Saturday, January 19, 2013

When villains propose a really good idea... in vile ways...

For a while, I gladly put politics aside -- except for an unusual way out to solve the Great Big Battle over Guns.  

Alas, now I feel behooved to weigh in again, as liberals and conservatives commence another thrashing match... and both sides get it wrong.

e61e8029d23a67d014bcfc3400b51b66The newest fury involves a proposal in GOP circles to take advantage of  the fact that Republican legislatures and governors currently run several "blue states" that gave Barack Obama their re-election nod. These state GOP pols did manage to gerrymander their way into keeping power, despite getting fewer votes than democrats in statewide and assembly races.

Now, under a plan broached by Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, GOP governors and legislators would take matters beyond mere gerrymandering. They will act in a few chosen states to change state rules for the distribution of Electoral College votes.  

"Under the Priebus plan, electoral votes from battleground states such as Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and others that now regularly back Democrats for president would be allocated not to the statewide winner but to the winners of individual congressional districts. Under the most commonly proposed district plan (the statewide winner gets two votes with the rest divided by congressional district) Obama would have secured the narrowest possible win: 270-268. Under more aggressive plans (including one that awards electoral votes by district and then gives the two statewide votes to the candidate who won the most districts), Romney would have won 280-258." 

 And now... seven Pennsylvania Republican state representatives have introduced a bill to make this vote-rigging scheme a reality in their state 

MaddowAs you might expect, this gambit raised mockery and ire from both the liberal and the moderate press. In "If you can't win elections, rig them," Rachel Maddow's response was especially biting and well worth watching. Her report is informative, funny, outraged, and correct as far as it goes... 

 ... only it is also short-sightedly foolish and - at a deeper level - utterly wrong.

 == a heinous context ==

GERRYMANDERFirst: Maddow rightfully points out that gerrymandering in Red States is the only reason why the GOP held onto their control over the US House of Representatives this round, despite one million more citizens voting for Democratic candidates. The Republican Party openly admits this.  Maddow never mentions the term Gerrymandering, but I have long pushed for a new look at this fiendishly evil practice.  

Note that gerrymandering is not only about partisan advantage.  It has also worked to radicalize our politics and it functions as a job-preservation scheme for entrenched politicians in both parties. That is, it worked for both sides until California voters  rose up to banish gerrymandering,

At first, I opposed the measure, because I hoped for a negotiated deal -- to balance California against an equalizing move toward fair districts in - say - Texas and Michigan.  But I was foolish and my neighbors were wise.  California's reforms -- duplicated in a few other blue states -- had astonishing outcomes that you really need to understand. 

Worth noting: this voter uprising has not occurred in even one red state. (So much for the vaunted fairness and independence of rural folk.)  We've already seen that, without this blatant cheat, the peoples' will would have wrested control of the US  House from the GOP. Indeed, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are desperate not to let it end. For if the district maps are ever re-drawn by non partisan commissions, or even randomized, their party will go extinct in those states. 

It is in this context that the Republican Party now hopes to pull another fast one, with their plan for proportional allocation of electors in three or more bluish states.  At one level, Maddow and the liberals... and all decent people with any sense of fairness and patriotism... should be outraged by a scheme of truly desperate villainy...

 == When villains push a good idea, in an awful way ==

 ...but at another level, Maddow and company are way off-base. Dullards who are almost 5% as dogmatic as their opponents (yes, that bad), they exhibit no sense of history, proportion or strategy.

 Because the villains in this piece are actually putting forward a very good idea! 

ElectoralCollegeThere is no question that the "reform" they propose would be a vast improvement over today's standard electoral tradition of winner-takes-all, for allocating presidential electors.  In fact, I have been campaigning for this reform for decades, shouting in the wilderness!  (See: The Electoral College: A Surprisingly Easy Fix and Electoral College Redux.)

Indeed you should note a fact that I have not seen any media report - that proportional allocation of electors is already used by Nebraska and Maine.  

