I’ve received my postal ballot, in advance of the June 8 British election. As with so many elections, it demonstrates, glaringly, the need for better systems: approval voting, and proportional representation.
The candidates on the ballot for where I live are of four parties: Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Green, and Labour. We are firmly instructed to vote for one only. You, in this situation, may have no problem, but thousands of others do.
Suppose that, as is very likely. there are voters who are against the philosophy of the Conservatives and have a general sympathy for the other three. Such a voter might wish most of all to help the Green party, but as yet it is too small to have a chance of winning, so a vote for it is “wasted.” So this voter may feel forced to choose between Labour (whose candidate has been a good friend to Amnesty International) and Lib Dem (the only major party that wholeheartedly supports the European Union).
Indeed, such a voter may well feel sad (more than sad: guilty, and furious with the system) at the thought of having to tell the Green candidate: “I wanted to vote for you, but I couldn’t.”
In short, such a voter would like to – and should have the right to – vote for all three, so that, though Labour may be the only one of them that has a chance of winning, the extent of support for Green and Lib Dem will be expressed.
This is approval voting, which works out unfairly for nobody, whereas the vote-for-one system works out unfairly for millions.
This photo could almost serve as a portrait of approval voting.
According to a recent article in the Guardian, this Scottish mother and her daughters, though they have similar sympathies, intend to vote for three different parties. If they were one person, voting under the approval system, their votes would all serve to add support to those parties, as they should. As it is, they cancel out.
And yet, it doesn’t matter which way I vote. Like the majority of people, in the U.S. and the U.K. and most other democratic countries, I am effectively disfranchised, because I live in a constituency that is a “safe seat” for somebody; so there is no chance that my vote will change the result. The most it will do is count toward a national total. Where I am now, the seat happens to be safe for the Labour candidate; where I last lived and still vote in America is safe Republican.
What this demonstrates is the need for proportional representation, as used in the European Union. An E.U. constituency is a larger area, whose half dozen or so seats are assigned to parties in proportion to the votes cast, so that even if you support a minority party, you are likely to have someone up there actually representing you.
By the way, the Wikipedia article on approval voting (which credits me with first describing it, though its use goes back further) says it is a “single-winner” system. Not so: it can easily be used in such elections as those for boards, and for proportional representation.