The coming election in New York District 23 (NY-23) illustrates in small the problem that many voters have every year. In this county there are three people running:
- Bill Owens – Democrat
- Dede Scozzafava – Republican
- Doug Hoffman – Independent/Conservative
The interesting part in this race is not only who is choosing to support whom1, but it what this episode illustrates about our electoral system.
The Problem with Three Candidates
When there are only two candidates, One Person-One Vote works well to represent the will of the people. The problem that I have with it is that in our current society, when three candidates run it usually ends up diluting one major party’s vote to the point that the one that a majority of the people want does not win.
In the case of NY-23, Scozzafava and Hoffman are competing over the number of conservative/moderate votes. If they were to split that number of votes, Bill Owens would win—even though the total number of votes between the other two could be bigger.
This encourages one of the main two parties to maintain big tents, to dilute their message, and to strike out at a third party—from whichever side they come from.
It’s where we get the whole “throwing away your vote for a third party” line and why so many people plug their nose and vote for the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to some elections.
Why Do We Have This System?
At one point there were a variety of people to choose from—a variety of different backgrounds. Some nations—like Britain, Germany, France, Israel etc.—actually have multiple different parties that form ruling groups based on majorities. In these cases, One Person-One Vote makes sense, because people have a variety of choices and can vote conscience.
In our system, since we’ve lost multiple parties (Lost in the sense that there are very few people that are not Republican or Democrat that win elections), people feel the need to vote for one of two. This makes it incredibly difficult for a third party candidate to get name recognition, votes, etc.
I believe it’s high time that we let people have two votes. That way a person that really wants one person, wouldn’t mind the second, but doesn’t want the third would have the opportunity to accurately express their will.
In the case of the above, those that were conservative could vote for Hoffman and then Scozzafava, and have some confidence that they were not electing Owens because they weren’t voting for Scozzafava directly. Same thing with Nader vs. Gore in 2000 or Bush vs. Perot in the 90s.
Each ballot would allow for two selections. No doubling up. You get two, if you choose to abstain with one, that’s fine.
One could put a trigger in so that this solution only happens when there are 3 candidates, so that it’s normal for 1, 2, or greater than 3. This situation would also solve the situation where there are runoffs because votes are close. You could either put in some kind of priority system (#1 votes get 2 points, #2 1 point) or something of that nature. This would save the taxpayers money (instead of a revote), and it would let more people get involved.
More choice is good for America and good for the politicians. They need to know that we have options.
- The Democrats support Owens, Scozzafava is being supported by Newt Gingrich and the Daily Kos, and Doug Hoffman has Sarah Palin, Fred Thomas and the like.