Could STAR Voting slay the “electability” dragon?

Sara Wolk
6 min readMar 30, 2020

We’re all too familiar with the landscape: Toxic campaign ads, candidates who do nothing but ask for your money and tell you what you want to hear, and at the end of the day one narrative to rule them all- don’t waste your vote on a candidate who isn’t “electable.”

This self-fulfilling prophecy puts the power of American politics soundly in the hands of those who get to decide who is “electable.” The result is a political landscape owned by big money donors and corporate media. Spoiler alert — the candidate who is deemed the most “electable” is almost always the one who’s raised the most money.

Choose One Only ballot: Options- Evil, Lesser Evil, Favorite.

But why does this electability narrative have so much power? Some people do vote their conscience, but the data on the subject is crystal clear: Many voters simply don’t.

In a recent poll from Avalanche, cited by Nate Silver of 538, voters were asked two distinct questions: Who they would vote for if the primary was today, and who they would pick if they had a magic wand. The difference was stunning, showing a massive 12% leg up for the perceived front-runner compared to the next runner up, despite the fact that he would have been tied for second place if people had simply voted for their favorite.

Why do so many people vote for a candidate who is not their favorite? Whether or not voters realize it, strategic voters are performing evasive maneuvers for good reason. When voters can only vote for one candidate and are unable to show preference order and degree of support, our elections often fall victim to the Spoiler Effect, the very real phenomenon where an unpopular and polarizing candidate can win, even though the majority would have preferred any number of others.

To election scientists and politicos this is nothing new. Experts have been in consensus for well over a century that our current system is the worst way to conduct elections with more than two candidates. (It’s called the Two-Party System because it is only accurate with two candidates in the race.) The good news is that this catastrophic problem is a relatively easy fix. No need to change the constitution, get the…

Sara Wolk

Systems design, electoral reform, music, regenerative agriculture, natural building.