[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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