Defective voting method defeated Paccione

The Coloradoan 25 November 2006. By Jan Kok.

If we had used a better voting method in the Nov 7 election, Angie Paccione would likely have been the winner. According to the Nov 9 Coloradoan article, "4th District bucks the trend," a tiny majority of voters (about 50.1%) preferred Angie Paccione over Marilyn Musgrave. But it was estimated that Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness took twice as many votes from Paccione as from Musgrave, resulting in Musgrave winning with a plurality of the votes (Musgrave 46.1%, Paccione 42.6%, Eidsness 11.3%). The same thing happened in the 2000 Florida presidential election, where Ralph Nader took enough votes away from Al Gore to cause George W. Bush to win (Bush 48.85%; Gore 48.84%; Nader 1.63%; others 0.68%).

Better voting methods, which allow voters to express their opinions about "all" of the candidates, could have made a more logical choice of winner.

For example, a simple solution would be to stop discarding ballots where voters have marked more than one candidate. Just count all the votes. This, all by itself, would implement a system called Approval Voting, which is widely considered by experts as a great improvement over what we have.

This would have allowed Eidsness voters to also vote for their preference between Musgrave and Paccione. They would have shown their support for Eidsness, without thereby giving up their right to influence the actual outcome of the election.

There are also further possible voting method improvements, including Range Voting, where voters rate candidates on a scale of 0 to 10. The candidate with the highest average score wins.

Better voting methods give a more accurate indication of the relative popularity of the candidates. Musgrave and Paccione were more nearly equal than it appeared from the actual election results.

Better voting methods also reduce the fear of voting for alternative party candidates. In the Nov 7 election, it is likely that many people who preferred Eidsness voted instead for Musgrave or Paccione so they would not "waste their vote" and cause their "least" favorite candidate to win. With better methods such as Approval or Range Voting, voters need not fear voting for (or giving a high rating to) their favorite candidate.

Exit polls conducted with Approval and Range Voting show that alternative party candidates get much better vote results than they get under our existing system. Thus, these voting methods would encourage more third-party and independent candidates to compete for office. That would benefit our society by 1. giving us more choices (greater chance of having a candidate we actually like on the ballot), and 2. bringing more, fresh and sometimes innovative ideas and viewpoints to the public's attention via debates and other campaign publicity.

Better voting methods can choose more widely acceptable winners than the existing system, encourage more alternative party and independent candidates to run for office, allow voters to express their opinions about more than one candidate – if they wish – and encourage voters to "do their homework" and become more informed before going to the polls. I encourage my fellow citizens to learn about and support the adoption of better voting methods.

Jan Kok (of Fort Collins) is the co-founder of


Steve Sycks: When one of my children was young, we were playing cards and she wanted to change the rules. I asked her why. She said, "because I can't win with these rules." It's time to grow up! I don't think we need a kook to change the rules.

Overthehill: WWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Right or wrong, good or bad. Paccione LOST. GET OVER IT. BTW, would you be for your "system" if Paccione would have been the one on top??

hkydef: Yes, Angie lost. Yes, Marilyn won. Yes, Eric had a definitive impact on the electoral process. I am not whining. If one reads the article/opinion more closely instead of reacting to the headline, I believe Jan is trying to open a discussion about alternatives to our current process whether you agree with him or Paccione or not... Nothing wrong with [such] discussion... I think having alternative or 3rd party voices is important.

Reply to Steve & Overthehill: Game rules are changed all the time to make the games more fair and interesting to watch. For example, football and hockey rules are sometimes changed to make player skill more important than physical size.

Imagine a race in which the first and second place winners of a previous race were given a 10-yard head start in the next race. That would pretty much guarantee the same players would win over and over, right? Would that be fair? Our current voting system gives a huge advantage to the major parties. Those voters who liked Eidness best but preferred Paccione over Musgrave would have felt pressured to strategically vote for Paccione to try to keep Musgrave from winning, rather than voting for who they really wanted. Thus, there is a huge handicap for third party candidates. That is immensely unfair for third parties and for the voters who want to vote for them.

Republicans can be hurt (Gored?) by the third-party "spoiler" problem just as easily as Democrats. In the Nov 7 Montana US Senate race, Jon Tester (D) got 49.1%, Conrad Burns (R) got 48.4%, and Stan Jones got 2.6%. Jones, a former Republican who ran as a Libertarian, presumably pulled more votes from Burns than from Tester, sufficient to cause Burns to lose. If that is true, our voting system once again failed to elect the most-preferred candidate.

I am calling for adoption of better voting rules which allow voters to vote freely for their favorite candidate without worrying about "spoiler" effects, and that make better choices of winners when there are three or more candidates.

P.S. Take the 2008 presidential poll at to get a feel for how one of those better systems works. Note that in that poll there is no reason NOT to give the top score to your favorite candidate.

P.P.S. Thanks to "hkydef" who understood the point of my article.

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