Moving beyond the two-party system
April 3, 2021 9:00 AM   Subscribe

 
Maine adopted it...sadly, it was too late to prevent LePage from winning two elections with a plurality.
posted by lobstah at 9:13 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


What's interesting is that multimember districts largely disappeared in the US because they couldn't survive challenges after Baker v Carr--they were overwhelmingly used as a means to ensure white rule. Vermont still has them. (Insert joke about Vermont being 94% white here.) That said, I believe said multimember districts always came with FPTP systems.

For some reason, I am not a particular fan of ranked choice voting, or at least certainly not of the idea that it's somehow this magic bullet (if I recall correctly, it doesn't guarantee proportionality, which people seem to often act as if it does). The world of voting theory is a fascinating one, though, full of paradoxes and "impossibility theorems".
posted by hoyland at 9:19 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Abolish the Senate, double the size of the House, and roll the former Senators into the House as "Representatives-At-Large" for each state.
posted by SansPoint at 9:27 AM on April 3 [22 favorites]


Large mixed member districts with members allocated proportionally (MMP) are good. Ranked choice ballots are just a great way to make ballots more complicated without (imho) any real net benefit.
posted by 3j0hn at 9:27 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


I’ve gone pretty deep in the world of partisan electoral mechanics (link) over the past few years, and I don’t think that these kinds of rule changes are the place to push for change. It’s comfortable for analytical people to debate the advantages of different tweaks like MMDs or STVs because they’re a way of not talking about white supremacy and avoiding responsibility for outcomes. The white supremacy side of this fight is all about outcomes, though, and that’s where the game that has to be played using tools like the Voting Rights Act and maximizing representation.
posted by migurski at 9:32 AM on April 3 [33 favorites]


The merits of a proposal like this really need to be measured against a democracy that has at least made an effort to fix the worst of what’s already obviously broken about it, which is why I’m also inclined towards supporting the For The People act far, far ahead of a proposal like this one. It’s worth remembering that the baseline we’re comparing against involves a large number of states that haven’t been functioning representative democracies in a long time, if ever.
posted by mhoye at 10:01 AM on April 3 [10 favorites]


The US is criminally underrepresented. It's easy to feel disconnected from politics when one district represents seven hundred fucking thousand people. It's easy to gerrymander because the margins are so huge. In a typical district there's anywhere between half a million and 650,000 registered voters. If you're trying to secure your seat you can give yourself a 5% margin and miss the target by 25K votes, no biggie. The seat is still safe.

It should be just straight one district per 500K, one member per district per every 50K population. Let the Republicans try to gerrymander that shit all they want, their margin for 5% is now less than 2500 votes. You wouldn't even need a wave election to pull those numbers out of urban districts.

Congress is too fucking small which makes it easy to buy since there's only 435 targets. It's only $2,436,000 to put the max contribution to every US rep. Doesn't that seem a little cheap? If we made it 6,620 reps it would be $37 million. It'd be much harder to put large blocs into your pocket.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:13 AM on April 3 [23 favorites]


As one example, it's sort of a truism in security circles that designing a secure system by presupposing the existence of another, smaller secure system is cheating, so I think the phrase "require those districts to be drawn by independent commissions" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this proposal. Who is nominated to these independent commissions, and how are their independence evaluated? The details here matter a lot, because this proposal arrives in a context where deliberate and methodical subversion of well-intentioned processes is, he said looking over at North Carolina, Philadelphia, Kentucky and West Verginia just to pick a few, the name of the game.
posted by mhoye at 10:19 AM on April 3 [12 favorites]


Ranked choice might be going too far into computational confusion and gamed results. There is a simpler way though. If people are faced with a ballot with more than two names on it, then their task should be to pick both of a hypothetical runoff pair, because there are two slots to fill for the next round. This means that every voter should be allowed to select up to two candidates as their own narrowed equal choices. If one candidate achieves a clear majority after the first round using this method, then they can skip the runoff entirely because they already determined a winner. At the end of the day, the job of voting is to get valid polling information in order to narrow down the winner of most voter preferences. However, this narrowing must be achieved while encouraging a varied selection of candidates, without encouraging clones, and while trying to avoid a spoiler candidate that divides a majority to their disadvantage.
posted by Brian B. at 10:30 AM on April 3


Vermont still has them.

