Monday, July 8, 2013

Democratic Wedding: why our democracy's broken

Billy had a PhD and Sarah was a teacher. They were getting married, but had a problem with their entrée. Billy and his friends wanted Filet Mignon. Sarah and her friends insisted on Chicken Marsala.

Since Billy and Sarah were political junkies, they decided to let their guests choose. They added a ballot to the RSVP in the invitations.

To make things interesting, they added Calamari (squid) which they thought few guests would pick. And burger and fries as a joke.

Sarah’s Ballot

Billy’s Ballot

When they counted the votes they found, to their horror, burger and fries had won!

First-Past-the-Post results

Entrée Votes
Calamari 8
Filet Mignon 28
Chicken Marsala 31
Burger and Fries 33
Total 100

Although the vast majority of guests likely wanted a fitting wedding feast, the vote was split allowing the absurd choice to win.

Since Sarah and Billy didn’t want to get stuck with a choice that would ruin their wedding, they decided to resend the ballots asking guests to rank their choices this time.

This would allow them to have a say if their first choice wasn’t in the running. (Their vote wouldn’t be wasted.)

Sarah’s Ballot

Billy’s Ballot

Sarah and Billy got the ballots back and counted them. On the first round, they got the same results as before. But instant runoff rounds eliminated last-place choices and transferred alternative votes:

Preferential Voting: 1st round

Entrée Votes
Calamari 8
Filet Mignon 28
Chicken Marsala 31
Burger and Fries 33
Total 100

PV: 2nd instant runoff round

Entrée Votes Alt Votes
Filet Mignon 31 +3
Chicken Marsala 36 +5
Burger and Fries 33
Total 100

PV: 3rd instant runoff round

Entrée Votes Alt Votes
Chicken Marsala 67 +31
Burger and Fries 33
Total 100

When guests’ alternative choices were factored in, they overwhelmingly preferred a proper wedding entrée.

The simple ballot system — First-Past-the-Post — produces distorted results that can saddle people with the opposite of what they want. Preferential Voting ensures the real will of the people is carried out.

2 comments:

  1. A fitting wedding feast would give guests a choice of entrée, not force them all to eat the same one.

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    Replies
    1. Well sometimes the people only have one choice: mayor of a city, leader of a party, winner of an Oscar, Member of Parliament (under our current Westminster system of democracy.) When that happens, we must make sure the choice is democratic: supported by a majority of people.

      I think it's best to first make our existing system democratic with Preferential Voting. Then hold a PR/PV referendum. This way only democratic voting systems are in the running.

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