though we just closed an issue of the magazine and i've got some time on my hands, i don't think i'll be liveblogging chesapeake tuesday. i would, however, like to draw your attention to an interesting salon review of william poundstone's gaming the vote: why elections aren't fair. it begins with a discussion of why nader voters were foolish sacks of crap - that is, why the spoiler effect will always sink plurality voting - and ends with praise for hot or not (that is, range voting).
After examining a raft of alternatives to the plurality vote with what sometimes seems like numbing attention to their details and flaws, Poundstone ends by suggesting a voting method that seems to evade Arrow's impossibility theorem altogether. In virtually every way, under any condition, this voting system seems fair. What's more, it didn't grow out of the research on voting. It arose more naturally -- on the Internet, out of the Web's affinity for reviewing pop culture.

The method is called "range voting," and it works in the same way you rate movies on Netflix, books on Amazon, or people on Hot or Not. When you go to vote, you give each candidate on the ballot a rating on a 10- or 100-point scale. Maybe you say Bush is 1 out of 10, Nader is 8, Gore is 5. The winner is the candidate who has the highest average score. Range voting has a number of advantages over how we vote today: Like IRV, it prevents spoilers, but it also obeys monotonocity (a winner can't lose by getting more votes), it's quite impervious to strategic voting (it's hard to game the system by giving false ratings to your candidate or his opponents), and it's "expressive" -- you get to say not only that you like one candidate more than another, but by how much you like him.


The best way to choose the president, it turns out, is the same way you decide whether the drunk sorority girl who just posted her picture on the Web has nice skin.
it's an interesting idea, though i think it would sink hillary clinton in a head-to-head with john mccain. many of the liberals i know, myself included, are kind of fond of mccain, while almost all of the conservatives i know (and many of the liberals, come to think of it) loathe clinton. range voting in an obama-mccain race, on the other hand, would be a thing to see: i would imagine that a lot of people who wouldn't give obama their vote still have mild crushes on him. he's a dapper guy, that obama.


tom said...

"it begins with a discussion of why nader voters were foolish sacks of crap"

Point taken. God, I want that one back. ([Tom goes into rocking crouch.] "Gore won Wisconsin. Gore won Wisconsin....")

jacob said...

re: mccain - every time you start thinking fondly of the senator, please go here: http://prochoiceamerica.org/elections/statements/mccain.html

look, i'm always happy when mccain decides to poke a sharp stick in the eyes of his fellow republicans, but a) it doesn't happen all that often and b) he's often poking that stick from an even more conservative position (e.g., rumsfeld sucks! let's stay in iraq 100 more years to fix his screw ups!). dude is a pretty hard-core conservative, albeit one with a genuinely inspiring life story and a few well-chosen positions (e.g., torture).

lauren said...

@tom: ignore my white-hot nader rage, dear. that he convinced you to vote for him is but one more reason why he should be shot from a cannon into shark-infested waters, not something you should have to take back.

@jacob: listen, i like john mccain in the same way i like chococat (aww, look at the halting victory speech after last night's primaries, apparently broadcast from 1988! awkwardly adorbs!). sometimes i wish i had his face on a pillowcase, but i'm not about to ask him to legislate my ladyparts. no worries there.

tom said...

No worries. That was my first few months in Madison. The politics of that town were/are funky to say the least.

Count on this: there will be a sizable contingent in that town who will vote Green if Hillary takes down the nomination, believing that she is a warmonger for her Iraq vote five years ago. Even if it throws the election to John "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" McCain. I'm not kidding. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Obama would have some deserters on the near east side of town.

Let's just leave it at that, chalk it up to lessons learned, and never speak of this again.

(BTW: Jacob just noted that McCain has a good position on torture. This has been said by people more earnest than I (like those who believe that their congressperson actually reads their mail). But: what in the hell has this country come to? (And remember: we shall never speak of that thing we discussed a few moments ago ever again.))

jacob said...

@tom - "good" maybe wasn't the term i should have used to describe mccain's torture views. perhaps i should have written "within the bounds of civilized discourse."

@lauren - until i checked the link, i thought you meant the movie "chocolat." which was obviously confusing to me.

Meg said...

Re: Lauren and Jacob, I tend to agree with you Lauren. I'm not going to VOTE for the man, but it's nice to see (after Bush) someone who seems to really think (most) things through, even if he comes up with the polar opposite conclusion that I do. Also, how can he be so good on Sunday morning shows, and so so terrible and giving speeches? That said, I'm sort of baffled by the conservatives white hot rage with him. Um, wha?

Obama, Dapper. Michelle Obama, more dapper. Note to Obama's speechwriter however, time to change it up. His dresser, keep it up.

jacob said...

given that this thread seems to be full of political junkies, you've all probably seen the will.i.am john mccain spoof (of the obama "yes we can" original), but in case you haven't, it's pretty amusing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gwqEneBKUs

lauren said...

i'm philosophically opposed to almost all youtube responses (i'm looking at you, umpteen regional "lazy sunday" sequels), but that one gets a pass. hee.