Current methods of voting allow 51 percent of a population to tell the other 49 percent what they can and cannot do. (Through media ownership, control of voting laws, and financial backing of candidates, less than 50 percent of a population can control the population.) A government based on this traditional method of voting works fine if there are no strong cultural differences such as differences in race, religion, or language. And such a government can appear to work fine if all the minorities are small enough to be suppressed through laws and physical force. But internal conflicts arise if the majority oppresses a minority that is large enough to pose a physical threat to the majority. The result can be rebellion that can escalate into civil warfare.
Civil warfare can also erupt when none of the cultural groups constitutes a clear majority or when two groups are nearly equal in number. In this case attempts to vote on controversial issues either result in deadlocks or result in clearly unrepresentative results. As an example, if a Northern Ireland parliament were to vote on whether to allow or disallow divorce, the result would be unrepresentative regardless of the outcome. A decision to outlaw divorce would anger Protestants and a decision to allow divorce would anger Catholics.
Yet civil warfare - and the oppression that ignites it - can be avoided. Doing so requires methods of voting that produce compromises that accommodate the needs - but not necessarily the preferences - of the diverse cultures. Traditional methods of voting do not produce such results.
Improvements in voting would arise from using the voting method called VoteFair ranking. In this method, a voter indicates not only his/her first choice, but also indicates his/her second choice, third choice, and so on. (The last choice is the candidate left over.) Using a tallying process explained in The Creative Problem Solver's Toolbox (pages 222-227) an overall order of preference is determined. The candidate in first place wins the election. The results would be much fairer than current voting methods - which often fail to correctly identify the most popular candidate.
"Priority voting" could be used in legislatures (such as parliaments, congresses, etc.) to improve voting on issues. Each representative would indicate for each issue, out of a number of issues, whether he/she favors or opposes the suggested change, and would indicate how strongly he/she supports that position. A wisely designed tallying process can consolidate such votes into a single overall indication of which issues are resolved in which ways.
Using priority voting to vote on issues would produce outcomes that are more representative than what current voting methods now produce. Specifically, deadlocks are currently avoided by using awkward - and easily manipulated - techniques such as "trading of votes" and "log rolling."
Priority voting would involve several rounds of voting, allowing representatives to adjust their votes in an attempt to make the outcome more representative. Between rounds of voting some of the issues could be subdivided. As an example of subdividing an issue, again consider the divorce issue in Northern Ireland. Instead of only considering whether to allow or disallow divorce, the issue could be subdivided into separate issues such as prohibiting divorce in some situations (such as when the wife is pregnant or has very young children, or if the wedding ceremony was performed in a church that does not recognize divorce) and allowing divorce in other situations.
Initially, advanced methods of voting could resolve civil wars such as the conflict in Northern Ireland. Voting advances also can resolve the conflict between French-speaking Quebec and the rest of Canada, which speaks English. Within the United States advanced methods of voting could prevent violence in the state of California where the previously dominant race - white people - will soon become a minority.
Further advances in voting methods, beyond the ones described above, would increase the ability of the United Nations to promote peace. Although warfare between countries will not fully disappear within the next two centuries, continued voting innovations, if wisely implemented, can reduce warfare throughout the globe. Perhaps eventually, after historic angers have been forgotten, even the conflict between Arabs, Jews, and Christians over the tri-holy city of Jerusalem might be resolved using extremely fair methods of voting.
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