Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Negative Voting

Nate Silver, over at 538, a New York Times blog, has a post today about the “none of the above” option in Nevada. It seems that NOTA is polling well enough to have an effect on the Senate race, where a majority dislikes Reid but fears Angle. Lots of comments weigh in on the pluses and minuses of voting for no one.

I’ve thought for a long time that a simple improvement over the current system would be to give voters the option of voting for or against a particular candidate. If they vote for, the candidate gets an additional vote, the way it works now. If they vote against, one vote would be deducted from that candidate’s total.

There are two advantages. First, in many cases it will allow voters to more accurately express their preferences. If you really don’t like candidate X and are neutral about candidate Y, negative voting makes your feelings clear. In fact, if there are more than two candidates in the running, stopping one of them may be your highest priority.

Second, the final tally may give a better representation of the public’s true feelings, especially if the winning candidate is the one with the least negative numbers. We would hear less nonsense about mandates.

4 comments:

Terry said...

What you're describing is best-worst voting. Best-worst (scaling) is increasingly used in public policy settings and the theoretical proofs of the properties have been provided by Tony Marley (UVic) in the math psych literature and who is also involved with research into voting mechanisms.

CZHA said...

Low voter turnout continues to be a problem in many places. In the 2000 election, 51.3% of eligible voters actually cast ballots. George W. Bush received 47.87% of the popular vote -- roughly one quarter of eligible voters cast ballots in his favor. In 2004, Bush received 50.7% of the popular vote in an election with a 55.3% turnout. Bush claimed a mandate in 2004. Candidates still get elected with low percentages of eligible votes; even those who win by narrow margins in low-turnout elections claim a mandate.

Providing a NOTA mechanism gives voters a false sense of having made a significant statement. The true significance is that someone will hold office, legislate, and influence policy, regardless of voter indignation.

Suffern AC said...

The prupose of voting is to select people for office and, all things considered, the process we have in place now at least works well for determining who has won or lost an election. Voters unfortunate enough to live in states like California where they are asked to weigh in on various poorly worded whatnots are probably not best served by having to sort through their true feelings when figuring out which levers to flip.

The problem with inane post election discussions interpreting what "messages" "the people" have "clearly" tried to send by their aggregated votes is not going to go away. Social researchers already have a lot of tools for figuring out what "the people" are thinking. But the "analysis" of "what do all these votes mean" that goes on after elections have noting to do with what people who vote are actually thinking when they vote. Those discussions will continue to go on regardless.

media said...

this would make democracy compatible with the laws of physics, which is a good thing so long as people act in accordance with them. feynman went through how to use the concept of 'negative probability' in quantum theory, and more recently the notion of 'negative information' has been used.
on one hand, there may be a way to rescale the system back to being more positive. (be happy). on the other, possibly the destructive invention of civilization, which may be the source of most evil (money, number(zerzan), language (rousseau), property (proudhon)) occured when pandora escaped the box, so that Zero (the vaccum, nothingness and hence being---leading to french philosophy) became real (similar to particle pair creation) and then people dug beneath the surface inventing the negative numbers.
soon, people need sqrt(-1) and you had the bomb (via negative probabilities).
(one hope out iof the tunnel may be by using even more dimensions of negativity beyond the complex, one can negate the need for quantum theory.
'followed footprints on the shores of the unknown to find they were my own').