Then there's New Hampshire. New Hampshire has single member districts. New Hampshire has multi-member districts. New Hampshire has goddam floterial districts, which are districts made up of other, smaller districts because they were too distracted by jars of delicious paste to just make the smaller districts the right size in the first place.

As someone who periodically has to deal with data resulting from this shitshow, I offer the New Hampshire House a hearty Go Fuck Yourselves and a solemn and dignified Get Your Shit Together.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:44 AM on April 3 [22 favorites]


I was fascinated by alternate systems when I was in my teens (the Reagan era, if you're keeping score) and twenties and thought a better system--definitely including proportional representation--would solve a lot. I no longer think that. Any system can break, any system can work. The problem we face is 30-40% of the country is actively pro-authoritarian, as polling and election results show. This doesn't get solved with a technical fix.

The appeal of proportional representation is that you get to vote for someone who's closer to your preference, more like picking your own dinner from a menu. It's satisfying! But then they still need to join a coalition to have any influence, and when it comes to policy we're all sharing the same dishes family style.

Beyond that I found a lot of weird claims in this specific article. "No Marjorie Taylor Greene" has got to be dishonest--surely they don't think we'll get the good kind of Greens in office because it will empower minority parties, but the bad Greene will be unable to get to 20% all of the sudden? Claims for policy stability are also weird, especially given that we have a presidential system. It also exacerbates the small state split, as the one-representative states aren't impacted by this.

I'm not actively opposed to this, but I definitely don't think it's a good use of energy for people who could be pushing for good policies. At least not on the federal level.
posted by mark k at 10:51 AM on April 3 [20 favorites]


The problem we face is 30-40% of the country is actively pro-authoritarian, as polling and election results show. This doesn't get solved with a technical fix.

I'd suggest that the 30-40% are always going to be pro-authoritarian, but because the present system reward extremes, those pro-authoritarian views are more exaggerated than they would be in a system where saying stuff that's batshit actually has negative electoral consequences.
posted by logicpunk at 11:05 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]


One of the reasons why citizens in the US are (becoming?) more pro-authoritarian is because the current legislative branch doesn't appear to get much done. Reorganizing the legislative branch, possibly making it even harder to tell who "works" for you; but ignoring the power the single executive who creates budgets, vetoes bills, and create executive actions from thin air seems misdirected.
posted by meowzilla at 12:52 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


Approval Voting is a fascinating concept. The way it works:

  • Posit a ballot with 10 candidates on it, all competing for a single office.
  • When presented with their ballot, the voter ticks off every candidate they would accept as winner without ranking.
  • The candidate with the most number of tick-marks next to their name is declared the winner. Because voters can tick off as many or as few boxes as they want, 1 candidate is all-but guaranteed to end up with more votes than any other candidate; 2 or more candidates getting EXACTLY THE SAME NUMBER OF TICK MARKS NEXT TO THEIR NAME is a statistical possibility, but it’s in the hit-by-lightning range.
  • If your heart says Bernie, but Biden would be ok because NOT TRUMP, then you tick off both Bernie and Biden. If either end up with the most ballots with a tick, then a candidate you would accept won. But either way, the candidate with the highest number of ballots cast that indicate them is the winner.
  • Candidates 2 through 9 also have a percentage next to their name indicating how much support they had in the general population, what percentage of the population would be ok with them winning the race. This allows minor parties who have no chance of winning to run and say
    “Look; X% of the population would have been OK with our candidate, so our positions can’t be written off as marginal”
  • This is easier than ranked choice voting because you don’t have to agonize over ranking. Every candidate is a binary choice; Would be ok if they win / do not want them to win.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:57 PM on April 3 [25 favorites]




    Approval voting is also a better match for the psychology of the ballot. When people cast a ballot, it feels like they're registering an opinion about who would do a good job, but that opinion is warped through the filter of only getting to register a vote for a single candidate. I really think approval voting is the best solution for voting in a democracy, and it's too bad that more complicated and provably less effective ideas like ranked choice voting tend to get more attention. With a few minor tweaks approval voting could also produce proportionate representation in multi-member districts, without voters having to do any complicated calculus about who they should support in order to ensure a win.
    posted by biogeo at 1:40 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


    as long as we have the senate, a president and a supreme court that serves for life, changing the house like this won't make much of a difference
    posted by pyramid termite at 1:47 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    as long as we have the senate, a president and a supreme court that serves for life, changing the house like this won't make much of a difference

