Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In Politics, Let No Mean No

The recent elections in Spain point once again to a flaw in the voting procedures of all supposedly democratic countries: they prevent citizens from expressing what they actually think in the voting booth.

Do you suppose there was a sudden outpouring of love for the Spanish right?  More likely, there was an outpouring of disgust for the Socialists and the economy-without-a-future over which they preside.  The ballot, however, did not offer the opportunity to vote against the party in power, only for the opposition.  Thus the conservative Popular Party will enter government with what it claims is the support of the majority, when the reality is that is probably has less support than it had at the time of the previous election—which it lost.

There is a simple solution: provide voters with the option of either voting for a candidate or party, if they want to express support, or against a different one if they want to express rejection.  The final tally would be the number of votes for minus those against.  In a two party/candidate race the final result would be the same.  In a multi-party race, voters would have to think strategically about whether their feelings are more concentrated for or against any particular alternative.  In either case, you would see clearly the extent to which democracy was working, in the sense of producing a government that citizens actually support.

My guess is that, given a negative option, the people of Spain would have delivered two verdicts, one against their current rulers and the other, only somewhat less intense, against their future ones.  They should have had that chance.


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