[EM] Alternative electoral systems as tools to promote socialnetworks and activism

Jan Kok kok at surfbest.net
Fri Nov 26 00:36:18 PST 2004


I applaud you for thinking about, writing about, and promoting a mechanism
that encourages grass-roots activism.  However, I see a couple of problems
with the indrep idea in its present form:

1.  Why do you recommend allowing each voter to vote for only one candidate?
That's Plurality voting, a method despised by most people who have studied
other voting methods.  The main problem with Plurality voting when applied
to the indrep idea is that most grass-roots activists have to earn a living
in the real world and therefore only have time to study and promote one or
two issues.  So a voter who cares about half a dozen issues may have a hard
time finding a candidate who not only takes a position on all the issues of
interest to the voter, but also takes a position that is acceptable to the
voter.  I suggest using Approval Voting, which would let voters vote for one
or more advocates for issue A, one or more advocates for issue B, etc.

2.  When a candidate takes positions on multiple issues, it becomes
difficult to tell what votes for that candidate mean.  Did each voter agree
with the candidate's position on every one of the issues?  Maybe one voter
liked the candidate's position on issue A and had no opinion about issue B.
Maybe another voter disagreed with the candidate about issue A but felt that
the candidate was such a great advocate for issue B that it was worth
overlooking the disagreement over issue A.  So, I think it would be better
to structure the ballots as a series of referendum questions, with the
advocates' names associated with the questions.  For example, "Do you agree
with Jan Kok that Plurality Voting should be replaced with Approval Voting
for all public elections in the US that are intended to select a single
winner from multiple candidates?  Yes() No()"  Then voters could agree or
disagree with my position on Approval Voting, independent of whether they
agree with me about other issues that I might espouse.  In order to keep
ballots at a reasonable size, candidates could pay for the number of issues
they place on ballots and the amount of space they take up on ballots, and
be paid for the number of Yes votes they receive.  Several candidates could
also share the cost and rewards of placing an issue on the ballot.

By the way, problem #2 occurs in every political system with any currently
used voting method.  For example, what do all those votes for GW Bush mean?
Do 56 million voters agree with everything that Bush stands for?  Of course
not.  Wouldn't it be nice if there was a much more fine-grained separation
of powers in the government, and we could, for example, vote for the
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of
Education, etc.?  One obvious problem with that is, suppose the SoD wants to
go to war, and SoT doesn't want to fund the war.  Who wins?  How would that
kind of conflict between departments, which most likely arises daily, be

- Jan

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