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"Cumulative Voting" Method Gaining Attention 375

Local ID10T writes "The AP reports on a system of voting, called 'cumulative voting,' which was just used under court order in Port Chester, NY. Under this system, voters can apportion their votes as they wish — all to one candidate, one to each candidate, or any combination. The system, which has been used in Alabama, Illinois, South Dakota, Texas, and New York, allows a political minority to gain representation if it organizes behind specific candidates. Courts are increasingly mandating cumulative voting when they deem it necessary to provide fair representation." Wikipedia notes that cumulative voting "was used to elect the Illinois House of Representatives from 1870 until its repeal in 1980," without saying why the system was abandoned.
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"Cumulative Voting" Method Gaining Attention

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  • Sigh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:03AM (#32630718)

    This one has flaws too, but at least it's better than FPTP hopefully.

    Some important things regarding the flaw of this voting method...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulative_voting#Voting_systems_criteria [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulative_voting#Tactical_voting [wikipedia.org]

    • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:21AM (#32630774) Journal
      Here's a 1976 article on cumulative voting in Illinois [niu.edu]. The writer saw it as promoting intraparty strife (creating more competition between candidates of the same party than with the candidates of the other party) and was hard for voters to understand.
      • by Timmmm ( 636430 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:55AM (#32630884)

        and was hard for voters to understand.

        Is there any alternative voting system which isn't "hard for voters to understand"? Of all the weaselly excuses to keep FPTP that is the lamest.

        Seriously. If you can't understand this:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cumballot.gif [wikipedia.org]

        then maybe you shouldn't be voting.

        • by Winckle ( 870180 ) <mark.winckle@co@uk> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:23AM (#32630960) Homepage

          That's quite an unfortunate filename.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

          Someone clearly thinks it's hard to understand - they revised the diagram.

          And now it's more confusing. Would my vote be invalid if I put my red mark for Mary Hill in column one or two?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by obarthelemy ( 160321 )

          that one is harder

          http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/3e/Wcumballot.gif/160px-Wcumballot.gif [wikimedia.org]

          I have problems with additions when I'm tired :-p

          • What's a share? It looks like a lump of four votes, but it seems to confuse more than it clarifies. Does it mean I can only use multiples of four? If so, why not just have 1/4 the number of votes and make the arithmetrickery easier?

            • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

              My guess is that using fractional numbers is more difficult than the kind of numbers you can count on your fingers.
              Please remember that everybody has a right to vote, including a lot of people that don't understand the most basic math.

        • by Velex ( 120469 )

          It's good to see I'm not the only person getting a little pissed off at the current trend of people to just use "it's too hard" and "it's too technical" as excuses.

          Life is hard. People need to grow up and get with it or the United States is going to finish up sliding into a 2nd world baby-mama welfare state in the next few decades. I think where I live in Michigan, we already are a 2nd world baby-mama welfare state.

          then maybe you shouldn't be voting.

          Maybe it's time that we as a society look at enacting some barriers to being a voter a

          • by Anonymous Custard ( 587661 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @10:03AM (#32631786) Homepage Journal

            Why should a stupid person have any less right to choose his representative than a smart person?

            • by jfb3 ( 25523 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @10:51AM (#32632110)

              Because they'll vote for Sarah Palin.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by jimbolauski ( 882977 )

                Because they'll vote for Sarah Palin.

                Why are liberals so scared of Palin, do they fear a strong willed woman that some women would vote blindly for instead of blinding voting democrat.

                • Why are liberals so scared of Palin...

                  You don't have to be liberal to be scared of Palin. I fear Palin because she represents that absolute worst of politicians. She is totally ignorant, yet is so arrogant that she thinks that ignorance makes her more legitimate and "real". She literally thinks that she doesn't have to know anything, because God will give her the answer through prayer.

                  I freaking HATE Palin. She is the absolute definition of a brainless demagogue.

                • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @01:02PM (#32633006)

                  Scared? Hardly.

                  Fear and dislike are completely different. And being a "strong willed woman" is not the problem. I've happily been voting for Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for years now. And it'd be very hard to say that any on them are not strong-willed. In palin's case though. the overt malice, mind-boggling stupidity, and insufferably snotty attitude just lead to a pure and intense visceral emotional dislike of her. And that's *before* considering the damage she would do to the country if she were ever to wind up in a position of significant power.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimbolauski ( 882977 )

          Seriously. If you can't understand this:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cumballot.gif [wikipedia.org]

          then maybe you shouldn't be voting.

          Intelligence as a requirement for voting has been fought for a long time see voting tests.

      • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        So you mean it require people to not think monolithicly as a party and required voters to thik a bit more ? These are advantages if you ask me.
        • If you fall out of an aircraft you'll requires a parachute. It doesn't cause you to actually have one.

          Cynical? I used to be, but what's the use?

    • There is a way more significant flaw: You still vote for other life-forms (in this case humans)!

      Call me crass, but I see natural selection as the fundamental driving force behind the outcome of everything, and hence the judgment on the quality of a behavior or decision.
      If that is true, (which I am very sure it is), then a life-form either (directly or sometimes very indirectly) works solely for its own interests, or will die out pretty quickly. Especially when the resources must be fought for.
      Of course this

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kvezach ( 1199717 )
      The best strategy in Cumulative voting is to vote plurality-style. You want to make a difference: well, the best way of doing that is pushing all your votes toward the candidate most likely to win that you like (the least of two evils) - that's pretty much what the page says.

      Personally, I'd be in favor of a Condorcet method for single-winner and a proportional representation method like STV for multiple winners. The Condorcet criterion simply says that if one candidate is preferred to every other one-on-
  • by lul_wat ( 1623489 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:06AM (#32630726)

    allows a political minority to gain representation if it organizes behind specific candidates

    I'm pretty sure that's how most voting systems work.

    It's too bad that a proportional STV (Single Transferable Vote) isn't more widely used, then there would truely be no wasted votes

    • by LambdaWolf ( 1561517 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:43AM (#32630830)

      It really is unfortunate that STV, proportional or otherwise, hasn't caught on more. You can sell instant-runoff voting in three sentences: "You can vote the new way or continue voting the old way. To vote the new way, number the candidates from 1 to n in your order of preference. To vote the old way, mark the candidate you want to vote for as 1 and leave the rest blank." There's really no disadvantage to it... except that it would give third parties a foothold against the entrenched two-party system, so why would any politician in power bother to support it? (Sorry to sound so cynical, on Slashdot no less.)

      Sadly, the notion that right-versus-left is American politics is getting more entrenched as well. The voters in my home state of California unfortunately just passed a ballot measure [wikimedia.org] that will allow only two candidates on the ballot for any state general election. So long, third parties. Granted, most voters were probably taken in by the promise of open primaries, which was wrapped up in the same proposition and dominated the discussion. But that's just what was so outrageous about it: no one bothers to think that politics can be more subtle than Democrats versus Republicans.

      • by Relic of the Future ( 118669 ) <dales@@@digitalfreaks...org> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:42AM (#32631048)
        Except instant runoff doesn't really help third parties that much.

        Take a look at Australia. They've used IRV for over 100 years, and their house of representatives has two parties (well; one party and one 60+ year long two-member coalition that never oppose incumbent members of the other coalition-member; close enough.)

        But approval voting and score voting really CAN allow third-parties a foothold. http://rangevoting.org/ [rangevoting.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TerranFury ( 726743 )
          Yeah, it's not the voting system that locks out third parties; it's the reward system: In winner-take-all systems (as opposed to proportional systems as in many European parliaments), two-party systems emerge. This is Duverger's Law [wikipedia.org], a mostly-true empirical observation which has some possible theoretical explanations.
      • Some parts of the state here have introduce instant run off elections. But it's hardly worthwhile to even consider it. For instance for it to be of any value you need to have more than two candidates running. The vast majority of races around here have two parties running and many have one. Secondly, the whole premise of instant runoff voting is flawed in the sense that your candidate still didn't win, the only people that are going to like it are the anybody but X crowed, and I'm really not convinced it's
      • While there are advantages and disadvantages to various voting systems, isn't it the case that in theory, there is no panacea to the voting problem? Arrow's impossibility theorem [wikimedia.org]
      • by PatHMV ( 701344 ) <post@patrickmartin.com> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @11:22AM (#32632310) Homepage
        Well, you omit 2 crucial facts about California. First, none of those 3rd parties getting onto the "general election" ballot had any chance of winning to begin with, correct? Second, ALL of those 3rd parties can participate equally in the new primary election, a non-partisan primary which results in the 2 highest vote getters, regardless of party, going to the general election.

        Thus, if a 3rd party has sufficient support to have any chance of prevailing in the general election, it must certainly have sufficient support to come in first or second in the primary election, yes? Or are you seriously arguing that a 3rd party might be able to garner 51% of the vote when running against the 2 major party candidates, but can't manage to get about 30% of the people to vote for it in a wide-open primary election?
  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:07AM (#32630734) Homepage

    What they really mean by "fair representation" would be more accurately described as "damn voters won't vote for the people we want them to, so we're screwing with the rules."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What they really mean by "fair representation" would be more accurately described as "damn voters won't vote for the people we want them to, so we're screwing with the rules."