    Don't forget capitalism.
    posted by Reyturner at 2:02 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


    As someone who grew up in the US and now lives elsewhere, the solutions to the US voting issues involve more structural changes. The biggest issues I see are that states have too much control over federal election rules. The idea that each state gets to set its own partisan rules and regulations and guidelines for a national election. and even get to decide to gerrymander their own federal election districts, is baffling. So even if a state moved to something like ranked ballots there's nothing stopping that same state from putting its thumb on the scale for the election itself.
    posted by thecjm at 2:14 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


    In approval rating, how do you handle protest votes, what happens if the no. 1 candiate is no vote?
    posted by PinkMoose at 3:06 PM on April 3


    I'd suggest that the 30-40% are always going to be pro-authoritarian, but because the present system reward extremes, those pro-authoritarian views are more exaggerated than they would be in a system where saying stuff that's batshit actually has negative electoral consequences.

    What would the consequences be?

    The problem right now is there are so many of them, and the Republican 'moderates' are perfectly willing to go along as junior partners in favor of tax cuts. With that vote share they'd be one of the major parties under more proportional representation.

    Looking at countries that have multiparty system it starts getting in serious concern territory when your radicals are getting 15%, precisely because the system guarantees them representation and they risk blocking a governing coalition (or forcing a bland grand coalition or minority rule).
    posted by mark k at 3:11 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    Does someone want to walk me through 'Abolish the Senate?'
    Because it sounds like that either ends with 'Only NY, CA, and TX count, to hell with whoever lives in Vermont or Wyoming'; or 'fuck it, let's get rid of the individual States idea, period'.
    Maybe I just haven't caught up to the rhetoric on this one.
    posted by bartleby at 3:18 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    A post I had from a different thread, which is better suited here than as a tangent there:
    What the DSA ought to do is push for more third party-friendly electoral reforms such as ranked choice voting, followed by relaxed ballot-access laws and lower qualifications for public matching funds. Not only would it reduce spoiler effects, it would make third parties slightly less hopeless. Of course, third parties actually winning the presidency are impossible unless the U.S. moves towards a more parliamentary system or at least get rid of first-past-the-post, but if Greens or actual DSA candidates get elected at local or state levels, it would mean all of their energy and fervor are not for naught, and they could participate in coalitions with Democrats. On the conservative side, ditto for the Libertarians and whatever's left of the Constitution Party.
    which is why I’m also inclined towards supporting the For The People act far, far ahead of a proposal like this one.

    Currently the third parties seem very angry at HR 1 (Greens, Cato libertarians, People's Party), but this WashPo op-ed claims that those fears are overblown. There's also significant number of conservative interest groups that are also against it.
    posted by Apocryphon at 3:21 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    Does someone want to walk me through 'Abolish the Senate?'
    Because it sounds like that either ends with 'Only NY, CA, and TX count, to hell with whoever lives in Vermont or Wyoming'; or 'fuck it, let's get rid of the individual States idea, period'.
    Maybe I just haven't caught up to the rhetoric on this one.


    The senate is inherently undemocratic, basically.

    I'm not sure why other states wouldn't "count." All the states would still count, only in proportion to their population. As it is with our current demographics, rural white states get disproportionally advantaged in representation. It's weird to be living in a country where the Supreme Court says "one person, one vote" is an important rule and have one chamber completely violate that.

    FWIW abolishing the Senate is nigh impossible, constitutionally, but you could reduce it to an "advise and delay" role, like many upper houses.
    posted by mark k at 3:29 PM on April 3 [8 favorites]


    Apocryphon: HR1 does make it harder for 3rd party candidates to run for President.

    Honestly, Third Parties should really stop focusing on the Presidential elections. We need more third party candidates to run for local and state offices, as well as the House. Not only are those actually achievable, it's how you build up a base for a national level run.
    posted by SansPoint at 3:33 PM on April 3 [9 favorites]


    In approval rating, how do you handle protest votes, what happens if the no. 1 candiate is no vote?

