Carlos Gonzalez, MVP voting, & Ken Buck’s spoilers

Has the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez won the National League MVP award?  The public doesn’t know yet, but we know how the voting works. Baseball writers don’t vote for one player. Instead, they rank their top ten, with higher ranked votes worth more points than lower ranked votes.  The player who accumulates the most points wins.

This version of preference voting reflects the electorate’s preferences better than our government elections do. If your favorite candidate is not a top contender, voting for him might make him a “spoiler” and help put your least favorite candidate in office. Instead of supporting your favorite candidate, you may resign yourself to voting for the proverbial “lesser of two evil” top contenders.

Newly-elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler endorses a solution: range voting. It’s like preference voting, but you can award each candidate any number of points within a specified range.  A simple version of range voting called “approval voting.” Vote for as many candidates as you like. The one with the most votes wins.  In this year’s election, if you preferred the Libertarian most and Michael Bennet least, you could vote for the Libertarian, but also for Ken Buck to help defeat Bennet. Some Buck supporters blame non-leftist candidates for spoiling a Buck victory. Instead, they should blame elected Republicans for supporting our crude voting system that makes spoilers possible.

“The state legislature should allow home rule municipalities and counties to develop voting methods that meet their needs, including approval voting and range voting,” says Gessler’s website. Boulder’s political parties should consider collaborating to bring one of these methods to Boulder County.

A version of this article was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on November 6 2010.

Thanks to Dale Sheldon-Hess for pointing out the difference between range voting and preference voting.  I was operating within a word limit and wrongly figured that the MVP-style voting was a type of range voting.


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