There are variations of the Olympic algorithm that might make more sense for a political election. In the Olympics, tenth-point variations are allowed, whereas in an election an integer scale seems adequate. And a 0-5 scale rather than 0-10 might fit the ballot machinery more easily, and seems an acceptable simplification. Furthermore, there are other fairer algorithms if experts on electoral voting identify a significant problem with the Olympic scheme. The important thing is to select an algorithm that is simple, yet reduces irrationality and fratricide.
For an example, we will use a 0-10 integer scale Olympic system.
(large gap in desireability)
To be clear, for this #NeverTrump Republican, Clinton is preferable to both Cruz and Trump, while everyone including Sanders is preferable to Trump.
In the actual Arizona primary, this voter, after analyzing the state’s voting algorithm, voted for Cruz. This is odd because, in the general election, if Cruz ran against Clinton, the voter would choose Clinton. Why did he vote this way?
Here is the analysis: Only Kasich, of the three desireable candidates, remained in the race. It was not clear that Clinton would be the Democratic candidate. Arizona's primary uses a "winner take all" algorithm. Polls indicated that Kasich had no chance of winning the Arizona primary, but Cruz did. Kasich's only chance was to have the nominee selected at a brokered convention. This would require Trump to have less than an absolute majority of delegates. If Cruz won Arizona, it would improve the chance of a brokered convention, which would give Kasich his only remaining chance of winning.
So this voter correctly chose to vote for someone in the primary he would not vote for in the general election. This is an example of irrationality at its finest.
Now consider the situation given an Olympic voting algorithm. First consider this voter’s evaluation if he lived in an early-primary state with all the candidates active. It could look something like this:
10 – Kasich
9 – Rubio
8 – Bush
3 – Cruz
0 – Trump
The three similar candidates are no longer committing fratricide; all three of them are given higher values than Cruz or Trump. Because of the absence of fratricide, Rubio and Bush would not drop out early in the race: using a bit of induction/guesswork as to how voters in the earlier votes would have acted given Olympic voting, Kasich, Rubio, and Bush probably would have been the 3 top contenders, each individually capturing more delegates than either Cruz or Trump. In our example voter’s evaluation, Cruz is given enough points to choose him clearly over Trump if none of the three desirable candidates are able to compete successfully.
Now let’s suppose that the early primaries are still highly irrational, and our voter in Arizona faces the same difficult situation except Arizona has moved to Olympic voting. Arizona is still a winner take all state and only Cruz has a chance of defeating Trump. Even here his voting would be less irrational: he might give all the candidates except Trump a 10, and give Trump a 0. This voting strategy would fully reflect the “anybody but Trump” perspective of a #NeverTrump voter. It might also attract more mainstream voters into voting at all in the election: given a choice between Cruz and Trump, the mainstreamer is likely to stay home. But with Olympic voting he can still cast a strong affirmation of desirable candidates without “wasting” his vote.
In all the above cases there is no fratricide. The algorithm is "fairer": candidates are not penalized for holding views similar to other candidates who share those views with a majority of voters. The algorithm collects more information from the voters about their preferences, and uses that information to more accurately reflect the desires of the populace.
Divisive candidates would have their divisiveness reflected in a large number of zero valuations. Mainstream candidates would cluster but would not be penalized for holding values aligned with mainstream voters. Outlying candidates who are distinct but not divisive are not penalized, and may benefit: mainstream voters who like some of the outlier's ideas can give an affirmation to the candidate without sacrificing their one single vote. This enables the outlier to inform the party about important directions of evolution without having to achieve a dramatic revolution to get attention, allowing the party to evolve more smoothly to accept the changing values of future mainstream voters.
By doing a better job of selecting candidates in tune with larger swaths of the population, the algorithm assists the party in selecting candidates more effectively than the opposing party. The first party to embrace such a primary voting algorithm would hold an advantage over the opposition as long as the opposition continued to use less rational methods.
Though most voters are familiar with the Olympics and the Olympic voting system, it might take several election cycles for voters to change their voting strategies to embrace the opportunity afforded. It is easy to imagine some voters, the first time they experience this process, giving their favorite candidate a 10 and all others zero. But the Olympic algorithm is easy to understand. One would expect that over a series of election cycles, a majority of voters would learn how to use the system to better express their desires.
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