    If you turn in a ballot with no candidates indicated, then you have voted that none of the candidates would you be ok with.

    “No vote” is not a category unto itself. There is no eleventh box for “none of the above”.

    You simply tick off zero boxes on your ballot and turn it in.

    From there, the candidate with the most votes wins.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:34 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


    I’d be interested in the limiting case of multi number districts, a shareholder vote type approach. Each candidate who gets more than say 15% of the vote goes to the parliament where their vote on any measure is weighted by the fraction of votes that they got at the poll. It is both gerrymandering immune and allows districts to have an identifiable representative for their local concerns. Urban conservatives and rural progressives are not excluded from the process the way that they are currently. It does have the usual proportional representation issue of allowing small and extreme parties to have voices in parliament, and likely requires some form of coalition government. The voters may be more comfortable voting for really terrible candidates because it does not matter as much, the same way the European Parliament has some terrible jokers. Because were talking about Congress and not a parliamentary system, I think it would be easy enough to modify the parliamentary procedure so that clear majorities behind any particular issue could force a vote, decreasing the reliance on explicit coalitions.

    Offer not valid in the senate - constitution gives each senator one vote.
    posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:35 PM on April 3


    By extension, if 80% of the population cast blank “protest ballots” with no candidates indicated, then the 20% who made at least one choice on ther ballot decide who wins.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:36 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    Honestly, Third Parties should really stop focusing on the Presidential elections. We need more third party candidates to run for local and state offices, as well as the House. Not only are those actually achievable, it's how you build up a base for a national level run.
    Agreed, but I also get how presidential campaigns are sometimes the most effective way for minor parties to generate publicity and get media attention. National level races get the word out.
    posted by Apocryphon at 3:37 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    What are they getting the word out for if there’s no functional local party presence, though?
    posted by Selena777 at 4:23 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


    I just want to mention range voting as a good alternative to ranked voting, once all of us logic/science/math minded people can agree with the obvious assertion that our current dominant voting system (in the USA) is absolute rubbish.
    posted by SaltySalticid at 5:09 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    Apocryphon: National level races get the word out.

    But does that translate into third party wins on state and local levels? Clearly, it does not.
    posted by SansPoint at 5:27 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    Yeah, approval voting isn't necessarily suited for ballots allowing write-in candidates, but arguably that's not a downside.

    A small modification of approval voting allows "disapprove" as a separate option from "no vote". This effectively turns it into range voting (normal approval voting is really just range voting with a range of only 0-1, and it turns out that the width of the range doesn't actually matter all that much anyway so approval and range voting tend to produce similar results). This modification could accommodate write-in candidates by letting people write in a candidate explicitly to approve or disapprove of them, but would probably tend to inflate the net-approval for lesser-known write-in candidates.

    A more radical change on top of this version of approval voting could be used to limit the chance of popular but highly-polarizing candidates winning, by allowing a sufficiently large "disapprove" vote share to act as a veto. E.g., say Candidate A is approved of by 51% of the electorate, disapproved of by 41%, and 8% neither approve nor disapprove. Meanwhile, Candidate B is approved of by 48% of the electorate, disapproved of by 30%, with 22% neither approving nor disapproving. Under strict 3-value approval (range) voting, Candidate A wins, but if a disapproval threshold of, say, 40% acts as a "veto", Candidate B wins. It's arguable whether this outcome is more desirable or not, but it certainly has the effect of making highly polarizing demagogues unelectable no matter how popular they are so long as a sufficiently large voting bloc opposes them. Note that this version with a "veto" is not strictly approval or range voting and I'm not aware of whether it's been analyzed mathematically.
    posted by biogeo at 5:29 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


    Uh, I did my math wrong in my example up there. As I wrote it, Candidate B should win in either case, as Candidate A has a net approval of 10 points while Candidate B has net 18 points. Actually this should help illustrate that this type of approval (range) voting is already pretty good at blocking polarizing demagogues, without modification.

    A better example of the modified version in action is to imagine Candidate A has 55% approve, 41% disapprove, 4% neither, and B has 45% approve, 35% disapprove, and 20% neither.
    posted by biogeo at 5:37 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    Honestly, as a non-math person the idea of “range voting” triggers and immediate “OH, HELL NO”.

