Voting systems and election rules for Accurate Democracy

Primer on Voting Rules

 Introduction to voting systems, chapter contents

The best voting rules are inclusive, well centered, and decisive.
The results can make a group more popular, stable and quick.
The concepts build from one voting task to the next:
IntroductionIntroduction Tragedies of democracy: What's wrong?
PR Representatives and DelegatesEras in Voting Voting Progress: 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century.
IntroductionA Small Example Nine voters: Line up to vote, Plurality, Runoff, Two issues.
IRV 1 Side WinsChief Executive  Instant Runoff Voting: Principle, Merits, Patterns.
PR Representatives and DelegatesCouncil Elections Proportional Representation: Principle, Merits, Patterns.
Project DistributionProject Selection Fair-share Spending: Principle, Merits, PatternsNew
BudgetsBudget Setting Funding levels: Principle, Merits, Old Patterns.
Pairwise CenteringPolicy Decision Condorcet & Rules of Order: Principle, Merits, Patterns.
            Philosophy.       Conclusions.       Prints.     IntroductionNext Slide ↓

After this primer shows the need for better voting rules,
the voting workshop will show the simple steps in each tally.


Tragedies of Democracy

These tragedies were caused by voting rules often used by nations and towns, co-ops and corporate boards. 

The Northwest U.S. has been ripped apart for 30 years as forestry laws are reversed again and again.  Hasty logging in times of weak regulation wastes resources.  Sudden limits on logging bankrupt some workers and small businesses.  A political pendulum swings; it cuts down forests and species, families and towns.

Agencies and businesses often lose wealth when a council changes hands and changes laws.  These reversals are a major cause of war-like politics.

Old ways of adding up votes fail to represent large groups in many places.  In North Carolina, there were enough African- Americans to fill two election districts.  But they were a 25% minority spread over eight districts.  So they won no voice in Congress.  For over 100 years they were invisible as voters.

Can we end such raging or silent tragedies?  Better tools offer real hope; we can stop the tragedies caused by old methods.

Jump to the next slide by clicking the gray link.   What's Wrong? ↓

What's Wrong?

Our defective voting rules come from the failure to see there are different jobs for voting; and these require different types of voting.

We all know how to decide the simplest sort of issue:  A question with only two answers must be answered yes or no.  For such an issue, “yes” and “no” votes are enough.

But as soon as three candidates run for one office, the situation becomes more complicated.  Then a yes-no vote is no longer suitable.

Sometimes we do not want to elect just one official.  We want a whole council to represent all the voters.  For this we do not need a system that divides voters into winners and losers.  What we need is a way of condensing them, in the right proportions, into their chosen leaders.

Eras in Democracy

The 1800s: Winner-Take-All Districts lead to Off-Center Councils

Some English-speaking nations still count votes by England's old plurality rule.  It elects only one representative from each district; and winning it does not require a majority.  It merely elects who­ever gets the most “yes” votes.

Where only the largest party in a district wins a rep, only two big parties thrive.  So voters get only two real candidates, offering a small choice of issues and opinions.

A council majority sets policies. (dark blue in picture) A small change in one district's popular vote can shift all power, making laws and policies swerve from side to side.

Plurality politics is a war of winner take all.

 Plurality election
$  $  $  LAWS   $  $  $

Typical Council Elected By Plurality Rule   1900s ↓

Fair-Share Representation leads to Off-Center Majorities

Proportional Representation (PR) was invented in the late 1800s to end some problems caused by plurality rule.  Most democracies have adopted PR.  It elects several people to represent each large district.  It gives a group that earns, say 10% of the votes, 10% of the seats.  Thus PR delivers fair shares of representation. It leads to broad representation of issues and opinions.  But usually there is no central party (C in picture) and the two biggest parties normally refuse to work together.  So the side with the most seats (blue and black) forms the ruling majority which then enacts — policies skewed toward their side.
 Proportional Representation
$     $  $  LAWS  $  $      $

Typical Council Elected By Proportional Representation

Ensemble Councils lead to Broad, Centered Majorities

New ensemble councils will elect most reps by Proportional Representation, plus a few by a central rule ( C  in picture).  Later slides show how a central voting rule picks winners with wide appeal and views near the middle of the voters.  Its winners are thus near the middle of a PR council.  So they are the council's powerful swing votes. 

