office.  If no candidate running for a given office in a given district receives a higher net adjusted vote total than NONE OF THE ABOVE, then all candidates for that district are disqualified, and the district must be resolved separately in a by-election with all new candidates.  A candidate disqualified by a NONE OF THE ABOVE result is not a valid write-in candidate for future elections.
  5. If candidates remain who scored a higher net adjusted vote total than NONE OF THE ABOVE, the candidate having the highest adjusted vote total in any given district wins that district.  If two candidates have the same total score within a margin of error of 1%, the tie is resolved by determining which of them received the lowest total of NEGATIVE adjusted votes, i.e. which of the tied candidates is least disliked.  If no candidate has an adjusted vote total greater than zero (neutral), then since NONE OF THE ABOVE receives a default neutral vote, it is likely that NONE OF THE ABOVE will win.

(The 1% margin of error is intended to reduce the number of squabbles and re-re-re-recounts over handfuls of votes.  The exclusion of write-ins from NONE OF THE ABOVE elimination removes the possibility of a well-intentioned write-in vote for a candidate who receives few votes from having the unexpected side-effect of disqualify that candidate from any future election well, is completely moot actually, since as cipherpunk points out in the comments, it won't pass Constitutional muster.)

There is one obvious weakness here.  If any single party has overwhelming (>50%) support in a given district, its voters can permanently eliminate all other candidates in the election by voting a 5 for their candidate, a 4 for NONE OF THE ABOVE, and a 1 for every other candidate.  However, assuming that this gambit is uniformly applied by voters of all parties, in any district in which no party has greater than a plurality the result will be to eliminate all candidates from all parties running in that district; thus it is self-defeating except in districts completely dominated by a single party, in which case that party was going to win the seat anyway.  And that entire paragraph is now moot as well.  In any case, I've since realized that it's not a "safe" tactic anyway unless the majority party has considerably more than 50% of the vote ... I haven't done the math, but can safely say that if you have a sufficient majority of voter support to make it a safe tactic, you're almost certainly in no danger of ever losing the seat anyway.

This still doesn't yet address the issue of proportional representation, i.e, if party X receives a significant statewide vote, but does not have sufficient votes clustered in any single district to actually win a district, its voters go unrepresented.  But here I propose a means to fix that, by taking a different path at step 5:

  1. [Alternate]  After candidates and districts eliminated by NONE OF THE ABOVE are removed from consideration, all remaining votes are added up and the net adjusted vote totals for each party are used to determine the number of districts won by each party.
  2. Once the number of seats won by each party is determined, winners of individual districts are selected, starting with the party that won the LEAST number of seats, and awarding each party its allotted number of seats in order of those seats in which it received the greatest proportion of the vote, EXCLUDING seats in which all candidates were eliminated by NONE OF THE ABOVE (which must be resolved separately in a subsequent by-election).  After all seats due to the party winning the least number of seats have been awarded, seat selection passes on to the party winning the next greater number of seats.

Step 6 here is designed to ensure that minority parties receive their fair share of seats in the legislature, and at the same time ensure that their representatives in the legislature come from the districts in which they have the strongest support, even if they do not have sufficient support in any single district to win it in a first-past-the-post winner-takes-all election.

This will of course still result in some seats electing representatives who are not the favorites of the majority of voters in their district.  That is almost inevitable in any multi-party system, though.  What this system should ensure is that, even if your vote does not elect a candidate of your party in your district, at the state-wide level no vote for a minority party is wasted unless that party has so little support it cannot earn enough votes to win even a single seat, and also that minority parties earning enough state-wide votes to (proportionately) win at least one seat will represent the electoral districts in which they have the strongest support.  It does this without requiring multiple recounts, as transferable-vote systems almost invariably do.

So.  Thoughts?  Did I miss anything obvious, besides the one obvious weakness discussed above?

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(Deleted comment)
dafydd From: dafydd Date: July 29th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I would add that the disqualified for life clause would be prima facie violate the Ist Amendment.
(Deleted comment)
dafydd From: dafydd Date: July 29th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a straight-up limitation on someone's ability to express themselves. If I wish to use the electoral pulpit to present my values, the Ist Amendment wouldn't distinguish that pulpit from any other, as long as it is in the public realm.

Note that this argument would not apply to running for office in a private organization.
(Deleted comment)
dafydd From: dafydd Date: July 29th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
1) The SCOTUS' blanket elimination of many campaign finance laws, earlier this year, didn't pass my sniff test. They did it anyway. *shrug*

2) Your distinction suffers from false analogy. Felons have already voluntarily made themselves members of a class with limited rights. (In principle. I'll acknowledge false convictions.) If you're talking about a regular joe, you can't line him up with someone who took an action that resulted in a conviction for the most severe class of crime in this country.

A regular joe has the right to put his money and his mouth wherever he wants to, provided he does not incite violence or panic. If he wishes to put said money and mouth into an attempt to accede to a public office, that's his right. Further, by point 1, if he can convince others to back him, they also have the right to do so.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
The whole issue of campaign finance is a fetid cesspool badly in need of draining.
(Deleted comment)
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I do note, by the way, that my intent was not to forbid anyone from running for another office or trying in the next town over; just "THIS group of voters have said they don't want you in this office. Go away and bother someone else."

cymrullewes just made the observation that if someone wants to waste their money trying over and over to get elected by the same group of people to the same office, that's his problem and the public's probable gain. I think she has a point.

So, strike the disqualification for life for running for that office clause. What about the mechanics? Does it seem workable?
dafydd From: dafydd Date: July 29th, 2010 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
On the surface, yes they do. My only objection would be that instant runoff does much the same thing with a simpler mechanic. I wouldn't have a problem going to that with the "None of the above" option.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Mmm, true to an extent, but IRV requires multiple recounts, and provides no obvious mechanism for implementing state-wide proportionality.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
You have a point. How about the actual mechanics, though? Think it'd be (a) workable and (b) fair? Did I miss any obvious exploits?
From: databeast Date: July 29th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

you've all heard MY solution to fix the electoral system

#1. Parties no longer hold internal votes for their presidential candidate
#2. All parties pool of candidates are put to the popular vote
(First-past-the-post wins that parties involuntary nomination as their president candidate)
#3. Two men enter, One president leaves.
#4. International Pay-Per-View solves the budget deficit.

unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I could certainly go along with eliminating the current primary system. It's badly broken. I'd also like to see a return to the vice-President-elect being the President-elect's runner-up, not the President-elect's running mate. It would help re-introduce a little balance.
From: databeast Date: July 29th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll compromise. Fight-to-the-death for vice president?
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Among all the runners-up? :)
From: databeast Date: July 29th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
hell, make it an all-comers-welcome, just so long as I get my wish of seeing politics embrace its duty to public service in the form of gladiatorial combat.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: July 29th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
"Yeah, five tickets. Four spectator, one participant."
"That'll be $130, and the participant needs to sign the waiver. Did you want the chainsaber rental option?"
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