Given the outcome of the 2016 nomination process, this perspective is in tatters. More than anything, media attention seemed to drive the results. The Democratic Party leadership actively colluded with the media to disparage Sanders. Quite the opposite in the Republican Party. The Party had no mechanism to counter Trump and his showmanship, even though many of his positions ran counter to many positions held by most Republicans. And other Parties were rarely covered by the media at all.
So, if not media attention, what are the values that should drive the design of the nominating process? Off the top of my head I would say -
- make the process more democratic and more inclusive
- find out exactly where candidates stand on the issues (and ditch all the negative campaigning)
- craft a ballot with candidates who each represent different points of view, and
- (based on my personal pet peeve) spend a month or less making the nomination decisions
Call me a spoon-fed learner, but it was fun to think about the first election in the Animal Kingdom, in which the race was between a turtle, a gorilla, a snake, a tiger, a monkey, an owl, and a leopard.
Here are the highlights of what I found in my somewhat random, cursory look at the voting system literature. In 1950, Kenneth Arrow won a Nobel Prize, when he showed that there was no perfect ranked-order voting system. That's because some important criteria for a fair voting system are mutually exclusive. Opponents of any particular system could always come up with a worst-case scenario that showed how unfair it was. Consequently, there's a lot of discussion about which criteria a given system does or doesn't fulfill, which are the most important, and which are the most likely to occur. Of note in the early discussions is that they generally dismissed non-ranked-order systems. And range voting does not ask voters to rank one candidate against another, so it is not a ranked-order system. More recently, computer scientists and game theorists jumped in with simulations. Range voting looks pretty good in many of these simulations. But there's not much real-world evidence as to how voters would actually behave in a range voting election. Nor could I find anybody working on range voting ballot initiatives.
Based on my preliminary investigation, both range voting and instant-runoff-voting look far more promising than top-two-open-primaries. But note that all of these voting systems result in the selection of a single candidate. In other parts of the world, voters don't directly elect candidates. Rather they elect parties, and the parties select those who will fill elected government positions, e.g. members of the legislature. Electing candidates directly sounds far more democratic than electing parties who select the winners on my behalf. But having never paid any attention to these popular voting systems, I thought it only fair to see if electing parties might result in more representative outcomes. Out of curiosity, I checked in with CGP Grey and viewed his video about one such system called mixed-member-proportional (MMP) representation.