Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Should The World Dispose of Simple Majority Voting?

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I’m not anyone whose views on politics you should listen to – so this is likely to be a naive post that someone knowledgeable has discussed more maturely. But here goes.

So many important decisions in the past few years in politics, worldwide, have been decided by simple majority votes. The problem is that so many of them had 51/49 or similarly close votes.

What this has resulted in (think Brexit, Think recent vote in Turkey, think Morsi/Shafik) a polarized society where pretty much half the population disagree with a decision they now need to live with. We also know how deeply polarized the populations are on these particular decisions, so it’s not just the numbers but the depth of the divide.

What if a result of 51/49 required people from both sides to sit together and negotiate, either finding a middle ground or convincing the other? This, I know, sounds naive. But what currently happens is… They pretty much continue to ignore each other and animosity festers.

Just saying.

I know fewer decisions would get made. But a delayed decision with a good process is probably better than a bad decision. 

Shrug 

7 Comments

  1. Interesting question, Maha. Ireland does not use a “first past the post” system and is very proud of its PR-STV system http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/government_in_ireland/elections_and_referenda/voting/proportional_representation.html. I’ve no time for a more detailed comment now but I will check back. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful questions 🙂

    • Wow that’s an interesting and complex system. I love the ability to have second, third choices and so on. Seems like the link refers to parliament… Wonder if it’s the same for president? Don’t know the system in Ireland at all…or how many parties…but imagining France right now, and wondering if such a system would have resulted in different candidates (i suppose there would be no second round?)

      • Hi Maha… yes, this system applies to all our elections: local councils, national parliament, and president. What most people value about this system is that votes are not “wasted”. If your preferred candidate gets insufficient votes to progress to the next round, then your vote transfers to your next choice. And so on. This avoids the need to decide between voting with your heart, i.e. for the candidate who best reflects your values/priorities, and voting with your head, i.e. voting for someone who stands a chance of being elected. So, it works well where there are many candidates to choose from. In a straight Yes/No referendum, such as Brexit, it would make no difference. As you say, we need better election/referendum processes, as the past year has shown. And equally so, we need better ways to deal with leaders, once elected, who lie, flout laws, abuse human rights. Thanks to Louise’s comments, I now know I need to catch up with work in democracy theory/democracy studies. But for now, I need to get back to writing here…

        • Go back to writing yes!
          I think your comment made me realize the importance of differentiating betw voting that’s on people/seats vs on issues (like referendum). Ppl who study political science obviously know this well but the different models and why they’re used when aren’t transparent to us as citizens? Trying also to remember the term used for situation where u have two choices u can’t stand and wondering what options we have other than nullifying votes or such. A third box?
          Go back to writing, Catherine 🙂 good luck!

  2. Hi Maha,
    It’s an interesting topic.
    I wonder how compulsory voting systems (or lack thereof- in terms of their use or enforcement through law) might also play in to our current political situations.
    There is a lot of really great work happening in democratic theory/ democracy studies at the moment. I’m not really knowledgeable in this area either, though.
    When I first read your post, I thought of the concept of dialogue- this rests on parties taking care and responsibility to co-create a space where relationship is possible. It’s not about convincing each other, and sometimes common ground will not found- to presume resolution is not really the purpose of dialogue. I think we are not usually taught much about dialogue, so there is a lot of potential for educators to work more intentionally in this area!
    Cheers,
    Louise

    • Hi Louise – i will agree that dialogue is valuable regardless of outcome. I don’t think we even have that and it’s not an easy thing to do when there are real conflicts. I think even if dialogue doesn’t reach a middle ground or convincing each other, hopefully it at least reaches some sort of understanding each other. The reason i am reaching for some sort of resolution is that i am talking about doing away with simple majority voting and unless the dialogue has some sort of result, you would again end up with division. And yet all have to still live with those decisions. After dialogue maybe they will be more tolerant, or I different choices to those previously considered…but stilll

      • Hi Maha, yes- in this respect, decisions must be made, otherwise uncertainty and indecision will overwhelm us…
        I think Australia (where I am) and Ireland have similar systems, although in Australia we have compulsory voting that is legally enforced. There are so many different ways of doing it, one can perhaps hope that recent events might open up new pathways for change…?

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