Fixing The Third-Party Problem

The last few Presidential elections have had third parties. This is good, in the sense that more issues get debated, and voters are offered more choices about those issues.

The problem is that there can only be one President, so it has to be a winner-takes-all election. (The House and Senate don't have to be that way.) So, a vote for a third party might be a "wasted" vote. Some people find themselves voting against someone, rather than for someone. There's got to be a better way.

There are several. This web page used to advocate preferential voting.

But I have been persuaded that approval voting is just as fair, is less confusing, and fits better with our voting machines. Basically, instead of voting for one candidate, you vote for all of the ones you approve of. If there are four candidates on the ballot, you can vote for one, or two, or even three. As usual. the candidate with the most votes wins.

And that's all that's needed. The "wasted vote " issue vanishes. You can vote for the candidate you really like, and also vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating the side you dislike. Third parties get their fair chance to live and grow, and to have their strength counted. I think that that's positive.

Note that voting machines already support the idea of choosing more than one candidate. In my county, boards (such as school boards) are "vote for any two" or "vote for any three" affairs.

The Constitution does not tell states how to run Electoral College elections. So, any state could operate the Presidential election this way, within its own borders. Any other winner-takes-all election is probably controlled by state law, so a change in state law is all that's needed to switch those elections to Approval voting.

While we're at it, let's fix the electoral college.

Last modified: 27 November 2009

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