Most voters in her wide base of support don't want averaged or centrist policies.  They want policies to unite the best ideas from all groups.

 Mixed Member Proportional MMP

Ensemble Elected By Central And Proportional Rules

A soapbox supports the shoes of a speaker.       Democracy Evolves       A TV shows the face of a speaker.

A “centrist policy” enacts a narrow point of view; it excludes other opinions and needs.
A “one-sided policy” also ignores rival ideas. 

A “compromise policy” tries to negotiate rival plans.  But contrary plans forced together often work poorly; and so does the average of rival plans.

A “balanced policy” unites compatible ideas from all sides.  This process needs advocates for diverse ideas.  And more than that, it needs  powerful moderators. 

A broad balanced majority works to enact broad, balanced policies.  These tend to give the greatest chance for happiness to the greatest number of people.  Excellent policies are a goal of accurate democracy.  Their success is measured  by a typical voter's education and income, freedom and safety, health and leisure.

An ensemble is inclusive; yet it is strongly centered and decisive.  Voting rules for other tasks can follow this pattern.  These will make the organization more popular, stable and quick.  They are likely to avoid the one-sided results and tragedies at the top of this and other pages.


Nine Voters

Let's think about an election with nine voters whose opinions range from left to right.  The figures in this picture mark the positions of voters on the political left, right or center - as though we asked them, “If you want high-quality government services and taxes like Norway or Sweden, please stand here.  Like Canada?  Stand here please.  Like the USA?  Stand here.  Stand over there for Mexico's low taxes and government.”
Nine voters spread out along an issue.

 Nine voters

High taxes, great services Low taxes, poor services

Jump to the next slide by clicking the gray link.    Plurality ↓

Plurality Election

Three candidates stand for office.  A voter likes the candidate whose political position is nearest.  So voters on the left like the candidate on the left.

Ms. K is the candidate nearest four voters; L is nearest two and M is nearest three.  Candidates L and M split the voters on the right.

Does anyone win a majority?     Yes,  No.
Who wins the plurality or largest share?    K,  L,  M.
Who wins the second-largest?    K,  L,  M.
Answers:  Mouse over a question, but do not click.

A mere plurality gives the winner a weak mandate.  That is the authority voters give to winners.

Plurality, the one with the most votes wins.

 Plurality election

K is nearest four voters. L is nearest two. M is nearest three.

Runoff Election

Who wins a runoff between the top two?    K,  M.

The two who had voted for L now vote for M.  Do votes that move count more than others?    Yes,  No.

This winner has the power of a majority mandate.

Runoffs practically ask, “Which side is stronger?”

(We will look at this election more closely by using a voting rule that asks, “Where is our center?”  The Proportional Representation rule below will pick several winners.  It asks, “Which trio best represents all these voters?”)

Runoff, the top two compete one against one.

 Runoff election

Candidate M wins the runoff.

Politics in Two Issue Dimensions

Voting rules behave the same when opinions do not fit neatly along a line from left to right.

Here a group spreads out on two issue dimensions: left to right plus up and down.  Perhaps on the steps of their school or state capitol, we asked

them a second question about an issue unrelated to taxes and services.

“Please take one step up if you want more regulation.  Take two steps down if you want much less regulation, and so on.”

Seventeen voters spread out along two issues.

 Voters in 2 Issue Dimensions

Kay wins a plurality.Em wins a runoff.

Chief Executive

The goal of Instant Runoff Voting is this:

A majority winner
from a single election.

How does it work?  You rank your favorite candidates,
as your first choice, second choice, third and so on.
Then your ballot goes to your first-rank candidate.

If no candidate gets a majority, the one with the fewest
ballots loses
, and there is another round of counting. 

Your ballot stays with your favorite if she advances. 
It moves to your next choice if your favorite has lost. 
This repeats until one candidate gets a majority.

