New Voting Systems

Voting (and other forms of social decision making) are fundamental to our society. Today’s voting machines and technologies are antiquated, inefficient, and insecure. Here’s an excellent 8 minute description by Ron Rivest of how homomorphic encryption could help implement a better system:

Several groups are working to implement this kind of cryptographically secure voting on the blockchain:

In addition to better implementation technology, there are also a number of voting systems which are far superior to the one used in the US. Here’s a nice video describing the problems with “First Past the Post Voting”:

I’ve supported the “Center for Election Science” for years which is trying to institute Approval Voting (originally range voting). This is a simple modification to the current US system with much better properties:
More radical ideas are being explored in “Liquid Democracy” which allows voters to delegate their votes:
A somewhat more complex voting system “Quadratic Voting” is being hailed as one of the most significant advances in recent years. Here’s the paper:

Eric Posner says (

Glen Weyl has uploaded a new version of his paper, QuadraticVoting (written with Steven Lalley), to SSRN, which now includes the completed proofs. Quadratic voting is the most important idea for law and public policy that has emerged from economics in (at least) the last ten years.

Quadratic voting is a procedure that a group of people can use to jointly choose a collective good for themselves. Each person can buy votes for or against a proposal by paying into a fund the square of the number of votes that he or she buys. The money is then returned to voters on a per capita basis. Weyl and Lalley prove that the collective decision rapidly approximates efficiency as the number of voters increases. By contrast, no extant votingprocedure is efficient. Majority rule based on one-person-one-votenotoriously results in tyranny of the majority–a large number of people who care only a little about an outcome prevail over a minority that cares passionately, resulting in a reduction of aggregate welfare.

The applications to law and public policy are too numerous to count. In many areas of the law, we rely on highly imperfect votingsystems (corporate governancebankruptcy) that are inferior to quadratic voting. In other areas of the law, we require judges or bureaucrats to make valuations while knowing they are not in any position to do so (environmental regulation, eminent domain). Quadratic voting can be used to supply better valuations that aggregate private information of dispersed multitudes. But the most important setting is democracy itself. An incredibly complicated system of institutional self-checking (separation of powers, federalism) and judicially enforced constitutional rights try to correct for the defects of one-person-one-vote, but do so very badly. Can quadratic voting do better? Glen and I argue that it can.

And here are Tyler Cowen’s thoughts on it:
Interestingly, it’s been discovered that bees have been using this mechanism for millions of years to choose their next hive location! The energy bees spend on dances grows quadratically in proportion to the attractiveness of the site they saw.

Humans are doing democracy wrong. Bees are doing it right

There is a system that accounts for intensity of passion as well as idle opinion – hives have used it successfully for millions of years

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