Flawed voting system creates Maes & Tancredo conflict

Colorado’s 2010 gubernatorial race reveals a major flaw in our plurality-based elections: vote splitting. It’s well-known that Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo will split the Republican vote. This makes it much easier for Democrat John Hickenlooper to win compared to if one candidate withdrew. In an August 11 Rasmussen poll, the combined Maes/Tancredo votes exceeded Hickenlooper votes by 6 percentage points. Maes and Tancredo are similar enough candidates that if either withdraws, the other may gain enough votes to win.

Election rules should not create such conflict, or the related “spoiler effect” where voting for your favorite candidate helps your least favorite candidate win. Elections need not bind voters this way.

For example, a few U.S. cities use instant runoff voting, where to vote is to rank candidates according to your preference. Say the only candidates are Maes, Tancredo, and Hickenlooper, and you rank them in that order. If Dan Maes gets the least total first-choice votes, then he’s eliminated, and your vote is transferred to your next choice, Tancredo. In the runoff only Tancredo and Hickenlooper remain, and whoever has the most votes wins.

Critics of instant runoff voting point to possibly unfair results for popular second-choice candidates, or counter-intuitive results of Burlington Vermont’s recent mayoral election. But even with these potential drawbacks, instant runoff voting is preferable to today’s plurality voting. It remedies vote splitting, spoiler effects, and “wasted vote” concerns. More nuanced voting systems may improve upon instant runoff voting, but added complexity could limit their appeal.

This view on Colorado politics was originally printed in the Daily Camera (Boulder) on August 14 2010.

More resources on how the Democrats and Republicans shut out competition from third-party candidates:

Free markets have few barriers to entry. Individuals and firms can offer new products or services to consumers, thereby fostering competition and choice. American elections, in contrast, are dominated by two parties. Not Invited to the Party synthesizes political science, economics, and history to demonstrate how the two-party system is the artificial creation of a network of laws, restrictions, and subsidies that favor the Democrats and Republicans and cripple potential challengers, depriving voters of truly vigorous political debate. Consequently, Americans are deprived of choices on election day and arguably, deprived of effective and accurate representation in Congress and the presidency.



Filed under public policy, published

6 responses to “Flawed voting system creates Maes & Tancredo conflict

  1. Rcburkhead

    How about you give credit where credit is due? Tom (Say One Thing Do The Other) Tancredo created the Maes & Tancredo conflict. Nobody and nothing else did. Don't try to make something real simple into something complicated.

  2. Frank Atwood

    A far easier solution is Approval Voting, let the voter vote for more than one candidate, remove the vote for only one restriction. When confronted with the Perot / Nader / Tancredo dilemma, the voter is allowed to vote for both the “true believer” and the “electable” candidate. Third parties sabotage their philosophical allies. Approval Voting rectifies this conundrum and attempts to minimizes the IRV inadequacies. I suggest reading William Poundstone's book: _Gaming the Vote, Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It)_. Already in numerous Colorado home rule cities voters cast more than one vote in multi-seat at large elections. Secretary of State candidate Scott Gessler has kind words for Approval Voting.

  3. Not only is instant runoff one of the more-complicated alternative voting systems out there, it also does not remove the spoiler effect.It seems like it should; and it does, but only as long as third-parties stay small. But if IRV is “successful”, then third-parties should grow, and as they grow to a competitive size, the spoiler problem returns!Example:45%: A > B > C10%: B > A > C10%: B > C > A35%: C > A > AIf this election is just A vs. B, then B wins, 55% to 45%. But add C, a strong third-party candidate, and the winner changes to A!Approval voting doesn't have this problem; adding or removing a non-winning candidate from the ballots NEVER changes the outcome.

  4. wakalix

    Hi Dale,Thanks for the comment. You're referring to what I mentioned in the article – the popular second choice candidate. Or I assume you are. You have to A's in the 35% category. You surely meant “35% C > B > A.”

  5. Pingback: wakalix » Blog Archive » Tea Parties, GOP primaries, and elections

  6. Pingback: Peoples Press Collective | Colorado Politics | Tea Parties, GOP primaries, and elections :

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s