Some benefits of Instant Runoff Voting are:

A majority winner from one election, so no winners-
      without-mandates and no costly runoff elections.

Less negative campaigning, because a candidate must
      ask a rivals' supporters for their 2nd choice votes.

No hurting your first choice by ranking a 2nd, as the
      2nd does not count unless the 1st choice has lost.

No lesser-of-two-evils choice, as you can mark your
      true 1st choice without fear of wasting your vote

No spoilers, as votes for minor candidates move to
      each voter's more popular choices.

Instant Runoff Voting Patterns

In South Korea's 1987 presidential election, two liberals faced the aid to a military dictator.  The liberals got a majority of the votes but split their supporters, so the conservative won under a plurality vote-counting rule.  These rules elect whoever gets the most votes; 50% is not required.

The winner claimed a mandate to continue repressive policies.  Years later he was convicted of treason in the tragic killing of pro-democracy demonstrators.

With Instant Runoff Voting, ballots for the weaker liberal could have transferred to elect the stronger one.

Instant Runoff Voting

From five factions to one majority.

 Four IRV pie charts

 1) Ms. Violet loses.  Her ballots go to each voter's next choice.
2) Ms. Blonde loses.  Her ballots move.
3) Ms. Green loses.
4) Ms. Carmine loses.
IRV elects leaders in cities large and small: London, Sidney, San Francisco, Burlington, Dublin and others.  Students use it at Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Rice, Tufts, MIT, Cal Tech, Carlton, Clark, Cornell, Dartmouth, Hendrix, Reed, Vassar, Whitman, William and Mary, The University of: Cal, Il, Md, Mn, Ok, Va, Wa, Wi, and more. A picture in the transferable vote workshop shows individual ballots moving.

IRV lets you vote for the candidate you really like.  And even if that option loses, your vote isn't wasted; it goes to your next choice.


3 Single-Winner Elections

A class of 27 wants to elect a planning committee.  Someone says, “Elect a rep from each seminar group.”  The top group gives Kay 3 votes and Ray 6 votes.

But bluish majorities win in all 3 sections.
And other voters get no voice on the committee.

Full Representation

A better suggestion says, “Keep the class whole.  Change the definition of victory from half of a small seminar to a quarter of the whole class, plus one.”

Now bluish voters win 2 seats, a majority.
And other voters win the third seat.

principle of Full Representation is this:

Majority rule,
with representation for political minorities,
in proportion to their votes.

That is, 60% of the vote gets you 60% of the seats, not all of them.  And 10% of the vote gets you 10% of the seats, not none of them.  These are fair-shares.

How does it work?  There are three basic ingredients:

Full Rep We elect more than one rep from each district.

Full Rep You vote for more than one; you vote for a list.
      Parties offer lists to us, or we each list favorites.

Full Rep The more votes a list gets, the more reps it elects.

   Full Rep_4 ↓

Some Benefits of Proportional Representation:

Full Rep It gives each major group a fair share of reps; so it
      often elects more political minorities and women.

Full Rep That tends to help policies match public opinion –
      often raising the quality of health and education.

Full Rep It gives voters real choices, boosting voter turnout.

Full Rep It makes more competitive districts and
      “effective votes”.

Full Rep A council must earn many more votes (¾ versus ½);
      so PR can strengthen a council's mandate.

      More merits of Proportional Representation...

   Full Rep_5 ↓

Fair Shares and Moderates

Chicago now elects no Republicans to the State Congress, even though they win up to a third of its votes.  But for over a century Chicago elected reps from both parties – because the state used a good rule to elect three reps in each district.  Most districts gave the majority party two reps and the minority party one. Those Chicago Republicans were usually moderates.  So were Democratic reps from Republican strongholds.  Even the majority party in a district tended to elect more independent- minded reps.  Working together, they moderated the state's policies.
Shares of votes equal fair shares of seats.

Fair-Shares and Moderates 2

New Zealand switched in 1996 from Single-Winner Districts to a blend of SWD and Full Representation.  A one-winner district exaggerates local issues and alliances.  Full Rep frees voters from district enclosures to elect some reps with thin but widespread appeal.

