Saturday, February 4, 2012

Spoiling election spoilers

What if you ranked them instead?

The second round of the PC Leadership race is a great example of how elections should work.
Let's set aside the issues for a moment and look at the system: It's a three person race, and the objective is to satisfy as many of the voters as possible.
If you simply go with the first choices, Mar wins with 42.51% of the vote, and in a choice between him and Redford, you satisfy 48.89% of the people, leaving 51.11% disappointed with the outcome.
Horner's presence in the round would waste votes, allowing the least preferred of the top two candidates to be selected.
By allowing electors to indicate a second preference, this allows them to vote honestly rather than strategically. It also makes the campaign a little friendlier, rather than rejecting supporters of other camps, you can listen to them and earn their support for second choice ballots.
Most importantly, it keeps the system from determining the outcome. No matter how many people are in the race, you won't have spoilers.
Because of this system, Doug Horner didn't steal the race from Redford. Given the choice between Redford and Mar, the majority chose Redford. Simple, and more of the voters are satisfied.
For a counterexample, where this wasn't used, look at the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Ralph Nader ended up with 97,488 votes - well over the 537 votes that Bush ended up winning by.
Had Nader not been in the running, those votes would have split overwhelmingly in favour of Gore, and elected him instead. Or, if those people who voted for Nader had the opportunity to indicate a second preference, the outcome would have been similarly altered. The system didn't allow that, which left the election to Bush. And you know how well that turned out.
This preferential ballot system should be applied to our elections for Mayors, MLAs, and MPs.
This system of ranking candidates requires a little more cognitive overhead than simply marking an X. We're smart enough for that. This will make campaigns more friendly, allow constituents to vote more honestly, and provide results that satisfy more of the voters, without being ruined by spoiler candidates.
Mathematically, more people will be happy with the results under this ranking system than the simplistic system we have now.
Originally published October 7, 2011
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