The Startup Party

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 9.57.43 AMThere’s a new political party in town: it’s primarily focused on creating more political parties.  Jared Hardy recently wrote to us about Startup Party USA, the “first 3+ political party in the United States.  From the website:

Tired of only voting for a party duopoly? Join the Startup Party USA to change our elections away from duopolist rule. Startups aren’t just for monetary profit.

The Startup Party USA intends to be the first 3+ political party in the United States. A 3+ political party is one with the primary mission of reforming voting rules so that even more parties have an equal and fair chance at winning elections. To accomplish this, we must first eliminate winner-take-all or “first past the post” voting everywhere in the USA.


I want better people to vote for; having a systemic change to add more parties could assist in the goal. It may just mean more annoying political ads for more people who do not represent the type of governance I'm interested in supporting.

Point is that second party (who actually believes that we currently have two?) could nudge us to a better government, but as a goal, in and of itself, seems lacking


CGP Grey has an excellent explanation of Instant Runoff voting over on YouTube (also linked on the Startup Party page) -

I think this is a wonderful idea. Not only could it spread the word about the flaws in First Past The Post and convince people to change, but it could also help iron out the bumps for those who have already adopted it, like this embarrassment in Minneapolis -


Instant runoff does NOT let you escape the duopoly.

Australia has used it for 100 years, and is still as two-party dominated as the US.

You want something like approval voting:

Kieron Nights

Naw son, it's all about range voting.

Approval voting is just a bastardised version of range voting where the voters are force to vote dishonestly.

Steve Cebalt

I applaud the sentiment. The two party system means I have to hate everything you stand for in order to run against you and have a chance of winning. There can only two possible solutions -- your way, or the opposite way. Three or more viable candidates softens the edges and forces real thinking.

I've never understood allegiance to any political party, though. Once I sign on to a political dogma, what do I need my brain for? What has the abstract notion of a "party" ever done for me?


I agree that we should be looking for ways to build dialogue and blur edges. Parties are only part of that issue, though. I ran in a mostly non-partisan race for 3 seats and 6 candidates. Because some of the candidates were incumbent, the assumption was that you were either with the incumbents or against them. The electorate was not really open to a broader discussion. There were too many other issues on the ballot and the issues were too complex.

I don't have a suggestion for the solution, but parties are not the only challenge.


I really hope you guys in USA get more parties to vote and I believe now is the time. However I must remind you that eventually you feel that everybody belongs to a single party.

Joe J

An alternative would be to get rid of parties all together. Have individuals run. That way the conversation will be about the issues and stances not the D or R after their name.
Start by taxing party income and removing matching funds.


People who agree politically naturally coalesce to support common candidates. Parties are INEVITABLE.

The only thing wrong with our Party system is the push (initiated by Left-leaning ideologies) to NATIONALIZE every single political issue. Used to be that when we believed in this awesome thing call FEDERALISM, most decisions were left to states and localities, which allowed for the political parties to be wildly diverse internally.

Not now. Now that everything has to be a national issue, members of a party in Georgia are forced to march lockstep with people in their party as far away as Washington, even if the issues could be solved DIFFERENTLY in their particular locale.

Clay Shentrup

It isn't sufficient to get rid of Plurality Voting (aka "First past the post"). Nor is it even *necessary* to eliminate single-winner ("winner-take-all") districts.

Score Voting, and its simplified form called Approval Voting, are critical for use in single-winner elections, such as mayor, senator, governor, etc. These systems satisfy the Favorite Betrayal Criterion, so you can never be punished for giving the maximum support to your favorite candidate, the way you can be with most ranked voting systems, including Instant Runoff Voting.

For MULTI-winner races, proportional representation is obviously in order. There is a proportional form of Score/Approval Voting, demonstrated here:

However, to even *get* PR, we plausibly need to upgrade our single-winner voting systems *first*. If you don't understand this, or if you think IRV is a good idea, you should start with this essay.

Clay Shentrup
Co-founder, The Center for Election Science


Shane L

Ireland has featured a form of proportional representation since independence. Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) gives voters a list of every candidate running in the constituency. Voters simply write the number "1" beside their preference, "2" beside their second preference and so on.

The administration is a little more complicated, but basically when a quota has been met by a candidate based on the first preference vote, second preference votes are counted and added to the other candidates. This continues with third and fourth preference votes until all the seats have been filled (each constituency may have several seats in parliament).

