How can we improve the voting system? Many would agree that our current voting system is not ideal. How can we improve the way we select who represents our country? What are some alternative options to our current voting system? Robert Dahl and William Poundstone offer interesting ideas to solve this problem, such as preferential voting, proportional representation, vote splitting, and range voting. It is important to understand these systems and determine if any of them would benefit our country and fix our problems with our current voting system. Lee Epstein and Jack Knight also make valid points, in their book “The Choices Justices Make,” about the judicial voting system. I think this judicial voting system would benefit from Poundstone’s proposed method of range voting. Furthermore, there are a few key things that need to change in order to improve our voting system. There needs to be easier voter registration and voting methods, and I believe that our elections need to be much shorter in duration. Both Dahl and Poundstone suggested a change in voting method, and Poundstone’s idea of range voting, in particular, seems like it could strongly benefit American politics by making voting easier, by making voting faster, and by better representing American voters.
To begin, I would like to bring up a few of the issues that I find with our current voting system. First of all, it’s difficult for some citizens to vote. Some citizens with demanding lives, such as, single parents working multiple jobs, or those with disabilities, cannot manage to get to the voting booths before the voting opportunity has ended. Many states do not even allow absentee ballots to help citizens participate. I believe that the process should be simplified in order to ensure that more citizens participate, which would make the elections more accurate.
Secondly, the Electoral College is a very controversial system that I believe is unnecessary and outdated. Many Americans don’t even understand how it works, and it seems to mostly only come up in close elections where the popular vote cannot determine the winner. The electoral college was created in the 1800s as a compromise between two groups, one who wanted the popular vote to decide, and the other who wanted Congress to decide. The rules for how the Electoral College works vary state to state, which makes it even more complicated. Because lots of citizens do not even understand how this system works, it is a controversial topic for why it has influence in our election process.
Furthermore, our elections are, simply, just too long. There is too much time and money spent on many things that serve no purpose. There is seemingly endless campaigning and constant ads. When you turn on the news, almost all you hear about are presidential candidates and the election for close to two years. There are so many eligible citizens that do not vote, and I think the endless election is part of the problem.
Continuing along these points, Robert Dahl, a political theorist and a professor of political science at Yale University, admits that our country has a lot of room to improve, starting with adjusting our voting system. Considering our current system for electing representatives, it is clear that there could be better ways. Politicians have proposed lots of ideas. A few options that Dahl proposed includes preferential voting (also called instant runoff) and proportional representation. Instant runoff is an electoral system where voters rank candidates in order of preference. If one candidate does not get a majority vote, then the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and these votes are redistributed. This process is repeated until a single candidate wins the majority vote. This system, which is used in Australia and Ireland, is an alternative that we should consider. Proportional representation is an electoral system that ensures a strong relation between the percentage of votes cast for a party and the percentage of parliamentary seats a party win. Proportional voting has been adopted in many countries, including Spain, Italy, and Russia. Although I do not think either of these methods are right for our country, they are important to consider as options. Proportional representation, however, does bring up the fact that both the Senate and the Electoral College distort the value of votes in the U.S. For instance, just in our last presidential election, the electoral college was a hot topic because, in many states, the Electoral College opposed the popular vote of citizens.
Like Dahl, William Poundstone also presents some ideas for change in the U.S. voting system. First, he introduces vote spitting, where there are two main candidates, but a third candidate could take enough votes to ruin a primary candidate’s chance of winning. For example, if there is one democrat and one republican, the democrat has the advantage of getting all democratic votes because now the republican vote will be split between those two candidates. This system would not work well, in my opinion, because votes would get distorted as people would try to find a way to make the parties even. The vote splitting dynamic would incentivize corrupt behavior and disfigure electoral outcomes. Finally, Poundstone introduces range voting, which I believe is the best option for the U.S. Range voting is a system where you would have a range from 0-100, allotting points to each candidate as to rank them, rather than just picking the one that you prefer. This system is logical in terms of deciding who is best, rather than who is not the worst. The U.S. seems to love range voting for everything outside of politics. We use it for rating movies, restaurants, internet sites, car services, etc. The United States should implement this effective range voting system into our political system.
Furthermore, I think range voting would benefit judicial voting as well. According to Epstein and Knight, judges are single minded seekers of legal policy. Judges often switch their votes and change their opinions to accommodate suggestions written by other judges. Our judicial voting system leads judges to be untruthful and strategically focused, rather than giving their true votes and opinions. Where does range voting come into play? Well, I believe that range voting could help this situation by giving judges more flexibility. By having the option to rate candidates and policies on a range scale, I am optimistic that judges will be more inclined to give their true votes and opinions. This idea of range voting, that Poundstone introduced, will hopefully lead to a more authentic representation of our judges’ true thoughts and perspectives.
As Dahl, Poundstone, and Epstein and Knight have all talked about, our U.S. voting system could definitely be improved. Considering the few different voting systems that these politicians wrote about, the one that stands out is range voting. Because, especially in today’s day and age, range voting is so common with everyday life matters. This familiarity with this system could really make it work for political means. Therefore, Poundstone’s idea of range voting seems like it is the best alternative voting system and it could completely change American politics for the better.