      Well, it's pretty much the opposite. Cumulative voting is a system for elections involving party lists (such as city councils, in some jurisdictions). The point is that you get to assign your votes to the candidates you actually want to elect, rather than having to vote for a list of candidates that some party drew up for you, while still giving the parties a chance to nominate candidates and suggest to (not force upon) the voter a ranking among them.
      This system is commonly used in local elections in Swit

      • It's simple mathematics.

        W = Voters of the first type
        B = Voters of the second type
        Wc = Candidates of the first type
        Bc = Candidates of the second type
        N = Number of votes each voter gets

        Then each Wc candidate will get (W*N)/Wc on average, and each Bc candidate will get (B*N)/Bc on average, assuming W people only vote for Wc candidates and B people only vote for Bc candidates.

        If the ratio of W/Wc is less than the ratio of B/Bc, then the Bc candidates will win.

        In the usual case, W = White people, B = Black peopl

      • Um, around here we just vote for each candidate individually. Why on Earth would one vote on a list? This strikes me as a bit of a false dilemma in that you're ignoring the middle ground where rather than voting on a list, you vote on each candidate individually. I wasn't aware that any part of the world was so backwards as to ask voters to vote on a list of candidates in such an absurd fashion.

        Also, it's borderline asinine to suggest that a system that works well under a Parliamentary system would trans
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by slick7 ( 1703596 )

      What they really mean by "fair representation" would be more accurately described as "damn voters won't vote for the people we want them to, so we're screwing with the rules."

      A more fair representation would allow the "No Confidence" vote and a "Recall" vote box for each and every candidate in office every two years whether they are running or not. Then and only then will the *employees* of this nation take notice of their true employers. Also, no pay raise for any politician unless approved by 75% of the voting populace. And just like all the commercial businesses, the politicians should start paying a greater portion of their health benefits themselves and get off the free gra

  • by ascari ( 1400977 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:16AM (#32630756)
    Yet it's news for nerds. Go figure.
  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:16AM (#32630758)

    Despite Thomas Jefferson's fantasies, most Americans seem to prefer parties. That's why we need a Bundestag-like proportional representation system at the state Legislature and Congressional levels (BTW, save some money and get rid of the silly state Senates). Any party (or, in our case, add individual) that can gather some significant number of members/petitioners should be placed on the ballot, and the seats of the legislative body apportioned according to the votes cast for the party/individual. That way, maybe we would have some representation of more than two (increasingly lunatic) points of view. California, for example, has several registered parties (American Independent, Democratic, Green, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, and Republican), but legislators from only two, so a large portion of the registered voters are simply not represented at the state level. Before some idiot says "well, they just need to get enough votes", the district lines are drawn to prohibit any but the Demopublicans from getting a seat (see "Gerrymander") in any district in the state.

    The real reason that we don't have such a system is that the corporations that own the Demopublicans ("Big Oil", Hollywood, ...) would have to spread their bribes over a lot more politicians and they will do whatever it takes to prevent that additional expense.

    • would have to spread their bribes over a lot more politicians and they will do whatever it takes to prevent that additional expense.

      But the number of elected politicians would not increase so I don't see how this would significantly increase the number of people to be bribed.

      • by dltaylor ( 7510 )

        Lump sum payments to the respective party's state/national committee would increase from 2 to six.

      • You will usually see donations from big industries to candidates from both parties. If there were seven parties that had a decent chance of getting their candidate elected, then they would have to bribe all seven of them - even if they don't get in this year, politicians tend to remember those who've paid them over the long term.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by surveyork ( 1505897 )
      Most of the World's democracies work with proportional representation, AFAIK. The American system of giving all the representatives of one state to the most voted party (national election) always looked odd to me. If I understand it correctly, a party getting 30% of the votes gets all the representatives if the other (hypothetical) parties get 29%, 29% and 12%. Doesn't seem fair.
      • by dltaylor ( 7510 )

        Great Britain, IIRC, also has Members of Parliament from specific districts.

        If the "Silly Party" candidate out-polls the Conservatives, "Very Silly Party", ..., then the "Silly Party" candidate wins and represents the entire district.

        • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:33AM (#32631004) Homepage Journal

          I think you're misinformed about how such things work. Here in New Zealand we use something very like the German system - while the tiny details may be different the basic idea is the same.

