To Build a Better Ballot: an interactive guide to alternative voting systems

by evelynciara1 min read18th Apr 20212 comments


Electoral reform
This is a linkpost for

This interactive essay by Nicky Case (2016) is an introduction to alternative voting systems and their pros and cons. I'm posting this here as a resource for those interested in learning about them.

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If you haven’t wandered around the Nicky Case website, I’d recommend doing so. There are a lot of interesting educational games on there, covering a wide variety of concepts such as social contagion, prisoner’s dilemmas, segregation, etc.

[Repost from my FB]

I'd like to introduce a setup that's a little different from these arbitrary axes and feels truer to life...

To avoid object-level politics, I'll use Scott's (or was it Nick's?) example:
* Party A wants to increase taxes and social services 5%, and to require everyone to electrocute themselves 8 hours a day.
* Party B wants to decrease taxes and social services 5%, and to require everyone to electrocute themselves 8 hours a day.
* Party C wants to leave taxes and social services as they are, and stop the electrocutions.

"Everyone" knows that Party C isn't serious.  They get no media coverage, except as a punchline.  Only people with no popularity to lose will come out openly as Party C'ers.  And rather then break the dam, they make Party C association a mark of stigma.

Under FPTP, we need roughly a third of the people to *believe party C has a chance*, with no way to build momentum.  Naturally, the electrocutions continue.

Under IRV (and I think any ordered ranking), we need roughly a third of people to pay attention.  Then they can easily vote C>A>B or C>B>A and end the electrocutions.  And if it's less than a third, it still shows a nice clear signal that Not Electrocuting Ourselves is an idea to be taken seriously.

Under Approval, people won't want to vote "C" because that gives up the chance to effect the taxes/services tradeoff which is the only thing they expect to be up for grabs.  So they vote "A,C" or "B,C".  And feel bad about it, because they don't actually *approve* of A or B.  Which means they're voting against themselves.  Now we need half of people to pay attention, and with a much weaker take-this-seriously signal.  After all, "A,C" could just be intented as a hardcore vote against B (some people take the A-B rivalry very seriously).