Difference between voting and electing

La différence entre voter et élire

Today, collective decision-making and consensus achieving have become a necessity, whether the decision is trivial or crucial. The fact that we are living in society forces us to make choices that must satisfy the whole group. We use a large panel of techniques to give our opinion and decide: the vote by show of hands to choose tonight’s restaurant, proportional representation for regional council composition, or the majority voting system for our presidential elections. But each one of these system shows its own limits.

Did you know that …?

Share of votes (bottom) versus share of seats (top) of different parties resulting from the British general elections of 2005

You may never have paid attention, but voting by show of hands deprives you of anonymity. The supposed proportionality leads to fragmentation of parties, which can be disrupting for the governed system. As for our so popular majority ballot, it prevents you from raising objections during the vote so you can’t take a stand directly against something.

How can a system claiming to be democratic only allows people to give a binary answer to closed questions? Why have strategic voting for “the least bad” candidate become habits? Why is there no direct way of expressing opposition rather than a vague consent to a hardly fair alternative?

Lack of representativeness

We all need to open our eyes on this subject. Our daily group decisions have great weaknesses, such as the lack of representativeness of our opinions. Indeed, taking the decision will be affected by the ballot (first past the post, plurinominal or ranked list of preferences) and the chosen electoral system.

In practice, it means that for the same election, with the same voters, each electoral system can lead to a different result, according to the interpretation of the ballot that is made. By focusing all eyes on the election’s content, you can easily blind all voters to the way the election is conducted.

“Give us your opinion … In the way we want to hear it” : hypocrisy alert!

But some communities and some countries have already taken a different look on that matter. They questioned the adequation between the voting systems and the decisions they’re making:

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  • Australia have been using ranked lists of preferences for 150 years now.
  • Some companies like Valve and ING adopted horizontal modus operandi, giving back decisional power to those who do.
  • Even in France, 3 years ago President Hollande mentioned a proportional vote to attribute the seats of the national assembly.

Do we agree? Yes, but together!

Every existing voting system includes pros and cons:

  • The majority vote is very simple but lacks representativeness.
  • Proportional vote is very representative but heterogeneity of elected officials disrupts the system they govern.
  • Voting with lists of preferences is particularly adapted to consensual decisions, but sometimes fails to produce a result (see the Condorcet paradox).

In a world where digital & computing gives us unexploited opportunities, we have to consider the most appropriate alternatives for every decision, the one allowing a faithful representation of involved decision makers. You can check on our article about the Condorcet voting method, our favorite voting system at Open Agora.

Read also on our blog

Condorcet voting method

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