Future Forum: The Future of Voting


Amendments. We have them because things change. The perspective we had back in the day no longer meets the needs of our current country so we amend our past decisions. This is a good thing. Iteration. Change. Upgrades.

There is an upgrade taking place to the current voting system you are familiar with and I'd bet money my children will vote using this system. For all elected seats. It is called ranked voting.

The concept is simple, you rank the candidates when you vote instead of just choosing one. Then through a variety of methodologies, the #1 votes are counted, then the two's and so on until every vote is counted and allocated. You vote will always count. It will always go towards someone who is elected.

We've been voting roughly the same way since 1776. First by voice. Then written. First white people. Then everyone. First men. Then women. Clearly, we don't always get it right.

First plurality voting. Then ranked.

There are 3 main methods of counting.

Instant-runoff voting - In this method, if no candidate is the first choice of more than half of the voters, then all votes cast for the candidate with the lowest number of first choices are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on who is ranked next on each ballot. If this does not result in any candidate receiving a majority, further rounds of redistribution occur. Or, in other words, voters would rank their first, second and subsequent choices on the ballot. The candidate with the fewest votes would be dropped and his or her supporters’ second choices would be counted and so on until one candidate emerged with more than 50 percent.

Single transferable vote - With this method, any candidates that achieve the number of votes required for election (the "quota") are elected and their surplus votes are redistributed to the voter's next choice candidate. Once this is done, if not all places have been filled then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and their votes are also redistributed to the voter's next choice. This whole process is repeated until all seats are filled.

Borda count - In the Borda count, ballots are counted by assigning a point value to each place in each voter's ranking of the candidates, and the choice with the largest number of points overall is elected.

Think this idea is far-fetched? Here is a list of cities that have already upgraded to ranked voting:

  • Ann Arbor

  • Aspen

  • Berkeley

  • Burlington

  • Cambridge

  • Hendersonville

  • London, Ontario

  • Memphis, TN

  • Minneapolis, MN

  • Oakland, CA

  • Portland, ME

  • San Francisco, CA

  • San Leandro, CA

  • Santa Fe, NM

  • St. Paul, MN

  • Takoma Park, MD

  • Telluride, CO

Countries like Australia and Ireland have been using ranked voting for nearly 100 years each.

So are you ready to reform voting? I think the current process no longer reflects the diverse needs and the immense scale of our country. If we founded our country today with the current population I don't believe we would institute the current voting system.