Imagine you are asked to judge figure-skating at the Olympics. Further imagine that, instead of being allowed to rate the skaters on a scale of one-to-10, you are required to give or not to give them a simple Yes vote.
How satisfactory do you think the outcome would be?
A similar situation exists with our present voting system for local, provincial and federal governments.
Every few years we are asked on the various election days to assess the job our elected officials do for us, but we are not given the tools that would allow us to give meaningful feedback.
Our recent local elections were a case in point. We had 10 candidates running for Clearwater council. We could vote for a maximum of six but many of us did not. Why? Because there was the chance that the vote we cast for a candidate that we favored only weakly might cost a candidate we favored strongly his or her seat on council. There was a strong incentive to vote strategically.
Several alternative voting systems have been proposed. Nearly all seem to be far superior to our existing one-vote system. Possibly the most promising is what is commonly called range voting.
With range voting, each voter rates each of the candidates along a range of numbers, typically one-to-10.
The rankings for each candidate are added up and the one with the highest average ranking wins.
Around the world we see people taking to the streets because their systems of government reflects the interests of an individual or an elite, and not the mass of the people.
We see the participants in the Arab Spring sacrificing their own blood to achieve something resembling western democracy. And we see those taking part in the Occupy movement and the American Tea Party protesting that the system of democracy as practiced in the West does not adequately reflect their interests either.
Range voting is not perfect. In fact, it’s been proven mathematically that no system of voting can perfectly reflect the wishes of an electorate.
The important point is that we have to listen to questions about how well our democratic system works, and be open to alternative approaches that might improve it.