Maths Talk

February 19, 2020

Last Tuesday afternoon we heard from Dr Chris Budd about the mathematics of voting. Here Sarah and Giang, both VII, discuss the talk:

Dr Budd began by asking questions such as: how can a government be elected with a minority of the vote share, is there a perfect voting system and, most importantly, what does the Eurovision Song Contest have to do with this? He took us through Kenneth Arrow’s axioms for fair voting, such as that no single individual should pick the winner and that there should be independence from irrelevant alternatives. Dr Budd then gave us a whistle-stop tour of different voting systems, ranging from the Borda method, to the First-past-the-post method used in British elections, to the idealistic, yet horrifically time-consuming, Condorcet method. We came to the conclusion that none of these methods satisfy all of Arrow’s criteria. The highlight was his explanation of how the voting works in the Eurovision Song Contest, which we all know can be exploited by tactical voting. The talk was eye-opening and humorous, and introduced a new area of study to us at the intersection of maths and politics.

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