Woods: Change our flawed voting system

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There are many things wrong with our two-party system, and it all stems from a warning our forefathers gave us about the dangers our country would befall if we were to take on that type of government.

Zoë Woods

‘Tis the season for politics, a time where negative ads and campaign rallies dominate the spectrum, at least until November. So why all of the chaos? To win your vote, that’s why. Each candidate spends months of schmoozing trying to win over your decision to put them in office.

Votes are the only thing keeping that candidate from either winning the seat or going back to his or her day job. The importance of votes more than likely outweighs the actual ideals that the politician stands for.

That may sound harsh and unfair, but it pairs well with our voting system. An unfair strategy that has forced our country into a two-party system.

There are many things wrong with our two-party system and it all stems from a warning our forefathers gave us about the dangers our country would befall if we were to take on that type of government.

John Adams and George Washington both warned our government about what a two-party system would do to our country, and it is sad to say that we have inevitably walked down that forbidden road.

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution,” John Adams said in a letter in 1789.

We were also given warning as a young country by the one and only, George Washington in his farewell speech in 1796.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

Currently, the two-party system has weakened our central government and has made it near impossible to get anything accomplished. Our government has shut down because of political gridlock, decisions can’t be made and there is constantly a tug of war between parties. Needless to say, our forefathers wouldn’t be proud of the situation our country has put itself in.

Now there really isn’t anyone to blame for how this came to be, like everything else, you just blame the system. And for once that is the correct assumption. Our voting system is flawed and needs to be recalibrated to better fit our society. It will make our country stronger and better in the long run it will also be more run by the people

Currently we run on a First Past The Post basis. Under FPTP “voting takes place in single-member constituencies. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favored candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. We believe FPTP is the very worst system for electing a representative government,” the Electoral Reform Society states in their website.

It’s hard to not agree once the facts are laid out and there is a viable reason to believe our current system is detrimental to our government and is only keeping us in a vicious cycle that is forever turning.

If you were to weigh the pros against the cons of FPTP the cons would embarrassingly outweigh the pros to this method.

Some of the reasons it doesn’t work and why it shouldn’t be implemented in our society is that representatives can get elected through a very small portion of public support. This is because it doesn’t matter by how much they win but only that they get more votes than the other candidates.

Another reason is that it severely restricts a voters choice. This is because parties represent many different viewpoints. There isn’t an option for a voter to oppose the preferred candidate on the ballot if the views of the voter and the candidate differ.

This system also wastes a large number of votes. Votes that are cast for the losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need to win that seat, count for nothing. It also eliminates any chance for a third party member to win an election because the third party will just split the votes with the candidate they are most alike, leaving the opposing side the victor.

Shouldn’t all votes matter? With the FPTP method, there isn’t a way to escape the two-party system, there is however an alternative voting system that would put the power more into the hands of the people.

So what is this alternative voting system? The Alternative Vote is a preferential system where the voter has the chance to rank the candidates in order of which the voter prefers.

“The voter puts a ‘1’ by their first choice a ‘2’ by their second choice, and so on, until they no longer wish to express any further preferences or run out of candidates. Candidates are elected outright if they gain more than half of the first preference votes. If not, the candidate who lost [the one with least first preferences] is eliminated and their votes are redistributed according to the second [or next available] preference marked on the ballot paper. This process continues until one candidate has half of the votes and is elected,” according the Electoral Reform Society website.

Through this system, a two-party system cannot exist because this method penalizes extremist parties who are unlikely to gain many second-preference votes. It also encourages candidates to chase second and third preferences, which lessens the need for negative campaigning and reward broad church policies, as stated by the Electoral Reform Society.

All in all, it would give more power to the people and it would subsequently eliminate the two-party system allowing voters to chose from a wide range of candidates with multiple ideals. The winner would cater to a majority of the public representing what the majority of the nation wants. Stuff might actually get done in Washington with the implementation of the alternative voting method.