[EM] Democratic Electoral Methods

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Tue Jan 10 10:36:20 PST 2017

Good Morning, Jack

The difficulty arises because partisanship is a vital part of society. 
Unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword.  On the good side, it is at 
the heart of all progress; on the not-so-good side, it provides a 
natural platform for power-seekers.

The big problem, in politics, is that party-based systems do not let the 
mellowing voice of non-partisans temper their excesses.  Instead, 
non-partisans are disenfranchised.  Pew Research, for example, 
constantly refers to 'leaners', people who vote with a party but are not 
members.  What should stand out, but doesn't, is that leaners lean 
because they have no other choice.  They are forced to choose the (for 
them) lesser of two evils.

Sennet Williams asked, "What is the goal of a 'better' election method?" 
and answered himself by saying, "Personally, I want 'better govt.'"

I suggest that, if we want better government, we should start by 
recognizing that our government cannot be better than the people we 
elect to provide it.  If we are dissatisfied with our government, the 
first step in improving it is to elect better people.  That cannot 
happen as long as political parties are allowed to select the candidates 
for public office because "Those who control the options, control the 

When thinking about better election methods, the biggest issue is not 
how the votes are counted, it is who the people can vote for.  If we 
want better candidates, we must change the way they are selected.  As 
Jane Mansbridge told us in "A 'Selection Model' of Political 

   "Another possible --- and sometimes conflicting -- approach is
    based primarily on selection.  This approach works only when
    the principal and agent would have similar objectives even in
    the absence of specific incentives and sanctions.  That is,
    the agent is already internally motivated to pursue certain
    goals -- goals that in politics include both a general
    political direction and specific policies.  If the
    representative's desired direction and policies are the ones
    the constituent desires, and if the representative also has a
    verifiable reputation of being both competent and honest, then
    it makes sense for a constituent to put that representative in
    office and subsequently spend relatively little effort on
    monitoring and sanctioning.  As a general rule, the higher the
    probability that the objectives of principal and agent may be
    aligned, the more efficient it is for the principal to invest
    resources ex ante, in selecting the required type, rather than
    ex post, in monitoring and sanctioning."

Consideration of electoral methods should include thought about ways to 
select candidates whose goals are in line with the public interest. 
Instead of letting political parties tell us who we can vote for, we 
need a method that integrates the goals of partisans and non-partisans. 
  It's not difficult, it's just different.

Fred Gohlke


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