Not the Vote That Counts (It’s How You Use It)

For my first post in this series, I’m throwing in my two cents on perhaps the most common way we count politically; voting.

I just wanted to clear something up before it becomes a question.  I’m not approaching this through the lens of partisan systemic supports that need to be eliminated mostly because where would you start?  The Electoral College?  The primary system?

The list is without end in that regard.  But still, searching for things to eliminate is not where a good solution to this problem begins.  In order to seek any real solution to a problem one must first ask, ‘Why does this problem exist?’  Namely, why hold an election anyway?

Well, an election is the process of making a choice that involves more than two people that employs some sort of voting system.  As such, a trade-off exists in every voting system humanity has seen so far.

What’s the trade-off?  Every methodology ever devised has attempted, (however unsuccessfully), to strike a balance between the need to expediently and clearly decide the vote and the aim to most fully represent the majority voting population.

That’s what made this post so difficult to write.  I mean, how would you even trade for anything less than the full extent of either of those?

Think about it.  We NEED to effectively eliminate those candidates that will NEVER gain an absolute majority of the electorate as expediently as possible.  The continued weight of these candidates on an election, (past a point of no return that’s undeniably terminal), do more to erode the viable mandate of the winner than they do to add substance to the debate.  

Additionally, this expedience can’t come at the expense allowing the possibility that over half of your voting age population ‘wasted‘ their vote, (as is the main problem cited with plurality-based schema).  There’s simply no electoral justice to that.

So, what do I propose?  Well, one method I’ve found most appealing is the Alternative Vote (AV).  It dictates that…

Voters use numbers to mark their preferences on the ballot paper. A candidate who receives an absolute majority (50 per cent plus 1) of valid first preference votes is declared elected. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority of first preferences, the least successful candidates are eliminated and their votes reallocated according to their second preferences until one candidate has an absolute majority. 

It seems to be the option with the most balance.  It appears this way because this method results in as expedient a decision possible that still provides the public the maximum amount of discretion when casting their ballot.

Or does it…?  What if you can’t stand a candidate?  In fact, what if you don’t have faith in ANY of the candidates fielded for that election?  Now what?

Well, albeit admittedly, Alternative Voting doesn’t allow for such an outcome.  But then again, neither does our current system.  Both force you to state your vote in the affirmative; in other words, FOR a candidate or candidates.  Under plurality, if you don’t like the ‘field’ then don’t ‘play ball’, (i.e. don’t vote).  Under AV, the same.

But, life happens right?  Could we really be sure that voters didn’t vote because they didn’t want to vote for any of the candidates?  The correct answer here is no.  Thankfully, the solution is simple.  Incorporate ‘NOTA’ as a candidate on the ballot under the AV schema.  (For the primaries, anyway…there’s no place for it in a general election as that election is meant to be the ultimate decision of the people).

There you have it!  AV + NOTA = OCTA vetted, OCTA approved.  While the majority of my fellow Centrists are firmly, and rather warmly, embracing a Two-Round System that’s being ‘beta-tested’ by California (the ‘alpha-test’ is Louisiana).  In my humble opinion, Alter-NOTA-ve Voting, (consider that coined, by the way), wins by a landslide.

Thanks for reading!
J. Vickrey

 

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