The number of women elected rose from 21 to 35.  The number of native Maoris elected rose from 6 to 15, which is almost proportional to the Maori population.  Voters also elected 3 Polynesian reps and 1 Asian rep.

Many people call this Proportional Representation or Proportional Voting. 

(The transferable vote workshop shows one way to get Full Representation.)


Fair Shares to Buy Public Goods

Electing reps is the most obvious use of voting rules.  Rules to set policies and budgets are just as important.  In fact, they get used more often than election rules.  They might be the only votes in a direct democracy.

Full Rep distributes council seats fairly; in the same way, Fair-share Spending allocates money fairly.  It is the next logical step.

Democratic rights fulfilled through history:
Full Rep Voting for rich men, poor men, “colored” men, women.
Full Rep Full representation for large political minorities.
Projects Fair-share spending by big groups of reps.
 Fair-share Spending


Fair shares give minority voters some power.   Projects_2 ↓

A Pattern of Unfair Spending

Membership groups often shirk competitive elections to avoid conflicts and hurt feelings.  But members still compete over money to fund projects.

Sometimes a group uses tricks to capture a lot of the budget.  When that injustice is felt, other groups may grow rebellious, or leave.

They need a rule to make funding fair and accurate.

 Many empty hands    Fair shares

Many empty hands Fair Shares

A System of Unfair Spending

“...[E]armarks [are] the devices by which individual members of Congress set aside budget resources for pet projects in their districts.  This year House members have requested nearly 19,000 of these programs...  If all were approved, the total cost would amount to $279 billion...”
Washington Post, Sunday, July 8, 2001; page B6

Under old rules, senior reps give several times more “pork” spending to their districts than junior reps do. Voters can't easily see who's responsible for a project. And reps must vote on omnibus bills that include many projects, some good, some bad.

The principle of Fair-share Spending is this:

Spending power for all,
in proportion to their votes.

That is, 60% of the voters spend 60% of the money, not all of it.  A project still needs grants from many voters to prove it is a public good worth public money.  So we let a voter fund only a fraction of a project.

How does it work?  Like IRV: You rank your choices.

Then your money moves to help all the favorites you can.  And a tally of all ballots drops the least-funded project. 
This repeats until all projects still in the race are fully funded.

Merits of Fair-share Spending

Projects It lets sub-groups fund projects; it's like federalism,
     but without new layers of taxes and bureaucracy.
     It funds big groups, whether spread out or local.

Money A member can waste only her share of the fund.
     Voters can see a rep's grants to each project, tax
     cut or debt reduction and hold her accountable.

Money Fair shares never hand minorities too much power.
     The majority spends most of this fair-share fund.
     And it is small; it just covers optional projects.*

* FS can set the budgets of departments too.  Each
funding level of the department must win a quota of support.
Limits on a member's grants block free rides and private items.

   Projects_6 ↓

Participatory Budgeting

In a citywide vote, each neighborhood or interest group funds a few school, park or road improvements.  The city's taxes then pay for the projects as the School, Park, and Road Departments manage the contracts.

Every neighborhood and interest group controls its share of spending power; no one is shut out.  This makes (hidden) empires less profitable.

Fair-shares or Winner Take All

If a plurality spends all the money, the last thing they buy adds little to their happiness.  It is a low priority.  But that money could buy the high-priority favorite of a large minority; making them happier.

In economic terms:  The “social utility” of the money and goods tends to increase if we each allocate a share.   Shares spread opportunities and incentives too.

In political terms:  Fair shares earn wide respect, as we are each in a big minority wanting some project.  The budget serves and appeals to more people.

(The transferable vote workshop outlines a simple tally.)

   Budgets ↓


Setting Agency Budgets

Fair shares can set the budgets of departments too.
Each funding level of each department is like a project
To win, it needs to receive a number of votes. 
It gets one from each ballot currently sharing the department's cost up to that level or higher.