    One of the things that appeals to me about “Approval Voting” is that I can explain it in simple words to the average voter and make them understand it, why it allows a wider range of political expression while retaining the “One who gets the molst votes wins”.

    Also, the idea of adding “disapprove” as an option seems... so wrong. It feels like something that one “can” do, but there is no real reason one would think doing so was a good idea other than to demonstrate it’s something that can be done. It feels like someone designing an elegant rube goldberg machine, rather than an efficient and equitable elections system.

    The whole idea is to move away from elections being some sort of calculus homework, and move towards easier, more reprexsentative elections, and making it into calculus homework feels like it would do exactly the opppopsite.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:10 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    And as far as write-ins, I would argue that if you can’t be arsed to run a campaign and do the bare minimum to get on the ballot, society does not have an affirmative interest in last minute half-assery on the ballot.

    This is how we elect our legislators, not 8th grade class president.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:15 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    Huh, that's interesting! The reason I generally like the idea of approval voting with an explicit "disapprove" option is not that it's more "elegant." If anything, strict approval voting is the most elegant voting system, from a mathematical perspective. Rather, intuitively it feels like a voter should be able to register a distinction between a candidate they oppose versus one they've never heard of, and letting voters express themselves accurately with their ballots is part of the appeal of approval voting in general. I'm kind of surprised that your take is so diametrically opposite to mine! At any rate, in the hypothetical case of voting rules reform actually happening, I'd want whatever system was most well-validated by evidence to produce good outcomes while also being intuitively obvious to the most voters, regardless of my own intuitions. From the research I've seen, that seems to be either approval or range voting, with approval voting maybe slightly outperforming range.
    posted by biogeo at 6:21 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


    Third Parties should really stop focusing on the Presidential elections

    The Presidential campaign is our #1 recruiting tool. It's the only election that most people pay attention to.
    posted by Jacqueline at 7:30 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    What are they getting the word out for if there’s no functional local party presence, though?

    But does that translate into third party wins on state and local levels? Clearly, it does not.


    I'd argue it's a chicken-and-egg issue and that the third party state and local votes would be even lower if not for the publicity generated by national runs, and you guys could rebut that it's a tiger-repelling rock argument, so I guess it would be nice if there were some research that was done into this subject to settle it.
    posted by Apocryphon at 7:34 PM on April 3


    The finer details of systems like these are basically irrelevant. Like Migurski says, the specific details aren't really part of the root causes. And it doesn't matter anyways because the real questions are 1. Can it actually pass? and 2. Is it better than what you have now?

    I mean, working towards a world where our democracy is so much better that we actually have several RCV or similar options on the table at the national level is worthwhile but we're a ways off from that.

    But state and local electoral politics vary a lot across the country so if better options are realistic where you are go for it. In general I think that getting more people to vote and expanding voting rights and access are the near-term goals that start moving the whole country in a more democratic direction.

    To be honest, focusing on it state-by-state like that makes a lot of sense to me because most of how voting actually happens is controlled at the state level and it also means that you don't need to wait for the whole country to support something other than FPTGP that would allow third parties for people to start getting acclimated to it by seeing it in action in other states. What if they start asking, "Why don't we have that?"

    More people voting leads to better politicians and better democracy. Better democracy leads to vanilla RCV which leads to 3rd parties and eventually something even better than vanilla RCV. That's the path I see.
    posted by VTX at 7:58 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


    Because it sounds like that either ends with 'Only NY, CA, and TX count, to hell with whoever lives in Vermont or Wyoming

    To put it bluntly, yeah Wyoming and Vermont shouldn't matter any more than the 600,000 people who live in ocean county nj. The government should be representing people not blocks of empty land.
    posted by Ferreous at 5:36 AM on April 4 [11 favorites]


    It’s comfortable for analytical people to debate the advantages of different tweaks like MMDs or STVs because they’re a way of not talking about white supremacy and avoiding responsibility for outcomes.