          Parliament or whatever has N seats, everyone gets two votes:
          - the first is for a local representative elected using FPP almost exactly as you do for the House in the US - there are N/2 local representative seats.
          - the second is for a party, after the first set of votes are counted and the number of party representatives with local seats are determined the total party votes for the country are tallied - the second N/2 seats are allocated to representatives off of party nominated lists so that when added to the first N/2 the party seat count in parliament comes out according to the second vote

          There are various details around minimum votes to get party seats and various rules for strange overhang situations that those can create that are different from system to system.

          And yes we haven't had a single government since we changed to this system where a single party got 50% or more of the vote - all governments have been coalitions - it means politicians have to make public agreements and compromises which result in them acting more constrained in their actions than they would have been if they'd gotten 30% of the votes in an FPP election but 60% of the seats - it's a wonderful thing - many of the politicians, especially the old school ones, hate it.

          • You've just described why it will never happen in the US. We used to do something similar to that for the Senate seats. Up until, I think 1913, when we passed a constitutional amendment requiring Senators to be elected. I'm not sure it was a wise idea, but there you go. And it was never the party that was doing the choosing, it was the particular representatives that were. It had it's advantages, but wasn't seen to be adequately democratic.

            Around here a large part of the problem is that the political par
      • Most of the World's democracies work with proportional representation, AFAIK. The American system of giving all the representatives of one state to the most voted party (national election) always looked odd to me. If I understand it correctly, a party getting 30% of the votes gets all the representatives if the other (hypothetical) parties get 29%, 29% and 12%. Doesn't seem fair.

        Actually that is not true (except for Electoral College representatives in Presidential elections, and then it depends on the state). The National elections work like this: For Senate, the candidate who gets the most votes in the state wins the election (only one of a state's two Senators is up for vote at a time, Senate terms are staggered). For the House of Representatives, the candidate who gets the most votes in a particular district gets the seat, but the votes in that district have no impact on the el

    • No, don't get rid of the state legislatures.

      They're some of the last fragments of the way the US was supposed to work, before Lincoln screwed it all up with his ham-fisted approach to ending slavery, that ended up giving colossal power to the federal government.

      The states were supposed to have all the power, and to have that, you need your own governmental system.

      That's also why there's the electoral college - it's counterproductive in a federal-centric system, but it makes sense in a state-centric system. And the US Senate - which should be elected by the governments of the states, IIRC, NOT the people - that was an attempt to prevent mob rule, and represent the states themselves in US government - the House of Representatives was intended to represent the people.

    • by selven ( 1556643 )

      Despite Thomas Jefferson's fantasies, most Americans seem to prefer parties

      Can we have proof of this? Maybe some kind of study where Americans were given a genuine choice between voting for parties and voting for individuals and they picked one or the other? From what I can see, most people have never experienced anything that isn't a binary choice between Democrats and Republicans.

    • Despite Thomas Jefferson's fantasies, most Americans seem to prefer parties.

      I don't think that's actually true. Parties seem to prefer parties, and the accumulation of wealth within parties to support their own members as candidates - i.e., advertising - sells those candidates to the voters better than unaffiliated candidates are able to.

    • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @08:02AM (#32631276)
      I would still like to get rid of the 17th Amendment. Having the state governments representatives in Congress acts as another check against tyranny. One of the big problems states have right now is unfunded mandates coming down from on high. That might be prevented or at least curtailed.
  • Ranking system (Score:5, Interesting)

    by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:17AM (#32630760)

    A ranking system is the right solution.

    If 50%-something would like A to win, are ok with B, but definitely don't want C, and if the 50%-something others are the exact opposite, then the best candidate should be B, not A or C where it's only down to little percentage different.

    • I totally agree that B would be the best candidate, but I do not think ranking is the best solution. Any ranking system is relatively complex compared to the triviality of one single selection. And you definitely do not want to add complexity to voting systems.

      In my opinion the best voting system is to give one vote to every candidate you approve of. This has two very important properties:

      • This is so trivially simple that anyone will get it intuitively, there is no reason to explain anything.
      • It is extre
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhath ( 637240 )

      then the best candidate should be B, not A or C

      Which is why a two party system is so much better than multiparty or cumulative. With two-party and one vote per candidate, both parties have to *compromise* in order to represent a majority of the electorate. Multiparty or cumulative voting means fringe groups get disproportionate representation.

