Donald Saari and Voting Theory

November 5th, 2002 4:39 PM

Science News is has a nice article, “Election Selection,” in which various voting methods are discussed. Donald Saari, a mathematician at UCI is quoted several times insisting that the plurality system (which is being used all over the country today, voting day) is probably the worst choice for a voting system. However, he goes on to clarify that all voting systems have their own problems:

“In some elections, in fact, any one of the candidates can be the winner, depending on what voting system is being used. Saari has calculated that in three-candidate elections, depending on the voting system, more than two-thirds of all possible configurations of voters’ preferences will yield different outcomes.”

Among the alternatives to a plurality system are the Borda count, Runoff voting, and Approval voting.

Incidentally, I’ll be attending Wheaton’s Norman W. Johnson Lecture given by Saari entitled “Elections and Selections: We Need Not Get What We Want” on thursday night, followed by a (much smaller) reception and dinner. Tony is coming down to attend the lecture, and he’ll be going to dinner as my guest, which will make it easy to elbow him for clarification (if it comes to that).