Saturday, November 3, 2012

Negative voting

I think it would be cool if you could elect to cast a negative vote instead of a positive vote. For example, you could vote -1 for Romney instead of +1 for Obama, effectively taking one of Romney's votes away. It seems to me there are a lot of people who don't fully support Obama or his platform, but at the same time acknowledge that Romney would be worse. In general it would be interesting as a sort of "hate index," and we could observe that a candidate lost due to a large number of negative votes, which would be different from losing a close race due to slightly fewer positive votes. What do you think?

34 comments:

  1. Excellent. I would vote -2 for Romney, -1 for Obama, and hope that both of them lose.

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    1. Why not just go negative infinity for both?

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    2. -2 is the limit. (Infinity would probably be too much of a headache for people counting the votes. There would be a lot of infinities.) My idea is, you have four options:

      +2) enthusiastic approval
      +1) mild or grudging approval
      -1) disapproval
      -2) relatively extreme disapproval

      I think this would be a fair way of officially recording one's displeasure in both candidates, and to indicate that while one candidate is bad, the other is twice as bad.

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    3. well now this is getting complicated.

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  2. You Americans have a really odd relationship to voting.

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    1. How is it odder than in other countries?

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    2. Well, just to use France as an example, we've used the same system for pretty much a long time. You pick a piece of paper with the name of the candidate or the position on an initiative/referendum/plebiscite you are voting for. When we usually change the voting rules, it's to make them more inclusive. So for example, right now, there is a bill to allow foreign nationals to vote in national elections (foreign nationals from EU countries can already vote in local elections). When there are voting rule changes in the United States, those changes make voting so much more complicated (touchscreen computer, required ID, etc.).

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    3. The ballot I just used for early mail-in voting in Colorado was SO COMPLICATED. I could see a lot of people looking at the directions and just saying "Forget it."

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    4. I guess it would be much easier if you didn't have all your elections on one day. I mean, why should you elect the mayor of Kickapoo on the same day you are voting for President?

      That being said, I could see your system working on two conditions:
      - A two-party system (because voting against someone becomes much more difficult if you have a third candidate);
      - No Electoral College (because how are you going to give the Electoral Votes if both candidates receive negative scores ... Oh, and you can't do negative percentages).

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    5. The electors vote for whomever has the higher number regardless, even if they're both negative. So -100 beats -1000.

      Also, I feel like part of the benefit of negative voting would be that third-party candidates could potentially actually take a win. Kucinich 2016!

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    6. But wouldn't a negative score for both candidate imply that neither candidates are wanted. And so, by choosing the winner with the highest numerical value would go against the will of the people.

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    7. That might be true now. Already more people don't vote than vote, no?

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    8. I find it difficult to articulate one reason for people not to vote. Some, sure, choose not to vote because they don't like either candidate. I did it in 2002 for the 2nd round of the French Presidential elections. Others might not be able to. There are myriads of reasons why some will not vote.

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  3. I like the idea, off the top of my head. A little bit similar to the notion of a plebiscite (sp?), the kind of thing some European parliamentary governments do (and possibly elsewhere, I'm somewhat ignorant about this), where there's a vote and the incumbant government has to get a certain minimum of votes in order to stay in power, or something like that.

    I've also occasionally heard people in the U.S. propose a "none of the above" option for voting, which seems related to what you're suggesting here. Might work to have them both as an option.

    If we used the "negative vote" option you're talking about here, I'm guessing it would make sense to require some kind of minimum threshold for it to take effect, or some similar rule.

    For instance, the negative votes would have to total a certain percentage of the total votes cast for that office in order to count. Or, possibly, the negative votes for one candidate would have to be a certain percentage more than the negative votes for the nearest competitive candidate in order to count. Something of that sort.

    I'm just trying to think of ways to avoid weird outcomes, where a large bloc of voters votes against a relatively popular candidate in order to give a less popular candidate a better chance of winning.

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    1. Yeah, there are complications, no doubt, but we don't know how much of regular voting is subject to "weird outcomes" -- like people not understanding the ballot, or large groups of people voting against their best interest out of ignorance, etc.

      It would also be interesting if you could somehow rank your vote so that, say, your main vote is for Nader, but if Nader is not even close to winning (duh), your vote then defaults to Gore.

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  4. Another possibility might be run-off voting. You could vote for as many or as few candidates as you wanted to, and you would be required to rank your choices, first choice vote, second choice vote, etc.

    As the first-choice votes are counted, one by one the candidates with the least first-choice votes would be eliminated. And for the voters who voted for losing candidates as their first choice, their second-choice votes would then be counted. Then as another candidate is eliminated, those voters' third-choice votes would be counted. And so on, until all vote choices have been counted and only one candidate is left, and that candidate wins the election.

    So, for example, someone could vote for Green Party as their first choice, and Obama as their second choice. Assuming the Green Party candidate didn't win, then that person's second-choice vote (for Obama, in this example) would then be counted.

    Hypothetically, if run-off voting had been available in the Bush-Gore election, and if everyone who voted for Ralph Nader (as first choice) had voted for Gore as second choice, then those second choice votes would have counted toward Gore's total, and it might have been enough to tilt a couple of states for him, which might have been enough for him to win the election.

    That's the theory anyway. Run-off voting exists now here in Minneapolis, for local offices only, and so far it doesn't seem to have caused any weirdness or disasters.

