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I would rather vote for a party than an individual politician, especially when parties are allowed to define their own internal structure and their own rules for deciding how to vote (as I suggested before). Individual politicians have big problems with commitment credibility because it is difficult to keep tabs on them to make sure they are doing what they said they were going to do. Politicians that have been around for a while tend to be more credible because they have a reputation to protect and have at least shown that they will not do the opposite of what they campaigned on, but this only goes so far because it is still difficult to monitor them and because political careers are bounded. Parties which can define their own internal structure can mitigate both these problems by adopting voting rules which give the party more credibility. For example, if a party has an internal council that decides its votes it will have a good deal of credibility because it is very difficult to maintain a conspiracy with a large number of people. Additionally, the lifespan of a party is unbounded, unlike that of individual politicians, so the time frame to build up a good reputation is much longer. When parties are allowed to define their rules for deciding votes and internal structure, competition between parties will create strong incentives to adopt rules which lead to party behavior that appeals to voters, such as transparency, commitment credibility and time consistency.

I suspect that parties in closed-list proportional representation systems are a good deal like parties which can define own voting decision rules, because their party structures have total control over who fills the seats allocated to the party so it has ultimate control over how the party votes. I am not sure how much of an improvement allowing parties to have more flexible structure would improve party behavior.

My appreciation for strong political parties is actually a complete reversal for me. I used to be deeply skeptical of political parties, especially “official” ones that receive votes directly, but I consideration has lead me to favor parties over people.

Would you rather vote for a person rather than a party? If so, why?

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In Democracies, good public policy is largely a public good which is indirectly provided (or not provided) by voters. Because it is a public good, voters do not have strong incentives to be informed or vote intelligently. Good public policy is underprovided because the electorate has biases and because without research and discussion, even great policies may at first appear bad, so it is difficult for many good policies to gain support.

In terms of human computing power, it is not really necessary to have large elections to elect good representatives and officials. A small, but well informed, fraction of the current electorate could conceivably elect good representatives and officials. The reason we do have large electorates is that a small electorate will not necessarily be representative. Having large electorates is a way to ensure that elected bodies represent the interests and perspectives of everyone in the country.

I want to propose a system of professional voting. The system would aim to ensure that voters are informed and thoughtful as well as aim to ensure that everyone’s interests are represented. Essentially, Professional Voting would pay a portion of the electorate to be informed, model what the results of the elections would be if the whole electorate was informed and voted and then use that result as the result of the election. Read the rest of this entry »


The Instant Runoff Voting/Ranked Choice Voting in Washington blog points to an article about the King County (my home county) Charter Review Commission which considers improvements to the county’s constitution every ten years, and it is currently considering moving King County to some form of ranked choice voting.

There are a number of interesting things in this article:

  • I didn’t know that the King County constitution got reviewed every ten years; I think that’s pretty cool. I will note that this sort of thing supports John M’s claim that more local governments simply govern better.
  • The article author is woefully uninformed about ‘proportional representation.’ As the commenters note, he fails to differentiate between the result of elections (proportional representation) and the method (ranked choice, which does not even produce proportional representation).
  • I think this bit from the local Democrats was just asinine:

We’re against ‘instant runoff voting,'” Weiss said on behalf of local Democrats. He warned that proportional representation “will blur party lines.”

“It’s meant to cut in on the two-party system. The two-party system has worked pretty well,” Weiss said. “We’ll do everything possible to drive a stake in the heart of instant runoff voting.”

I am glad the King County is considering ranked choice voting, it would certainly be an improvment over first-past-the-post voting, especially for single-seat offices. Establishing local electoral systems where third party and independent candidates can win is an important step in moving towards a country wide political system where the major political parties can actually change over time. Local third party successes will allow third parties to build reputations for being able to win and eventually allow them to seriously contest more important offices.

I will point out that Direct Representation would be a much better approach to proportional representation for multi-seat offices, especially since by-district ranked choice voting does not produce proportional representation.