Jorge Zhang

Why we Should use a "Lottery Ball" System for all Elections

April 26th, 2022 by Jorge Zhang

All voting systems are flawed (if you are so inclined, look up "Arrow's Theorem" for a proof). Yes, even Ranked Choice voting. Since there is no "perfect" voting system, we should optimize for a system that makes every vote matter: whether you vote for Santa Claus or for one of the lead candidates. There is such a system, and I call it a "Lottery Ball" system.

What is a "Lottery Ball?"

Lottery Ball

How does the "Lottery Ball" system of voting work?

Every vote gets put on a ball and thrown into the Lottery Ball machine. One of the balls is chosen at random. That person wins the election. For large elections, such as the US presidential election, you'd probably need to do this digitally.

What the heck? Couldn't a Neo Nazi get elected this way? Why would this be at all good?

Yes in theory, no in practice. The more votes someone receives, the higher chance they have to be elected, so you will still see the most popular candidates winning most of the time. What does change is the voting strategy: no longer will voters have to rally behind a mediocre candidate. Think about how many people voted for Biden when they actually wanted to vote for Bernie- this is not an issue in the "Lottery Ball" system of elections. Contrast this with a plurality system. If you don't support any of the favorites to win, you can stay at home on Election Day and it doesn't even matter because your candidate will never win. Even if you do support one of the favorites, due to the way the Electoral College works your vote still does not matter unless you live in a swing state (and even then, the chances that you are the swing vote are basically zero). If you were really concerned about this you could throw out any candidates with under 1000 votes or something like that, but personally I think that goes against the spirit of the Lottery Ball.

But what if this results in a terrible candidate getting elected?

That's just the risk you have to take.

Hmm, I'm still not convinced. Would this actually be good for society?

I think this will make people less unhappy and disillusioned about elections, because at least you'll always be able to vote for who you actually want to win.

Has this actually been tried before?

Not that I know of, but it does have other names. You might see it under the name "Lottery Voting" or "Random Dictatorship." I think that these are too easily confused with another system of elections, which is called "lottocracy" or "sortition," which works much more like random jury duty.