In practice this means that you don't just vote for one party, you can vote for many. You might like a particular individual from one party and choose to vote for him or her, but dislike the rest of the party so give second and third preferences to another party. You might know that two parties plan on a coalition, so give your extra preference votes based on that. In elections I've voted in there are often a dozen or more candidates from different parties or independent, and you can number all of these, giving your lowest preference (highest number) to your least favourite.

This system has produced stable governments, mostly featuring coalitions of one large party and some smaller parties, since the 1920s. The larger parties tend to be centrist/centre-right, while the smaller parties tend to be more ideological on left and right, but their small size means their influence is muted by the larger, populist party.

I like it, and I was disappointed to see the UK reject electoral reform in a recent referendum. Of course it's imperfect and there are critics, but to me the real seal of approval comes from the fact that the largest party of 20th century Irish politics, Fianna Fáil, twice attempted to replace PR-STV with First Past the Post (since this would have given Fianna Fáil major advantages over their rivals) and were twice rejected by the electorate in referenda. Phew!



I don't think that having more than two main parties is inherently a good idea:

1) Voting for the third and smallest party takes a vote away from your second choice party, and splits their vote, making your third choice party more likely to win (as historically here in Britain the Liberal Democrats have tended to split the Labour vote, and UKIP is now likely to split the Conservative vote)

2) Third parties tend to get less media attention and thus less scrutiny. In Britain this has allowed the Liberal Democrats to get away with saying one thing in one area of the country and quite another elsewhere, depending on what is to their electoral advantage locally. This includes, among other things, saying they are very pro-gay rights while running a seriously homophobic campaign against a homosexual Labour candidate who was called Peter Tatchell. The Liberal Democrats sold themselves as "the straight choice" and stirred up a lot of abuse of the Labour candidate.

3) In Britain overall only Labour or the Conservative Party can win, but in many local areas only Labour/the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives/Liberal Democrats can win. This leads to lots of Labour/Conservative voters, whose party has no chance of winning in their local area, voting for the Liberal Democrats to block the party they dislike. I can imagine Americans not enjoying feeling pressure to take this strategic approach. It also unduly helps the Liberal Democrats.

In general from the British perspective, where we have three main parties (and four if you count the new-ish party UKIP), I just don't think it helps, or increases trust in the system. I think you need better parties, not more parties.



I applaud your goals and wish you the best of luck.

However, I fear your task is hopeless. If there is one thing the Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that there should not be a viable third party. For example, when the Libertarians made some small inroads at the state level in several states, the party in power Democrats in some places Republicans in others changed the election rules (signatures, funding rules, etc.) making the following years libertarian showing much worse.

The nuclear option would be to limit all political donations by individuals and corporations to a small amount say a few thousand dollars. Big parties get big funding. Small parties get small funding and little chance of winning elections.


It is an admirable goal, but I fear impossible. If there is one thing the Democrats and Republicans agree on it is that there should not be a viable third party.

Some years ago when the libertarians made some modest inroads at the state level. The Democrats or the Republicans depending on the state changed the rules to keep the libertarians out. i.e. more onerous reporting rules, more signatures required, longer deadlines to declare party affiliations before the elections, etc.

If some third party really does threaten to make a go of it, the nuclear option is simple. Limit maximum contributions of individuals and corporations to a few thousand dollars. Then if a party had more then 10% of the vote in the last election no signatures are required. Easy for the Democrats and Republicans. If less then 10% require many signatures, a small party that can't raise big money because of the limits spends all its money trying to get signatures and has none left to actually pay for candidates to run for office.

For the voters, say the limits on fundraising are necessary to limit the influence of corporations and the rich.


Jared Hardy

Jared Hardy here -- lowly IT Administrator for Startup Party USA. I actually wrote in here based on the fact that rational incentive scientists like Dubner and Levitt would make awesome political candidates. At the very least, they could help Startup Party candidates draft legislation to clean up the economy and bring financial sector incentives into line with market reality (not the made-up fantasy world where rentier financiers aren't just cheaters and thieves, like they are today). Breaking up the political party duopoly will be necessary to also break up all the illicit market monopolies and trusts that these politicians subsidize and shield, in return for corrupt campaign funds. What do you all think?

Startup Party USA

As an update, we are running our first membership drive starting immediately after the next election. The membership dues and donations will pay for creation and upkeep of candidate and member voting infrastructure using score and approval voting, which are much more accurate to voter will than our backwards anti-democratic plurality voting.