    This. This is why I dislike constitutional fan fiction.
    posted by medusa at 5:58 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


    Wouldn't my best plan for approval voting be to check every single Democrat, since as a transgender woman the other party more or less literally wants me dead?
    posted by Jacen at 7:07 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]


    constitutional fan fiction

    This phrase, or variations of it, has started becoming really popular here when discussions of the weaknesses in the systems of US democracy come up, and I feel really angry when I see it. The weaknesses of things like winner-take-all voting systems are exactly the vulnerabilities that white supremacy, patriarchy, and other social ills exploit to wield and maintain power, and even worse they provide a sense of legitimacy to the unfair outcomes they are all-but-guaranteed to produce, legitimacy which feeds back to support these unjust ideologies. Talking about the weaknesses of our voting rules and systems of representation is a way to help people become aware that the feedback cycle between systems of oppression and the unjust, disproportionate political power that white supremacists wield is not inevitable and can be broken. Just because "analytical people" aren't explicitly talking about social justice in social justice terms doesn't mean it's not part of the motivation.

    I wish Mefites didn't find it necessary to find ways to insult the good-faith conversations that other Mefites are having.
    posted by biogeo at 7:19 AM on April 4 [12 favorites]


    Third Parties Don't Work: Why and How Egalitarians Should Transform the Democratic Party
    by G. William Domhoff
    This document first explains why third parties cannot work in the United States. Then it explains how and why it would now be possible to transform the Democratic Party into a nationwide liberal-labor-left coalition, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which forced the southern white racists who previously controlled the party into the Republican Party.
    Domhoff’s website Who Rules America is a fascinating study of “How power is distributed and wielded in America”.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:21 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    Under the Constitution, States are free to adopt any system for the election of U.S. House members they wish, so long as everyone who gets to vote for the lower legislative house can vote for the U.S. House. There's no bar to multi-member districts, although there is a strict requirement that vacancies be filled by special election, and special elections in multi-member districts would be very expensive (both for the campaigns, and the election administration). If the multi-member district used a single transferable vote and quota system for proportional representation at general election, the special elections to fill vacancies left by members from small parties would be filled by one of the members of a big party.

    The Constitution's grant of the right to determine the means of electing House members could be read to supersede the Voting Rights Act. If it was not so read by the courts, multi-member districts could be seen as a dilution of minority political power, since minorities benefit from districts being drawn based upon population, not voters, and tend to have lower turnout, and there would likely be fewer minority-majority districts.
    posted by MattD at 9:39 AM on April 4


    We disagree that it's a good-faith conversation. There's a long history of Metafilter of conversations where people say things like, "Well to really fix things you need to..." [eliminate the Senate/completely change the way we elect leaders/eliminate privately owned cars and suburbs/establish a universal basic income/dismantle capitalism]. Then the conversation focuses on the pros and cons of the technical details of the proposed solution.

    In my opinion conversations about these very large, fantasy changes serve to keep us from moving toward attainable but incremental change. It waves away just how much work even small changes can be. And it can contribute to the idea that we should all just give up, because why even bother if we can't achieve the one weird trick that will fix everything?

    If others find these conversations helpful then they can have them. My opinion is that disagreeing is not an insult. I work in a context in which endlessly talking through pros and cons is the usual tactic for avoiding even minor change, and I think what happens in these discussions is similar.
    posted by medusa at 9:44 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


    You are free to disagree, of course. I would prefer you not call the conversations that others find helpful "fan fiction."
    posted by biogeo at 10:15 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    Re: drawing Congressional boundaries fairly: Shortest Splitline Method. This ends up with equally populated districts in a way that nobody can “gerrymander”.

    At best the only wiggle room is if there are MORE THAN ONE line that is equally short, comes up with the same population split, but one configuration is more favorable to one side than the other. Every system has friction, but this would reduce said “gerryfriction” to a minimum.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:41 AM on April 4


    I guess it might be an overall improvement over our current mess. But any race-blind neutral "solution" to gerrymandering is going to strengthen white supremacy in the very way the VRA sought to prevent.
    posted by Not A Thing at 1:47 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    Rather, intuitively it feels like a voter should be able to register a distinction between a candidate they oppose versus one they've never heard of, and letting voters express themselves accurately with their ballots is part of the appeal of approval voting in general.

    Going beyond deciding “Who won” and parsing “how badly someone lost” is a job for political scientists, not electoral system designers.