Each agency starts with [80]% of its recent budgets.*
You may write in and rank higher levels for some agencies.
Your ballot helps as many high ranks as it can afford.
One at a time, the weak ones lose and the money moves.
Your share always helps your highest ranks still in the running.

* To vote less than that to basic services, such as the
police or public health, would be “stealing a free ride.”

More Merits of Fair-Share Spending

Budgets Smooth budget roller-coasters that hurt efficiency.
     Fix starvation budgets designed to cause failure.
     End hidden empires taxing powerless minorities.

Budgets Reduce agenda effects such as leaving naught for
     the last items or going into debt for them.
     Split the free-rider or poison-pill items from others.

Budgets After discussion, one poll quickly sets many budgets.

Budgets Majorities enact the policies that direct the agencies.
     But they cannot block the grants from a minority.

Budgets No hidden votes.
     Fair-share voting builds trust in group spending,
     and may raise support for more of it.

Notes on Merits of Fair Shares

Budgets The “in-group” at a college, club, co-op, condo, or
     congregation cannot take more than their fair share;
     nor give the “out groups” less than their shares.

Budgets Fair-shares reduce majority domination of minorities;
     and so make empire building less attractive. 
     The majority lose a fraction of power for every minority annexed.

Budgets Fair shares help any interest group which is dispersed;
     which is not the local plurality. 

Budgets It avoids centralized socialism and selfish capitalism.
     It aids economic co-operation in ad hoc groups. 
     It keeps high incentives for inventing and investing to
     increase efficiency.

(The transferable vote workshop shows budget-setting math.)

Old, Black-Box Budget Rules

The current budget process blurs responsibility.  Take deficit spending.  Liberals may say the main cause is excessive military spending; conservatives often say it's social services.  Every rep can claim, “I didn't spend too much.”

Protecting the environment is popular with both conservative and liberal voters.  Reps don't dare attack it openly.  So, to pay off some corporate donors, reps slyly starve agencies that enforce environmental laws.  Similar cuts have hit OHSA and the auditors of corporate tax returns.

   Budgets_4 ↓

Old Roller-coaster Budget Patterns

“Because research may take decades to flower, lower but constant funding is more productive than a roller-coaster budget that might average far more, says Alvin W. Trivelpiece, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.” BusinessWeek: 5/26/97

Members might be more cautious about starting vast projects if they could not spend the opposition's share of the budget.  And they should have the power to finish their projects with their own share.

 Open voting
Everyone can see a rep's grants.

Old Budget Refill Voting has:

Majority rule,
within a balance of forces.

So if we all agree, we can change budgets radically. 
But if many disagree, they can moderate the changes. 
Yet a minority cannot slow the budget process.

Each agency starts with [80]% of its current budget.
A rep may refill only a limited share of each budget.
So it takes many reps to refill one, and more to raise it.
You repeatedly adjust your grants, causing and countering budget changes, until a timer stops the voting.

A minority can moderate a budget's change.
But a majority can make it rise or fall.

BRVa lets a majority reduce their grants to agency X to undercut a minority's grants to X.  So, to maintain the total for X, the minority must give it bigger grants.  Then the majority reduces theirs, etc.  With BRVa, nobody apportions the budget as they sincerely want it.  In contrast, the previous fair-share rule gave all members positive power to fund favorites.


Pairwise Test Number Two

The nine-voter Runoff shown above was a one-against-one or “Pairwise” contest between candidates M and K.  Five voters preferred M over K. Here is a second Pairwise test with the same voters:  Candidate K loses this one-against-one test.  Candidate L wins by five votes to four.

(Each person votes once with a full-choice ballot.  There are several ballot styles.)

 Condorcet contest 2

    K is nearest four voters. L is nearest five voters.

Test Number Three

Candidate L wins her next one-on-one test also.  She has won majorities against each of her rivals, so she is the candidate who best represents all the voters.  She is the Pairwise winner. Could another person top candidate L?     Yes,  No.
Hint: Is anyone closer to the political center?    Yes,  No.
Who is the Pairwise winner on page 9?    K,  L,  M.