      Those who want Puerto Rico statehood are stuck in your ABC scenario today (Statehood, Independence, sovereign protectorate, or status quo). The Obama administration is trying to force their agenda through [hotair.com] by requir

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:19AM (#32630768) Journal
    Seems to be that the system was expensive and might have been too democratic.
    "Black Representation Under Cumulative Voting in IL"
    http://archive.fairvote.org/?page=419 [fairvote.org]
    Did careerism also play a part?
  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @05:29AM (#32630798)
    Cumulative voting and vote-splitting is largely used in Germany on municipal contexts. So you could say that it has been evaluated now at least for 60 years and it worked perfectly. However, it is not used on state and federal level, but as we can vote there for different parties and not (only) for representatives which belong to parties, different social groups can vote for their party and get a fair share in the parliament.
    • CDU = conservatives/right wing/traditionalists
    • SPD = social democrats/becoming more and more conservative
    • Grüne = green party/for liberals and ecological motivated people
    • Linke = socialist party/party for the poor and for pacifists
    • FDP = neo liberal party/for those who have money and do not want to share their wealth as they do not see that they are also responsible for the poor in the country (as stated in the German constitution)
    • DVU/REP/NDP = very right wing nationalists/only present in parliaments in some eastern states of Germany

    There are also a lot of other parties, however they didn't make it in any parliament. But there are parties for families, "true to the Bible"-Christians, or a party with yogic flyer called natural law party (however they dissolved 2004).

  • "Cumulative" voting is too prone to abuse. There are better (more mathematically "fair") voting systems. Take instant runoff voting for example. Statistically, it appears to satisfy the most people, most of the time, without too many quirks that some of the others suffer from, like the possibility of a minority winning under some circumstances.
  • I think the system they're looking for is the single transferable vote [wikipedia.org]. With cumulative voting, various interests have to figure out how many candidates they have the numbers to elect and then organize their voters ahead of the election. With STV, the system itself does this all for them and gives fair, proportional results.
  • Negative votes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:11AM (#32631130)
    Even better would be a system where you could not only vote for certain candidates, but also against them. For example, the same system with 6 votes, but you could choose to give 4 votes to a certain candidate, and 2 votes against another. This could serve to keep racist and other undesirable candidates out. Maybe divide the negative votes by half, though, so you don't get a situation where 49% vote for A and against B, 49% for B against A, and C wins with 2% of the votes. This would also limit tactical abuse of the system, since a vote for a candidate is more productive than a vote against his opponent.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Rakeris ( 1114111 )

      Personally I like proportional voting systems; example: Say there are 100 seats in the legislature, party "A" gets 40% of the votes party "B" gets 30% of the votes, party "C" gets 25% and party "D" gets 5%. So they get a number of seats proportional to the votes they receive. Party A gets 40 seats and so on. Party D however doesn't get any seats as there is an 8% minimum you have to reach to get in the legislature, to help prevent radical minorities getting a foot hold. (last part is just kinda in-theory)


    • This is mostly a silly proposal, but I think even if you only have two candidates, negative votes would be great. The main implication is that the candidate will no longer be able to pretend s/he has anything like a "mandate" from the voters.

      Actually, negative votes don't address most of the issues with voting systems. But I think most of the innovative and useful voting systems can be adapted to accomodate this. Assuming of course that voters have a lot of time to figure it all out (imaging range voting

  • I read 'cumulative vomiting' and thought it was some new artsy thing people do in the States.

  • I prefer approval voting. For every candidate on the ballot, you can either vote for him or not vote for him. That would fix the tactical voting problem, since voting for a non-mainstream candidate doesn't affect your ability to choose between the 2 largest parties, so the weaker parties would see more popularity. Also, it would encourage politicians to campaign positively, proposing solutions to problems, rather than relying on a smear campaign against their opponents.

  • Voting? Useless. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @12:17PM (#32632706)


    The system is broken. You get to choose charming and evil or just plain evil.

    The government is bought and paid for. Voting is a charade.

    For voting to work as we'd all like it to work, first we'd have to...

    1. Have an independent media not owned by the oligarchs. This way real debate can happen.
    2. Test candidates and sitting leaders for psychopathy and remove those who fail the tests from the system.
    3. Make corporate sponsorship/lobbying a crime with real punishments which stop the crimes from repeating.
    4. Fix the money system so that we are not all debt slaves in the giant pyramid scheme which is the global economy.

    Since none of those things are going to come about, debating how to vote is pointless.

    The system is collapsing, and a LOT of people are going to suffer horribly.

    The only thing you can realistically do is to find your neighbors and figure out how to help and support each other through the hard times, because the government is an evil leach which is here to feed on you and enslave you. Disengage from it.


Your good nature will bring you unbounded happiness.