Do democrats have any memory?  Recall the 2000 election?  When their candidate Al Gore won the popular vote, and yet lost the electoral college (in highly dubious ways)?  Winner-takes-all makes those travesties far more likely to happen, distorting Electoral College results and skewing them away from the popular vote.  Moreover, winner-takes-all contorts and twists the whole election campaign, forcing the candidates to focus on just six or seven crucial "battleground states" instead of aiming their appeals nationwide.    

There are no justifications for winner-takes-all.  And hence, by proposing to end it in favor of a proportional or district-based alternative, the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin GOP are not suggesting an evil thing. 

No, what makes what they are proposing an evil thing is when they say "let's only do it here!"  Only in those few blue-tipping states where the GOP can impose its gerrymandered will. Only where it would reduce the totals of Democratic candidates. But heaven forbid we also do it in Texas and Utah and Indiana and Kentucky! Just as every single red state is gerrymandered up the wazoo, every one of them will hold fast to winner-takes-all. 

The thing Rachel Maddow should be mocking is not proportional distribution of electors, which is a good idea. What merits utter scorn is a blatant effort to say "one set of rules for us and a harder set for you."  They are cheaters.  Simple and plain.

Moreover, thanks to California and some other blue states, the GOP can no longer claim "everybody cheats."  No, it is you guys.  Top to bottom.  Cheaters. 

== Will the be a solution? ==

enlighten-o1In the sort term, there are palliative measures to try. In 2014 the whole nation's attention should go to elections in half a dozen states. The people in those states must rise up, seize back their rights. End gerrymandering. And not just Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other electoral tipping points. 

It must happen in New York and the rest of Blue America! The Democrats' totals improved after neutral redistricting in California, which showed that giving up this immature and vile cheat need not hurt them in their bastions. Then, once it becomes a truly red vs blue distinction - with only one party standing up for gerrymandering - take the matter to the people.
And take it to Court.

 We can hope that by then President Obama will have a couple of more Supreme Court appointments.  If so, then these travesties will end, at long last. As they should, when decent and genuinely constitution-loving justices face the plain fact that gerrymandering is a crime, a direct violation of our civil rights.  Indeed, it is nothing less than clear and knowing treason.

When that day comes, the radicals (at both partisan extremes) will lose and we may restore a republic run by pragmatic, moderate women and men, capable of reason and science and negotiating with one another.

 == Other Political Matters ==

Aaaaaaaand they're off!  The 2016 race for presidential nominations has begun. Folks are calling Florida's Marco Rubio a front runner with a lot of plusses -- bright, handsome, articulate and popular in pivotal Florida... and hispanic.  The last part is a biggie, as Bill O'Reilly and others finally admit "we have a major demography problem."

 Oh, but let's not be dazzled.  Rubio is still a 21st Century Republican, which is a very different species from Goldwater or Buckley. Thus even over so simple a matter as how old the Earth is, he says the words "I'm not a scientist" as if they mean "science is arcane and irrelevant."  This is the country on Earth that has by far the highest level of adult science literacy -- yes, the United States of America --  where the highest fraction of adults know basic things... like the fact that the Earth is over four billion years old, a fact that Rubio called open to question. Eventually, we will wake up and start laughing at such dopes. And their "base." That is when the grownup Republicans might finally re-emerge.

Oh, but not for a while, yet. You have it from me here and now. Two words. Mike Huckabee. 

Charming, humorous, self-effacing, smart, slippery, friendly, affably likable, and sincere. Blatantly sincere. Terrifyingly sincere. He sat this one out... the surest IQ test for any GOP politician. Do I need to remind you the list of whack-a-moles who Mitt Romney successively stomped, or who assassinated themselves with their own mouths, during the 2012 primaries? A field of morons that has now been swept aside for the real comers to have their turn in 2016, when the rhythms and odds will be harsh for any democrat? 

Yes, watch Rubio, Martinez, Christie and others.  Each of them much smarter than all of the 2012 aspirants. And let's hope they spend the next four years loosening Rupert Murdoch's grip on the GOP, veering it from the Cliffs of Insanity, back toward the conservatism of Goldwater and Buckley. It will make them harder to beat! But I am still rooting for them to succeed anyway. Because some of us do remember Nehemia Scudder. And Mike Huckabee can (I believe) charm his way right into the White House. At which point nobody (not even Rupert Murdoch) has the slightest idea what he would do.

