Voting Issues in the US; HAVA na gila

Oregon has been experimenting with voting by mail. While there may be downsides to accompany the positives (see, e.g. The Carter-Baker Report suggests that Vote by Mail (VBM) may increase turnout by 10% in low profile election and does not bring new voters to the process,  but it does appear to have an impact on ballot integrity . Washington also does vote by mail.  Oregon is now moving to include e-mail voting  and even offer the ability to vote by ipad.  The Oregon voting site is at

While the efforts in the Pacific North West may improve the voting experience by increasing the period during which one may vote and providing alternatives to to using suspect voting machines, most jurisdictions in the US still use one of the least “fair” voting systems available,  and most Americans haven’t a clue about the relative benefits of PR, or Proportional Representation, as opposed to the “single-member district plurality system” in use in most jurisdictions in the US today.

Douglas J Amy at Mt Holyoke College has put together an online library on the subject. Amy is also the author of a number of books on the subject, one of which is available online in pdf format and another which is a comprehensive extension of the materials published on the Mt. Holyoke web site.   He not only explains the difference between the typical US system and PR,  he also provides an accessible explanation of different types of voting systems.

Some other resources on voting systems?

  • Of course there is a wikipedia page,  which affords a decent introduction to the subject as well as some excellent links and references for further study.
  • My friend David Lippman has a published a wonderful online book, Math in Society, which addresses voting issues in various systems and would be a welcome addition to any high school math teacher’s arsenal of resources. It can be downloaded from David’s site as well a accessed online via scribd
  • Another excellent resource on voting systems, this one with a European twist, is provided by the Electoral Reform Society

The title of the note? “Gila” is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word for joy, and “na” is us. Together with “hava” (be) they are used in the Hebrew song “hava na gila”, or let us be joyful.  Of course, HAVA in this case is the Help America Vote Act:  For a list of resources on the Act, see,

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