Five of the U.S.A’s 55 presidential elections were won by a candidate other than the wish of the electorate—and almost equally damning, in at least twelve the winner was doubtful—three of them within the last century. Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912 with 42 percent of the votes, but Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft received together over 50 percent: had Wilson run against either one alone, he would most likely have lost. Bill Clinton was the winner with 43 percent in 1992, yet together George Bush and Ross Perot polled 56 percent: pitted alone against Clinton the evidence shows Bush would have won. In 2000 George W. Bush defeated Al Gore, but had Ralph Nader not been a candidate in Florida most of his 97 thousand votes would have gone to Gore, giving him the state, so the election with 291 Electoral votes to Bush’s 246.
Why can the electorate’s will be denied? Because of majority voting: Picking one single candidate among many denies a voter the right to express even the simplest opinion concerning the worth of any candidate. She votes for one—he is, in her estimation, excellent, very good or merely acceptable, though she is unable to say so—and she can express absolutely nothing about whether any other is good, poor or simply to reject.
Early prognoses promise a close election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, some twenty-two other candidates are on the ballots of one or more states, with the Libertarian Gary Johnson on those of at least 44 states with 493 Electoral votes and the Green Jill Stein on those of at least 32 states with 403 votes. The errors of 1912, 1992, 2000 and before may well occur again. Even if this year’s election was a two-man race the “wrong” man could win since majority voting bars any evaluation whatsoever.
What can be done? The remedy is simple. Elect presidents by “majority judgment.” A voter evaluates every candidate as either excellent, very good, good, acceptable, poor or to reject. The majority opinion determines which of these grades to assign each candidate. The grades rank the candidates, the one with the highest grade wins. Why this is the best known method of election is explained in the book, Majority Judgment: Measuring, Ranking and Electing, where the many theoretical reasons for using this system of election are developed and confirmed by extensive descriptions of uses and experiments.