Thus Pairwise picks a central chairperson or policy, but probably not a dynamic CEO, or diverse reps.

 Condorcet contest 3

L is nearest 6 voters;     M is nearest 3.

The principle of the Pairwise Tally is this:

Majority victories
over every single rival.

Option M beats option K if most voters rank M above K.  Each ballot's rank of M relative to K concerns us. 
Their numbers of first-rank votes do not.

The winner must beat every rival, one-against-one.

If another rule picks a different winner our “round-robin” tournament, or Condorcet  winner ranks higher on most ballots, so she wins a one-against-one majority over that other rule's winner.

Tallies Quickly Pick Balanced Policies

Center Full-choice ballots rank related motions all at once.
      They simplify the rules of order and speed up voting.
      They cut down agenda affects including poison-pill
      and free-rider amendments.

Center Balanced policies avoid erratic or excessive changes.
      That saves money and builds respect for government.
      It reduces the game-of-chance and fear in politics.
      And it reduces the payoff from big campaign gifts.

Center Pairwise can elect a fairly neutral judge or administrator.
      It can elect moderators to cast the swing votes on a
     centrally-balanced “ensemble council.

      More merits of the Pairwise or “Condorcet” rule...

   Policy_5 ↓

Popularity and Balance

A policy needs good marks from voters all along the political spectrum.  That is because every rep can rank it relative to other policies.  So all voters are “obtainable” and valuable.  This leads to policies with wide appeal.  (A plurality or runoff winner gets no help from the losing side and doesn't need to please those voters.) The Pairwise winner is central and popular:  Most centrist and liberal voters prefer it over each conservative policy.  At the same time, most centrist and conservative voters prefer it over each liberal policy.  All sides can join to beat narrowly-centrist policies.

 Open voting

Everyone helps choose our center.

A Moderator's Balanced Support

Most liberal voters rank Kennedy [Livingstone, Lafontaine] above Clinton [Blair, Schröder].  So to win a majority over Kennedy, Clinton must outrank him on ballots from centrists and conservatives.  She cannot hope to be the first choice for conservative voters; still, she must seek their favor.

Conservative voters rank Bush [Major, Kohl] higher than Clinton.  So to win a majority over Bush, Clinton must appeal to centrists and liberals.

Every candidate needs the centrists voters, of course.  But every candidate needs the liberals and conservatives too.  When compared with Kennedy, Clinton needs those conservative voters.  And when compared with Bush, Clinton needs the liberals.

In this Pairwise election of a moderator, a less controversial candidate might top each of these polarizing politicians.

     Gerrymander_1 ↓


Candidate M lost the last election by plurality rule.  Now let's say her party gerrymanders the borders of her election district.  They add neighbors (purple below) who tend to vote for her party, and exclude less favorable voters.  So now her party is certain to win the new district.  The old plurality rule is the easiest to manipulate.  But the Pairwise winner, L, doesn't change in this case.  And Proportional Representation also resists gerrymanders.
 Gerrymandered election

Now K has 3 votes. L has two. And M has four.


Bribes, big campaign gifts, and jobs for friends can make some reps switch sides on a policy.  Pairwise resists corruption well, as bribing a few reps moves the council's middle, and the winning policy, only a little.

“Poison-pill amendments” are designed to make some reps change sides and oppose a bill they had supported.  Pairwise lets reps rank the original bill, no bill, and the (poison) amended bill.  They may shun the pill.

Fair shares of seats and spending reduce the payoffs to those who bribe the biggest party.  It can no longer seize more than its share of reps or money. 
Fair shares and visible grants also restrain corruption.

(The transferable vote workshop shows a Pairwise Condorcet tally.)


Why Vote

Meetings often make interlocking decisions one at a time through yes-no voting, with or without explicit rules of order, agendas, and votes.  Items decided at the beginning can shut out later options.

Or people may talk about all options at once but never clearly tell (vote) their second and third choices.  So a minority pushing a single idea can appear to be the strongest group.  And one person with a balanced idea but no eager supporters might drop it.

The best rules avoid all those problems by ranking the competing motions (or budgets) on the same ballot.

