Everything that Can Be Counted Does Not Necessarily Count: The Right to Vote and the Choice of a Voting System

39 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2006

Date Written: February 19, 2006

Abstract

This article investigates how the choice of a voting system impacts the right to vote. It presents the first comprehensive summary of the usage of alternative voting systems in the United States and also the first comprehensive summary of the caselaw on voting systems. Two aspects of the right to vote are considered: the right to an equally effective vote and the right to a reliable electoral outcome. The right to an equally effective of vote is considered as a generalization and unification of disparate but related rights. The only voting system that clearly violates this right is at-large voting. Commentators have previously criticized the discriminatory effects of at-large voting, but not in the last twenty years. This article takes a fresh look at the legal viability of at-large voting in light of the Supreme Court's more recent jurisprudence. The right to a reliable electoral outcome is a heretofore undefined but eminently reasonable right. If nothing else, the outcome of an election must be meaningful in some sense. From a survey of the Supreme Court's election law jurisprudence, notably the Anderson balancing test, a middle-level review or reasonableness test is proposed to regulate the right to a reliable outcome. This article then applies this right to several voting systems, shows when they would violate this right, and suggests possible remedies.

Keywords: voting systems, at-large voting, voting rights, right to vote

JEL Classification: D70, K00

Suggested Citation

O'Neill, Jeffrey C., Everything that Can Be Counted Does Not Necessarily Count: The Right to Vote and the Choice of a Voting System (February 19, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=883058 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.883058

Jeffrey C. O'Neill (Contact Author)

OpenSTV ( email )

59A Magnolia St
Boston, 02474
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.openstv.org

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