Our two-party duopoly is supported and kept in power by a plurality voting system that makes it difficult for third parties to break through. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are other, far more equitable voting methods. Among them are score voting and approval voting. I plan to explore these methods deeper in future posts, but for now, here’s some useful links. If you have thoughts and ideas on this, please, jump into the discussion.
Progressive thinkers on all sides of the political spectrum often wonder why the United States seems incapable of escaping a two-party political system. Is it a result of an extreme demographic situation, an urban and a rural America so large and obstinate that they are incapable of cooperation? Does it somehow come from the unique American spirit, a tradition steeped in individualism and adventure? Are the third parties being silently stifled because of their opposition to our incessant march toward rule by large corporations? The answer, in fact, may be so simple that it is right at our fingertips at least once a year. Every time we vote, in fact.
The plurality voting method tends to favor a two-party system, whereas “the double ballot majority system [a.k.a. ‘top-two runoff’] and proportional representation tend to multipartism.” Observations in the social sciences are never absolute, but this tendency for plurality voting to maintain two-party domination is so reliable that it has become known as Duverger’s Law.
More and more Americans are agitating for a “third party”, most without even realizing that there are already dozens of active third parties to choose from. But they don’t win. They can’t win. And this is without even acknowledging the effects of tactical voting, this is with honest voters! In this simulation, the only ones voting for the big-two are the ones who honestly believe them to be the uniquely best option available.
The existence of a multitude of third parties hasn’t change this. Screaming that we need even more third parties won’t change this. You cannot win this game. The only way you can win, is if you change the rules.
And the rules that would give third parties a chance to win are approval voting and score voting.
Approval Voting is a voting procedure in which voters can vote for as many candidates as they wish. Each candidate approved of receives one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. It was independently proposed by several people in the 1970s. In the United States, the case for Approval Voting seems particularly strong in primary and nonpartisan elections which often draw large fields of candidates.
Score voting … is a voting system for one-seat elections under which voters score each candidate, the scores are added up, and the candidate with the highest score wins.
[It] uses a ratings ballot; that is, each voter rates each candidate with a number within a specified range, such as 0 to 99 or 1 to 5. Although in cumulative voting voters are not permitted to provide scores for more than some number of candidates, in range voting all candidates can be and should be rated. The scores for each candidate are summed, and the candidate with the highest sum is the winner.
Another problem the US voting system has is that the country is not a parliamentary system. To my knowledge, it is the only democracy that is not. In a parliamentary system, a vote of no confidence can bring down and government – no waiting four years – and by its nature, smaller parties can join the ruling coalition and thus have real power.