Why Vote 2

Groups with little time and many issues or many members and conflicting interests, usually follow discussions with voting rather than consensus.

Voting can be anonymous to protect dissidents.  It provides equality for busy or unassertive people.  Pondering a ballot or survey educates members about setting budgets and priorities.

A straw poll can find the major opinion groups and focus a discussion on the strongest idea from each group or on the most central options.

Some issues allow decisions that are not adversarial or consensual:  Multi-winner funding gives everyone a fair share of power — without letting anyone dictate or block action.

Exit or Power

Ultimately, voting cannot satisfy two people with opposing values.  Leaving or “voting with your feet” is the surest way to get to the policies you want.  When you can't do that, avoid willful authoritarians; build democratic institutions with open-minded egalitarians.

Democracy improves in eras such as The Enlightenment.  Many people restrained blind faith, obedience and ideology.  They worked to expand knowledge through rational, skeptical and empirical thinking.

(There's more on the democratic philosophy page.)

   Philo_4 ↓

Democracy         Tools Between People        Democracy

Voting rules affect our laws — and our views on life. 
By making us practice winner-take-all or sharing, rules change the way we treat each other and see the world.

Fair-share rules can shift our expectations of voting and government.  They can move from tools for fighting culture wars toward tools supporting diversity and its freedoms.

Voting reforms are a gateway to many popular changes.  Then shifts in power will be small, frequent and normal.

Happiness for most people is strongly linked to good relationships.  So a good way to increase happiness is to improve Tools Between People.

Steering Analogy

When choosing a voting rule, a new Mercedes costs little more than an old jalopy.  That price is a bargain when the votes steer important budgets or policies.

Does your car have an 1890 steering tiller or a new, power steering wheel?  Does your organization have an 1890 voting rule or a new, centrally balanced rule?

Today's drivers need the skill to use power steering — but they don't need the math or logic to engineer it.  Same with voters and voting rules.

A group may test drive a new rule in a survey, or by turning into a “committee of the whole” to vote, tally and report its result, to enact by their usual rules. 

(The call for a survey or report might bar amendments to it, so a majority cannot cut a minority's power.)


Better Election Rules            
Benefit Voters and Reps             

Proportional Representation Give voters real choices of candidates who can win,
     by electing fair shares of reps from all big groups.

Full Representation This supports a wide variety of candidates,
     debate of issues and turnout of voters.

Full Rep Reduce wasted votes and so end weak mandates for reps.
     Cut the influence of spoilers and gerrymanders.
     Reduce the number of districts with safe seats.

Proportional Voting Reduce attack ads and polarization of voters.
     Reduce the payoffs from private campaign funding.

Some Benefits of Legislative Rules            

Full Rep Give fair representation to all major groups;
     so the council will enact laws with real majorities.

Center Elect a central chairperson with wide appeal; she will be
     a swing vote between the reps from interest groups.

Center Reduce deadlocks and upheavals in budgets or policies.
     Make shifts in power small, common and smooth.

Center Cut the chances for agenda scams.  Speed-rank all options
     at once to detach poison and free-rider amendments.

Projects Give all reps equal funds for projects and agencies.
     And make each rep's spending visible to the voters.

    Related Issues ↓

 Related Issues

Ballot access laws make it hard for minor parties to get their candidates on the ballot.  The two big parties make those laws largely because they fear spoiler candidates.  Better voting rules put that fear to rest.

News firms might inform us better if they were ruled by the subscribers' votes.

Public campaign funding, as in Maine and Arizona, lets reps give less time to rich donors and more to common voters.  (The Ackerman- Ayres plan lets each voter give anonymous vouchers.)

Optical-scan ballots and open-source software check fraud by election workers and corporations. 

Sabbatical terms make the current rep run against a former rep returning from sabbatical.  Voters get a real choice between two winners.  Each has a record of what they did when elected.  Plurality would tend to make the current and former reps both lose due to a party split.  But IRV and Pairwise heal party splits.

