But specialists in the mathematical theory of elections point to a deeper truth: When the number of major candidates rises above two -- no matter who they are -- the chances increase that the strongest candidate will not win. Some say the cherished principle of "one person, one vote" is an anachronism.
To many, the democratic election of a president embodies high-minded public choices on issues and character. But a few analysts deliberately set aside the mix of passion, personality, and other complexities to focus on the presidential election as a mathematical game. A simple change in the number of candidates, they argue, will alter the nature of the campaign itself -- the strategic moves and countermoves of the candidates -- as well as the final vote tally.
If there should be four major candidates in the 1996 race, for instance, Republicans could be emboldened to chose an extreme right candidate, "pick up 30 to 35 percent of the vote -- and win," [Steven J.] Brams said. A political scientist with a mathematics background who specializes in game theory, Brams is among those advocating a change in the voting system.
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