A new voting method was proposed in Colorado: quadratic voting. This was the result of some concept work by Microsoft Research economist Glen Weyl. The rules are simple. The number of votes is multiplied by itself. Think of it as X squared.
1 vote? $1.00.
2 votes? $4.00
5 votes? $25.00.
“Fundamentally, quadratic voting addresses the problem of the tyranny of the majority, a standard criticism of democracy,” Weyl says. “Standard rules are based on the notion that everybody is exactly the same and cares the same amount. If you doubt that’s a problem, think about the plight of African Americans in the United States, or the drug war, which dramatically affects certain groups of people.” But with quadratic voting, you can vote harder on what’s closer to home. And when the vote is over, all the money in the pot gets distributed to each voter equally, which is supposed to sort of re-grade the playing field for next time.
Like a lot of other similarly intricate ideas, quadratic voting sets out to solve a fundamental problem in the field of “social choice,” which is to say, how groups of people choose what they want. It may seem like the purest solution is one-person-one-vote, sometimes delightfully abbreviated as “1p1v.” But it doesn’t work as well as it should. Like, a “plurality election” is where the candidate with the most votes wins, but when you have multiple candidates, it’s possible for someone to get a small number of votes but still win if his or her total was higher than the next candidate down. (That happens in a crowded presidential primary.) The American Electoral College system allocates points on a state-by-state, winner take all basis, which means someone can lose the 1p1v “popular” vote by quite a lot and still win. (Hello, Mr. President.) And in the US, slightly more than half of voters, or half of congress, can enforce their will over the other less-than-half—even if the numbers are really close or the will is really disproportionate.
What could be the reason for this kind of voting system to be proposed? Find out on Wired.