Donald Paul “Frog” Perryman, age 58, of Bauxite, passed away Saturday, June...
JIM HARRIS: Is There A Better Way To Hold Elections?
Updated: July 2, 2012
With the primary elections over, most people have let politics fade from their mind just as a sunny morning fades memories of the previously stormy night.
On the horizon is a dark cloud that will be the nasty accusations and counter accusations of the fall elections.
During this lull, it is possible to sit back and ask such questions as “is there a better way to hold elections?”
The election process in this country, and in most countries, is founded on the idea of “one man (or woman)–one vote. With that system, the candidate who gets at least 50 percent of the vote plus one or more votes wins.
It is a good system, but there exists another system of electing candidates that was designed to elect candidates who have approval of the most people voting their preferences multiple times in one election.
It is called the Condorcet method and it elects the candidate that would win by majority rule in all pairings against the other candidates in a multi candidate race.
The original idea came from Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat (1743-1794, who was better known in France as the Marquis de Condorcet. He was a political scientist who had some strange ideas for his time.
Economic liberalism is the ideological belief in organizing the economy on individual lines, such that the greatest possible number of economic decisions should be made by private individuals and not by collective institutions such as the government. This included a free market and strong private property rights.
Equal rights for women and a free and equal public education were among the other ideas de Caritat advocated.
Today, these are the status quo, but at the time, all were very radical ideas.
Because he was of noble birth, de Caritat ended up on the wrong side of the French Revolution.
He died a mysterious death in prison after being a fugitive from French Revolutionary authorities.
So his work on the Condorcet method was never finished during his life.
An English man named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson enhanced his idea in the 19th Century.
If you don’t recognize that name, don’t feel bad. Few people recognize it although most of us read his most famous work when we were children. Dodgson’s pen name was Lewis Carroll.
His “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a favorite of most children of my generation.
He also wrote political pamphlets including one in 1876 enhancing the Condorcet methods
While there have been many interpretations of this method since Dodgson added his ideas, here are the basics:
There is a single round of voting. Each voter ranks the candidates from top to bottom. This is called an order of preference.
Each voter ranks the candidates in order of best-to-worst, preference. Some variations allow the voter to rank candidates as equals or to express indifference between them. Candidates omitted by a voter may be treated as if the voter ranked them at the bottom.
For each pairing of candidates you would count how many votes rank each candidate over the other candidate. Thus each pairing will have two totals: the size of its majority and the size of its minority. Such counts are usually sufficient to determine the complete order of finish.
The count is conducted by pitting every candidate against every other candidate in a series of hypothetical one-on-one contests. The winner of each pairing is the candidate preferred by a majority of voters.
Unless they tie, there is always a majority when there are only two choices. The candidate preferred by each voter is taken to be the one in the pair that the voter ranks higher on their ballot.
For example, if Newt Gingrich is paired against Rick Perry it is necessary to count both the number of voters who have ranked Gingrich higher than Perry, and the number who have ranked Perry higher than Gingrich.
If Gingrich is preferred by more voters then he is the winner of that pairing.
All the other candidates are paired against each other. So you have every candidate being voted upon against just one opponent such as Michelle Bachmann vs. Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann vs. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney vs. Tim Pawlenty, etc.
When all possible pairings of candidates have been considered, if one candidate beats every other candidate in these contests then he or she is declared the Condorcet winner of the primary election.
At the beginning of the 2012 Presidential race for the Republican nomination, a voter could have ranked his or her first, second, third and other choices of candidates for the nomination.
Voting this way might not get you the first choice candidate elected, but could get you your second or third choice selected as the nominee.
If your first choice was Gingrich and your second choice was Romney, you would feel a little more invested in Romney because he was on your list of the best options for President.
So for those who look at the political process with dissatisfaction and say there must be a better way, there is, at least, a different way to elect candidates.
One reason it was not as popular was the one man–one vote method was the difficulty in voting so many times and the mathematically computations involved in counting all the separate pairings.
If we went to the Condorcet method today, it wouldn’t be long until that was an app for your cell phone that would do that math for you.