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In most modern democracies you get one vote to pick the person you want to win the election.
What if you got to upvote one candidate and downvote another?

The weight of a downvote would be less than an upvote. Let us say 2 down votes have the same weight as 1 upvote.

Parties would tend to run multiple candidates, since it lets you spread out the other side's down votes. Voters would tend to get more choice, "I want candidate A to win" but if not him "please not candidate D".

Since voters could chose to partially abstain by using just the up or down vote; we could then tell if a candidate won because he was more widely liked or because his opponent was more widely hated.

How would this change political campaigns?

Would it reduce the number of fringe candidates?

Would this change how candidates act once in office?

Is there a better ratio of downvotes to upvotes?

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  • $\begingroup$ hmm...I smell inspiration from SE elections... $\endgroup$ – fi12 Mar 2 '16 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ Would it? I vote No. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 3 '16 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how any of your results follow. Running multiple candidates splits your valuable upvotes just as much as the other side's downvotes. And the supposition that the other side would have no idea who to downvote is weak. The result would be just as it is now, as each side would upvote their side and downvote the other guy. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Mar 3 '16 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat The assumption is you could find a candidate that is far out to the extreme of your party(far from center), far enough he will take few or your parties votes, but he will look so extreme that he will attract down votes from all parties. The question for the opposing party is down vote the really bad candidate who probably won't get elected or the bad candidate who is a bit more likely to get elected. They need to educate their votes on both who to vote up and who to vote down. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ @zog I'm not sure what country your talking about but most politicians have an approval rating above 50%. By this system if all their approvers voted for them and their disapprovers voted against them they would still have (number of voters /4) votes since two negative votes are needed to cancel 1 positive. Please read the premise. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 21:25
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I've seen systems like this a few times. One was based in Scotland, it was a list of candidates with STV and an option to vote for and against. A candidate would need to have a positive on the for/against to get through to the STV round to actually be elected.

It's also normal on company AGMs to vote for/against election of directors, though they normally elect all candidates.


This is all assuming that there's a list of candidates and you get to vote for or against each of them.

The system is vulnerable to tactical voting. If you say they need a positive score, that means they have to get over 50% of the vote in a tactical situation (vote against everyone but the candidate you want to win). If you say they need only to have the highest net score, you could well end up electing people who have an overall negative vote, the least hated candidate.

In a two horse race, such as the US presidential election, it makes no difference. A vote for one candidate on a single-x two candidate election is equivalent to a vote against the other. Though you could require a re-run if neither candidate had a positive tally which is entirely possible.

It only starts to count when you have more horses in the race, but entering an extra candidate for your party risks splitting the vote and you always lose, better to keep investing everything in only one candidate. However it does mean that the field could open up to more parties rather than more candidates from the main parties. Someone with very few votes for, but even fewer against could walk away with the win.


Now assuming a system where you only get one vote, but it could be for or against any one candidate

There's a list of candidates, is it more important that you vote for your candidate or against the one you really don't want to get in? Is hate or desire the stronger emotion. That's going to be about how each candidate runs their campaign, if one rants against another, they may find that rather than voting for him, they're voting against the other, leaving them both losing out to a third candidate. It would lead to a greater tendency towards positive campaigning rather than attacking opponents as you need to encourage people to make the for vote.


The general theme of this is that the opportunity to downvote only makes a difference in a larger field of candidates.


The biggest difference to the outcomes of elections come from:

  • Greater turnout of voters
  • Changing to a system that opens the game to more players such as PR or STV

A few definitions for those who don't have to deal with this stuff all day every day.

Single-X: You mark an X/tick in the box of the candidate you choose, One person, one vote, for one candidate.
STV: Single Transferable Vote, known in the US as IRV, Instant Runoff Vote, you list your candidates in order of preference, if your favourite candidate is knocked out due to having the lowest number of votes, your vote is transferred to your next preference.
PR: Proportional Representation, used for large numbers of elected persons over considerable areas, selected from party lists, you vote for a party rather than a candidate and the number of delegates elected from each party is taken from the proportion of votes that party gets, normally requires a minimum of 5% or similar of the total vote for the first candidate from that party though the required proportion for further candidates may be lower than that.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is bit different each person gets two votes one up one down and each vote can be given to one candidate. Not up or down for each candidate. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ IRV and STV are not the same thing. STV is used when multiple candidates can win. IRV is used when only one candidate can win. They are similar though. IRV is essentially the single seat version of STV. Also, STV allows proportional representation while still allowing voters to vote for individual candidates. What you call proportional representation is more precisely called party-list proportional representation. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Mar 4 '16 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan, I'm guilty of oversimplifying but I'm avoiding the fine details of transferable vote systems as they're ultimately endless. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 4 '16 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear, Imagine an election with three candidates; two that people are sure could win and a total unknown. Everyone votes for their preferred candidate and against the other major candidate. The man with a rat on his head and a beard like a gorse bush wins with 10 votes because the others all cancelled each other out and nobody thought he was worth voting against. It's much better with for/against voting to allow votes against all candidates or you could end up with a big mess. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 4 '16 at 8:06
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Note: I'm using the term "votocracy" as coined by Tres-2b in his answer.

