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A question about voting systems—unrelated to U.S. elections!

Jan Vecer writes about a new voting system that is now being considered in the Czech Republic which faces a political crisis where some elected officials became corrupted:

I came across a new suggestion about a voting system. The proposal is that in each electoral district the voter chooses 2 candidates (plus vote), but also chooses one candidate with a minus vote. Two top candidates with the highest vote count (= number of plus votes – number of minus votes) are elected to a parliament. There are 81 districts in total, the parliament would have 162 members if the proposal goes through. The intention of the negative vote is to eliminate controversial candidates.

Are there any clear advantages over the classical “select one candidate” system? Or disadvantages?

Any thoughts on this? I am not an expert on this topic but maybe some of you are.


  1. Anonymous says:

    So, 2 candidates that don’t like a third one can eliminate him. Or, even worse. 2 candidates at 30% and one at 40% – the one at 40% will end up loosing, because the other 2 should team up against the third one.

    It certainly will eliminate unwanted candidates, and potentially leading candidates.

  2. khms says:

    Sounds like someone who did no research tried to recreate something like the Condorcet system. The latter would actually have been a good idea.

  3. David Blake says:

    This will produce non-controversial mush candidates of the centre. Much better to have the present system.

  4. derek says:

    It sounds a bit arbitrary. Why two and one, and not one and one, or two and two, or three and one, etc.?

    Approval voting has a similar effect, in that you are invited to vote plus one on every candidate you want, and if you omit a candidate, that’s a bit like voting negatively against that candidate. The only pointless choices are voting for every candidate on the list, and voting for no candidate on the list: in either case you’ve provided no signal to distinguish a preference between any candidates. But approval voting does not suffer from the “why that many?” question raised by the system described above, because it’s got no arbitrary limit. It’s any or all candidates that you can give your vote to.

    As with many of these sensible schemes, approval voting suffers from the false impression that some voters are getting away with casting “more” votes than other voters.

  5. OneEyedMan says:

    I don’t understand why this would be expected to create centrist candidates. Imagine Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, and Greens. If the Democrats and the Republicans are equal and both strategically target each other (or genuinely prefer the more extreme parties to the opposing center parties) and support the L’s and G’s respectively then either the L’s or G’s would win.

  6. Gary says:

    This seems like an awkward attempt to insert a preferential voting idea into a first-past-the-post scheme. Preferential voting systems can be subject to strange results due to strategic voting: the actual voter preference might not be the strategically best vote for them to make, especially in closely competitive races where voting against your actual second preference helps your first preference (and en masse, may elect your third preference).

    I’m not an expert but I suspect that systems that are designed to eliminate plurality-popular candidates that have majority “anti-support” are more likely to cause problems in other cases (e.g., when there are two closely competing mainstream parties and a third fringe party).

    Instant-runoff would seem to address the specific problem here – voters rank their preferences. If no one gets a majority of top choices, eliminate the lowest-vote candidate and transfer the votes for that candidate to those voters’ second choice. Repeat until someone gets a majority. This reduces the strategic voting incentive somewhat.

  7. David says:

    It sounds awful… What is the voter going to do when they walk into the booth and see the following ballot:

    CenterLeft, CenterRight, Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Nazi

    Gee… I’m really centrist left leaning to the Greens, so my up votes are easy, but my down vote. Do I use that against the Libertarians because I don’t like their economic policies, or do I use it against the Nazis cause they are Nazis!!??? Am I throwing my down vote away to vote against an extremist party that has no chance? But if I don’t vote against the Nazis is there some way they might win?

    And if the Nazi’s get lots of downvotes thats easily solved. They just have to duplicate their party to dilute the votes against them… introducing the BurningJews and the ShootingJews party… Or they try to come up with something more extreme that everyone would agree to vote against and put up lots of straw-man parties to legalize or encourage anti-social behaviors…

    Not sure I want to see the Ballot for this:

    CenterLeft, CenterRight, Green, Libertarian, Socialist, BurningTheJews, ShootingTheJews, Communist, Pot, Heroin, AssaultWeapons, Prostitution, UnderageProstitution, MaritalRape, SpousalAbuse, Rape, ChildAbuse, ChildRape, …

    Without knowing ahead of time how much support the Legalize Child Rape party is going to get its really hard for me to say whether or not I should vote against it.

  8. E says:

    I agree with most of the commenters.
    It seems to me that the only reasonable way to avoid corruption in the politics is through freedom of press and quality of mass media. They should be worrying about this more.

  9. soChubb says:

    I would love to have a disapproval system with only negative votes.

  10. EcoDude says:

    Sounds like a Borda County System. Don Saari has some nice, readable papers on this system:

  11. C says:

    There is an open list system in which, instead of selecting your preferred candidate, you strikethrough the ones you do not want. This actually can create pervasive incentives: if main parties ask voters to strikethrough the other parties’ top candidates, then you end up electing those that belong to smaller parties (because of the “cross-fire” between main parties/top candidates). As far as I remember, in the 70s Norway had this type of system and women just strikethrough all the male candidates (as a woman, I kind of like the idea, but still, not a good idea as electoral systems go).

  12. Dave Backus @ NYU says:

    My colleague Lizzeri recommends Wikipedia:

  13. Bruce says:

    I suspect cartels could play the system by supporting two candidates, one an extremist intended to draw negative votes away from their actual preferred candidate.

    As a voter, I would be unsure whether to place my negative vote against a disliked moderate who stands a chance of winning, or an abhorrent extremist. I have no such dilemmas with a preferential system.