Voting for the Fringe

As mentioned previously, we have decided on a “democratic solution” to select included projects for Fringe 2010.

In true 21st century style, we will launch a website whereby theatre producers and artists post information about their project. This may include words, pictures, videos, and more, whatever it takes to best represent their group or idea. Members of the community will vote on which projects they would like to see in the festival. The projects with the most votes are accepted into the Fringe.

This begs a very serious question: How does voting work?

Quick answer is that we haven’t decided yet. There are actually many different methods we could employ to decide the winners. Thus we in the Fringe production team have begun a study of the riveting world of voting theory. It’s actually quite apropos to discuss voting methods now as American democracy is once again front-and-center in the news. I recently ran across a very intriguing article on some of the major contemporary thinking in this discipline.

Most common and familiar to Americans is Plurality Voting. Using this system, voters cast their ballot for a single candidate; one person, one vote. The winner is simply the candidate with the most votes. Sound simple? It is, and according to many perhaps the most unfair voting system available. For the fringe festival, this is almost certainly a bad idea for pretty obvious reasons. You may like many acts applying for the Fringe, and indeed all those acts may end up being included. You should be able to vote for more than just one.

A second method, perhaps more appropriate for our purpose, is Range Voting. In this system voters rank each project on a scale of (for example) 1 to 5 stars. The votes are tallied up by simply adding all the points together. A project with 150 “one star” votes would tie one with 30 “5 star” votes. Winning the vote becomes a function of both popularity (number of ratings) and quality (number of stars). This method would be more appropriate for our purposes at Fringe.

A final method under consideration is known as Approval Voting. Using this method, voters simply vote for as many projects/candidates as they wish. Those with the most votes “win”. In Fringe terms, you either support a given project or just don’t. You can support as many projects as you like. This, too, may be a very effective method for our needs.

This is a lot to work with as we decide on the “most perfect” voting system for Fringe. The first option (plurality) is almost certainly a bad fit. At the very least, we’d like to give community members the ability to spread their votes across multiple projects. The question is whether voters can “rate” the projects as well.

One wonders if the founding fathers grappled with these issues. Especially in this primary season, I for one would like something more than a one person, one vote system.

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