dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Brexit Needs STAR Voting

April 26th, 2019 by dk

It’s a shame that Mark Frohnmayer is busy designing affordable electric vehicles and working with others to repurpose EWEB’s steam plant, because Britain could use the voting innovation he champions. Democracy has been hacked, and the former software entrepreneur’s STAR Voting model could hack it back,

As soon as United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May approached opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, a new set of possible solutions to the Brexit imbroglio emerged. May’s Conservative Party wants out of the European Union — lock, stock, and tariff-free barrel. Corbyn’s liberal cohorts in the Labour Party see Brexit as an overly simple solution to a problem that’s only gotten more complicated since voters approved it in 2016.

Almost three years after the first referendum, every citizen in the United Kingdom has an opinion about what should be done. Just about the only path forward that could be acceptable to May, Corbyn, and the leaders of the European Union would be a second referendum.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, a second referendum would resemble Brexit itself in this important respect. Another vote sounds simple, until you begin to implement it.

Politicians are wary to ask the same question a second time. Nobody wants to be accused of not heeding the voters’ original decision. But asking every citizen to endorse or reject the agreement forged by May and the EU would be equally unattractive.

Dig into any complex document deeply enough, and everyone will find something to dislike. We’ve seen this already inside the British Parliament, and that’s among people who didn’t have to quit their day job to study the 585-page document that May and the EU drafted. The potential for demagoguery around a second vote is enormous.

If a second vote is agreed, all sides will battle over how it’s framed. The answer will be “Yes” or “No,” but what will be the question?

If only democracy’s election apparatus could accommodate something other than a binary choice. Decision-making among intelligent people is always a nuanced endeavor. It’s too bad we can’t do the same when our decisions are made collectively.

With Frohnmayer’s STAR voting model, Brits could weigh in on several alternatives at once. Some like everything about May’s plan except how it handles the Irish border. Some would prefer to follow Norway’s path, preserving economic ties with the EU, but not much else. Some would rather see Britain crash out of the union quickly than watch leaders wring their hands over the details.

With STAR Voting, everyone could choose all the alternatives they like even a little, giving leaders a clear picture of which plan makes the most sense to the most people. That would give everyone what they need — a path forward.

Instead, what we’ll likely see is a simple vote to address a complex issue. Voters won’t feel heard, because any nuanced or middle solution they may prefer will not appear on their ballots. This wasn’t a dangerous problem when elected officials could craft compromises between themselves, but that ship has apparently sailed.

Binary voting makes simpletons of us all, but it has especially enfeebled democracy’s leaders.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.