 SignalAndNoiseAs for the Old Guard?  Read about how poleaxed and surprised Mitt Romney and especially his Wall Street supporters were, that he lost.  The interviewer asks a very good question: "All the polls, all the models, all the betting markets said he was likely to lose. How did a group of people who, in their jobs, have to be willing to read and respond to disappointing data convince themselves to ignore every piece of data we had?"  The implication is either that (1) these guys are nowhere near as smart as they think they are, or that (2) they truly believed that polls and voting patterns were irrelevant.  That they had an ace in the hole.

 Possibility #1 is truly scary, since these fellows run the economy... though we've seen ample evidence for it across a decade or more of incompetence.  

Still might #2 belong on the table? Given that several vital electoral swing states used electronic voting machines, made by GOP operatives, without the slightest ability to audit results? Did some operative chicken out, or discover patriotism? (As I publicly called on "henchmen" to do?)

 == Science weeps = 

Tea Party senatorial candidates (and troglodytes) Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were not anomalies, alas. It seems that every anti-science cultist in the U.S. House of Representatives GOP Caucus is eager to join the House Science Committee, packing it not only with Climate Change denialists, but men (entirely males) who proclaim the Earth to be six or nine thousand years old, who repeat bizarre theories about rape, who decry vaccination, who rail against genetic research and who denounce sciences as diverse as geology, ecology and meteorology. Do not blame the people. As we saw above, the total number of national votes for the two major parties' congressional  candidates was not won by the GOP.  Blame Gerrymandering. Then get mad and do something. 

But there is movement elsewhere.  That core institution of international capitalism, the World Bank, has issued a major report examining the likely economic outcomes (mostly disastrous) expected from Global Climate Change. 

== So, is Obama actually as science-friendly as he sounds? ==

"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," he said in the call. "I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting." 

"What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit, and your passion and your commitment is making a difference," he said."'Curiosity' is going to be telling us things that we did not know before and laying the groundwork for an even more audacious undertaking in the future, and that's a human mission to the Red Planet." 

-- President Barack Obama during a congratulatory telephone call to the NASA team behind the Mars "Curiosity" rover.

Well. That sounds tentatively science friendly.  At least in comparison to...


Anonymous said...

Dave, I dont know if you heard the story from Anonymous that Republicans did have Ohio rigged, but Certain members of Anon stopped them.

What I would give to find out if that is true or not.

Anonymous said...


David Brin said...

We are collecting a "best of Brin quotations" as a little offering for my web site.

Do any of you have a favorite bit of blather you think should be included?

Acacia H. said...

As an aside, Dr. Brin, I'm rather enjoying myself at Arisia, a Science Fiction convention in Boston, MA. I must admit I kinda wish you would go there sometime so I could finally meet you in person. Not to mention you'd probably have some truly fascinating panels! ^^;;

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob in 2 years we'll be empty nesters and able to travel more!

Ian said...

The alternative proposal to "fix" th electoralcollege is th proposalto require stateto award theri electoral votres to the national winner of the popular vote.

I'm not going to debate the merits of the two proposals, I just want to point to one aspect of that proposal. In the states where it has been proposed or enacted, the proposal is stated to only take effect when states representing the majority of the Electoral College have enacted it.

Maybe state Democrats in the states considering a move to district-based allocation should move an amendment to that effect. (Alternately, you could simply propose a "Texas-First" amendment.)

Then too if 2014 turns out as badly for Republicans as I currently anticipate, there may well be far fewer Republican state administrations to enact such plans.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the post:

Indeed you should note a fact that I have not seen any media report - that proportional allocation of electors is already used by Nebraska and Maine.

And remember what happened in Nebraska when, for the first time ever, the district surrounding Omaha sent ONE electoral vote to Obama, which was probably the first Democratic elector from Nebraska since the Civil War? There was talk (though I don't think it went anywhere) of "fixing" Nebraska's electoral vote allocation to winner-take-all so such a travesty would not happen again!

