Should we vote like Hot or Not?

Why choosing our presidents like we rate people's bods is a good idea.


Farhad Manjoo
February 16, 2008 2:53AM (UTC)

Earlier this week I reviewed William Poundstone's "Gaming the Vote," which goes over the defects of the plurality vote and pushes, instead, for something called range voting.

Range voting works like this: When you go into the voting booth on election day, you're presented with a ballot that lists all the candidates beside a 0 to 9 scale -- something like the scale on the bod-rating Web site Hot or Not.

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You put down a ranking for each of the candidates. Give your favorite candidate a 9, your least favorite a 0, and the others soemthing somewhere in between. The system eliminates spoilers, and it also escapes some flaws of election reforms such as instant-runoff voting.

Consider, for instance, how range voting would have worked in the Florida race in 2000, where George Bush won 2,912,790 votes and Al Gore won 2,912,253 votes (537 fewer than Bush). In that election, Bush won, clearly, with the help of spoiler Ralph Nader, who had 97,421 votes.

Assume that under range voting, Gore voters would have rated Gore 9, Bush 0, and Nader 1. Bush voters would have rated Bush 9, Gore 0, and Nader 0. And Nader voters would have rated Nader 9, Gore 1, and Bush 0. (I'm being conservative in my estimates).

Bush, then, would have gotten an average score of:

[(2,912,790 * 9) + (2,912,253 * 0) + (97,421 * 0)] /
(2,912,790 + 2,912,253 + 97,421)
= 4.43.

Nader:

[(2,912,790 * 0) + (2,912,253 * 1) + (97,421 * 9)] /
(2,912,790 + 2,912,253 + 97,421)
= 0.64.

Gore:

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[(2,912,790 * 0) + (2,912,253 * 9) + (97,421 * 1)] /
(2,912,790 + 2,912,253 + 97,421)
= 4.44.

That is, Gore, with the highest average, would have won.

I discussed voting methods in my video for Current TV this week:


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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2008 Elections

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