Forgive me if I've already chatted with you about this, but I find voting systems pretty interesting. Steve Krause has a nice write up of some of the most common, and some of the important differences. The takeaway is this: given a set of voter preferences, different voting systems can result in different outcomes.

For example, Steve talks about a system used in some local San Francisco elections: Ranked Choice Voting with Instant Runoff Voting:

  • You rank multiple candidates for an office, indicating your first choice, second choice, and so on.

  • If no candidate attains a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated.

  • Those who voted for the eliminated candidate have their second-choice votes added to the remaining candidates' totals.

  • If that reallocation does not create a majority for one candidate, the process continues until a majority is reached.

There was an article in the March 2004 issue of Scientific American by Partha Dasgupta and Eric Maskin that went into a more detailed analysis. They spoke to the question of "Which voting system is really the most fair?" by asking, in each case, how many of the voters have their preferences reflected in the outcome.

Just some food for thought. The important thing is to make the effort to get out and vote. I'll admit I don't make it to every single ballot date, but I do take it seriously and try not only to go but to show up with at least a basically informed opinion. If you weren't thinking of voting, please do. If you were planning on it, remind someone you know.