The GOP insists on having it both ways. In states where a majority vote GOP, they want winner-take-all. In states where a majority vote Democratic, they want proportional representation IF they can also gerrymander the districts to their benefit. And STILL, it seems that this blatant fixing along with their voter-suppression efforts doesn't give them a clear path to victory, but only keeps them competetive in a losing battle.

Ian said...

Gerrymandering isn't even essential to the Republican plan.

Let's say Texifornia votes 55% Demopublican and 45% Republicrat.

Under the current system, all Texifornia's EC votes go to the Demopublicans.

Even with perfectly fair district boundaries shifting to a district-allocation model will favor the Republicrats.

Ian said...

It's striking that nobody seems to be advocating allocating a state' votes based on the statewide popular vote, which would not only render gerrymeandering moot but would mean third party candidates could have at least some chance of gaining EC votes.

(Imagine the 2000 election if the EC vote had been Bush 265 Gore 265 Nader 5 Paul 3.)

Nebris said...

What Ian said...

Ian said...

This should warm David's heart:

"For years, many China observers have asserted that the party’s authoritarian system endures because ordinary Chinese buy into a grand bargain: the party guarantees economic growth, and in exchange the people do not question the way the party rules. Now, many whose lives improved under the boom are reneging on their end of the deal, and in ways more vocal than ever before. Their ranks include billionaires and students, movie stars and homemakers.

Few are advocating an overthrow of the party. Many just want the system to provide a more secure life. But in doing so, they are demanding something that challenges the very nature of the party-controlled state: transparency.

More and more Chinese say they distrust the Wizard-of-Oz-style of control the Communist Party has exercised since it seized power in 1949, and they are asking their leaders to disseminate enough information so they can judge whether officials, who are widely believed to be corrupt, are doing their jobs properly. Without open information and discussion, they say, citizens cannot tell whether officials are delivering on basic needs."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

We are collecting a "best of Brin quotations" as a little offering for my web site.

Do any of you have a favorite bit of blather you think should be included?

Not sure if you mean story quotes or blog quotes, but that "Earth" excerpt about God's commandment to name the animals should probably be included.

LarryHart said...


Under the current system, all Texifornia's EC votes go to the Demopublicans.

Even with perfectly fair district boundaries shifting to a district-allocation model will favor the Republicrats.

As someone who recognizes that the Democrats are far from ideal, yet also thinks there's a fundamental and qualitative difference between the Dems and Republicans, I am curious...

For those of you looking at the US from the outside and considering both US parties to be the same, is that a phenomenon that seems specific to the States? Or do you say the same things about the various parties in your own countries? Or in your neighbors' countries?

Ian said...

I was most just trying to be funny - and to avoid the implication that only those horrid Republicans would do such a dastardly thing.

As for Australia, there's a very clear difference between the parties:

The LNP are bastards.

Labor are OUR bastards.

David Brin said...

Ian all the gerry & electoral college fixes won't prevent a guy from getting all that power with just 40% of the vote, if the rest is split. Another reform we need is either a runoff or the Australian preferential ballot.

While the Republocrat snark is tasty and fun... and perhaps justified if you are a far leftist... it is facile and dumb if you simply ask "who is willing to listen to science"?

I agree that if Nader had actually won a few electors and then bargained with Gore, it would have been better than Nader (SOB) screwing the country for 8 years out of an ego trip.

Hank Roberts said...

> allocated not to the statewide
> winner but to the winners of
> individual congressional
> districts

Wait. I thought Maddow mocked doing that where the individual districts are rigged now -- in gerrymandered states.

Are you sure Maddow's opposed to doing it _right_?

Then comes the problem of _keeping_ it right, of course. The Gerrymander can't be killed, only put off til your children's time at best.

CP said...

