Is it better to have a system that elects somebody who half the population likes feverishly and a third of the population dislikes feverishly, or one that elects a candidate one tenth of the population likes feverishly and everybody else is lukewarm toward? These are very real questions, and ones with subjective answers. On this page, I'm going to suggest some objectives I think we should strive for in designing a voting system. You might have other objectives and might come to different conclusions, but I think these are a fair starting point.
Proportional Representation is the concept that the officeholders elected should "look like" the electorate, for whatever values the electorate is using to decide who to vote for. If half the electorate is voting based on a Republican ideology, the officeholders should be half-Republican; if a quarter of the voters prefer an officeholder with black skin, a quarter of the office-holders should have black skin.
In the case that voters can only elect one person, this one person should represent as many of the people as possible. We may sometimes call this degenerate case accurate representation.
A voting system should give voters and elected officials alike a good idea of the electorate's sincere preferences.
It should be possible for most, if not all, voters, to intutively understand:
This is not necessarily an inherent piece of the voting system, but rather a function of the environment the voting systems advocate is acting in. Advocates for a voting system should consider the possibilities for winning reform when choosing which systems to advocate.
These are not the only criteria which have been proposed for Voting Systems. Other proposed criteria include:
Stability is the idea that voting systems should not have massive changes in representation due to small changes in voting patterns. For example, a slight percentage shift in the voters' voting patterns led to an overwhelming Republican victory in 1994 US House Elections.
In a parliamentary system, this should also mean that a voting system should not establish many governments that end up losing no-confidence votes.