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Fairer elections

VoteFair commentary about current elections and voting-related events


What really happened in the 2008 Presidential election?

Barack Obama won the Democratic primary because so many Democratic and Republican voters funded his campaign simply for the purpose of defeating Hillary Clinton.  The Republican contributors assumed that Obama couldn't win the general election because he's African-American.  They miscalculated.  During the general election Obama attracted record-breaking funding from individuals who saw him as an outsider to politics-as-usual (the first in decades).  (His rhetorical skill and poise added to his appeal.)

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee was a strategic mistake because she doesn't appeal to moderate, undecided, independent, or feminist voters.  Basically she only appealed to voters who already favored McCain.

Incidentally, Hillary Clinton could not have won the Presidency.  Unlike her husband, she alienates people with lots of money.  Also, she doesn't listen—especially to the many people who oppose mandatory health insurance.

Which candidate—Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin, or Clinton—could have significantly strengthened the economy and pursued a wise policy in Iraq?  None of them.  Note that neither political party has woken up to what's actually going on in Iraq.  And both parties excessively focus on shifting existing wealth from one group of people to another, instead of fostering economic growth by removing legal barriers that block inventors, entrepreneurs, and hard workers from building businesses that benefit many people (which is the basis for economic growth).  (If Obama departs from Democratic-party-dogma, he could strengthen the economy.)

If you want to reform Presidential elections, start by insisting on the use of 1-2-3 ballots (or order-of-preference ballots) whenever there are more than two choices, especially in local groups you belong to.  Also make sure that pairwise numbers (how many voters prefer choice A over choice B, and how many prefer choice B over choice A) are made available for analysis.  This relatively simple grassroots change will quickly propagate upward, eventually reaching Presidential elections.

What's being overlooked in Iraq?

The majority voting method used in the Iraqi parliament allows the Shiite majority to easily outvote the Sunni and Kurdish minorities (when parliament chooses what laws to pass).  The same majority voting method works in European parliaments only because European countries are already divided according to major cultural differences (especially language and religion).  To better understand the issue, imagine France, Germany, and Spain joining together to form a single nation governed by a single parliament.  Obviously that wouldn't work (because any laws about language or religion would oppress large minorities).  In a similar way majority voting in the Iraqi parliament cannot work.

What kind of voting method should be used?  Unfortunately the appropriate voting method (“priority voting” or VoteFair Negotiation ranking) is in its infancy (at  A temporary alternative could be designed and implemented, but this is unlikely because political decision-makers have blind faith in the Proportional Representation (PR) parliamentary system that appears to work in European and other nations—whose citizens are homogeneous (such as Germany) or culturally tolerant (such as Canada).

In the meantime Iraqi Shiites have no incentive to cooperate with Sunnis and Kurds.  Keep in mind that outside enforcement was needed to select non-Shiite cabinet ministers, and the need for outside enforcement reveals that the Iraqi parliament is using a poorly designed voting method.

Would the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) voting method that was considered for Ontario, Canada have been an improvement?

No.  In fact the change would have increased the influence of money in Ontario politics.  (This is why money was available to promote the change.)  Why would the change have increased the influence of campaign contributions?

  • The recommended method would have continued the use of single-mark ballots instead of order-of-preference (or "ordinal") ballots that also collect secondary preferences.  Single-mark ballots (which are linked to "first-past-the-post" voting) fail to reveal which choice is most popular in situations where none of the candidates earns a majority of (single-mark) votes.
  • Using "closed" party lists for Proportional Representation (PR) allows the party leaders—who are very influenced by campaign contributions—to choose which of their party's candidates are elected to the PR seats.
  • As explained above regarding the Iraqi parliament, Proportional Representation does not necessarily promote fairness, especially for minorities (including women and indigenous peoples).

If instead, order-of-preference ballots had been chosen for the riding-based seats, and if the "open" party-list form of MMP (which allows voters to rank the candidates in their party's list) had been chosen, the change would have been an improvement.  At a later time further improvements (in terms of how ballot preferences are interpreted) would have been possible.  Instead, due to money-backed influence during the Citizens Assembly's design process, the proposed change would have been a step backward.

Was the 2004 Presidential election result fair?

No, but the unfairness occurred in the 2004 Democratic primary and the 2000 Republican primary.  That's where the use of single-mark ballots and plurality voting allowed the biggest campaign contributors to heavily influence the outcome of both primary elections.  The November election between Bush and Kerry was simply a runoff between two big-money-approved politicians.  Of course this primary-election unfairness goes unnoticed while concern is focused on the use of electronic voting machines (which may have involved some additional, but less significant, unfairness) and the unfair Electoral College system, which brings us to the next commentary.

Should we abandon the Electoral College?

Yes and no.  Yes, we should abandon the practice (used in most states) of assigning all of a state's electoral votes to a single candidate.  However we should not abandon the use of electoral votes because they protect voters in one state from being outvoted by voters in another state that has: easier voter-registration rules, better weather on election day, and easier voting methods (such as in Oregon where everyone votes by mail).  The simple solution is to assign electoral votes proportionally, which means that if 60% of the voters in a state prefer Bush and 40% prefer Kerry and the state has 10 electoral votes, the state would give 6 electoral votes to Bush and 4 electoral votes to Kerry.  Simple.  Well, not simple in the 2000 Presidential election because neither Bush nor Gore would have received a majority of electoral votes, but if the people who voted for Nader had been able to indicate a second choice, the outcome would have been clear, and fair.

What's up with American Idol unfairness?

For a detailed analysis of American Idol results, go to the American Idol page.




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