I agree with Ian that expanding the electoral district/state bonus system of Nebraska and Main nationwide is not the best alternative. The result of that would be to increase the number of contested entities from the current 58 to 486...423 more opportunities for fraud and litigation in a close election. Meanwhile, the minority in each district is still disenfranchised and the incentive for gerrymandering is increased since it becomes critical for the presidential election as well as congressional control.

Awarding electors proportionately based on the total vote in each state is better. It eliminates the additional incentive to gerrymander and the disenfranchisement of the minority. But, it could have unintended consequences precisely because it would potentially give a small number of electors to minor third party candidates in the larger states. And, that would substantially increase the possibility that the electoral college would deadlock throwing the election into the house of representatives (with all of the arcane rules that apply to that circumstance). Various states have different procedures for binding electors and there is no established procedure for bargaining among them... So, that very thing might well have happened in Bush vs Gore.

Rather, I'd suggest awarding electors proportionately to the top two candidates in each state. That would accomplish the purpose of the proportional system without increasing the probability of throwing the election into the house.

CP said...

followup: part 1 due to character limit:

Of course, as Dr. Brin has stated, that wouldn't solve all of the problems, by any means.

The open primary with two candidates going forward that's used by California and Washington is a good start. But, it doesn't eliminate problems with vote splitting. And, that creates an incentive for the parties to consolidate behind a single candidate, informally, before the primary.

As Dr. Brin intimates, to really make progress it's necessary to move away from first-past-the-post voting. However, it's impractical to use a fully ranked system (or any of the systems that require a voter to express an opinion on each candidate) when the number of candidates is unconstrained. Imagine the length of the lines, the instability in ballot layout... A better idea would be to enact a hybrid system. Use an open primary with a truncated instant runoff format and three candidates moving forward to the general election. Then, use a Condorcet format for the general election.

In a truncated instant runoff, the voter just indicates a "first choice" and "second choice" for each race keeping the time demands within reason. Voter error is reconciled using clear intent and preservation of the first place vote as standards. Then, the candidates are ranked by their first place votes, the candidate with he least is eliminated and his votes are redistributed based on the second choice preferences. Any redistributed votes not linked to a remaining candidate are placed in a "none of the above" category. Then, the candidates are re-ranked and the process is repeated until only four remain. At that point, the top three are known and the counting can stop.

This has a number of advantages: It greatly reduces the likelihood that one of the major parties will be completely eliminated due to vote splitting. It greatly increases the likelihood that at least one of the general election candidates will be centrist. It eliminates the "spoiler" role for third parties while at the same time allowing a strong third party candidate to make it into the general. It creates a disincentive for negative campaigning (if you're perceived as having attacked an opponent unfairly you can't expect to get his supporter's second place votes--votes you may need to win). It eliminates any incentive to "rig" the general by coordinated second place voting in the primary since that information is used only when a candidate is dropped. Also, strategic voting becomes unnecessary for the "first choice" allowing a true reading of public support.

CP said...

followup: part 2 due to character limit:

In the general election, the ballot structure remains the same: the voter is asked to designate a "first choice" and "second choice" from among the three remaining candidates. Voter error is reconciled using a clear intent standard. Then, under Condorcet rules, the results (fully ranked due to the three candidate constraint) are interpreted as preferences in three independent contests: candidate 1 x candidate 2, candidate 1 x candidate 3 and candidate 2 x candidate 3. If one candidate wins both of his pairings he wins the election. In case of cyclic ambiguity (1 defeats 2, 2 defeats 3, 3 defeats 1) or ties, the margins are summed for each candidate and the candidate with the highest net margin wins.

This also has a number of advantages. There is no penalty for a party that places two candidates in the general election. But, since the opposing party has a say in the outcome, the more moderate of the two will tend to win. Fringe third party candidates that make it to the general election will be unlikely to win since they can't benefit from vote splitting. However, centrist third party candidates will have a decent change of winning since they can defeat their right-wing opponent with the help of the left and their left-wing opponent with the help of the right. And, again, there's a disincentive for negative campaigning.

