Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spoiler Alert

So you thought you could make your point by voting for somebody who had no chance of winning because you couldn't bring yourself to vote for the "lessser of two evils"? Setting aside for the moment the idea that Hillary was anywhere near as evil as the press and her opponents have pushed us to believe, please remember this one simple fact: failure to vote against the GREATER of two evils by going for the most likely candidate to beat them ENSURES that the greater evil wins!

You saw it in Florida in the 2000 election. 19,000 people voted for Ralph Nader because they liked him more than Gore and really hated the thought of Bush winning the Presidency. They were called spoilers. Rightly so. I don't give a shit how irate Nader gets at the word. The margin between the top two candidates was in the low hundreds of votes. Had these people voted effectively, their least favored candidate would not have gotten into the white house. They spoiled the election, for themselves, for the country. We're still dealing with the consequences of an unjust war, with ISIS getting all the ammunition it needs to sway people to their cause.

Don't forget Gore won the popular vote in 2000. It just didn't count.

Watching election returns, there were many states in which Hillary lagged behind Trump by a smaller margin than the number of votes cast for the closest "third party" candidate. (I use quotations marks because we all saw a much larger number than three candidates on our presidential ballot.)

This time Hillary won the popular vote. It just didn't count this time either.

Now I'm not telling people not to vote for their true top choice in the election. I'm simply reminding you that the way the rules are written right now, it's just a very stupid thing to do. You'll never convince me that a voter for a Green Party candidate who has no possible chance of winning would prefer sending the election to the guy who doesn't even believe in global warming.


But that's what you did. You have just ensured that this planet will become less and less survivable for more and more species. Including ours.

While it may be too late, not just for this election but for the long term, there is an alternative. It was designed and proposed by a mathematician as a way to get the highest number of people nearest to their top choice of outcome. It's called "Ranked Choice Voting." Minneapolis has been doing it in its local elections.

While it seems complicated, I'll try to make it a simple as possible. Let's limit the options to three choices for one position. It works for any number, but three is easier to explain. Everybody voting ranks the choices as 1, 2, and 3. Nobody "throws their vote away", as is commonly complained about now. At the end of the first counting, if any one choice gets a majority of the votes, aka 50% + 1, the election is over.

But let's say the top vote getter only gets 42% of the vote. That means that 58% didn't like that choice. Only a minority get what they want. So now we go to the bottom choice on the list. Let's say it got 16%. Those ballots are reexamined for their stated second choice, and those votes are put in one of the remaining two piles. One of those piles is sure to have more votes than the other, and that choice wins. The most people are the most satisfied with the result. Whatever it is.

In a real-world political election, supposing the choices are limited to Republican, Democratic, and Green, a lot of people who really prefer Green will be afraid of wasting their vote and vote the closest major party in its platform, Democratic. This way their first choice can now be Green. No wasted votes, no spoilers. Green may even show up in the top two if people feel free to really vote their minds. Note: it could work the same way if Republicans had initially split off the Tea Party which was way to their right. Any first choice with no presumed chance of winning would be backed up by the next closest choice.

The final result would be, depending on your point of view, either the majority's most liked or least disliked. The majority would be happier with the result. If they couldn't say, "Hoooray, my favorite won", they could still say, "Hooray, at least it wasn't _______".

Now, if only we could quit screwing up the system by getting rid of the Electoral College....

No comments: