[EM] Democracy Chronicles, answers to interview questions

Richard Fobes ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org
Sat Apr 7 22:39:37 PDT 2012

> Below are the questions that editor Adrian Tawfik is inviting us to
> answer. Clarifications follow the questions.
> Question 1. Your name and the city and country you work in.

Richard Fobes, Portland, Oregon, United States

> Question 3. Any contact info you wish to give to be published with
> article for readers (for example your email or website.)


> Question 6. Briefly explain what characteristics you think are most
> important for a voting method to have?

To produce fair results, a voting method should look deeply into the 
voter preferences.  The current approach of voters only being allowed to 
mark a single choice, and then using an overly simplistic counting 
method (plurality), is a huge failure to look beneath the surface of 
voter preferences.  In contrast, I think a voter should be allowed to 
rank all the candidates from most preferred to least preferred, and the 
counting method should fully rank all the choices from most popular and 
second-most popular down to least popular.  If a method correctly 
identifies the least-popular choice, then voters can better trust that 
the method also correctly identifies who deserves to win.

> Question 7. What do you think is the most important election reform
> needed where you live (either locally or nationally)? Why is this reform
> important?

I believe that the election reform that is most needed in the United 
States is to ban the use of single-mark ballots in Congressional 
elections, including primary elections.  This ban would allow us, the 
majority of voters, to fill Congress with problem-solving leaders 
instead of special-interest puppets.  This reform is more important than 
reforming Presidential elections because the job of the President is to 
enforce the laws that Congress writes, and because it would dramatically 
weaken Congressional lobbyists (who have far more power than 
Presidential advisers).

> Question 8. What is your opinion on other aspects of election reform
> such as reforming money's role in politics or redistricting
> (particularly in the US but very interested as well concerning election
> reforms internationally)?

Banning single-mark ballots in Congressional elections would eliminate 
vote splitting, which is a weakness of plurality counting that the 
biggest campaign contributors have learned to exploit in ways that 
involve money.  Using better ballots and better counting methods would 
enable a problem-solving leader to more easily win a Congressional 
(primary or general) election running against a money-backed incumbent, 
even if the money-backed incumbent greatly outspent the reform-minded 

I believe that the solution to the redistricting problem in the United 
States (and similarly in each state) is to slightly more than double the 
size of Congressional districts, and then fill each district's second 
seat with the candidate who is most popular among the voters who are not 
well-represented by the winner of the first seat, which is what 
"VoteFair representation ranking" deeply calculates.  In a typical such 
district, one Republican and one Democrat would win that district's two 
seats, regardless of where the district boundaries are drawn. 
Additionally a few "proportional" seats would be filled based on the 
voters' party-preference information, with the candidate being selected 
by "VoteFair partial-proportional ranking."  This adjustment would 
compensate for any roundoff errors that occur in filling the 
district-based seats, and would ensure that the majority of each state's 
Congressional representatives are from the same political party as the 
state's majority of voters.  To the extent that the Republican party and 
the Democratic party continue to be excessively influenced by money 
instead of votes, third-party candidates would win the proportional 
seats, and that outcome would force the two main parties to adopt at 
least some of the reforms promoted by the most popular third parties.

Richard Fobes

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