Adopting a hybrid system of this sort couldn't be done for the presidential election without a constitutional amendment. So, the focus should be to get it adopted in as many states as possible for other elections. That would go a long way toward "fixing" congress and might have a chance of actually happening since it wouldn't inherently disadvantage early adopters. And, since most of the various "pieces" have already been tested it's likely to stand up in court (for non-presidential purposes). After a critical mass has been reached at the state level, it might just be possible to get the necessary amendment passed to adopt it at the presidential level.

I've rambled on long enough...


David Brin said...

My classic: "The Idiot Plot" - showing why civilization is treated with contempt by almost all novels and films - has finally been published online. It dissects the needs of modern drama and why you have to keep your heroes in jeopardy! But that need has evolved into a wretched cheat... the blanket assumption that society is wholly corrupt and all your fellow citizens are sheep.

duncan cairncross said...

CP said
However, it's impractical to use a fully ranked system (or any of the systems that require a voter to express an opinion on each candidate) when the number of candidates is unconstrained. Imagine the length of the lines, the instability in ballot layout..

But this is only a problem because you have so many elective offices
Most democracies countries elect the "Board of Directors" - either Members of Parliament or Councillors and they then operate a civil service that is apolitical.

By trying to elect officers to do civil service jobs you dilute the total democratic system

When I look at the US system I think some of the originators (who were not happy about democracy) have deliberately over egged the cake
I can just see them - "they want democracy - we will give them so much they will be sick of it and move back to a sensible autocracy"

rewinn said...

1. I believe @Ian is referring to the
National Popular Vote system. As a very sensible reform that does not require an impossible constitutional amendment, merely an interstate compact, it should be included in every discussion of this nature.

2. Nonpartisan district drawing is a good idea for many reasons, but I question whether district-based allocation of ECs can avoid favoring one party over another even in with the best will in the world. For example, if a state has 10 EC (ignoring the 2 EC's for its senators) and a party distribution of 59.2% for party A and 40.8% for party B:

1) If the state is completely uniform in its party distribution, then Party A gets all 10 votes.

2) If the distribution is
Districts 1+2 100% Party A
Districts 3-10 49% Party A 51% Party B
Party A gets 2 votes
Party B gets 8 votes.

While realistically this would mostly be the result of gerrymandering, and it is without a doubt the GOP's intention, still some result like it would seem likely even with non-partisan district drawing, because party distribution tends to be nonuniform.

3. Perhaps some resistance to district-based EC vote allocation may be found in legislators from marginally safe districts which the proposal would put into play. Might any politician value his personal seat in the State House over his party's control of the White House?

4. Why not return to the system envisioned by The Founders: voting for nonpartisan Electors who then wisely discuss among themselves the ideal Chief Executive! Ban party slates; have each elector explain what principles he or she stand for, rather than a candidate. Why, in states like Texas or California with lots of electors, minority parties should be able to send Electors to DC which would broaden the discussion. Meeting in solemn conclave, can anyone doubt that they would make an excellent choice?

(( * ducking thrown objects now * ))

LarryHart said...


I was most just trying to be funny - and to avoid the implication that only those horrid Republicans would do such a dastardly thing.

But it's like the abuse of the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have used the filibuster to partisan advantage, just as both have done gerrymandering. But the post-2010 GOP has taken it to a whole new level. I don't agree that both parties are the same just because the Democrats filibustered four (out of hundreds) Bush appointees to federal courts, and the GOP filibusters ALL of Obama's. Likewise, Illinois gerrymandered its districts to Democratic advantage but Republicans pulled fast ones in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan where governors who ran as "sensible moderate" conservatives are forcing pro-Koch Brothers agendas down the throats of their citizens. It just isn't the same thing.

As for Australia, there's a very clear difference between the parties:

The LNP are bastards.

Labor are OUR bastards

Heh. Well, back in 2004 or so, when I had to acknowledge that the Democrats also took money from special interests, I explained my feelings thusly: "I like OUR corporate masters better than THEIR corporate masters."

Ian said...

One reservation I ave about condorcet voting or various other proposed systems (range voting, for example)is that a voting system need not only be fair in a strict formal sense.

It needs to be comprehensible by the average voter and seen as fair.

