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Warning: Polemic Article!

U.S. Politicians know what is Good for the Voters

Politicians take the interests of the voters to heart.  Really!

You don't believe me!  You don't believe that the politicians know what is good for a voter?  Maybe I should explain to you that I am only talking about congressional leadership elections.  Elections in which only politicians can vote!  NOW you may be willing to accept that under certain specific situations at least, politicians do take the interests of voters to heart.

As you will see in the documented example below - in 2006, a Republican House leadership election was held using a runoff system.  Runoff elections empower the voter in elections with more than two candidates.  Common people like us may be forced to vote for candidates in plurality elections. Sometimes these are called first-past-the-post elections, or winner-take-all elections, but no matter what they are called, they tend to waste your votes, if more than two candidates are running. Plurality elections are the norm in most American elections.

 Pryce Reveals Election Day Details
 January 26, 2006
House GOP Conference. chair Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) sent a letter to colleagues today detailing the schedule of events next Thursday, when the party is set to choose a replacement for Rep. Tom DeLay.  .....

 On 2/2, the conference will meet to vote. After nominating and seconding speeches, voting begins. Candidates need a majority of the 232 voting members -- at least 117 votes -- to win. If the first ballot doesn't produce a winner, the candidate with the least number of votes is removed and balloting continues until a majority is cobbled together.

That is a description of a runoff, or majority election. Why is this better than plurality elections? A runoff election is better than a plurality election because a plurality election, will tend to waste your vote when more than two candidates are competing for victory.   If you don't know what runoff elections are, or why they empower the voter; compared to the more common plurality elections, then please see the sidebar for more information.

 I guess it's nothing that "common" voters are worthy of.  Nothing but the best for our politicians.

According to an email reply on a Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) mailing list - "This is how all congressional leaders are elected." Could this be true?   If true, I wonder, how long this has been going on?  The runoff election's advantages to the voter have been understood since at least 1830.  I would guess that almost all politicians, or at least their assistants, are familiar with political science and the various voting systems. It's part of the job description.

Oh well: To think that I never believed politicians when they claimed that they knew what was good for the voter!  How wrong I was!

If you don't know what runoff elections are, or why they empower the voter compared to the more common plurality elections, sometimes called first-past-the-post elections, or winner-take-all elections - then
see below

In plurality voting, the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins, no matter how many candidates are in the race. It is the norm in most American elections.

In races with only two candidates it is certain that one candidate will receive a majority of the votes. However, without a majority requirement for victory, a plurality race with three or more candidates can see a winner elected with less than half of the vote. In fact, in elections with many candidates competing for victory,  the prospect becomes very real the winner of the election will have been disliked by a very large majority of the population!

Another way to look at the subject is that plurality voting can waste your vote.  The voting citizen spends his vote to purchase representation.  Even in a two-candidate race our citizen will waste his vote about half of the time! By my I calculation, on average, our citizen will vote for the loser about half of the time, and fail to gain representation.  If this was a vending machine, I think that we would be dissatisfied with losing our money about half of the time!

However, vending machines normally have more than two products.  Let us imagine an election with 5 candidates. I calculate that, on average, our citizen wastes his vote 80 percent of the time in a 5 candidate election!

I suspect that a 50 year old vending machine that had been thrown off a cliff might reasonably claim to work better than a plurality election system!

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