The Paradox of Voting (part 1)

The choice to vote can be seen as a voluntary contribution mechanism.  This isn’t a perfect perspective, but it hold the basic concept. The payoff would be amount of democracy or a leader that accurately depicts their representatives.  From this perspective our voting system could be considered very successful. Convincing a little less than half a nation to contribute to a VCM game is impressive.

clarification: the nash equilibrium isn’t zero.  As less and less people vote the more your vote matters, eventually surpassing the cost of going out and voting.

Why do so many people vote?  In the recent election many of us were reminded about why people vote.  People vote to fight oppression, People vote against Trump, People vote for democracy, people vote because voting gives us a voice.  These are all valid reasons and motivations to vote. It is perfectly reasonable for someone’s payoff could outweigh the cost of voting.  Although, it is not reasonable for everybody. Unfortunately voting, as a VCM game, is not symmetric. I am going to repeat the costs and benefits of voting; the benefits are how loud your voice is (how much does your vote matter), the cost is how much it cost to vote.  That being said, not everyone’s vote has the same weight in this country, and the reason isn’t (just) the electoral college.

Gerrymandering can be a difficult concept to grasp.  Let’s say there is 10 democrats and 8 republicans. My goal is to split them into 3 equal groups.  Winning a group gives you 1 pt and whoever has the most points wins. Equal groups would be:

Group 1: 6 Democrats

Group 2: 6 Republicans

Group 3: 4 Democrats, 2 Republicans

Notice how democrats have the majority in two out of the three groups.  This leads to democrats winning. What if I want the distribution to favor republicans?  Remember there are 10 democrats and 8 Republicans.

Group 1:  4 Republicans, 2 Democrats

Group 2: 4 Republican, 2 Democrats

Group 3: 6 Democrats

Now republicans have the majority in two out of the three groups.  Even though republicans don’t have the general majority they would win the election.  In a nutshell, this is what gerrymandering is. Redistributing the parties de-valuing their voters, allowing you to win without the majority.  I’ll get into how parties gerrymander, the asymmetric costs of voting and the paradox next week.

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