[EM] Worst methods ever used?

Adam Tarr atarr at purdue.edu
Wed Jul 16 11:42:10 PDT 2003

Kevin Venzke wrote:

>Maybe no one will be interested in this topic, but I wonder if there are any
>thoughts on it.  (Was Borda ever used?)

Borda is not, to my knowledge, used in the election of any serious 
political office.  I believe Saari convinced some college student council 
to elect its president this way; you can check the archives for details.

A slightly modified version of the Borda count is used to elect the MVP 
(most valuable player) and the like in many sports.  The fact that ballots 
are public probably prevents a lot of blatant strategy, but it hasn't 
stopped all of it.  In 1999, the American League MVP award was won by Ivan 
Rodriguez, a catcher whose defensive reputation made up for merely above 
average offensive production.  The second-place finisher, Pedro Martinez, 
had put up one of the greatest single-season pitching performances of all 
time, yet he was left off the ballot entirely by a few writers who did not 
want the pitcher to win the award.

As far as actual public office elections go, I don't think anything worse 
than plurality is in use.  One could argue that the combination of 
plurality voting, and the distortion of the electoral college, makes the 
most important democratic election in the world also the most technically 

>The worst I think I've heard of is Brazil's open-list PR.  (You can vote 
>for a party or for a single candidate within a party, which also counts as 
>a vote
>for the party.  The seats are divided up based on each party's share of 
>the vote, and
>the seats are filled in the order of who got the most individual votes.)

I don't see how this can be anything but uniformly better than closed list 
PR.  It's closed list, with an extra degree of freedom for the voter

>Most voters vote for an individual, and are unconcerned with parties.

Or maybe they're concerned about the parties, and have a favorite candidate 
within that party.  Do you have some reason to believe that voters don't 
care about the parties at all?  Even if they don't doesn't the fact that 
candidates group themselves together ideologically give the parties some 
inherent meaning?

>That means a candidate's "surplus" votes serve to elect candidates who may 
>not have any connection beyond party affiliation.

Which is all you have to go on in closed list... again, I don't see how it 
can really be worse than closed list.  Basically, every voter is being 
given the chance to elect their favorite candidate, plus they are being 
guaranteed ideological proportionality through the parties.

>Parties can't discipline candidates because parties aren't what earn votes.

To me, that is an unqualified positive - strong party discipline in closed 
party list democracies prevents the voters from getting candidates who 
match their views more closely than a standard party platform.


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