CES Updates

Our Crowdfunding Campaign for Smarter Polls Is Live

Our crowdfunding page for our polling project is now live!

The Overview

We’re doing a landmark polling study to learn what our elections would look like if voters had access to better voting methods. With your help, we’ll change how America looks at voting. Trump and Clinton might be the most unpopular presidential candidates in recent history. Even so, most voters will vote for one of them. But what if voters didn’t have to worry about dilemmas like a “wasted” vote? We want to put all that to the test. Help us get started.

What’s the project?

We’re conducting a nationally representative poll in collaboration with the polling arm of the University of Chicago, NORC. They’ve been doing polling for 75 years. This poll will include all the ballot-qualified US presidential candidates. Each poll respondent will answer according to a number of different voting methods.

Wait, what’s a voting method?

A voting method is the rule that says what kind of information you can put on your ballot and how that information is calculated to decide who wins. An example of what you’re used to seeing is a ballot that only allows you to choose one candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins. This is called plurality voting, also known as first past the post.

But there are lots of ways to do this. You can rank candidates and calculate the results in a number of different ways. You can score candidates on a scale. You can even choose as many candidates as you want. These are methods like approval voting, score voting, instant runoff voting, Condorcet, Borda, and others.

Okay, that was interesting, but why does the voting method matter?

The voting method makes a big difference in single-winner elections with more than two candidates. And even in  elections that initially have only two candidates, the voting method can influence whether other potential candidates decide to run. Under a voting method like plurality, otherwise interested candidates might stay away for fear of being labeled a spoiler.

Other areas affected by the voting method:

  • Who wins
  • Partisanship
  • Voter turnout
  • Whether you can safely vote your honest favorite
  • Treatment of third parties and alternative ideas
  • Ability to remove politicians who don’t serve your best interests

So the voting method matters. But why this project?

Did you know what a voting method was before visiting this campaign? It’s okay. Most people are right there with you—one reason why this project is so needed. This project creates an unprecedented poll that lets the public see alternative voting methods in action within the context of an election that they can relate to.

We’re bringing attention to the issue by gathering information that otherwise wouldn’t exist. There is no other point where you have a direct effect on those who represent us than when you vote. But your vote loses its real potential with the wrong voting method. Consider that the people we elect control how trillions of our tax dollars are spent, and they make the laws that govern you. The voting method turns out to be a big deal when you look at it that way.

Also, don’t forget that voting takes place in a number of other contexts as well. Consider voting for awards, board members, and other important collective decisions. We hope to inspire everyone to think about how they vote, even when it’s not within government.

You can visit our crowdfunding page to learn more and support the project. Don’t forget to share!