Grant, Preferential Voting is arguably far better than choosing the candidate with the most votes – otherwise known as First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting.
The problem is that FPTP elections can elect the most popular candidate with less than 50% of the vote, even if that candidate is unpopular with more than 50% of voters. That’s a dangerous risk. Preferential voting avoids those risks.
That’s not just opinion: lets put some numbers on it.
Consider an election where 100 voters choose one of Candidates A, B and C. If Candidate A gets 40 votes, B 35 and C 25, then A is clearly the ‘front-runner’. However, we simply don’t know whether A is really the voters’ choice unless we consider second preferences.
So let’s eliminate C with only 25 votes and have a run-off between A and B just to make sure. Now it’s possible that all C voters choose B as their second choice. So, Candidate B wins with 60 votes which is a clear majority and, is apparently the rightful winner.
Now Preferential Voting effectively does ‘instant run-offs’ in one single election without wasting time and money doing two or more FPTP elections. So while FPTP elections sometimes give fair results, fairness is not guaranteed. Preferential voting is more likely to give a fair result, But sadly, not even that can be guaranteed.
Why not? How so?
While Preferential Voting is the best VOTING system, it is not COUNTED in a way that guarantees fairness. The ‘counting’ system can get it badly wrong. In the example above B is NOT necessarily the rightful winner. Why not? How so?
In the example above, all C voters gave their second preferences to B, and so B apparently won ‘after preferences’ with 60 votes. But suppose, all A and all B voters gave their second preferences to C. That can be summarised as:
A; 40 Likes, 00 neutrals, 60 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 60 unhappy with A
B; 35 Likes, 25 neutrals, 40 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 40 unhappy with B
C: 25 Likes, 75 neutrals, 00 dislikes; of 100 votes cast, 00 unhappy with C
100 1sts; 100 neutrals, 100 dislikes totals
So if C is declared the winner, no voters are unhappy with the result compared with 60% unhappy if A was elected and 40% unhappy if B was elected.
Why are the results different? Because FPTP and the counting method used for Preferential voting with totally ignore last preferences and are effectively obsesses with 1st preferences. Yet first and last preferences should be given equal rating to get a better result. Now there are counting methods that are totally fair, but sadly they are not being used and we need Voting Reform to get fair voting results.
So, in the example above the way Preferential Voting votes were ‘counted’ got it wrong and elected B instead of C, while FPTP gave even worse results. The Borda count, invented in the 1700s, always gives a fair count. How? It never eliminates candidates and it always takes into account every preference for every candidate. My DCAP counting method, a variant of Borda, also guarantees a fair counting method that always gets it right. DCAP and DPAP are more flexible than Borda (used mostly in sporting codes) and can easily fairly handle Optional preferential and Split optional preferential voting – see https://tinyurl.com/ElectoralReformOz for more detail.