    I have such a negative reaction because it feel like “Let’s add more dials and sliders on the system” when it exists as a series of binary switch, one for each candidate. “We don’t really need them to get the job done, but we know how.”

    Mostly it’s because as an American, I assume most American voters would look at that and say “What the fuck, who came up with this?” while the others would get frantically to work trying to figure out where the weak joins and exploitable imperfections are, and use them to “Wag the Dog” somehow.

    Approval Voting does indeed increase the “expression” of the voter, but the primary goal is to be fair, open, secure, simple, and one-and-done. AV hits that sweet spot.

    The moment the dials start showing up next to the binary switches, I just see a bunch of sweaty political operatives in their 30s living out their personal “House of Cards” fantasy in our real world election s.

    I also don’t like backpacks with too many adjustable straps. But I’m more adaptable than those “chippers”.
    Shiny metal, good.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:42 PM on April 4


    Is it really fan fiction and merely a fantasy of sweeping revolutionary reform, when there is real movement towards implementing RCV in state and local jurisdictions from Maine to New York City? Not to mention it's already been in the San Francisco Bay Area for a decade now? It sort of seems like that like as with anti-voter suppression efforts, legalized/decriminalized marijuana, prison reform, and gay marriage, this is a cause that's been around for a while and has finally had a groundswell of support (for whatever reason) that might actually lead it to getting passed in some jurisdictions. So doesn't this suggest that "attainable but incremental change" in this space is happening? Or is this the wrong "attainable but incremental change" that's getting attention?

    Obviously converting our flawed winner-take-all FPTP system to a multiparty parliamentary democracy isn't happening anytime soon, but it's not as if there hasn't been incremental change already happening, albeit much slowly than in the other campaigns I mentioned.
    posted by Apocryphon at 7:37 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    Personally, I question why we have 435 representatives? Spoiler: the Permanent Apportionment act of 1929. The Constitution doesn't set a cap, other than no more than one per 30,000 people.

    The current system, while it gives more representatives to larger states, does so based on a portion of a fixed pool. This creates the situation where the voters-per-representative in large states is much higher than smaller ones. Truthfully, this is the reason the Permanent Apportionment law came into being: it was smaller states losing power when voter-per-representative was fixed, and the total body would shrink or grow, accordingly.

    Since the Electoral College is based on the size of the congressional delegation, moving to an uncapped body would yield an Electoral College that can track the popular vote more closely.

    Unfortunately, the smaller states and GOP are committed to minority rule, and will never go for this.
    posted by MrGuilt at 9:10 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    This creates the situation where the voters-per-representative in large states is much higher than smaller ones

    Not really, given the math. California averages 1 rep per 750,000. So we're worse off than Wyoming (the smallest state) or Rhode Island (which has just enough people to get two reps), but we're better off than the Dakotas or Delaware.

    The worst off state seems to be Idaho and Montana, who get about 1 rep per 900,000.

    The link you have is a bit confusingly worded. The decision to limit the size of the house had a lot to do with generic worries about how large it could be and still be an effective body (not to mention a lack of physical space.) The refusal to reapportion in 1920 was driven by the urban/rural shift, which the cap made more pronounced (since many members would lose their jobs.) But the cap itself is not a tool of that.
    posted by mark k at 10:11 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    Congress is too fucking small which makes it easy to buy since there's only 435 targets. It's only $2,436,000 to put the max contribution to every US rep. Doesn't that seem a little cheap? If we made it 6,620 reps it would be $37 million. It'd be much harder to put large blocs into your pocket.

    Nickle and dime big corporations by aggressively leveraging microtransactions? It's a plan so villainous it just might work!
    posted by lock robster at 2:48 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    The problem we face is 30-40% of the country is actively pro-authoritarian, as polling and election results show. This doesn't get solved with a technical fix.


