It’s the voting system, stupid

August 24, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

Scientists studying honeybees have learned a lot about how a swarm decides where to locate its hive.  The decision is critical, because a wrong decision can leave the hive exposed to deadly winter weather; therefore, bees need an effective voting system that reliably and efficiently yields their optimal hive location.  Fortunately for bees, millions of years of evolution have given them one.  In fact, their voting system is better than the voting system Americans use to elect their public officials.

It’s called range voting, and it’s very simple:  instead of choosing one candidate, voters give each candidate a numerical score (e.g., 0-9).  That’s it.  After everyone has voted, the candidate with the highest average score wins.

Turns out, this simple change makes a big difference.  In computer simulations, range voting greatly reduced many of the well-known problems with America’s two-party system.  Problems such as gerrymandering and the silencing of third-party views, for example. 

This website explains how range voting works and this website describes how bees do it.


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Category: American Culture, Politics, Statistics

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (2)

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  1. Ricky Koppel says:

    Everyone knows the voting system is flawed, but who ever suspected it would be surpassed by honeybees?

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    I especially like the use of range voting to give more than two candidates a shot at being elected. In other words, range voting will empower voices other than those of the two currently established parties. There is nothing in our federal Constitution specifying that there will be only two political parties (or that there will be any political parties at all, or that plum jobs in Congress will be handed out to those who belong to the majority political party). The current system has made us much more vulnerable to corporations controlling the choices we ultimately have in November.

    I would love to open up the current dysfunctional political dialogue. More than two parties in the run would enable this wider dialogue and range voting gives us a real possibility of more than two power-wielding parties.

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