28 October 2004

What's this vote pairing business, anyway?

Like many outside the US (and perhaps inside) I admit to being pretty befuddled by many aspects of the American voting system. I follow the policies closely, and understand much of how actual government works. I've even read Parliament of Whores by the hilarious P J O'Rourke. Despite that, and although I passed Primary school, I have yet to graduate from Electoral College, and I always thought Chad was a place in Africa.

In Australia we have an Electoral Commission which ensures that all voting and counting is impartial and run in the same way across the whole country, yet in the US there seem to be different rules and processes in every state (and even different systems in Maine and Nebraska), and the potential for error or corruption seems ever-present.

And just when I thought I might be getting a handle on it, I come across Vote Pairing. Huh? As I understand it, this allows a 'progressive voter' who may support Cobb, Nader or Badnarik in swing states to still support Kerry-Edwards, while a Democrat in a safe state registers a vote for Cobb and Co.

Does it makes sense? Will it make a difference? What do you think?
Go to eebahgum!


Mobile Homemaker said...

I had only vaguely heard of vote pairing, but here is the justification for it. In the Democratic Party we are desperate to get Bush out of office, and most independents and Green Party people despise Bush too, but want to protest the unresponsiveness of the Democratic party to their concerns. No one wants that protest to be a de facto Republican vote. So trade your protest vote in a battleground state for one in a solidly Bush or solidly Kerry state.

The trouble really comes down to our electoral system. This system was established so that even Ohio has a hand in picking the president, but it is growing unpopular. People are starting to demand a more transparent democracy here, but with the GOP in control... demands don't much matter.

Stupid Beautiful said...

I'm rather impressed at how clever the Vote Pairing system is, actually. While it most certainly undermines the electoral process, the process is somewhat undermined already by the now outdated electoral college. I'd say it's more democratic than if it didn't exist -- it's giving people a chance to have their voices heard when they would otherwise be clinging to straws.

The real solution, however, would be to simply remove the Electoral college and replace it with a simple popular vote system.

Here in Canada we have similar issues. Our prime minister is chosen based on regional support instead of collective -- it was originally intended as a way to ensure fairness to all locales in a large country -- but now that both countries are more nationalized and diverse, it too is outdated. There is a growing movement here in favour of proportional representation... and I hope it's passed.

Anonymous said...

The Electoral College gives less populated states a little more say than the zero say they would have if we had a popular vote. Basically every state gets three votes regardless of size, then the more populated states get additional votes based on population (the formula is number of senators plus number of representatives, a minimum of 2 + 1). So even though New Englanders (New York et al) and Californians voted overwelmingly for Al Gore in 2000, Bush won because more states supported him.

Any state that wants out of the system only has to agree to split their electoral votes based on the popular vote in the state instead of winner takes all. Two states have done this and three more are considering it this year.

Anonymous said...

There is a very simple reason why the Presidency is not decided on the basis of a nationwide popular vote. Suppose you had an election where the nationwide popular vote was almost even, with only say a few hundred votes separating the two candidates. This would mean that legal disputes, recounts etc. all over the country could potentially tip the result. The whole country would become a legal minefield. At least with the states voting separately any disputes can be isolated and contained in an individual state.