TL;DR: Here are some entertaining, easy-to-understand videos explaining the fundamental flaws and relative merits of different voting systems.
Update: See also this video on the best voting system for simple things like “What restaurant should we go to?”
Of all the things we have to deal with in our daily lives, politics is (often, by design) probably one of the most frustrating, misunderstood aspects of modern daily life. Campaigns are annoying and time-consuming, politicians are infamously bad at keeping promises, and the one thing everyone can seem to agree on is that nobody is satisfied.
What most people don’t understand is that, in many countries, this isn’t our fault as citizens. Voting systems like First Past The Post (A.K.A. Winner Takes All, as used in countries like Canada), Electoral College (as used in the United States), and Alternative Vote (as used in countries like Australia) have deep, proven flaws which are only made worse by common solutions.
The sad thing is that most people don’t even know this, or just dismiss it as “politics” when, if offered, it actually falls under a different branch of the public education curriculum. As someone who grew up in Ontario, Canada, my high school required me to spend half a semester on this sort of thing in a course simply called “Civics“. However, in retrospect, it didn’t really sink in very well, despite my finding the topic somewhat fascinating.
I suppose my point here is that, if we’re ever to enact meaningful, long-lasting political change, we need to do a better job of educating ourselves and others about the less obvious flaws that in our political systems. Otherwise, when we ask for change, we’ll just end up asking for band-aid solutions that can be easily eroded away later.
For that reason, I strongly recommend checking out these great videos by C.G.P. Grey: (For any given video, the videos below it on the list will also be relevant concerns)
- How Ties Are Broken in the U.S. Electoral College System
- How the Electoral College Works (Including the now obsolete reason it exists)
- The Trouble with the Electoral College
- The Problems with First Past the Post Voting Explained
- The Alternative Vote Explained
- Gerrymandering Explained (Extras: Multiple Party Gerrymandering, The Shortest-Splitline Algorithm)
- Mixed-Member Proportional Representation Explained
- Single Transferable Vote
Don’t forget to check out his other stuff too. He’s got some great stuff on things like what continents are, the origins and effects of Daylight Savings Time, and the story of how Scotland joined Great Britain.
UPDATE: Canadians will also want to watch Rick Mercer’s Canada Explained for an explanation of what votes of no confidence are and how they fit into things. (Proroguing is a feature of the Canadian parliament which, when used properly, lets members of parliament agree that there’s nothing left to do and go on vacation early.)
UPDATE: And now U.S. Primary Elections explained.
UPDATE: Single Transferable Vote is now finally in the list above, completing the set of big-name voting systems.