Most American and French citizens--indeed, those of democracies the world over--spend little time contemplating their voting systems. That preoccupation is usually left to political and electoral analysts. But in the past few years, a large segment of both these countries' populations have found themselves utterly perplexed. People in France wondered how a politician well outside the political mainstream made it to the final two-candidate runoff in the presidential election of 2002. In the U.S., many voters asked why the most popular candidate lost the election of 2000.
We will leave discussions of hanging chads, butterfly ballots, the electoral college and the U.S. Supreme Court to political commentators. But based on research by ourselves and colleagues, we can address a more fundamental issue: What kinds of systems, be they for electing national leaders or student council presidents, go furthest toward truly representing the wishes of the voters? We argue that one particular system would be best in this sense--and it would be simple and practical to implement in the U.S., France and myriad other countries.