April 16, 2024

The End Of “One Person – One Vote”


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.

The Solution

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.

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  1. 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. []

7 thoughts on “The End Of “One Person – One Vote”

    1. The only thing I could say to that is cost. Whereas my solution only has one balloting time, having a runoff means organizing another vote, plus all that goes along with changing campaign slogans based on exit data, etc. If this is supposed to be a “poll” of the people on the given date, having another one can have a weird effect on the outcome.

      Though I think it’s not a bad solution at that. It would certainly be better than the current, in my opinion.

  1. Instant runoff voting is a great idea and far superior to the first past the post method used in most American jurisdictions. It would really help independent and 3rd party candidates win elections, which is why we will never get it here. The entrenched system just won’t do anything to help the competition.

    1. How would instant runoff voting work? Is that different than what David was talking about?

      I agree that the major parties would rather find any excuse– cost or whatever– to prevent a viable third party.

      However, I have heard that the NY-23 race has changed with the Republican contender getting out. She claims it’s all about money, but that plea sounds like she’s being a martyr while attacking her opponents. It could be a pretty slick tactic near the end.

    2. What do you mean by “Instant Runoff”? How fast is instant? My only problem with runoffs is that it messes with the dynamics of the votes and it costs more, but that would be much better than what we have now.

  2. Since the Republican Party “leadership” disowned her and supported her opponent, she got out of the race. Apparently the Republicans have a very tiny tent and she didn’t fit in it.

    Instant Runoff Voting goes more or less like this (there are web sites for this of course): Instead of voting for one candidate, you rank order the candidates indicating your first, second and third choices for the race. The first tally looks at the number of people who voted for each candidate as their first choice and the 3rd place person is eliminated. Then they take the second place votes of that person and add them to the totals for the other two and see which one wins. It can work with more than 3 candidates but you get the idea I hope.

    The system is used in a number of countries and some states and is just as easy and cost-effective as our current system.

    1. The then Instant Runoff is close to what I was proposing, and wholeheartedly agree with it– anything to get a better vote there.

      As far as NY-23, Newt Gingrich and the RNC supported her. Her stated reasons for getting out were that she was losing and was not able to raise funds to confront how her opponents have defined her. The problem for her is that her record sunk her with Republicans– she was backed by Daily Kos, NARAL, etc. She considered running as a Democrat. If you check her against the biggest Republican issues, I’m not sure that she qualifies even as inlcuded in the “big tent”.

      She was running as a Republican on “she won’t vote for Pelosi to be speaker” and “she won’t support the current health care bill– public option.” That puts her left of most Republicans when you factor in pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage, and pro-stimulus.

      It’s convenient for those that agree with Democrat principles to say that it’s somehow a commentary on Republicanism in 2009– and I would agree that it’s in the midst of a party that doesn’t know whether to look more like a Democrat or more like a Conservative– but this race, run in a Republican district, Hoffman was the real choice against a Democratic agenda.

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