Breaking news on the study, promotion and adoption of election methods reform worldwide. Increasingly important systems of voting like instant-runoff voting, approval voting, top-two voting and proportional representation will be covered in this section. Our resident DC experts on election methods include authors Aaron Hamlin, augustin, Michael Ossipoff and Richard Fobes. You can also join our weekly newsletter to keep informed or visit our Third Party and Election Reform pages.
How We Should be Voting
Voting systems, also known as election methods, have a revolutionary potential that is not grasped by the general public even though there is an entire universe of research on this topic.
When we were just getting started as a website, Democracy Chronicles founder Adrian Tawfik conducted an exclusive interview series with an international group of election method proponents including prominent signers of the Declaration of Election-Method Reform Advocates. It is a great example of the diversity of the people involved. The best place to start off is the Democracy Chronicles introduction and then take a look at each of these interviews:
- Richard Fobes – Election Method Reformer Speaks With DC
- Aaron Hamlin – Interview With President of Center for Election Science
- augustin – Writer Discusses Election Reform and New Website
- Michael Allen – Election Method Reformer Seeks Radical Changes
- Jameson Quinn – Election Expert Discusses Reform in US and Guatemala
- Michael Ossipoff – Democracy Chronicles Author Discusses Approval Voting
- Robert Bristow-Johnson – Expert Demands Reducing Money in Elections
Also see the DC Interview With Creator of Wooden Models of Voting Methods with artist Peter A. Taylor.
Election Methods Resources Online
The Center for Election Science has great information on election methods. Also, the Wikipedia page on Voting Systems is the unofficial battleground between proponents of different election methods. The Declaration of Election-Methods Reform Advocates is a document signed by academics who support moving beyond plurality voting.
A great place to go if you are looking to meet people discussing this neglected subject is Minguo.info which not only promotes better election methods which would allow better, more honest candidates to be elected at every levels, it is also offering the tools for users to create their own polls using a variety of alternative voting systems. Those polls can be used to discuss policies as well as candidates.
Minguo.info is a non-profit, advertising free, community project which has several, complementary aims. First and foremost, it aims to educate the public about better election methods. It promotes such better methods like Approval Voting, Emocracy Voting and Score Voting. Plurality voting is also implemented in the web site, certainly not because it’s a good election method, but in order to offer the users the chance to compare our current, broken system with better alternatives (follow these last two links, cast your own ballots and appreciate the difference!). Minguo.info also wants to educate against the use of voting machines in official elections. Ideally, there should be a verifiable paper trail in every election.
Politics tends to divide people, especially given the poor election method used in official elections. However, the advanced polling tools used at minguo.info allows for a more peaceful debate on policies to take place, especially since more nuanced positions have the room to flourish and get the approval of a large majority of the members. Thus, minguo.info is an experiment in internet democracy via constructive policy discussion. It is fairly unique on the web. When the community reaches a critical mass, it will be empowered to use its collaboratively drafted policy document (the Community Manifesto) to reach out to the public, educate it and positively influence public discourse, policy decisions, the democratic process and, hopefully, the outcome of elections.
- Take a Minguo Poll: What is your opinion on abortions?
- Take a Minguo Poll: What do you think about nuclear energy?
Election Methods: The Forgotten Science
According to Eric Pacuit in his essay “Voting Methods” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), a central question the election methods science is that “given a group of people faced with some decision, how should a central authority combine the individual opinions so as to best reflect the ‘will of the group’?” According to Pacuit, “a complete analysis of this question would incorporate a number of different issues ranging from central topics in political philosophy (e.g., how should we define the “will” of the people? what is a democracy?) to the psychology of decision making.”
Little about election methods science is considered set in stone as opinions are as varied as the wide array of methods that have been proposed around the world. You can actually take a look at the election ballot of every democracy in the world thanks to the University of North Carolina. According to election method advocacy group FairVote:
The nations within our global community display a staggering array of voting systems. In spite of this, one thing is clear — the modern trend is toward using proportional voting systems, as most industrialized nations and all of the newly emerging democracies in the former Eastern Bloc have done, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the lingering winner-take-all, first-past-the-post systems exist in former British colonies, including in the United States.
Modern Giants of Election Methods
American economist and joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with John Hicks in 1972. Arrow’s impact on the economics profession has been tremendous. For more than fifty years he has been one of the most influential of all practicing economists. His most significant works are his contributions to social choice theory, notably “Arrow’s impossibility theorem”, and his work on general equilibrium analysis. He has also provided foundational work in many other areas of economics, including endogenous growth theory and the economics of information.
