Posted by Jessica Heller on July 25, 2012
There are inherent flaws in the plurality voting systems employed in most American elections with a single winner. Namely, plurality voting “can elect a candidate who receives the most firstplace votes but is strongly disfavored by a majority of the electorate” Dudum v. Arntz, 640 F.3d 1098, 1100 (9th Cir. 2011), a result that does not comport with democratic ideals. It seems patently wrong that a candidate whom the majority voted against should nonetheless represent that majority – even to the point that a majority of voters would see this candidate as their last choice.
FairVote advocates consideration of alternative voting methods that protect majority rule and voter choice in elections with one winner. This paper will examine various voting methods and discuss their legality in turn, keeping in mind that the Constitution grants the states “broad power to prescribe the Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.” U.S. CONST. art I, § 4, cl. 1. While we prefer certain alternative voting systems to others, we believe that courts should respect the political choices of jurisdictions as long as the alternative voting system does not violate any local, state or federal laws. Courts must interpret existing laws, of course and our paper reviews and anticipates potential concerns and challenges. We start with instant runoff voting, the only alternative to traditional plurality voting and traditional runoff elections that is used for governmental elections and has faced recent legal challenges.
We then address Bucklin voting, which was used by a number of states and cites the early twentieth century. Finally, we turn to other proposed alternatives that are theoretical in nature or only used in non-governmental elections: approval voting, range voting, the Borda count and Condorcet voting