How would this change political campaigns? We'd see some pretty massive changes in the way we select candidates. Currently, candidates running for public office try to appear desirable to their supporters, and tend to just ignore their opposing voters. In this votocracy, we'd see a lot more campaigning to the opposing side, trying to get them to convert to this candidate's views. For example, 100 people upvote Candidate A, but another 100 people downvote him/her. All of the work that Candidate A has put in to gaining 100 supporters has just been lost because 100 opposers.

Would it reduce the number of fringe candidates? I honestly don't see any major correlation to the number of fringe candidates to this votocracy. Fringe candidates who don't have much public support will receive downvotes and thus have a very slim chance of securing office or a nomination, similar to our democracy today: fringe candidates don't stand a chance, so they simply just receive a few votes.

Would this change how candidates act once in office? For the most part, no. Really this votocracy only changes the way we vote. The public office is still the public office, and its duties and responsibilities are modified by this votocracy. Because of that, officeholders are fairly unlikely to change how they act once elected.

Is there a better ratio of downvotes to upvotes? 1:3 maybe? To me, 1:2 seems like the perfect ratio, but you could 1:3 if you wanted to place more emphasis on supporting a candidate rather than opposing him/her. The one thing I can say though is the fact that you made a great choice in not making the ratio 1:1, in that this could simply bring "hate voters" to the polls.

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  • $\begingroup$ All Hail Votocracy! $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Jun 22 '16 at 4:15
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As Fi12 pointed out, this would most likely work very similar to the Stack exchange, candidates that want to lower taxes would get upvotes from the poor but downvotes from the rich. I imagine that this votocracy (as it will be referred to here and below), would be much more fair than a democracy but the real problem would be getting it started. The people in power would not like this system I imagine.


How would this change political campaigns?; I agree with you that a party would likely have more candidates in order to get better results. The campaign strategy itself would be more focused on hidden smear campaigns. Have your candidates play nice and try and hide their past, while paying companies to find out dirty details on your opponents. KEYWORD; COMPANIES If the candidates themselves smear another candidate they will seem like a bad guy. Canadians might remember the Conservative Smear Attacks against Justin Trudeau, they said he was way to young and inexperienced to lead a country, despite this he won and it did indeed make the Conservatives look like bad guys. As sdrawkcabdear pointed out, Parties would likely hire a candidate with the pure goal of being an a#####e who everyone hates, think a guy who wants to raise taxes by 20%.

Would this changes how candidates act once in office?; They would still likely work to achieve the majority groups wishes, unlike candidates in our world they would have to hide any shady pasts in a much harder way, no longer is it "I hope that a good number of people don't care about my past" because people who do care can vote against you. They would only do this if they desired to receive a second term, if not they would act the same way.

Is there a better ratio of downvotes to upvotes?; I agree with you here as well, 1:2 for upvote and downvote seems good enough. Sorry for the short answer, I have to go places.

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    $\begingroup$ Its a start, but wouldn't major parties bring a nutjob candidate so that he would take all the negative votes from the other side so their real candidate would go through. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear "nutjob candidate", you meant Trump, right? $\endgroup$ – fi12 Mar 3 '16 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @fi12 Since stack exchange tries to solve general problems this question is not specific to any particular country/ party / candidate ... but it does draw inspiration from certain a certain candidate in current US politics who seems to have more downvotes then the rest combined but a large number of upvotes. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ @fi12 Unfortunately, not enough people are smart enough to take a look at trump and realize he is a "nutjob" and see that he has no idea how to run a country, and is only looking out for himself. And realize he gives public speeches like Adolf Hitler. Shout shout shout! Make our nation great! Do awesome things! More shouting! $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 3 '16 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, its still a democracy. Democracy just means the leader is determined by the people. Many other countries aren't "whoever has the most votes win" (since they take into account relative preferences) but are still democratic, i.e. completed determined by the votes of the people. (Most votes wins is caused plurality voting.) $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Mar 3 '16 at 10:59
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How would this change political campaigns?

More emphasis on discrediting opponents.

Would it reduce the number of fringe candidates?

No, but they would have many negative votes.

Would this change how candidates act once in office?

Yes, populism would be a good strategy to get upvotes later.

Is there a better ratio of downvotes to upvotes?

IMO, 1:2 or 2:3 or even 1:1 are good enough, but there are some caveats:

  • Polarization. Candidates which are massively up- and down- voted are trouble once elected: too much opposition for them.

  • Irrelevance. A candidate with 10:1 up:down votes is very appreciated by the public - until one knows that the candidate has just, say, only 1.5% of the upvotes.

  • Election criteria. up:down vote ratio? Total upvotes? Upvotes minus downvotes? A combination of them? Maybe a norm, like in linear algebra, where the dimensions are upvotes/downvotes? Choices, choices...

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Your voting system is a restricted form of Range voting. Since upvotes are greater than downvotes, it would be pretty close to America's current system of Plurality voting (one of the worst systems by far). It also has elements of Anti-plurality voting, which, although probably as bad as plurality voting, would be more amusing.

If you allowed as many upvotes and downvotes as you like, you would have full Range voting, with a range of three values (-1, 0, and 1), which is pretty close to Approval voting.

All in all, it would be slightly better than the US's current system, but probably not by much. It would still probably be dominated by two parties. Take a look at some better systems here.

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    $\begingroup$ Py your answer is very much opinion based and doesn't answer the questions being asked. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 3 '16 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez You conclusions may well be right but why are they right? Can you provide some arguments for them or some detail? Why are these systems good or bad? What are the key distinctions between them? $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 3 '16 at 18:06

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