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Can the Idea of Multiple and Plural Voting Work in the United States?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Peter Lyn René
April 18, 2022

Since the 2020 presidential election, there has been a persistent portion of the Republican Party who believes that the election was stolen from President Donald Trump; further, those with lower levels of education and a majority of Republicans with college degrees said they thought that the election results were fraudulent, though the 2020 presidential election was seen as one of the most secure elections ever in our country’s history. Only 21 percent of Republicans say Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate. So, would the idea of multiple and plural voting present a good option to ensure the election results they sought, even though Vice President Biden won the 2020 election by a margin of 7 million popular votes? Could future implementation of multiple and plural voting provide an alternative to the Electoral College?

The United States was founded and has functioned as a “one person, one vote” system for most of our history. Political scientists, groups and average citizens have floated the idea of multiple and plural voting. A citizen could cast their ballot for candidates at different locations—a practice that may have some visibility in other countries, but not necessarily here in the United States. Several countries such as Iceland, Denmark and Sweden have homogeneous societies, sharing similarities such as language, ethnic backgrounds and cultural traditions. They became linguistically homogeneous before the era of nationalism and are known for their remarkable democratic stability. In contrast, homogenization and the erosion of cultural differences slowly induce majorities to become unfamiliar and feel awkward toward diversity. 

Our country has a strong foundation in the concept of “one person, one vote.” This holds for citizens casting their ballots during election cycles; further, each district in each state is represented by one person in the state legislature. Each congressional district has one representative in Congress, and each state, no matter how big, small or populous, has two senators.

The concept of “one person, many votes” has its pros and cons. Of plural voting, John Stuart Mill and John Rawls both believed that such a practice was compatible with democratic justice: instead of one citizen, one vote, we have one citizen, at least one vote; some citizens have more than one vote in proportion to their education—rather than their knowledge. The only advantage I see to plural voting is that an educated mind would tend to approach the voting booth analytically. An educated citizen would take all time necessary to learn about the candidates on the ballot, the propositions and the amendments. An educated individual could greatly benefit from having more than one vote since it assumes that they are for the advancement of the common good. In contrast, citizens without a formal education, who know one or two people on the ballot, and took little time to understand the content of the ballot, may choose simply to vote a straight party ticket.

The disadvantage to plural voting is obvious: it would benefit the educated. The assumption to my argument about the less educated would not make it their duty to understand the ballot. Second, there is a danger that educated people may vote to benefit their own self-interest, thus extending their power and influence. The notion that an educated person with a plurality of votes would act in the best interest of those without a formal education would hinge on the premise that the educated place the country ahead of their party and own self-interest. 

Much can be said about homogeneous societies and the benefits they produce. When people who share a common language, beliefs and traditions live together, it can be argued that societies and the government that leads them shall enjoy peace and happiness without fear of uprising or civil disobedience. Although we have a stable democracy and a diverse society, the United States cannot wholly call itself a homogeneous society. Many of the ethnic groups who now make up our country had some difficulty in our country’s history “settling in” and becoming accepted members of society. Thus, it is the concept of homogenization that led to such dark periods in our country’s history, such as the slave trade which ultimately led to the Civil War, the attack on groups such as the Irish, the long fight for freedom and the right to vote by freed slaves.

I support the ideal of one person, one vote, and see no logical way that a plurality voting system would work in our country, substantiated by the contentious 2020 election. Extending the privilege of plural voting to an already privileged group of educated people in our society would not be practical. While we are a heterogenous society with some specks of being a homogeneous society lightly sprinkled in our melting pot, plurality voting would not diffuse the accusations of voter fraud and suppression; and though many continue to exercise civil disobedience and marches in protest to show disagreement with the government and state policies, we are still working to form that more perfect union. We are not perfect and our ideals are not always the best. But we do our best to live in peace, respect our neighbors and enjoy life.

Author: Peter Lyn René is an Adjunct Professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He has Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Master’s in Law and Public Policy. He is currently a candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in Law and Public Policy degree, expected April 2022.  He is the Chairman and CEO of The Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas.  He has an extensive background in international Non-Profit Policy, Administration and Management, Information Technology, and Project Management.   René is a Mediator and volunteers his time mediating cases for the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center.     René serves on the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State. He serves on the Executive Committee of the United Nations Council of Organizations.  René can be contacted at [email protected].

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