The headline on Forbes.com reads: “The ‘Low-Information Voter’ Knows Very Little About Why Government Is Shutting Down.” And it contains this paragraph, penned by contributor Ilya Somin:
“[B]asic information about most political issues is readily available in the media and online… The problem is that most people don’t take the time and effort to do so. That is not because they are stupid, but because there is so little incentive to acquire political information. The probability that one vote will actually make a difference to the outcome of an election is infinitesimally small…. [P]eople …tend to be “rationally ignorant.” They understandably spend their time on other things…. Unbiased, objective evaluation… requires time and effort.”
Somin’s prescription for solving this problem is reducing the size of government. But I think he is misdiagnosing the problem. (Government may indeed be too complex, but that’s not what’s causing this issue.) The problem is that our votes lack power.
Most votes cast – as in, over 50% – are “wasted.” They are cast either for a candidate who loses, or for a winner who already has enough votes to be elected.
If we could eliminate vote wastage and make sure every vote had real consequence, most people would take the time to become sufficiently informed to make informed decisions.
Election reform may not make the headlines, but it is vital to the long-term health of our democracy. That’s why I’m fighting to bring the Single Transferable Vote [STV] to Texas.
STV has two elements. The first is a voting system where voters rank candidates in order of preference – 1, 2, 3. The second is “superdistricts” – larger districts that elect more than one representative each election.
The genius of STV is that if your first-choice candidate has “already won” or “cannot win,” your vote is transferred automatically to your next choice to fill the next available seat in your district. Every vote has an impact on the election results.
And with elected officials knowing that voters are both informed and powerful, they will be more attentive to the will of the voters, and we’ll have less of the silliness we see now in Washington.