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Voting in the US

In class we have discussed voting theory, learning how the results of several voting systems can be inaccurate and can be influenced by the people controlling the process. In voting systems based on majority rule, in which participants vote only for their top choice, the outcome can be influenced by “strategic agenda-sitting,” (Networks, Crowds, and Markets, 757). It only takes into account the voters who voted for a top choice, allowing candidates who don’t have a chance of winning to influence the election. This system doesn’t always accurately represent the wishes of the population. We see this discrepancy in our own democracy in the United States – sometimes unpopular candidates can make it very far in the election, or a more popular candidate will lose on a technicality of the voting system.

In a Scientific American article by Partha Dasgupta and Eric Maskin, the authors explore whether ranking candidates would be more accurate than our current voting system, citing various examples of elections which didn’t accurately represent the wishes of the majority. In particular, the election of 2000 was a close one between candidates George Bush and Al Gore. A strict majority rule would have put Gore in the majority. A ranking system would have put Bush in the majority.

The authors eventually assert that for elections involving more than two candidates, voters should submit a ranking and that majority rule should determine the winner. While this system is not perfect, it is closer to obtaining accurate results than our current system.


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