Voting Systems

Did you know that the second most popular voting method, used in about one-third of countries worldwide, has serious flaws? Better methods have been determined mathmatically, but are hardly used. Most of the world is running their governments on outdated systems with provably better alternatives, and hardly anyone even realizes!

To understand this issue, first you have to understand what’s called “First Past the Post” or “plurality” voting. This is the kind of voting system used in countries like the United States, the UK, and most former colonies of the UK. It’s very simple, obvious system: each voter places a vote for one candidate, and whoever gets the most votes wins. Easy, right? The problem is that this system encourages a number of problems, such as tactical voting and gerrymandering.

Tactical voting is things like voting against who you dislike the most, instead of for who you actually like the most, or voting for a popular candidate so that your vote is not “wasted”. Tactical voting is a bad thing that screws up the Democratic process, but it’s basically inevitable and even encouraged under plurality voting. If you live in a country with plurality voting, I’m sure you know someone who’s done this, and maybe you’ve even done it yourself. Gerrymandering is where the people who draw the lines between voting groups like districts deliberately draw the line a certain way to skew results. Again, gerrymandering is very easy and a constant problem under plurality voting.

The math behind why these things happens is a bit complicated, but you can watch an excellent video explaining why some of the problems happen here. For those who don’t want to know the reasons behind it, suffice to say that the problems with plurality voting are actually well known by academics and you should be able to easily corroborate my account of them by reading most any article about the subject, such as this one.

So what should we do? Well, scientific study indicates that the Hare and Concordet-Hare systems are the best for minimizing the ease with which the system can be manipulated, and maximizing how pleased everyone is with the results. These systems have actually been known about since the 1800s, so it’s kind of staggering that almost no one has made the switch yet! I would urge readers to do their own research about voting systems and, if they live in a plurality-based system, write to their local government to demand change. Most every system is better than plurality, and frankly, we all deserve better.

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