Initiative voters get more choices and power with full-choice ballots and Pairwise tallies.  They should set the political rules.  But minority rights to ballots, reps and funds need constitutional protection from the majority of the day.


Many people are excited to learn that voting does not have to mean 'winner take all'.

The best voting rules are fast, easy and fair.
They strengthen votes and thus mandates.  That
means they organize voters and lift the number supporting:
Center  a Chairperson from a plurality to a majority;
Full Rep  a Council from a plurality to over three quarters;
Budgets  a Budget from a few power blocs to all members;
Center  a Policy from a one-sided to an over-all majority.

This page shows that different voting tasks need different kinds of voting rules.
Politics is more principled with
fair shares for seats and money, and
true majorities for executives and policies.

    Actions  ↓


Learn more in this e-book, Accurate Democracy
Then build support in your school, club or town with 
FairVote, The Center for Voting and Democracy.

Steps toward accurate democracy include:
Organizing  Organize Voters,           with Transferable Votes.
Full Rep  Represent Everyone,     with Full Representation.
Projects  Empower Everyone,      with Fair-share Spending.
Center  Center Policies,            with Pairwise Winners.

Accurate has simulation games and handouts plus free ballot-entry and tally software.


Booklets, Flip Charts, and Slide Shows

Booklet size Grade Primer Workshop Font Paper
Pocket B&W 9-12 doc  pdf doc pdf 10 letter a4
Paperback 10 up doc  pdf doc pdf 10 legal  b4
Hardback 12 up doc  pdf doc pdf 13 letter a4
Legal 11 up doc  pdf doc pdf 24 legal  b4
Flipchart 11 up doc  pdf doc pdf 36 legal  b4
Slides 11 up ppt html ppt 26 screen
" Outline 11 up ppt ppt 32 screen

The B&W pocket primers print well on black-ink printers.
The others are best on color printers.
The booklets are arranged for two-sided printing:
Print half.  Reload (restack if needed).  Print the rest.
The Legal and Flipchart sizes are for one-sided printing.
The Power Point slideshows include discussion notes.
So do the supplements for teachers and translators.

Workshops can print on A4 letter paper (no cuts or folds) with plain columns: docpdf; or a more colorful style: docpdf.
Covers printed on heavy card stock are nice for paperback and hardback size booklets.  The paperback size includes voting cards.

Mail Order: Prices include shipping in the USA or Canada.
Pocket size in laser-quality B&W are 20 copies for $19.
Paperback size in color with card-stock covers are 10 for $29.
Hardback size in color with card-stock covers are 10 for $39.

 Contact Accurate Democracy  Contact Accurate Democracy  Contact Accurate Democracy

If you prefer more numbers and logic with fewer pictures, the original Democracy Evolves is again free to browse or print: doc, pdf.  Its 8 pages in B&W supplement this Primer.

This is “open source” writing, so edit the slides as you will and add your own slides for other topics.  For example, U.S. voters need concise statements of the principles and benefits in non-partisan redistricting, as practiced in Iowa, and public campaign funding, as practiced in Arizona, Maine, or North Carolina.

You may want to skip some topics or change the wording to suit an audience.  For legislators you might change “voter” to “rep” or “member” and you would do the opposite for a direct democracy.  The latter might omit Instant Runoff Voting but keep Full Representation to select subcommittees.

Thanks to Steve Chessin for writing the original version of the “elevator pitch” for Full Representation.  He, Terry Bouricius, and Zo Tobi each wrote quick pitches for Instant Runoff Voting which were the basis for the IRV slide above.  Overall editors include Tree Bressen, Cheryl Hogue, John Richardson, and Rob Richie.  Many others have contributed ideas and writing.

Navigation:  This page showed the need for better voting rules and their merits.  The next page, a voting workshop, shows the simple steps in each tally and how they meet their goals.

After that, you may want to read the one-page intro­duction to each of the six voting tasks.  These tell how a task is like and unlike other uses of voting, what it must do, stories of tragedy and success, the best rule's name, its ballot and its main merits.

Accurate Democracy is organized by uses of voting:
elections and legislation, single winner and multi winner.


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