    This cannot be overemphasised. A large minority of voters would have been content with a coup; many of them expected one. If Republicans are determined to eliminate the popular vote (and it certainly looks that way) then US democracy dies as soon as they win a solid majority.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 3:22 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    And places like Italy and Israel don't particularly convince me that having to build coalitions of smaller parties doesn't often end up with wanna-be fascists in charge anyway. I'm down with experimenting with different methods of fairer voting in local and state elections, but I'm not much down with changing federal ones unless there's one with demonstrated better outcomes. And I am not convinced that with a hard core of up to 40 percent of authoritarians and then the other 60 percent spread across the other 90 percent of the spectrum, that breaking up that 60 percent is actually going to be helpful.
    posted by tavella at 9:02 AM on April 5


    Maybe the authoritarians would have rival feuding parties, too. Then the Republican Party wouldn't have been overtaken by the Tea Party movement after 2008, and then Trump wouldn't have been able to do so in 2016 as well. Though that might also be wishful thinking. It's always been strange to me that the Tea Partiers were supposed to be the reactionary grassroots movement with a lot of activist energy and then Trump just stepped in and converted a bunch of Constitution-worshipping small government pseudo-libertarians into economic populists. Though the Tea Party was never truly libertarian anyway - "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

    Maybe in a multiparty system that would not have been thwarted, it would just be the Tea Party diminishing in a coalition that gets overtaken by a Trumpist Party, with the same effects as what happened in our two-party system.

    But on the flip side, you would see libertarians no longer voting Republican, and a larger Libertarian Party could have knock-on effects. You could also potentially split off single-issue anti-abortion social conservatives like Catholics into a Christian democratic party who could potentially be in coalitions with both the left and the right.
    posted by Apocryphon at 11:15 AM on April 5


    Three things:

    1) It's odd to say that electoral changes like this are just complete fan-fiction when other countries, including ones with not-so-different political history to that of the US have adopted them. Even the UK which doesn't have it for Westminster constituencies does have voting which is not purely FPTP constituency-based for both the Welsh and Scottish assemblies and for other elections as well as having had a referendum (which failed to pass) on adopting alternative vote. Not just that, but there are US States today that use at least multi-member districts and Maine uses ranked choice voting.

    2) It is true though that unless you address the ultimate questions about who has power over whom, you're not going to get anything big to change. There's a strong strain of liberal think-tank-ism where the dream seems to persist that if you just had the best, most elegantly explained policy you would solve all the problems. That's not so. Electoral changes that make room for smaller parties give room to genuinely left wing alternative parties but also to very far right wing alternative parties. You may well end up like The Netherlands where actual governing is done by an only-slightly shifting bloc of centre-right and centre-left parties while far-right parties gain substantial vote share and bide their time until they are required for a coalition and left wing parties are still locked out of power. Or like Israel where they have election after election and where a lot of really unpleasant people get to play king-maker between only slightly less unpleasant ones.

    3) Just expanding the number of representatives only shifts the problem. Instead of having districts which are too large for a representative to really know many of the people they represent, you end up with an unwieldy number of legislators who will never develop any kind of collegiality. The UK has a ridiculous number of Westminster parliamentarians (650) although that does get you constituencies with between 55k and 100k (except for the Isle of Wight which is an outlier at 113k). It has the advantage that a long-serving MP can plausibly meet if not remember a pretty large number of their constituents but the disadvantage of a large and unwieldy house of commons.
    posted by atrazine at 5:47 AM on April 7


    You could also potentially split off single-issue anti-abortion social conservatives like Catholics into a Christian democratic party who could potentially be in coalitions with both the left and the right.

    The only way a "single-issue anti-abortion" party is going to be in coalition with the left is if said left is willing to gut women's reproductive rights, so not finding this a selling point.
    posted by tavella at 8:27 AM on April 7


    Every time I hear white supremacists and fascists wanking on and on about defending depopulated plots of land on a map “small states” because that’s how the founders set things up, I just want to remind them that The Founding Fathers also decided black folk and women couldn’t vote.

    And we’ve as modern Americans already decided they were full of shit on those points

    So maybe those old white men of property and the Constitution they wrote should be treated as a starting point, and not as some sort of Solomonic final word written in stone given by god.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:16 AM on April 13


    The smallest 10 states are about even between red and blue, with Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, etc. Where the Senate really goes red is the mid-sized states.
    posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:50 AM on April 13


    The nonsense part about having a senate and a house is requiring them to vote separately on common bills and then reconcile them. We should just let the senate do their own confirmations in their own chambers, but bring everyone together to vote for any proposed laws. Wyoming would still be over-represented by two extra legislators in such a scenario.
    posted by Brian B. at 10:27 AM on April 17


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