Proportional representation, first-past-the-post and run-off systems (including instant run-off) all have flaws - but all have been shown in practise to be workable and comprehensible.

Ian said...

"Heh. Well, back in 2004 or so, when I had to acknowledge that the Democrats also took money from special interests, I explained my feelings thusly: "I like OUR corporate masters better than THEIR corporate masters."'

My proposed slogan for the 2004 campaign: "Vote for Kerry for a return to COMPETENT plutocratic oligarchy" never really caught on.

David Brin said...

Prefer Gates and Buffett over Murdoch and the Kochs and Prince Walid?

Um... duh?

Still... end oligarchy

Paul451 said...

"2. Nonpartisan district drawing is a good idea for many reasons, but I question whether district-based allocation of ECs can avoid favoring one party over another even in with the best will in the world."

I think the requirement here is that after a redistricting, an election with the booth-results from the last election would produce a distribution of seats that match the overall state vote. So if party got 51% of the vote in the last election, they should theoretically get half-plus-one seats with the new electorate boundaries. In theory then, in the next election, any discrepancy between seats and state should be minor and due entirely to actual shifts in population since the last election.

I still think you should just be able to buy your way in. The wealthy are doing it anyway, why not make it open. Backers donate money to the county/state/nation in the name of their preferred candidate. Highest fund raiser wins the seat. All money raised by all candidates goes into general revenue. Since the wealthy won't pay income tax, this at least allows some revenue raising. And at least it makes the system more honest. Besides, perhaps politicians raising money for their region/state/country will seem noble.

(And psychologically, the thought that the money ends up with the government may deter some of the more selfish members of the oligarchy, while attracting the more fair-minded givers-back. Very slightly improving the balance of influence on politicians.)

Tony Fisk said...

...The classic (Humphrey) Appleby defence!

CP said...


No system is perfect! :-)

You have a point about keeping the system comprehensible to the voter. Condorset would require some education. But, would it be that problematic in the constrained version I suggested? Maybe...

Just using a truncated instant runoff for both the primary and general would probably be the next best alternative. The problem with using that system for the general is that the result wouldn't be as robust. Very slight changes in the first place vote could change which of the three candidates is dropped flipping the result.

Or, perhaps, the best we can realistically hope for it to expand the California/Washington System. That would be better than what we have now but wouldn't resolve the vote splitting issues...

Meanwhile proportional representation and range voting have their own problems.

Proportional representation tends to hand the balance of power in legislative bodies to small, often extreme minorities and/or create unstable coalitions.

Range voting (and approval voting) create perverse incentives in a primary by allowing a candidate/voter to benefit from lying about the ratings given to the other candidates.

David Brin said...

My redistricting plan is the simplest.

1) set a maximum ratio of perimeter to area... with some real leeway.

2) Let the politicians design the districts.

3) The districts for state assembly, state senate and congress must have minimum overlap.

Let them gerrymander one house up the wazoo! So? The Senate and Congress seats will be totally different. With the added benefit: Your state senator and assemblyperson will not be clones but have to cater to totally different voter distributions, trying to come up with totally different answers.

Jumper said...

Great essay on Locus Online.

David Brin said...


Hank Roberts said...

Luther Weeks: Voting Requires Vigilance. Popular Isn't Always Prudent
"Peter G. Neumann"
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 13:26:38 PST

Luther Weeks, 21 Jan 2013
Op-Ed outlining the integrity risks of the National Popular Vote Compact

Hank Roberts said...

That's from
The Risks Digest
Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator
Volume 27: Issue 14
Tuesday 22 January 2013

---- Also noteworthy in the same issue:

"Red October relied on Java exploit to infect PCs"
Gene Wirchenko
Subject: "how Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates"
Ed Bott via Gene Wirchenko
"Disabling Java in Internet Explorer: No easy task"
Woody Leonhard via Gene Wirchenko

Anonymous said...

Ah -- Dr. Brin -- look at the dates on the news story mentioned in the first comment.

The silence is deafening on this.

Your millionaires who wanted evidence are?