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    1. Oh, yes, pretty much what I said above. (Didn't read this comment before responding.) That would be awesome. It would also be cool if you could split your vote somehow -- like vote 75% for Gore, 25% for Nader.

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  5. This is a much better than my "Make Voting Work Like the AV Club Comment Section" idea.

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    1. Ha, how does that work? Is it like people can upvote your comment? Upvote the vote!

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  6. How about a scale of 1-10 with 10 being 'a total douche' and 1 being 'never been a douche.' I could work with that.

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    1. My friend Martin just wrote a great post about "Romney's douchebag problem." It's long, but a great read! http://martinseay.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/romneys-douchebag-problem/

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  7. Elisa, I was into a discussion in 2000 (surprise) about whom to vote for and someone who identified themselves as Jackson Mac Low chimed in with "hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils." There was no email link but I tried to verify to no avail if it was THAT Jackson Mac Low... we didn't hang out when he was around. I'm pretty sure it was. I disagreed with him. But Colorado is a place this year where he may be right, especially as the Green candidate Dr. Stein is from the 2004 "Safe State" contingent of the party so she has karma to be passed over on the ballots of Unsafe States in favor of whomever you deem the lesser of two evils, even if she should be defied by being voted for in such states.

    France has run-offs but it doesn't really prevent an insular group of candidates from winning the Presidency every year, though it creates a lot of interesting party organizations. It's a better system for sure. In the US, the two political parties that dominate the system and its spoils aren't going to change things any time soon, even if there's no mention in the US constitution of political parties and their primary function is to ensure that the will of the majority is not heeded.

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    1. In the discussion that took place this weekend, one of the participants was in fact voting for Jill Stein.

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    2. Can you explain what you mean by "insular group of candidates"? Disclosure: I voted from Jean-Luc Mélenchon and François Hollande in the first and second rounds of the last French Presidential elections respectively.

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    3. 2nd disclosure: I am a member of the French Socialist Party.

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    4. Francois, They've all known each other for years, gone to the same schools, have similar policies, often the same ex-spouses, and are in a little chess match as to who can get the right gimmick to put them ahead that year. Melanchon I liked this year but he is an insider who changed his policies to fill an electoral void for a progressive candidate.

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    5. I find it difficult to see Mélenchon described as an insider. For starters, he was always considered a fringe member of the French Socialist Party (he was a representative of its more left-wing elements). He also went to university, while a large majority of big-ticket politicians (Hollande included) went to the ENA. It's really strange to see the PS and the UMP described as having similar policies. Maybe to an American, but to a European or a Canadian, those differences are rather drastic.

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    6. François, Mélenchon was in the PS (of which he would be a member for 32 years) working for Mitterand when Mitterand was writing the Western book on triangulation, was Minister of Vocational Education under the Chirac/ Jospin cohabitation, then was in the European Parliament while a PS member, fully supporting the European Union. He switched his position on the EU to head up a fusion party of left-leaning PSers and the formerly Stalinist PCF which he had pined for since the 1970s, in this case having the effect of undercutting the rise of Olivier Besancenot and the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière and preserve the PS berth in the runoff. In 2012 he was a much more skilled and experienced campaigner than Besancenot's replacement Phillipe Poutou and the LO's Nathalie Arthaud which made him the inevitable choice of the left, and immediately endorsed his former PS chum Hollande after the first round. You are correct that Melanchon didn't go to the elite schools and I never suggested otherwise.

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    7. Ian: I am well aware of Mélenchon's history, having been, you know, a member of the PS off and on for the past 20 years, having met the guy, as well as Jospin and Trautmann (as well, as François Loos, but he's a conservative). I am also well aware of the history of the Front de Gauche, having considered a membership there. It's not a fusion party. It's a coalition between the Parti de Gauche, the Parti Communiste Français (which stopped being Stalinist under Robert Hue) and various other leftist parties. I have some sympathy for Poutou and Arthaud, but quite frankly, I'm not going to side with fringe parties either.

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    8. François, I intended 'fusion party' to mean something more or less synonymous with 'coalition party,' not to mean closing down Yam'Tcha for a private soirée.

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    9. also Francois, the Parti de Gauche wasn't a real political party with a history.. it was started I think less than a month before the Front de Gauche coalition was formed, as a paper organization for Melenchon and his cohorts to make a deal with the PCF. The Wikipedia and all other sources seem to agree the Front drew some rank and file from PS.

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    10. I'm not surprised that the Parti de Gauche is composed mostly of former members of the Socialist Party. The latter has many internal movements. For example, I am a member of the "Maintenant, la gauche" movement (also known as the left wing of the French Socialist Party). The PS itself is a fairly recent party, having been founded in 1969 by François Mitterand, the same way the Front de Gauche was founded, that is to say from various leftist party (including the remains of the PSU, the OCI and SFIO). And it has to be remembered that the SFIO were considered to be a far left party in the 1st half of the 20th century, with the Parti Radical as the mainstream left. The Parti de Gauche might not have a history now, but party history in France have been rather tumultuous.

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  8. Have been wishing that the US had a viable third party I could actually feel good voting for. This time was a whirlwind of disappointment. Plus, it would be nice to have a female candidate in one of the big two categories!

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    1. I'm still holding out for Hillary!

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