[EM] the simplest election reform
Abd ulRahman Lomax
abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Jun 15 14:25:09 PDT 2005
In a context where the norm is simple plurality, with overvotes resulting
in the ballot being discarded (for the race with extra votes), the simplest
reform is repealing the rule that discards such ballots. This simple change
implements Approval voting, which is potentially a strong reform.
Further, in a few days, so far, of searching, there seems to be a distinct
lack of cogent arguments for the rule in the first place. As near as I can
tell, the reason for it is a variant on "It seemed like the thing to do at
the time." The rule is clearly very old.
Certainly Approval is not a full election reform. But it would be a major
step, and probably one that would, at worst, do little or no harm. Whereas
discarding overvotes clearly causes harm, with every election.
Overvotes can result from a number of conditions, only some of which are
errors. And I think a good argument could be made that discarding erroneous
overvotes does more harm than keeping them.
Even though there is a little acknowledgement from the Election Methods
community that keeping and counting, in full, overvotes is indeed
equivalent to Approval, I don't think that the tactical implications are
being adequately considered.
It *might* be a much easier reform to accomplish. Approval is extremely
simple to understand and, as often noted, no ballot changes are needed,
beyond some changes in ballot instructions. The fact appears to be that
these changes would simply make the real conditions of voting more closely
correspond to what people who are not informed would already expect. You
have to know that overvotes will be discarded, and many voters don't know
that, and I have never seen the fact printed on a ballot. Without specific
knowledge, I would simply assume that all votes would be counted, and,
indeed, it appears that many voters do have that idea.
Any reform at all might break the logjam. This one would probably change
outcomes gradually, not all at once, except possibly in some close races.
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