His research also includes collective decision-making, general equilibrium theory, environment and growth and his new research includes information and communication in the economy, networks and markets, as well as new work on environment and growth. The use of mathematical criteria to evaluate voting systems was introduced when Kenneth Arrow showed in Arrow’s impossibility theorem that certain intuitively desirable criteria were actually mutually contradictory, demonstrating the inherent limitations of voting theorems.
Among the criteria Arrow considered desirable was one which requires the voting system to use ordinal (ranking) information; thus, as John Harsanyi pointed out, cardinal (rated) voting systems such as approval voting, range voting, and majority judgment can successfully meet all the other criteria. Arrow’s theorem is easily the single most cited result in voting theory, and it inspired further significant results such as the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem, which showed that strategic voting is unavoidable in certain common circumstances, for any deterministic voting system, whether cardinal or ordinal.
Is Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and has made seminal contributions to the fields of economics and political science. In game theory, he introduced refinements of Nash’s equilibrium concept, and he developed techniques to characterize the effects of communication when individuals have different information. His analysis of incentive constraints in economic communication introduced several fundamental which that are now widely used in economic analysis, including the revelation principle and the revenue-equivalence theorem in auctions and bargaining.
Myerson has also applied game-theoretic tools to political science, analyzing how political incentives can be affected by different electoral systems and constitutional structures. Myerson is the author of Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict (1991) and Probability Models for Economic Decisions (2005). He also has published numerous articles in professional journals, includingEconometrica, Journal of Economic Theory, Games and Decisions,American Political Science Review, Mathematics of Operations Research, and International Journal of Game Theory. He is currently president of the Game Theory Society (2012), has been president of the Econometric Society (2009), and has been vice president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999-2002).
Myerson has a PhD from Harvard University and taught for 25 years in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University before coming to the University of Chicago in 2001. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has received several honorary degrees, and he received the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize in 2009. He was awarded the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in recognition of his contributions to mechanism design theory, which analyzes rules for coordinating economic agents efficiently when they have different information and difficulty trusting each other.
Frederic E. Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Educated at Princeton and Cornell, he was a faculty member of the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale, and taught in the Yale School of Organization and Management, prior to joining the Kellogg faculty in 1979. His general area of research is game theory, with a primary focus on the effects of private information in competitive settings.
Much of his research has been centered on the theory and practice of competitive bidding and auction design. His 1982 paper, “A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding” at Econometrica (co-authored with P.R. Milgrom), is considered a seminal work in the field. He served as an external consultant on a 1985 project leading to revisions in the procedures used to auction petroleum extraction leases on the U.S. outer continental shelf, and he co-organized (with representatives of the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Treasury) the 1992 public forum which led to changes in the way the Treasury auctions its debt issues. Since 1993, he has represented private clients during both the rule-making and bidding phases of the FCC’s sale of licenses of spectrum for the provision of personal communications services.
In the early 1970s, Professor Weber proposed an alternative to the traditional “plurality rule” for elections involving more than two candidates. This alternative, “approval voting”, has generated a substantial body of research, has been adopted by a number of professional organizations, and has been used in several public elections. Recent work in this area includes “A Theory of Voting Equilibria” (American Political Science Review 87, 1993, co-authored with R. Myerson), and “Approval Voting” (Journal of Economic Perspectives 9, 1995).
Game theorist and political scientist at the New York University Department of Politics. Steven J. Brams is a founder and the Chairman of the Advisory Board of Fair Outcomes, Inc. Dr. Brams is a game theorist and political scientist at New York University’s department of politics, and is best known for his work on applying game theory to voting systems and to systems involving fair division.
Dr. Brams is one of the independent discoverers of approval voting and was, along with Alan Taylor, a co-discoverer of the first envy-free solution to the n-person cake-cutting problem. The Brams-Taylor solution to the cake-cutting problem solved what had been one of the most important open problems in contemporary mathematics. With Taylor, he is a co-inventor of the “Adjusted Winner” system, a patented fair-division procedure now being offered by Fair Outcomes, Inc. He is also, along with James F. Ring, a co-inventor of the patent-pending “Fair Buy-Sell” system that is currently being offered by the company. He is the author or co-author of fourteen books, the most recent being Mathematics and Democracy: Designing Better Voting and Fair Division Procedures (2008).
Here are DC authors who have focused on election methods: