By Aditya “Doc” Savara
“One-shot” voting is unwise in Oak Ridge.
This year, there are four seats for City Council and three seats for the Board of Education up for election in Oak Ridge.
A column that appeared online at Oak Ridge Today and in the print version of The Oak Ridger advocated “one-shot” voting—where a person only votes for a single candidate instead of using all four of their votes for City Council (or three for Board of Education). I disagree with that view and tell my supporters to vote for whomever they want on City Council.
There are 10 candidates for City Council. Let’s call them A,B,C,D…Suppose you like only two out of the 10 candidates, A and B, but like candidate A the most. With four seats available, the only time you would want to “one-shot A” is if you are afraid A and B are “neck and neck” for the last position with B beating A—for example, if the results turned out D,C,E,B,A,F,…where the first four win the election.
For any other situation, you would want to vote for both A and B. For example with D,B,A,C,E,F…you would want to vote for both A and B to make sure they both beat C.
Similarly, you would want to vote for both A and B with A,B,D,C,E,F.
So how many possibilities are there in each of these categories? This is a “combinations and permutations” type problem. The number of possibilities where A and B are “neck and neck” for the last position—as described—divided by the total number of possibilities, is given by 8!/10!=(8*7*6*5*4*3*2*1)/(10*9*8*7*6*5*4*3*2*1)=40,320/3,628,800=0.011.
So in this example, out of all the possibilities, only one in 100 are cases where one-shot voting makes sense! For all other possibilities you should vote for both candidates.
Supposing you think that only seven of us are candidates who are likely to win. How does that change things? 5!/7!=(5*4*3*2*1)/(7*6*5*4*3*2*1)=120/5040=0.024. Now we’re up to a little over two in 100 cases where it makes sense to do one-shot voting.
So there are very few cases where it makes sense to do one-shot voting if you like even two candidates.
The above examples did not include probability weighting, but here’s the kicker: Even in those small number of cases described, it still does not make sense to do one-shot voting—because our Council needs a majority vote to get anything done. When you do one-shot voting, you not only give up your votes to get your second-, third-, and fourth-place picks, you also give up your vote against the candidates you are strongly against. So if you get candidate A elected, but three other candidates you dislike get elected at the same time due to your one-shot voting, how will that help you? Your objective is to get your candidates to be a majority of the Council.
If you only like two candidates and are neutral to the rest, maybe only vote for those two. But otherwise, if you are for or against some candidates, consider who is remaining on Council, then vote for who you want in order to create a majority in our next City Council.
If you do think it is 100 times more important to get candidate A elected rather than to have a majority, perhaps you should vote for only candidate A.
If your goal, like mine, is to get a majority voted onto Council that you would like, then you should probably use all of your votes.
In this context, it rarely makes sense to do one-shot voting in Oak Ridge elections. I have no problem with my supporters voting for more than one candidate, and I have encouraged them to pick additional choices. It is part of smart democracy to do so. I agree that we should not simply vote for candidates because they are popular, we should vote for candidates based on their views.
I will be casting all four of my votes because my goal is not only to get myself elected, but also to elect others who will support my cause of improving our city.
Savara is a candidate for Oak Ridge City Council.