In Response to: Math Versus Politics

While I am delighted by the thoughtful analyses in the Oct. 4 feature that demonstrate that “the ability of legislators to draw their own district boundaries is a loophole in democracy,” I am even happier to see that some academics are building tools (e.g., Professor Sam Wang’s models) and making recommendations to fix (pardon the double entendre) the political system. Harvard University professor Michael Porter ’69 has done an analysis of the duopoly resulting from the constitutional loophole and proposed remedies that seem quite timely, challenging,  and possibly achievable. The first step he proposes in his report, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America,” is to accelerate the use of nonpartisan primaries, which allow any registered voter to vote for any candidate in a primary, regardless of party affiliation (or nonaffiliation). Then ranked-choice voting (being battled over by entrenched legislators in Maine) ensures that every voter’s vote counts, even if a voter’s first choice is eliminated by gaining too few votes, thus avoiding the so-called “spoiler effect.” Moving in this direction should refocus politicians on finding nonpartisan solutions, as that is the only way they will gain the support of the 40-plus percent of voters who are now disavowing any party affiliation (per a recent Gallup Poll). There are groups of alumni in various locations beginning to coalesce behind this movement – this is a loophole that needs to be filled!

Michael Otten ’63
Scarsdale, N.Y.