SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election Forum

October 16, 2012

Column: How every vote matters

In 2000, the world held its breath while Florida laboriously judged voter intent for thousands of presidential ballots with “hanging chads.” The U.S. Supreme Court eventually stepped in, and George W. Bush eked out the narrowest of victories over Al Gore — less than 1 percent of 1 percent.

Ignoring the controversy, the basic story was about who got more votes. True, there were — and continue to be — calls for removing the Electoral College, since Gore received more votes than Bush in the country as a whole, but the news then was mainly about Bush vs. Gore.

There is another story, though. If even a few of the voters for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had chosen Gore, he would have easily won. In fact, voters for at least four third-party candidates in Florida could have turned the election by a vote for Gore or Bush.

But in any election, like the upcoming one next month, the rules are clear: You only get one vote, and whoever gets the most wins, right? Not really. There is actually a wide range of ways your vote could be counted, a mathematics of voting, if you will, that goes far beyond the usual “plurality vote.”

Consider, first, that to decide who even gets to run for president, there is an entire first round of primaries. (Vote No. 1.) Similarly, many countries would have a runoff in an election where neither candidate got a strict majority of votes, like in 2000.

Next, various professional societies allow members to vote for as many candidates for leadership as they deem qualified, all votes counting the same. (Vote No. 2.) This is called “approval voting.”

Another possible rule is the so-called “Instant Runoff” vote, where if your candidate is a clear loser, your second (or third or fourth ...) choice is used to help decide the runoff. (Vote No. 3.) Burlington, Vt., for example, used this method‚ and then repealed its use.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Election Forum

Local News
  • Possible sites for garage revealed SALEM -- Salem State officials have announced three possible locations for the school's proposed 800-space parking garage and say a final decision on the site could be made within weeks. Parking has long been an issue for the school, and the demand f

    April 16, 2014

  • Serial drunken driver found guilty PEABODY -- A serial drunken driver, who was charged with yet another OUI, was found guilty by a jury Monday afternoon in Lawrence Superior Court. Prosecutors now need to prove it was the man's fifth drunken-driving offense. Peter Hurley, 52, was arre

    April 16, 2014

  • casa de moda Beverly's Casa de Moda to close BEVERLY -- Casa de Moda, the unique specialty store that has dressed up an often struggling downtown for more than four decades, is closing. Janice Preston, who has owned and operated the store with her husband, Don, since 1969, said yesterday that t

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • North Shore residents to run in 2014 Boston Marathon

    The Salem News asked those on the North Shore who are running this year's Boston Marathon to share their reasons for running. 

    If you're running the marathon this year, it's not too late to share why you're running. Send a brief paragraph, a photo of yourself and a link to your fundraising site (if applicable) to Cheryl Lecesse at clecesse@salemnews.com.

    April 4, 2014

  • superfund Superfund work about to begin

    Testing to get underway at former Danvers tannery site Superfund work about to begin

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo