Discussion:
Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
Brian Olson
2008-11-25 14:16:34 UTC
Permalink
There's been a lot of discussion lately started by people who advocate
IRV. I'm mystified. Really? You really think IRV is a good system?
I've spent so long considering it to be pretty much junk that I really
am confused by that position. Here's my summary of why I think IRV is
junk.

(from http://bolson.org/voting/irv/ )


First, a concession
Yes, IRV is better than nothing. It's better than tired old pick-one
voting. But that's about all it's better than...

IRV Gets Worse Results

The graph below shows an assortment of election methods run in
simulated elections of 10000 voters and various number of candidates
to choose from. Increased happiness is on the virtical axis. In
general, as there are more choices, there's a better chance of there
being some choice that makes more people happy, and so overall
happiness rises. If you can only cast one vote this starts to fail
above 7 choices as the populace gets fractured voting for their
favorites. At the bottom is a control test experiment of picking a
choice at random, which on average makes half the people happy, and
half unhappy, for a total of zero.

Third from the bottom is Instant Runoff Voting. IRV doesn't get very
good overall results because it only considers a small part of the
votes at once, the top ranked choice. Because of this it can miss
broadly supported compromise candidates. IRV doesn't benefit as much
from having a wide selection of candidates to choose from. And as the
next section shows, it can flat out get the wrong answer.



IRV Gets Chaotic

The diagrams below illustrate the decision reached by two election
methods depending on where the center of public opinion lies. If the
center of public opinion is closest to a candidate (diamonds) then the
election should go to that candidate and the diagram gets colored to
match. The plot of IRV results shows that IRV is capable of completely
missing giving the election to the blue candidate even when the
population is right there. In other regions the result is chaotic.

IRV has this irregular behavior because of how it transferrs lots of
votes and disqualifies candidates. Subtle differences in the order of
disqualification of candidates and the transfer of votes to other
candidates can wind up swinging the election to substatntially
different outcomes.


Instant Runoff Vote Virtual Round Robin Election (Condorcet's Method)
more election diagrams
IRV Doesn't Scale Up

IRV requires all the ballots to be in one place at one time for
counting (when someone's top active choice is disqualified, you have
to go back and check their ballot to see how they would vote for their
next most preferred). Or, for computer counting, the data from all the
ballots has to be gathered in one computer. Hand counting techniques
require physically moving piles of ballots around, and in a large
election this could wind up requiring a fork lift.

VRR/Condorcet can be summed up from intermediate results, counted at
precincts or counted by many people hand counting ballots. Hand
counting techniques just need a sheet of paper to make tally marks on.

FUD: Other Methods Hurt Your Top Choice

The simplistic method of Instant Runoff Voting, always counting only
your top ranked choice (of candidates not eliminated in the rounds so
far), is philosophically attractive to some people, but may not
actually best serve your interests. One way of thinking about how IRV
works is that if you were to assign numeric ratings to your choices,
you might give a 1 to your fourth choice, 10 to third, 100 to second
and 1000 to your favorite. If this huge difference in preference
between choices accurately represents how you feel, IRV may represent
you relatively well (but it can still make the generally wrong choice,
as shown above). Other methods tend to have a more uniform effective
distribution of preference between the choices. A second or third
choice obviously isn't as preferred as the first choice, but out of
several candidates, second or third choice is probably still good or
ok. IRV won't consider these lower ranked choices at all, and may have
prematurely disqualified them if they didn't get enough first-choice
vote.

There's a more general rumor applied to IRV and other rankings methods
in general that says you should only vote for a top choice, or a top
few, and not give any ranking to lower preference choices so that they
will not be aided in any way. For any decent election method, and even
IRV, your lower ranking choices will only be relevant if your higher
ranking choices are losing anyway. Sometimes, that's just Democracy,
and you don't get what you want. A fully ranked ballot at least gives
you some say in which of the other ones gets elected. You might not
get what you want, but you might get someone less bad than worst.

FUD: Other Methods Dilute Your Vote

Similar to the don't-fully-rank FUD above, this claims that there's a
possibility of violating the 'one person one vote' principle of
democracy. At the very least there is an equal potential for every
voter to vote by fully filling out their ballot. There is an equal
potential for everyone to vote now, and half the people don't cast any
vote. It could be further considered that your 'vote' is not simply
the traditional statement of who your favorite is, but a statement
about all the choices. Suppose there are ten choices. With the old
pick-one ballot, you get to vote YES on one choice and have to vote NO
on the rest. With an approval ballot, you can vote YES on as many as
you like. With a rankings ballot, you can vote 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. on
the ones you like and leaving some blank means "I don't know" or "I
don't care" - which is an expression about that choice. Everyone who
shows up and votes is saying something about all the choices, and
casting an equal weight ballot as anyone else. It's then important
that the ballot be structured reasonably to get as much expression out
of the voter as can easily be gotten, and it is important that the
counting method use this data as best as possible so as to satisfy the
will of the people.

Comments? Email me

back to bolson's voting page
Greg
2008-11-25 16:52:28 UTC
Permalink
> Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 09:16:34 -0500
> From: Brian Olson <***@bolson.org>
> Subject: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
>
> There's been a lot of discussion lately started by people who advocate
> IRV. I'm mystified. Really? You really think IRV is a good system?
> I've spent so long considering it to be pretty much junk that I really
> am confused by that position. Here's my summary of why I think IRV is
> junk.
>
> (from http://bolson.org/voting/irv/ )

I will believe that when I'm presented with a non-negligible number of
actual IRV elections for public office that failed to elect the
"right" winner. And for starters, you get to define what "right" is.
Preferably something of the form: in Election X, IRV elected candidate
Y but candidate Z was the right winner, because of [insert your
criteria and evidence here]. The more such cases you have, the more
convincing your argument. I've studied every IRV election for public
office ever held in the United States, most of which have their full
ranking data publicly available, and every single time IRV elected the
Condorcet winner, something I consider to be a good, though not
perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right" winner. When you
present a case in which IRV did not elect the right winner, maybe I'll
agree or maybe I'll dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd be
off the blackboard and into the world of real elections.

Greg
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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-11-25 17:40:37 UTC
Permalink
Greg wrote:
>> Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 09:16:34 -0500
>> From: Brian Olson <***@bolson.org>
>> Subject: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
>>
>> There's been a lot of discussion lately started by people who advocate
>> IRV. I'm mystified. Really? You really think IRV is a good system?
>> I've spent so long considering it to be pretty much junk that I really
>> am confused by that position. Here's my summary of why I think IRV is
>> junk.
>>
>> (from http://bolson.org/voting/irv/ )
>
> I will believe that when I'm presented with a non-negligible number of
> actual IRV elections for public office that failed to elect the
> "right" winner. And for starters, you get to define what "right" is.
> Preferably something of the form: in Election X, IRV elected candidate
> Y but candidate Z was the right winner, because of [insert your
> criteria and evidence here]. The more such cases you have, the more
> convincing your argument. I've studied every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States, most of which have their full
> ranking data publicly available, and every single time IRV elected the
> Condorcet winner, something I consider to be a good, though not
> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right" winner. When you
> present a case in which IRV did not elect the right winner, maybe I'll
> agree or maybe I'll dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd be
> off the blackboard and into the world of real elections.

If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all realistic elections
(as opposed to the CW according to strategic ballots), and the
Australian two-party (two and a third?) dominance arises from IRV, then
that means that any Condorcet single-round single winner method will
lead to two party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of course, if it
is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is, it'll still be the truth;
and in that case we should focus on multiwinner elections and PR instead.
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James Gilmour
2008-11-25 17:55:08 UTC
Permalink
Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 5:41 PM
> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all realistic elections
> (as opposed to the CW according to strategic ballots), and the
> Australian two-party (two and a third?) dominance arises from IRV, then
> that means that any Condorcet single-round single winner method will
> lead to two party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of course, if it
> is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is, it'll still be the truth;
> and in that case we should focus on multiwinner elections and
> PR instead.

Whether or not Condorcet single-round single-winner elections have the effect suggested, all assemblies (city councils, state and
federal legislatures, parliaments) should be elected by multi-winner PR voting systems. That is the only way to ensure that these
"representative" bodies are truly representative of those who voted in the respective elections.

I had always assumed this list was focused so strongly on single-winner voting systems because there are so many important
single-office (hence single-winner) elections in the USA.

James
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Bob Richard
2008-11-25 18:18:40 UTC
Permalink
James Gilmour wrote:

> I had always assumed this list was focused so strongly
> on single-winner voting systems because there are
> so many important single-office (hence single-winner)
> elections in the USA.

That's an important part of the explanation, James, but only one part.
Social choice theory, which informs much of the discussion here, isn't
directly relevant to PR. The problem to be solved is taken to be making
a (single) decision. While forming a legislative body could, in
principle, be analyzed as making a (single) decision, it rarely is. Even
the best examples of the social choice literature tend to relegate PR to
a single chapter in a section on miscellaneous topics at the back of the
book. See, as just one example, Tideman's "Collective Decisions and
Voting", chapter 15.

--Bob Richard

> Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 5:41 PM
>> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all realistic elections
>> (as opposed to the CW according to strategic ballots), and the
>> Australian two-party (two and a third?) dominance arises from IRV, then
>> that means that any Condorcet single-round single winner method will
>> lead to two party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of course, if it
>> is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is, it'll still be the truth;
>> and in that case we should focus on multiwinner elections and
>> PR instead.
>
> Whether or not Condorcet single-round single-winner elections have the
> effect suggested, all assemblies (city councils, state and
> federal legislatures, parliaments) should be elected by multi-winner
> PR voting systems. That is the only way to ensure that these
> "representative" bodies are truly representative of those who voted in
> the respective elections.
>
> I had always assumed this list was focused so strongly on
> single-winner voting systems because there are so many important
> single-office (hence single-winner) elections in the USA.
>
> James
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--
Bob Richard
Marin Ranked Voting
P.O. Box 235
Kentfield, CA 94914-0235
415-256-9393
http://www.marinrankedvoting.org

--
Bob Richard
Marin Ranked Voting
P.O. Box 235
Kentfield, CA 94914-0235
415-256-9393
http://www.marinrankedvoting.org

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James Gilmour
2008-11-25 19:14:51 UTC
Permalink
> > James Gilmour wrote:
> > I had always assumed this list was focused so strongly
> > on single-winner voting systems because there are
> > so many important single-office (hence single-winner)
> > elections in the USA.

Bob Richard > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 6:19 PM
> That's an important part of the explanation, James, but only one part.
> Social choice theory, which informs much of the discussion here, isn't
> directly relevant to PR. The problem to be solved is taken to be making
> a (single) decision. While forming a legislative body could, in
> principle, be analyzed as making a (single) decision, it rarely is. Even
> the best examples of the social choice literature tend to relegate PR to
> a single chapter in a section on miscellaneous topics at the back of the
> book. See, as just one example, Tideman's "Collective Decisions and
> Voting", chapter 15.

Bob, thanks, but I thought the chicken and the egg were the other way round here. I had assumed that those who were concerned about
the defects in single-winner voting systems had looked to social choice for a solution, because, as you say, social choice theory
was developed to address the making of single decisions. I have not read at all widely in social choice (as my main concern is with
multi-winner elections), but I am aware of its origins in a fusion of sociology and political economy. I am also aware that some
social choice theorists have turned their attention to voting systems and so probably have a different perspective from those whose
backgrounds were in electoral science.

My background is in neither, but I have suspicion that real electors have different expectations and behave differently when asked
to make a decision and when asked to elect a candidate to represent them. I suspect they expect to compromise in making a decision
but don't expect to compromise in an election - that would be my interpretation of the electors' intuitive attachment to "Later no
harm" which I have encountered repeatedly.

With regard to the election of a legislative body, I think it would be wrong to see this as any form of "single decision". My own
position is that I want to see all significant viewpoints represented with due regard to the practical constraints and the other
expectations the electors have of "representation". I don't know enough about social choice theory to know whether it could
possibly be generalised to encompass multi-winner elections. Certainly it would be wrong to make multi-winner elections conform to
some social choice model that was devised for single decision making.

It is. however, interesting that some aspects of the social choice approach are apparent in some of the STV-PR counting rules, as
the newer, "inclusive" rules have the effect of maximising the consensus of representation, whereas the oldest rules have the effect
of maximising the diversity of representation. The differences in the outcome are, in practice, small, but there is no doubt about
these effects, even though the newer, "inclusive" rules were not developed with the intention of implementing any social choice
approach to representation.

James

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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-11-25 18:26:55 UTC
Permalink
James Gilmour wrote:
> Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 5:41 PM
>> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all realistic
>> elections (as opposed to the CW according to strategic ballots),
>> and the Australian two-party (two and a third?) dominance arises
>> from IRV, then that means that any Condorcet single-round single
>> winner method will lead to two party dominance. That would be
>> unfortunate. Of course, if it is the truth, no matter how
>> unfortunate it is, it'll still be the truth; and in that case we
>> should focus on multiwinner elections and PR instead.
>
> Whether or not Condorcet single-round single-winner elections have
> the effect suggested, all assemblies (city councils, state and
> federal legislatures, parliaments) should be elected by multi-winner
> PR voting systems. That is the only way to ensure that these
> "representative" bodies are truly representative of those who voted
> in the respective elections.
>
> I had always assumed this list was focused so strongly on
> single-winner voting systems because there are so many important
> single-office (hence single-winner) elections in the USA.

It suggests more than this. If all Condorcet single-round single-winner
methods strengthen the duopoly, then the important single-winner
elections should either be made multiple-round (that is, have runoffs),
or be subordinated to the multiwinner method by some analog of
parliamentarism.
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James Gilmour
2008-11-25 18:43:55 UTC
Permalink
Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 6:27 PM
> It suggests more than this. If all Condorcet single-round single-winner
> methods strengthen the duopoly, then the important single-winner
> elections should either be made multiple-round (that is, have runoffs),
> or be subordinated to the multiwinner method by some analog of
> parliamentarism.

So far as genuine single-office single-winner elections are concerned, I doubt very much if the all the costs involved in any form
of run-off elections could be justified in comparison with the results that would be obtained by IRV or Condorcet in real elections.
The Australian use of IRV to elect the members of the Federal House of Representatives should NOT be used as examples because those
are not genuine single-office elections. That use of IRV is a misuse of the IRV voting system. The Australian House of
Representatives should be elected by a PR voting system.

I don't understand what the second part of the last sentence of your paragraph means. If you have a directly elected city mayor,
you have a directly elected city mayor ,and so you have a single-office single-winner election. If you want to change the system of
city government from directly elected mayor to an appropriate application of "parliamentarianism", that's a quite separate matter.
Such a decision should most certainly not, in my opinion, be based on any presumed defect of a genuine single-office single-winner
voting system.

James

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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-11-25 18:53:55 UTC
Permalink
James Gilmour wrote:
> Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 6:27 PM
>> It suggests more than this. If all Condorcet single-round
>> single-winner methods strengthen the duopoly, then the important
>> single-winner elections should either be made multiple-round (that
>> is, have runoffs), or be subordinated to the multiwinner method by
>> some analog of parliamentarism.
>
> So far as genuine single-office single-winner elections are
> concerned, I doubt very much if the all the costs involved in any
> form of run-off elections could be justified in comparison with the
> results that would be obtained by IRV or Condorcet in real elections.
> The Australian use of IRV to elect the members of the Federal House
> of Representatives should NOT be used as examples because those are
> not genuine single-office elections. That use of IRV is a misuse of
> the IRV voting system. The Australian House of Representatives
> should be elected by a PR voting system.

Ah, I failed to see that possibility; that it's the use of single winner
methods to legislative bodies that causes the party domination. I'll
grant that.

> I don't understand what the second part of the last sentence of your
> paragraph means. If you have a directly elected city mayor, you have
> a directly elected city mayor ,and so you have a single-office
> single-winner election. If you want to change the system of city
> government from directly elected mayor to an appropriate application
> of "parliamentarianism", that's a quite separate matter. Such a
> decision should most certainly not, in my opinion, be based on any
> presumed defect of a genuine single-office single-winner voting
> system.

I was taking a wider perspective. Consider these two cases for office X:

A. the people directly elect X using a single-winner method.
B. the people elect a PR body Y that appoints X, either as its primary
duty, or as part of its other duties, where X is responsible to Y
("parliamentarism").

If we knew that choice A would lead to two-party domination, well, B may
suddenly seem a lot more attractive.
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James Gilmour
2008-11-25 19:30:40 UTC
Permalink
Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 6:54 PM
> I was taking a wider perspective. Consider these two cases for office X:
>
> A. the people directly elect X using a single-winner method.
> B. the people elect a PR body Y that appoints X, either as its primary
> duty, or as part of its other duties, where X is responsible to Y
> ("parliamentarism").
>
> If we knew that choice A would lead to two-party domination,
> well, B may suddenly seem a lot more attractive.

These are two very different models of governance and I don't think the electors would decide to change from A to B on the basis
that there might be a theoretical risk of two-party domination no matter what singe-winner voting system was used to elect X to the
single-office.

Given the diversity of local government in the USA I should have thought there was good empirical evidence for electors' reactions
to these different models, taking the "weak mayor", "strong mayor" differences fully into account. I appreciate that there won't be
good evidence from these elections on the effects of different voting systems in REAL elections because most (all ?) of the directly
elected mayors are elected by FPTP.

James



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Kevin Venzke
2008-11-25 22:06:20 UTC
Permalink
Hi Kristofer,

--- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no> a écrit :
> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all
> realistic elections (as opposed to the CW according to
> strategic ballots), and the Australian two-party (two and a
> third?) dominance arises from IRV, then that means that any
> Condorcet single-round single winner method will lead to two
> party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of course, if it
> is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is, it'll
> still be the truth; and in that case we should focus on
> multiwinner elections and PR instead.

Might depend on what your goals are. If you want multiple parties in
order to represent more interests, best go to PR in the first place.
I want it to be possible to have multiple viable "parties" in order
to make it more likely that the median voter can get what he actually
wants.

For the latter, I don't think it's clear that if Condorcet can't succeed,
nothing can.

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-11-26 03:39:37 UTC
Permalink
At 05:06 PM 11/25/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>If you want multiple parties in
>order to represent more interests, best go to PR in the first place.
>I want it to be possible to have multiple viable "parties" in order
>to make it more likely that the median voter can get what he actually
>wants.
>
>For the latter, I don't think it's clear that if Condorcet can't succeed,
>nothing can.

What's remarkable to me is that a solution was suggested over 120
years ago, and was simply neglected and forgotten, even though the
proponent was quite famous, Lewis Carroll.

The basic voting method was STV, optional ranking. And Carroll
recognized that requiring voters to deeply rank many candidates was
asking them to do something they probably were not good at.

So he suggested what Warren Smith called Asset Voting and Mike
Ossipoff, before him, called Candidate Proxy.

If a ballot is exhausted, let it continue to be exercised by the
candidate in first rank on it, "as if it were his property."

Now, my thinking: we do not have representation if our "choice" of
representative is coerced, if there is contention involved in it. If
my neighborhood elects a representative to the Amherst Town Meeting
(I don't live in Amherst, I live across the river), and I didn't vote
for that representative, I'm only accidentally represented, I have
not chosen the representative. The idea of contested elections for
representative only makes sense when your system grows out of one
where representatives were chosen by the sovereign. The public,
voting in an election, is the sovereign. These is not true democratic
representation; but, because it approximates it to some degree
(rather badly sometimes, but often better than that), it has been tolerated.

Real representation is chosen representation. And Asset Voting allows
that, without thereby creating an assembly that is far too large for
practical conduct of business. The Amherst Town Meeting is
ridiculous, way too large to be truly functional; it hangs on because
of long tradition; in two recent elections, it avoided being replaced
with a Mayor-Council government by a handful of votes. It's called
Town Meeting, but that term is usually reserved for direct democratic
assemblies of town voters, that what most small towns here have; but
when the town gets large, Town Meeting becomes cumbersome and
impractical, it takes up too much time when there is a contentious
issue. (When there is no contentious issue, many fewer voters show up
and it can still be functional.)

Asset should work with simple vote-for-one voting. It should allow
total and complete sincerity: vote for your favorite, the candidate
you most trust, out of what could be a large universe of candidates.
It then uses deliberative processes (negotiation) together with
post-election amalgamation (the asset holders recast their votes) to
put together an assembly that could approach or even meet full
representation, where every vote is represented by the holder of a
seat whom they voted for, or who was chosen by someone they voted
for. You would know who was elected, specifically, with your vote,
together with the other votes needed to meet a quota, if asset
holders, I'll call them electors, transfer them in precinct blocks,
so that all the votes the elector received from a precinct (or nearly
all) went to a single seat. That's not a rigid requirement, but it
would normally be possible to do that, and would probably increase
the sense of connection between voters and those who represent them
in the Assembly.

But, damn! It makes all this fancy election stuff largely moot!
Offices can be elected in the Assembly, and, hae you ever noticed
that no assembly uses, in its proceedings, instant-runoff voting? Or,
indeed, any advanced method? You don't do that when you have an
assembly that can hold multiple votes on an issue, as many as needed.
Instead, the simple process of motion, second, discussion, amendments
and votes on amendments, close of discussion, and vote on a
single-issue question (Yes/No), have we noticed?, is
Condorcet-compliant, but more than that. It is intelligent,
interactive, and considers preference strength. It's
Condorcet-compliant because if there is a candidate who pairwise
beats the current proposal in the motion, a motion to amend should
succeed. If members care! But preferences shift during the process,
it's not so neat as the set of preferences we use to analyze election
methods. It's messy and unpredictable. Like other living things.

So what do we need as an election method? If we must have a single
ballot, and a single winner, period, Range Voting is actually a
trick: it is the only relatively objective method of assessing the
expected voter satisfaction with an outcome, turned into an election
method. It's ideal because it's designed that way. (The only fly in
the ointment is the charges about strategic voting, but I've been
arguing that this is based on a total misconception of what we are
doing when we vote.)

But why in the world would we limit ourselves to that? Bad idea.
Single-winner elections are focused toward creating office-holders
who are very difficult to fire, they have fixed terms. That's not the
way you would hire servants, or officers, for a business. You hire
them "at will." The continuity argument is bogus. Sure, continuity is
valuable, and that is one of the things that one considers when
hiring and firing.

So: Parliamentary form of government, more advanced than the hybrid
royal/elected representative system used in the U.S. (The President
is a King for a fixed term and with very substantial restrictions,
but King nevertheless, not like the President of a corporation, who
is a hired servant, who can be fired by a simple majority vote of the Board.)

Then the problem reduces to how to manage the parliament, or
Assembly, as I call it. And that is actually, again, simple, so
simple that one wonders why, really, it's never been done. There were
some efforts in the U.S., in the early part of the 20th century, to
set up proportional voting systems, where holders of seats on a city
council voted, in the council, the number of votes they received in
the election. Such a system would allow very broad representation,
though I think Asset, creating a peer assembly, on the face of it,
would do better. It didn't succeed anywhere, as far as we've found.

The trick of Asset would allow something much better than fixed-term
seats. The electors, all of them, could form a virtual uber-Assembly
that I call a penumbra around the Assembly, the electors would have
the right to *vote* in the Assembly. When they vote, their vote would
be subtracted from the votes cast by the candidate(s) they elected to
the assembly. (I expect that such direct voting would be exceptional,
that normally it would not be enough to shift results, but that it
*could* shift results is important.) And the electors could fill
vacancies that appear, or remove seats and replace them. Thus the
Assembly could become continuously representative of the electors,
who were purely chosen by the voters without contention. (Indeed, as
I'd do it, any voter can become an elector. Just register, minimal
fee to be published in a directory, smaller fee without publication,
but you get a number that's used on the ballot. And vote for
yourself. Elector holding one vote. Down side, perhaps? That vote is
then exercised publicly, it's public record. Care about that? Don't
register as an elector, instead, choose the one you most trust.
Elections might be held once a year. In my opinion, the Assembly
would be *almost* the same as a pure direct democracy, as close as is
practical when the scale is large.

I do think that something like this is where we will end up. And I do
know how to get from here to there. One step at a time. It starts
with communication, and with establishing networks. It's happening.

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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-11-26 17:53:54 UTC
Permalink
Kevin Venzke wrote:
> Hi Kristofer,
>
> --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no> a écrit :
>> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all
>> realistic elections (as opposed to the CW according to
>> strategic ballots), and the Australian two-party (two and a
>> third?) dominance arises from IRV, then that means that any
>> Condorcet single-round single winner method will lead to two
>> party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of course, if it
>> is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is, it'll
>> still be the truth; and in that case we should focus on
>> multiwinner elections and PR instead.
>
> Might depend on what your goals are. If you want multiple parties in
> order to represent more interests, best go to PR in the first place.
> I want it to be possible to have multiple viable "parties" in order
> to make it more likely that the median voter can get what he actually
> wants.
>
> For the latter, I don't think it's clear that if Condorcet can't succeed,
> nothing can.

I suppose what I want is a combination of this. The voter should have
what he wants (which is to say, the method should make it more likely
that the median voter can get what he wants), but if there is no
selection among alternatives, that can't happen. In other words, if
there is a two-party state and the parties don't care about your issues,
you're out of luck; and if they say they care about your issues, only to
turn around once elected, you have little chance to do anything. A
duopoly is bad whether it's a political or economic duopoly.

So I want the people to be able to get what they want, but also the
method to support the circumstances that ensure that will be true in the
future as well.
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Juho Laatu
2008-11-26 21:51:28 UTC
Permalink
--- On Wed, 26/11/08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no> wrote:

> From: Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no>
> Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
> To: ***@yahoo.fr
> Cc: election-***@electorama.com
> Date: Wednesday, 26 November, 2008, 7:53 PM
> Kevin Venzke wrote:
> > Hi Kristofer,
> >
> > --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm
> <km-***@broadpark.no> a écrit :
> >> If IRV does elect the true Condorcet winner in all
> >> realistic elections (as opposed to the CW
> according to
> >> strategic ballots), and the Australian two-party
> (two and a
> >> third?) dominance arises from IRV, then that means
> that any
> >> Condorcet single-round single winner method will
> lead to two
> >> party dominance. That would be unfortunate. Of
> course, if it
> >> is the truth, no matter how unfortunate it is,
> it'll
> >> still be the truth; and in that case we should
> focus on
> >> multiwinner elections and PR instead.
> >
> > Might depend on what your goals are. If you want
> multiple parties in
> > order to represent more interests, best go to PR in
> the first place.
> > I want it to be possible to have multiple viable
> "parties" in order
> > to make it more likely that the median voter can get
> what he actually
> > wants.
> >
> > For the latter, I don't think it's clear that
> if Condorcet can't succeed,
> > nothing can.
>
> I suppose what I want is a combination of this. The voter
> should have what he wants (which is to say, the method
> should make it more likely that the median voter can get
> what he wants), but if there is no selection among
> alternatives, that can't happen. In other words, if
> there is a two-party state and the parties don't care
> about your issues, you're out of luck; and if they say
> they care about your issues, only to turn around once
> elected, you have little chance to do anything. A duopoly is
> bad whether it's a political or economic duopoly.
>
> So I want the people to be able to get what they want, but
> also the method to support the circumstances that ensure
> that will be true in the future as well.

I think this is one key to how also current multi-party systems could be improved. Many people "hate" the party structure since often the parties seem to be quite stagnated and deaf to the voices of reason. If this happens in a situation where the country is in a stable state without any risk of too rapid movements in the political structure, then it may make sense to encourage the political parties/structure to react better to the needs / development interests of the citizens.

Example 1. STV is a method that allows voters to influence very freely on which candidates will be elected when compared to more party oriented methods. There may be some drawbacks in complexity (especially if there are many candidates) and lack of structure (candidates are not bound to programs).

Example 2. Subgroups withing the parties allow voters to influence more on which candidates will be elected when compared to basic party oriented methods. Expressiveness is more limited than in example 1. Groupings are more clear than in example 1.

In both approaches the main expected benefit thus is that these methods are supposed to make it possible to the voters to have a say on what direction the political parties will grow (example 2 focuses more on this), or allow elected representatives to form freely any kind of coalitions (=not necessarily bound to the official and limiting party policy) when making decisions (example 1 is more radical here).

Juho



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> http://electorama.com/em for list info




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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-11-27 19:11:18 UTC
Permalink
Juho Laatu wrote:
> --- On Wed, 26/11/08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no> wrote:

>> I suppose what I want is a combination of this. The voter
>> should have what he wants (which is to say, the method
>> should make it more likely that the median voter can get
>> what he wants), but if there is no selection among
>> alternatives, that can't happen. In other words, if
>> there is a two-party state and the parties don't care
>> about your issues, you're out of luck; and if they say
>> they care about your issues, only to turn around once
>> elected, you have little chance to do anything. A duopoly is
>> bad whether it's a political or economic duopoly.
>>
>> So I want the people to be able to get what they want, but
>> also the method to support the circumstances that ensure
>> that will be true in the future as well.
>
> I think this is one key to how also current multi-party systems could
> be improved. Many people "hate" the party structure since often the
> parties seem to be quite stagnated and deaf to the voices of reason. If
> this happens in a situation where the country is in a stable state
> without any risk of too rapid movements in the political structure, then
> it may make sense to encourage the political parties/structure to react
> better to the needs / development interests of the citizens.
>
> Example 1. STV is a method that allows voters to influence very
> freely on which candidates will be elected when compared to more
> party oriented methods. There may be some drawbacks in complexity
> (especially if there are many candidates) and lack of structure
> (candidates are not bound to programs).
>
> Example 2. Subgroups withing the parties allow voters to influence
> more on which candidates will be elected when compared to basic party
> oriented methods. Expressiveness is more limited than in example 1.
> Groupings are more clear than in example 1.
>
> In both approaches the main expected benefit thus is that these
> methods are supposed to make it possible to the voters to have a say on
> what direction the political parties will grow (example 2 focuses more
> on this), or allow elected representatives to form freely any kind of
> coalitions (=not necessarily bound to the official and limiting party
> policy) when making decisions (example 1 is more radical here).

I think that the second approach (that is, your first example) is the
one to focus on, but that's probably because I think that parties
shouldn't be made official parts of the system. If the parties find that
independents are taking the seats, or that members lower on their lists
get consistently ranked higher, then the parties should do something
about it.

That could fail if parties have the general power to set the agenda, so
that they can use their power to concentrate their power further, in
which case one might just have to concede and let the voters have direct
power over party matters instead.

As for the second approach, I'll say that STV is a good method (with
sufficient seats), Schulze's STV-MMP is somewhat better (if more
complex), but also that it's possible to make better party-neutral PR
methods than STV. If my simulations are of any value, QPQ is one such
method, but it's that by coincidence more than anything, I think, so
there's still room for trying to find ways to design a better
party-neutral PR method "from first principles", and for discovering how
to do so.
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Juho Laatu
2008-11-28 00:23:12 UTC
Permalink
--- On Thu, 27/11/08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no> wrote:

> From: Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-***@broadpark.no>
> Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
> To: ***@yahoo.co.uk
> Cc: election-***@electorama.com
> Date: Thursday, 27 November, 2008, 9:11 PM
> Juho Laatu wrote:
> > --- On Wed, 26/11/08, Kristofer Munsterhjelm
> <km-***@broadpark.no> wrote:
>
> >> I suppose what I want is a combination of this.
> The voter
> >> should have what he wants (which is to say, the
> method
> >> should make it more likely that the median voter
> can get
> >> what he wants), but if there is no selection among
> >> alternatives, that can't happen. In other
> words, if
> >> there is a two-party state and the parties
> don't care
> >> about your issues, you're out of luck; and if
> they say
> >> they care about your issues, only to turn around
> once
> >> elected, you have little chance to do anything. A
> duopoly is
> >> bad whether it's a political or economic
> duopoly.
> >>
> >> So I want the people to be able to get what they
> want, but
> >> also the method to support the circumstances that
> ensure
> >> that will be true in the future as well.
> >
> > I think this is one key to how also current
> multi-party systems could
> > be improved. Many people "hate" the party
> structure since often the
> > parties seem to be quite stagnated and deaf to the
> voices of reason. If
> > this happens in a situation where the country is in a
> stable state
> > without any risk of too rapid movements in the
> political structure, then
> > it may make sense to encourage the political
> parties/structure to react
> > better to the needs / development interests of the
> citizens.
> >
> > Example 1. STV is a method that allows voters to
> influence very
> > freely on which candidates will be elected when
> compared to more
> > party oriented methods. There may be some drawbacks in
> complexity
> > (especially if there are many candidates) and lack of
> structure
> > (candidates are not bound to programs).
> >
> > Example 2. Subgroups withing the parties allow voters
> to influence
> > more on which candidates will be elected when compared
> to basic party
> > oriented methods. Expressiveness is more limited than
> in example 1.
> > Groupings are more clear than in example 1.
> >
> > In both approaches the main expected benefit thus is
> that these
> > methods are supposed to make it possible to the voters
> to have a say on
> > what direction the political parties will grow
> (example 2 focuses more
> > on this), or allow elected representatives to form
> freely any kind of
> > coalitions (=not necessarily bound to the official and
> limiting party
> > policy) when making decisions (example 1 is more
> radical here).
>
> I think that the second approach (that is, your first
> example) is the one to focus on, but that's probably
> because I think that parties shouldn't be made official
> parts of the system.

Fair enough.

The benefits of example 1 include
- extreme flexibility

The problems include
- the need to evaluate a rank numerous candidates if there are many of them (=> limits the number of candidates)
- some strategic voting patterns (free riding)

The benefits of example 2 include
- simple voting
- clear declaration of political position of the candidates (may be considered limiting too)

The problems include
- voter can not pick a personal list of candidates (on the other hand that may not work anyway since candidates will work with those people that they indicated to be their close allies)

Both methods open up the possibility to bring some life to a stagnated party based systems.

Also hybrid methods are possible. One could allow naming of groups of candidates, candidate specific preference lists etc.

Juho

> If the parties find that independents
> are taking the seats, or that members lower on their lists
> get consistently ranked higher, then the parties should do
> something about it.
>
> That could fail if parties have the general power to set
> the agenda, so that they can use their power to concentrate
> their power further, in which case one might just have to
> concede and let the voters have direct power over party
> matters instead.
>
> As for the second approach, I'll say that STV is a good
> method (with sufficient seats), Schulze's STV-MMP is
> somewhat better (if more complex), but also that it's
> possible to make better party-neutral PR methods than STV.
> If my simulations are of any value, QPQ is one such method,
> but it's that by coincidence more than anything, I
> think, so there's still room for trying to find ways to
> design a better party-neutral PR method "from first
> principles", and for discovering how to do so.




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Juho Laatu
2008-11-25 19:30:46 UTC
Permalink
In general I tend to agree that IRV and TTR do elect
reasonable candidates most of the time. Condorcet has
a problem since there have been only few major real
life elections and therefore there is no good data
available.

A good alternative to actual election data is always
also credible real-life like examples. That means that
one should estimate the probability of the set-up
(sincere opinions), required number of strategically
minded voters, probability of voters identifying the
strategy, need to coordinate the strategy, risk of
other strategies, risk of backfiring strategies, risk
of inaccurate polls, risk or changing opinions, risk
of losing votes due to plotting etc.

Juho



--- On Tue, 25/11/08, Greg <***@somervilleirv.org> wrote:

> From: Greg <***@somervilleirv.org>
> Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
> To: election-***@lists.electorama.com
> Date: Tuesday, 25 November, 2008, 6:52 PM
> > Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 09:16:34 -0500
> > From: Brian Olson <***@bolson.org>
> > Subject: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious
> alternative
> >
> > There's been a lot of discussion lately started by
> people who advocate
> > IRV. I'm mystified. Really? You really think IRV
> is a good system?
> > I've spent so long considering it to be pretty
> much junk that I really
> > am confused by that position. Here's my summary of
> why I think IRV is
> > junk.
> >
> > (from http://bolson.org/voting/irv/ )
>
> I will believe that when I'm presented with a
> non-negligible number of
> actual IRV elections for public office that failed to elect
> the
> "right" winner. And for starters, you get to
> define what "right" is.
> Preferably something of the form: in Election X, IRV
> elected candidate
> Y but candidate Z was the right winner, because of [insert
> your
> criteria and evidence here]. The more such cases you have,
> the more
> convincing your argument. I've studied every IRV
> election for public
> office ever held in the United States, most of which have
> their full
> ranking data publicly available, and every single time IRV
> elected the
> Condorcet winner, something I consider to be a good, though
> not
> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the
> "right" winner. When you
> present a case in which IRV did not elect the right winner,
> maybe I'll
> agree or maybe I'll dispute your criteria, but at least
> then we'd be
> off the blackboard and into the world of real elections.
>
> Greg
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Brian Olson
2008-11-26 02:14:28 UTC
Permalink
Greg, you didn't actually say that IRV is good, you just said that
it's unlikely to be bad.
Why bother with something that's unlikely to be bad when we can just
as easily get something without that badness?
Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph? See
how over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social
satisfaction?

On Nov 25, 2008, at 11:52 AM, Greg wrote:

> I will believe that when I'm presented with a non-negligible number of
> actual IRV elections for public office that failed to elect the
> "right" winner. And for starters, you get to define what "right" is.
> Preferably something of the form: in Election X, IRV elected candidate
> Y but candidate Z was the right winner, because of [insert your
> criteria and evidence here]. The more such cases you have, the more
> convincing your argument. I've studied every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States, most of which have their full
> ranking data publicly available, and every single time IRV elected the
> Condorcet winner, something I consider to be a good, though not
> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right" winner. When you
> present a case in which IRV did not elect the right winner, maybe I'll
> agree or maybe I'll dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd be
> off the blackboard and into the world of real elections.

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Greg
2008-11-26 10:53:46 UTC
Permalink
> Greg, you didn't actually say that IRV is good, you just said that it's
> unlikely to be bad.

Huh? One reason I think it's good in part because it's very likely to
elect elect the Condorcet candidate, if that's what you mean by
"unlikely to be bad." Some other reasons I think it's good is that it
resists strategic voting, allows third parties to participate, and
paves the way for PR.

> Why bother with something that's unlikely to be bad when we can just as
> easily get something without that badness?

You can't get rid of "badness." Every system is imperfect. IRV is
non-monotonic; Condorcet is susceptible to burial. So we're left to
balance the relative pros and cons.

> Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph? See how
> over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social satisfaction?

Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
data must be different from what they are.

Greg


> On Nov 25, 2008, at 11:52 AM, Greg wrote:
>
>> I will believe that when I'm presented with a non-negligible number of
>> actual IRV elections for public office that failed to elect the
>> "right" winner. And for starters, you get to define what "right" is.
>> Preferably something of the form: in Election X, IRV elected candidate
>> Y but candidate Z was the right winner, because of [insert your
>> criteria and evidence here]. The more such cases you have, the more
>> convincing your argument. I've studied every IRV election for public
>> office ever held in the United States, most of which have their full
>> ranking data publicly available, and every single time IRV elected the
>> Condorcet winner, something I consider to be a good, though not
>> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right" winner. When you
>> present a case in which IRV did not elect the right winner, maybe I'll
>> agree or maybe I'll dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd be
>> off the blackboard and into the world of real elections.
>
>
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Brian Olson
2008-11-26 13:43:42 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 26, 2008, at 5:53 AM, Greg wrote:

>> Greg, you didn't actually say that IRV is good, you just said that
>> it's
>> unlikely to be bad.
>
> Huh? One reason I think it's good in part because it's very likely to
> elect elect the Condorcet candidate, if that's what you mean by
> "unlikely to be bad." Some other reasons I think it's good is that it
> resists strategic voting, allows third parties to participate, and
> paves the way for PR.

And you get all those other good qualities in just about every other
election method past 'pick one'.
And I should have flipped that around, 'unlikely to be bad' means that
there's a definite chance that it will be bad.

>> Why bother with something that's unlikely to be bad when we can
>> just as
>> easily get something without that badness?
>
> You can't get rid of "badness." Every system is imperfect. IRV is
> non-monotonic; Condorcet is susceptible to burial. So we're left to
> balance the relative pros and cons.

So, you discount and ignore the possibility that IRV will make
systemically the wrong choice and behave chaotically, and I discount
and neglect the possibility that some people will cast crazy rankings
ballots.
Obviously I still think I'm making the more rational evaluation.

>> Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph?
>> See how
>> over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social
>> satisfaction?
>
> Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
> up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
> show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
> predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
> data must be different from what they are.

Given the substantial lack of data (pretty little real world rankings
ballot data available), I think the simulations are still valid and
interesting. The simulations explore a specific and small portion of
the problem space in detail. I'm looking at races of N choices which
are similarly valued by all the voters. It's a tight race. Actual
elections haven't been that tight. But tight races are the interesting
ones. When it's crunch time, those are the ones that matter. Almost
any method can correctly determine the winner of a race that isn't
tight. So, IRV has demonstrated in the real world that it can solve
easy problems. So what? Why wait until it gets the wrong answer in a
real election to admit that IRV can get the wrong answer? In matters
of public safety that would be called a 'tombstone mentality'.
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Dave Ketchum
2008-11-26 23:22:28 UTC
Permalink
A good summary. If we only cared about the easy ones Plurality would be
good enough.

DWK

On Wed, 26 Nov 2008 08:43:42 -0500 Brian Olson wrote:
> On Nov 26, 2008, at 5:53 AM, Greg wrote:
>
>>> Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph? See how
>>> over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social satisfaction?
>>
>>
>> Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
>> up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
>> show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
>> predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
>> data must be different from what they are.
>
>
> Given the substantial lack of data (pretty little real world rankings
> ballot data available), I think the simulations are still valid and
> interesting. The simulations explore a specific and small portion of
> the problem space in detail. I'm looking at races of N choices which
> are similarly valued by all the voters. It's a tight race. Actual
> elections haven't been that tight. But tight races are the interesting
> ones. When it's crunch time, those are the ones that matter. Almost any
> method can correctly determine the winner of a race that isn't tight.
> So, IRV has demonstrated in the real world that it can solve easy
> problems. So what? Why wait until it gets the wrong answer in a real
> election to admit that IRV can get the wrong answer? In matters of
> public safety that would be called a 'tombstone mentality'.
--
***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Greg
2008-11-26 23:48:38 UTC
Permalink
That is incorrect. There have been tight (not "easy") elections where
IRV chose the Condorcet winner. The recent Pierce County Executive and
Assessor-Recorder races are two examples.

Also, there's actually a decent amount of real world ranking data
available. IRV data from San Francisco, Burlington, and Pierce County.
STV data from Cambridge and Ireland. Preferential presidential polls
from Ireland. And more. I'm in the process of making it all available
online in a uniform format.

Greg


On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 6:22 PM, Dave Ketchum <***@clarityconnect.com> wrote:
> A good summary. If we only cared about the easy ones Plurality would be
> good enough.
>
> DWK
>
> On Wed, 26 Nov 2008 08:43:42 -0500 Brian Olson wrote:
>>
>> On Nov 26, 2008, at 5:53 AM, Greg wrote:
>>
>>>> Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph? See
>>>> how
>>>> over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social
>>>> satisfaction?
>>>
>>>
>>> Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
>>> up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
>>> show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
>>> predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
>>> data must be different from what they are.
>>
>>
>> Given the substantial lack of data (pretty little real world rankings
>> ballot data available), I think the simulations are still valid and
>> interesting. The simulations explore a specific and small portion of the
>> problem space in detail. I'm looking at races of N choices which are
>> similarly valued by all the voters. It's a tight race. Actual elections
>> haven't been that tight. But tight races are the interesting ones. When
>> it's crunch time, those are the ones that matter. Almost any method can
>> correctly determine the winner of a race that isn't tight. So, IRV has
>> demonstrated in the real world that it can solve easy problems. So what?
>> Why wait until it gets the wrong answer in a real election to admit that
>> IRV can get the wrong answer? In matters of public safety that would be
>> called a 'tombstone mentality'.
>
> --
> ***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
> Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
> Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
> If you want peace, work for justice.
>
>
>
>
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Dave Ketchum
2008-11-27 00:35:02 UTC
Permalink
Topic is IRV vs Condorcet.

My point last time was that easy races are no challenge to either.

Now I concede that not all hard races are a challenge, but the few that IRV
has handled do not guarantee that it will do all well, considering the
opportunity for failure.

DWK

On Wed, 26 Nov 2008 18:48:38 -0500 Greg wrote:
> That is incorrect. There have been tight (not "easy") elections where
> IRV chose the Condorcet winner. The recent Pierce County Executive and
> Assessor-Recorder races are two examples.
>
> Also, there's actually a decent amount of real world ranking data
> available. IRV data from San Francisco, Burlington, and Pierce County.
> STV data from Cambridge and Ireland. Preferential presidential polls
> from Ireland. And more. I'm in the process of making it all available
> online in a uniform format.
>
> Greg
>
>
> On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 6:22 PM, Dave Ketchum <***@clarityconnect.com> wrote:
>
>>A good summary. If we only cared about the easy ones Plurality would be
>>good enough.
--
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Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-02 02:23:11 UTC
Permalink
At 05:53 AM 11/26/2008, Greg wrote:
> > Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph? See how
> > over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower social satisfaction?
>
>Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
>up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
>show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
>predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
>data must be different from what they are.

The Range simulations that Smith did are different from the Yee
diagrams, though Yee diagrams, independently developed, show similar
things. The Range simulations are based on voter preference profiles
and candidate positions that are designed to be roughly realistic.
And thus, with them, it becomes possible to make predictions about
the frequency of occurrence of election pathologies.

The problem with "real election data" from "actual elections" is
twofold: first of all, such data is only available for very few
elections, comparatively, and it is quite tedious to collect.
Secondly, we don't have the internal preference profiles on which,
say, Condorcet failure would be judged. San Francisco data, for
example, only collects the top three preferences. One might need to
go deeper. There is no way to know preference strength data to know
if what might be called normalized and summed social utility failure
is taking place, i.e., failure to select the optimal candidate from
the point of view of overall voter satisfaction.

We can do all this with the simulations. Simulations, properly done,
should predict real election behavior, at least to some extent. That
work is yet to be done. However, at this point *the simulations are
all we have.* We don't have any other reasonably objective way of
measuring election method performance.

Measuring. Basically, Greg, you've just got your mouth and a pile of
opinions, no proof at all that IRV, in the U.S., replacing
nonpartisan top two runoff races, is any better, and there is pretty
good evidence that it is worse. It is choosing winners who, in a real
runoff among the top two (and the IRV winner would be among the top
two, we can be practically certain of that, since moving from third
place in first preference to a win simply does not happen in IRV
elections in Australia), would lose. I'd call that a poor result, one
which, by the principles of majority rule as long understood and
practiced, would be rejected.

So if you think we should look at real elections instead of
simulations, why don't you. Take a look at them, take a look at all
the IRV elections that have been held in the U.S. since San Francisco
was duped into implementing IRV. (Yes, duped. The voter information
pamphlet gave the voters false information, and, unfortunately, none
of the opponents picked up on it. We have a lot of work to do! It's
possible to argue that the voters would have approved IRV anyway, but
what is really important is that they did not do what many were
thinking they were doing. They did not implement a system that
supports majority rule, they did not implement a system that
guarantees a majority, far from it. The IRV code change actually
struck the majority requirement from the code. But the voter
information pamphlet said that the winner would still be required to
gain a majority. Now, few people, encountering IRV for the first
time, are going to realize the problem with exhausted ballots, they
will have no idea that so many votes will be discarded and the
ballots treated as if the voter hadn't voted. That's *highly*
offensive to the concept of majority rule and the importance of
majority decisions. The name of Robert's Rules of Order has been used
in vain by IRV promoters, who claim that RRO "recommends" IRV for
mail voting. In fact, what RRO describes is IRV, but with a true
majority requirement ("or the election will have to be repeated").

Naturally, they don't call what they describe "instant runoff."
Because it isn't. It's the *method* of IRV, but with that critical
rule: a majority of ballots cast must contain a vote for the winner,
revealed. What they are actually recommending, by the way, is
"preferential voting," and they simply describe the IRV method "by
way of illustration." Because there is a simpler and better method
which is more likely to find a majority than IRV, because it counts
all the votes if it's needed, I've been asked, "Why, then, did they
not describe that other method, why did they describe IRV, smarty pants?"

Robert's Rules of Order is a manual of practice, reflecting actual
practice. The better method of preferential voting mentioned hasn't
been used in this country for many years, it's Bucklin Voting, which
was very, very popular. It's a monotonic method, it is really instant
runoff Approval, it finds majorities more efficiently than IRV, it's
far easier to count, being a simple sum-of-votes method, and it has
better performance in the simulations. Consider this: it was widely
used. No examples of failure known, i.e., it was not rejected because
of poor results. Much cheaper to count, can be run on ordinary voting
machines. Fixes the spoiler effect. It's quite like Approval except
it does allow preference ranking and lower ranks are only used if a
majority isn't found with the higher ranks.

Bucklin is not in use. I'm unaware of any recent examples. The
editors of RRO were obviously aware that there were many forms of
preferential voting, but they were constrained to describe one
example. Which they then comment is problematic because the method of
sequential elimination can eliminate a "compromise candidate." For
that, read "Condorcet winner."

This is, in other words, Center Squeeze, and that is *not* a rare
phenomenon; we've seen it many times with Top Two runoff: the Lizard
vs. the Wizard election in Louisiana, the French presidential
election in 2002 where the probably Condorcet winner was narrowly
bumped down to third place by Le Pen, into the decimal percentages,
with both getting about 19% and Chirac only a few percent more. (Lots
of candidates!). Jospin would almost certainly have beaten Chirac,
the first-preference frontrunner. When the runoff came, Chirac
slaughtered Le Pen, so to speak, with 80% of the vote.

IRV is sold as a simulation of runoff voting, and some
implementations do exactly that: batch elimination of all candidates
but the top two, then vote transfers from lower preferences of
eliminated candidates.

Both IRV and Top Two Runoff are, on the face, vulnerable to Center
Squeeze, and there is no reason I've ever seen to think it will be
more rare with IRV than with TTR. So we have lots of examples to look
at to see actual behavior. Center Squeeze takes special conditions,
though. It takes three major parties, at least. Most IRV elections
have been held under two-party conditions, and, in spite of the
claims of IRV supporters, it appears that IRV supports and makes
two-party systems more stable. Yes, you really ought to look at real
IRV results and effects, instead of the pipe dreams FairVote has
smoked up for you.

Greg, did you know all this? Be honest!

Did you know that Robert's Rules of Order doesn't recommend what is
sold as IRV or RCV in this country?

That Top Two Runoff is much closer to what Robert's Rules of Order
prefers? (They prefer no candidate elimination, and some variations
on TTR allow write-in votes, thus they are closer to parliamentary
procedure than any method limited to one ballot can be)

That Center Squeeze is not uncommon whenever there are three parties
with the largest number of first preference votes, and that RRO
specifically criticizes sequential elimination preferential voting
for this? In other words, if IRV were to actually encourage third
parties, it would then create the conditions for its own failure?

That much better, simpler, cheaper, and more reliable methods exist
and one of them, Bucklin, has seen more use in the U.S. than the
recent experiments with IRV?

Now, one argument you made was true, or at least represents the
intention of FairVote. You argued that IRV would pave the way for
proportional representation. That's probably FairVote strategy from
the beginning; they started as the Center for Proportional
Representation, morphed into the Center for Voting and Democracy, and
then to FairVote. The original goal was PR, for most people involved
in the early meetings. IRV is a band-aid, PR is a serious change, a
major reform. IRV in the U.S., in nonpartisan elections, only rarely
differs in result from Plurality. It differs in result from Top Two
Runoff, in possibly about one election out of ten.

But the common (and generally good) method for doing PR is Single
Transferable Vote, with its complex and difficult vote-transfer
schemes. FairVote realized that they couldn't get this in one step.
At some point the term "Instant runoff voting" was suggested to
Richie -- we have the testimony of the person who suggested, who
later came to regret it, he does not support IRV -- and he realized,
I'm sure, that this gave him a toehold. IRV could be sold as a
cheaper, more convenient substitute for real runoff voting. Did he
care that it is *not* a simulation of real runoff voting, that by
making this change, the right of the people to choose was being
lessened? I don't think so. I'm not sure that, at that point, anyone
was aware of the difference. But we know now. Real runoffs are far
more powerful a reform than *any* deterministic method!

But FairVote's goal isn't better single-winner elections, not really.
If it were, there are much better methods! Haven't you noticed, Greg,
that those who really understand voting systems, who have studied
them for many years, almost universally don't like IRV? IRV uses a
complicated system of candidate elimination and vote transfers that
makes it violate quite a number of voting system criteria, and, at
the same time, satisfy a highly questionable criterion -- read
Woodall in his original description --, Later No Harm, which strikes
at the heart of the principles of democratic compromise.

FairVote's goal is now a bit unclear. I think it is largely to win.
Whatever. The long term goal may remain PR, and there is, indeed, an
STV-PR element to the Minneapolis situation. That is, if it passes
constitutional muster (on the face, it most certainly does not,
several independent attorneys gave that opinion, against an attorney
affiliated with FairVote, plus, hey, I've read the whole Brown v.
Smallwood decision and have studied it carefully. FairVote has
extensively lied about it, misrepresenting it by quoting it out of
context. If the attornies for FairVote and the City of Minneapolis
rely on that argument, they may be sunk. However, Brown v. Smallwood
was deeply flawed, self-contradictory, and not supported by any other
similar decision elsewhere. They were aware that they were violating
precedent, that other courts had found preferential voting to be
valid. B v. S should be reversed. FairVote, though, isn't going for
that. Instead they are trying to argue that B v. S is valid, and was
really about Later No Harm -- this very recently invented criterion
that they find dicta supporting in B v. S -- and because the method
involved was Bucklin voting, not single transferable vote, they argue
that IRV isn't covered by B v. S. In other words, they are arguing
that all other advanced voting methods, including Condorcet methods,
Approval, Range, Bucklin, should remain illegal and that only
sequential elimination be allowed. Poisonous. Narrow self-interest,
for narrow political advantage. It's what we've come to expect from
FairVote, unfortunately.

(Brown v. Smallwood actually outlawed any form of alternative vote,
allowing voters to vote for more candidates than there are winners
for the office. They mention this not just once, and it is reaffirmed
in the court's response to the request for rehearing. In order to
take the position they take, they have to seize on a possible meaning
of one sentence and ignore the rest of the decision. I wish I could
be confident that the Minnesotata courts will see through this.

Note that I support allowing Minnesota to proceed. I'm worried only
that a precedent will be established in Minnesota, as a result of how
FairVote is playing this, that could prevent further reform there.
IRV is no reform at all, apparently, when applied to nonpartisan
elections where runoff voting was being used. It's a step backwards.
(Literally: in some places in the U.S. that used IRV for a time, it
was replaced with top two runoff. Do we ever think of looking at
history so we don't make the same mistake more than once? I'm not
sure it was a mistake, but at least we should look! Runoff voting was
long considered a major reform. IRV, in actual practice in
nonpartisan elections, regresses to give Plurality results, that's
what real elections are showing. I estimate something like one
election out of ten, Top Two Runoff would give a different result,
and it is almost certainly a better one. The cost is roughly three
runoffs to get one "comeback election." The other two confirm the
plurality result from the first round.

Again, Greg, did you know this?

However, there are better ways of doing PR. One of them was a tweak
on Single Transferable Vote invented by Lewis Carroll (Charles
Dodgson) and published in a pamphlet in about 1883. Warren Smith, of
the Center for Range Voting, reinvented it early in this century and
called it Asset Voting, a metaphor that was also used by Carroll. The
big problem with STV is exhausted ballots, and the problem is
intrinsic. The Australians mostly deal with it by requiring full
ranking, which will never fly in the U.S. and it is actually quite an
undemocratic idea, coercive. You *will* vote for all candidates
except for one, thus legitimizing the election by an absolute
majority -- sounds good, eh? -- even if you detest the candidate and
would much rather see the whole election thrown out. When a real
majority is required without coercion, that's exactly what happens if
a majority of voters don't cast a vote for the winner. Preferential
Voting systems don't change that, they merely make it possible for
voters to cast alternative votes.

Single Transferable Vote is a pretty good method for PR, but it gets
much better with the Asset tweak, which, it turns out, if I'm
correct, opens a whole new door into democratic possibilities. But at
the start, it is this simple: if a ballot is exhausted, the vote it
represents comes, as Carroll put it, "as it were, the property of the
first preference candidate on it," who may then reassign this vote at
will. It turns the resolution of the election into a deliberative
process, and deliberative processes are far more democratic than pure
aggregation, relying on aggregation alone is a method for keeping the
masses disempowered.

Immediate effect: no wasted votes. You can vote with absolute
sincerity for the candidate you most trust. It doesn't matter if that
candidate will win or not. You don't have to rank more than one,
unless you want to. (If you rank, then your vote is transferred
unless and until exhausted, as you have directed.)

Used for PR, it can result in a totally and fully and accurately
representative peer assembly, where every voter (almost, with some
tweaks it can be just about every) represented by someone they
*chose* or someone chosen by someone they chose. The only way to do
it better -- and it's not much better, if it is better at all -- is
with delegable proxy and thus variable voting strength in the
Assembly (that was also an idea which came up in the U.S. early in
the last century).

There are other methods, such as Reweighted Range Voting or
Proportional Approval Voting, but Asset is such a spectacular idea,
yet so simple, that we should be looking at it.

You could get very good PR, using Asset Voting, with a standard
Plurality, vote-for-one ballot. Carroll invented Asset because he
realized that most voters couldn't rank a whole list of candidates
based on knowledge: in Australia, they use Robson Rotation to even
out the effect of the very common "donkey voting," where voters just
mark down a list of candidates in the sequence listed, to satisfy the
requirements of law -- otherwise their vote is voided as "informal."

Where they use optional preferential voting in Australia -- i.e.,
more like what we do here, except that full ranking is allowed but
not required any more, they change the election rules to no longer
require election by an absolute majority, but by a "majority of
continuing ballots containing a vote for a candidate not yet
eliminated," or some such language. And they see *lots* of exhausted
ballots. Voters do not want to rank everyone, nor should they be
required to. Carroll realized that most voters had little trouble
identifying their favorite. So why not let them vote that way, and
use the favorite as a proxy for the voter?

(The same idea was proposed by Mike Ossipoff in the 1990s, under the
name Candidate Proxy. As to myself, when I first heard about Single
Transferable Vote, I asked myself, who controls the transfers, and I
thought, must be the named candidate! In other words this isn't a
really obscure, difficult concept, it's rather easily thought of. So
why hasn't it been tried? I'll tell you. It's the same reason Bucklin
Voting was outlawed in the U.S. The same reason that STV-PR was
eliminated in New York. The same reason why the IEEE dropped Approval
Voting. It's not that it wasn't working! There are powerful forces
that do not want democracy. There are even election reformers that do
not trust democratic process, that's why you'll never see FairVote
open to democratic process and a change of direction and strategy.
Democratic process is messy, allegedly inefficient, and might decide
to abandon my fabulous ideas. Why should I build a successful
organization and let the mere will of the people change it? It's a
common phenomenon with political activists....)



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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 17:18:12 UTC
Permalink
Dear Greg,

you wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> I've studied every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States, most
> of which have their full ranking data publicly
> available, and every single time IRV elected
> the Condorcet winner, something I consider to
> be a good, though not perfect, rule of thumb
> for determining the "right" winner. When you
> present a case in which IRV did not elect the
> right winner, maybe I'll agree or maybe I'll
> dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd
> be off the blackboard and into the world of
> real elections.

If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
IRV election for public office ever held in the
USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
right winner?

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 17:26:50 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 9:18 AM, Markus Schulze wrote:

> Dear Greg,
>
> you wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> I've studied every IRV election for public
>> office ever held in the United States, most
>> of which have their full ranking data publicly
>> available, and every single time IRV elected
>> the Condorcet winner, something I consider to
>> be a good, though not perfect, rule of thumb
>> for determining the "right" winner. When you
>> present a case in which IRV did not elect the
>> right winner, maybe I'll agree or maybe I'll
>> dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd
>> be off the blackboard and into the world of
>> real elections.
>
> If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
> IRV election for public office ever held in the
> USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
> winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
> your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
> right winner?
>
> Markus Schulze

Could you please spell out that logic? I'm not seeing how a claim that
IRV elects the right winner implies that plurality elects the right
winner. I'm thinking of Florida 2000, with the usual assumptions about
Nader voters, as a counterexample.

Seems to me you're arguing from the converse.
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Terry Bouricius
2008-11-25 17:31:47 UTC
Permalink
Markus,

That observation is incorrect, as there was a come-from behind winner in
the November Pierce County IRV election, as well as in the famous Ann
arbor mayoral election in the 70s. But also, your logic is odd...Quite
often plurality rules will happen to elect a Condorcet-winner
candidate...but that fact is not compelling since it also frequently
elects the Condorcet-loser. I can point to MANY examples where plurality
has failed to elect a "rightful" winner (often electing the
Condorcet-loser). In none of the IRV elections has the Condorcet-loser
been elected (and cannot be). The point is that IRV does NOT always elect
the plurality leader.

Terry Bouricius

----- Original Message -----
From: "Markus Schulze" <***@alumni.tu-berlin.de>
To: <election-***@electorama.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:18 PM
Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative


Dear Greg,

you wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> I've studied every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States, most
> of which have their full ranking data publicly
> available, and every single time IRV elected
> the Condorcet winner, something I consider to
> be a good, though not perfect, rule of thumb
> for determining the "right" winner. When you
> present a case in which IRV did not elect the
> right winner, maybe I'll agree or maybe I'll
> dispute your criteria, but at least then we'd
> be off the blackboard and into the world of
> real elections.

If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
IRV election for public office ever held in the
USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
right winner?

Markus Schulze


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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-11-26 02:56:08 UTC
Permalink
At 12:18 PM 11/25/2008, Markus Schulze wrote:

>If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
>IRV election for public office ever held in the
>USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
>winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
>your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
>right winner?

Since I'm being mentioned, I'd better correct what was said.

In every *nonpartisan* election for public office held in the U.S.,
since San Francisco started RCV up, the winner was the first round
leader. Something similar has been noted in Australia; vote transfers
tend, strongly, to benefit the first round leader (and probably do so
in proportion to the relative votes of the leader and the runner-up).

I thought, at first, that Pierce County -- the very recent election
-- was an exception, but it turns out that this was a partisan election.

I think I understand what's going on. In nonpartisan elections, it
turns out that, more or less, on average, voters who prefer C are a
representative sample of the rest of the electorate with respect to
the A/B pair, so that if C is eliminated, the votes from the C voters
will tend to transfer in the same ratio as already exists with those
who prefer A or B. Hence vote transfers don't radically shift the
position of the frontrunners, normally. (It's also, apparently, rare
for a third-place candidate in the first round to go on to win an
election, I'm not sure it has ever happened in Australian, or if it
has, it's been once or twice, in a huge number of elections.)

When an election is close, it may become an exception. Usually,
however, the lead of the frontrunner is simply amplified with each
round of eliminations. Exceptions may be, in fact, due to a false
lead, i.e., one which was simply a reflection of statistical variations.

Yes, this means that plurality voting is a much better method *in
practice* than we have thought, particularly for nonpartisan
elections. It is roughly as good as IRV *in that context,* and there
is no clear evidence that IRV produces better results there. However,
Top Two Runoff is better than both of these, and in particular if
write-in votes are allowed, for reasons that have been neglected by
voting systems theorists, in general, who tend to assume fixed
preferences, a single electorate, and both assumptions are far from the truth.

In a real runoff, voters have an opportunity to examine a reduced set
of candidates, and will make a more informed choice between them, on
average. Thus voters may reverse the preferences that they voted in
the first round, i.e., even if they voted for A as their favorite,
they might vote for B in the runoff.

Secondly, voter turnout may be different in the runoff, if it is a
delayed runoff with a special election. (Not all are that way: Cary,
NC, had a primary held in October, as I recall, with any necessary
runoff being with the November general election. The city elections
were held in off-years, not with the Presidential election, and what
I saw for runoff turnout was that it was about the same as with the
primary.) Top-Two Runoff is a method which effectively considers
preference strength, and my expectation is that this would improve
results from an overall voter satisfaction perspective, exerting a
Range-like effect. Voters who, for example, don't have a strong
preference between A and B, whether this is because they like both,
or don't like both, will be less likely to turn out to vote in the
runoff. I can say that I wouldn't bother, unless there was something
important on the ballot besides that. Australia's practice of
mandatory voting probably has a somewhat negative effect on the
quality of results. None of this was likely to be noticed until we
started realizing how important preference strength is. It's kind of
amazing that it took so long. I attribute the delay to the disconnect
between economists and political scientists.

(Borda was probably attractive because of an assumption that if a
preference was "long," with many intermediate candidates, it was
probably stronger than if it was "weak," with just a single candidate
in between. But it is far more straightforward to simply allow the
use of ratings, which automatically show preference strength. I.e.,
Range Voting and Borda Count are really the same method, except that
Borda has this rigid assumption about preference strengths that makes
it vulnerable to cloning, for example. Range is Borda with equal
ranking allowed, and a fixed number of ranks such that ranks can be
empty on a ballot. It's also been shown that Borda with a very large
number of candidates, broadly distributed across an issue space, is
equivalent to Range. And while we are mentioning large numbers of
candidates, Range probably handles them better than any method, even
Condorcet methods can have a lot of trouble finding a decent winner,
because of the neglect of preference strength and the difficulty of
defining majority approval of a result.)

Regardless, we know that, with the nonpartisan elections held in the
U.S. recently, and FairVote has been successful, mostly, in gaining
implementations only as top-two runoff replacements in nonpartisan
elections, there aren't any comeback elections happening, whereas,
from real runoff elections, as I recall the number, we should have
expected about three, so far (before this year, I have not looked at
this year's results yet; quite a few of them are not available yet!)

That's serious, if it is not a statistical fluke. Real runoff
elections have a cost, to be sure, but they are necessary if one is
to look for a true majority winner. IRV does not fix the problem;
whenever runoffs are necessary, most of the time -- exceptions are
uncommon, actually -- no majority is found. The same thing happens in
Australia where they have optional preferential voting.

Consider a dark horse candidate, someone who is a good candidate, but
who, for whatever reason, perhaps lower funding, hasn't attracted
much attention. With IRV, that candidate may manage to get up to
number two, but still loses the election. Getting up to number two in
a Plurality election, with enough other votes cast that there is
majority failure, the dark horse is now a serious candidate, and
voters will make a far more informed choice. In addition, the
supporters of the dark horse, who may have been relatively
dispirited, are now highly motivated to work for the final election,
and there will be high turnout among supporters. If supporters of the
first-round winner only have a weak preference for their favorite
over the dark horse candidate, they may not be highly motivated to
turn out. Hence it's not surprising that we see roughly one out of
three real runoff elections result in the runner-up in the first
round winning the runoff.

What we don't know, because of poor data, is why this happens, in
detail. I've given some speculations that may be reasonable. That the
voters are more informed and focused is a common opinion. On the
other hand, FairVote offers "evidence" that real runoffs are a
problem because of the lower turnout, which is assumed to be a Bad
Thing. (The number of voters for the winner in the runoff may be
lower than the number of voters for the loser in the first round.
Yes. So? Preferential voting methods don't collect preference
strength information, and many of those first round voters may not
really care which candidate wins the runoff, so they don't vote. Not
a bad thing; in fact, it is normal in democratic process that those
who care, vote. Those who don't, don't.)

Why are partisan elections different? Well, here, the candidates have
clear affiliations, easily recognized by the electorate. In Ann
Arbor, Michigan, in the single preferential voting mayoral election
held there, there was a "comeback election," where the Democratic
candidate was behind the Republican one in the first round, and, in
fact, Democratic candidates had been losing to Republicans for some
time due to vote-splitting with the Human Rights Party candidate. The
Human Rights Party later morphed into the Green Party in Michigan.
The Democratic candidate was the first African-American mayor of Ann
Arbor. So IRV allowed those HRP members to vote for their party
favorite, but then support the Democrat.

Good thing? Probably in that election. However, the problem there was
a politically naive or careless HRP, that apparently didn't care
about spoiling elections. We've seen this with Nader in Florida, he's
still defending his candidacy. He claims that he had the right to
run, and, of course, he did. We have the right to cause all kinds of
political damage, we could vote for Adolf Hitler, if he were on our
ballot. The issue, though, is the effect of the actions. If HRP
members didn't care that they were "spoiling" elections, well, they
were making a statement. The claim that Gore would have won in
Florida if it had been IRV is actually quite questionable.

Nader's position then, and it is still the same, was that there was
no important difference between the Democrat and the Republican. If
those who supported him believed that, why would they have added a
second preference for Gore? Maybe they would have. Maybe not.

No doubt about it. In partisan elections, in the presence of a
minor-party spoiler, IRV is an improvement. But we probably get the
same improvement simply by allowing multiple votes and counting all
of them. We'd get the improvement with Bucklin, which is "instant
runoff Approval." And both of these are simpler than IRV to
implement, much simpler. Approval is really easy to vote; I'm
recommending, as I have been for quite some time now that voting
activists promote Approval immediately, because of its minimal cost
(it might even be cheaper than Plurality; certainly there would be no
overvotes to worry about). Approval need not be the end of the road;
it opens the door for Range, or for Bucklin, or for other hybrid
methods. Even IRV would be improved if voting more than one candidate
at each rank were allowed. (I.e, the voter could vote for A and B in
first rank, say. I won't address the technical complications here....
But you want to avoid "harming" your favorite, don't vote for anyone
else in first rank. Don't care about that, and want to support two
alternate candidates, equally, so that neither of them is eliminated
early because of your concealing vote for the other, vote for both of
them. Anybody but Joe? Vote in last votable rank (or above) rank for
every other candidate besides Joe.

One more consequence to IRV. IRV makes the world safe for major
parties; it becomes more difficult for a minor party to spoil the
show; this may, in fact, harm minor parties; certainly the long-term
effect in Australia has been the fading of independent minor parties.
Warren Smith calls the support of minor parties in the U.S. for IRV
"suicidal," and he's probably right. Because candidates are rated
individually in both Approval and Range, and most accurately, of
course, in Range, Range probably will have an "incubator effect," as
Smith claims. Both Range and Approval fix the spoiler effect, and
more deeply than IRV.

It should be realized that a Range ballot, with at least as many
distinct ratings as there are candidates, is a more expressive ballot
than that used by any other method. It also is obvious to me that
preference strength matters. If a group of friends are trying to
decide what pizza to buy, preference strength is crucial, if the
group is to be satisfied overall. No business which neglected
preference strength and only looked at raw preference in its market
would be likely to survive, at least not on the basis of those
analyses! So why do we use methods for *political* decision-making
which don't even collect that information? And once you have it, how
are you going to use it?

It's obvious: Count All the Votes. Voters will *naturally* vote von
Neumann-Morganstern utilities, a big name for asking for and
supporting with your voting power what you think you might succeed in
getting, instead of merely to express moot preferences. The method is
good if they can simply vote for a candidate or not, i.e., Approval.
The method, from Smith's simulations, gets better if they can express
those utilities with more accuracy. There is probably a point of
diminishing returns where higher resolution in Range doesn't produce
enough benefit to be worth the trouble.

But, politically, right now: Approval Voting. Just Count All the
Votes. We need some bumper stickers.

The only concern I've seen about Range, expressed with any coherence,
is that some kind of damage will be done by voters "exaggerating."
This exaggeration, however, is what preferential systems *require*.

It is so ironic. A voter votes only for A, because the voter prefers
A, even though the voter supposedly "also approves" of B. This is
then considered strategic voting; the solution being supported
through this criticism is to require voters to express exclusive
preferences, which are tantamount to requiring all voters to vote
this allegedly insincere way. But, of course, the critics never will
explore these implications.

I have been looking for quite some time for the logic behind
prohibiting overvotes. The only argument I've seen in print is that
overvoted ballots are rejected because the "true intent of the voter
cannot be discerned." But that is circular.

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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 17:43:16 UTC
Permalink
Dear Jonathan Lundell,

Greg argued that "every IRV election for public
office ever held in the United States ..."

Now you use Florida 2000 as a counterexample.

Do you see the problem?

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 18:00:05 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 9:43 AM, Markus Schulze wrote:

> Dear Jonathan Lundell,
>
> Greg argued that "every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States ..."
>
> Now you use Florida 2000 as a counterexample.
>
> Do you see the problem?
>
> Markus Schulze

No, I don't. You wrote,

> Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
> your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
> right winner?

How does a claim about IRV turn into a claim about plurality?

It seems to me that a plurality counterexample is indeed a legitimate
argument against a universal claim about plurality--to the extent that
that's the issue here.

If instead we're arguing about Greg's logic, I'm still not seeing how
his claim about "every IRV election" implies anything about what
plurality always does.
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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 18:32:48 UTC
Permalink
Dear Jonathan Lundell,

I wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> Greg argued that "every IRV election for public
> office ever held in the United States ..."
>
> Now you use Florida 2000 as a counterexample.
>
> Do you see the problem?

You wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> No, I don't.

Which election method was used in Florida 2000?

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 18:45:33 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 10:32 AM, Markus Schulze wrote:

>
> I wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> Greg argued that "every IRV election for public
>> office ever held in the United States ..."
>>
>> Now you use Florida 2000 as a counterexample.
>>
>> Do you see the problem?
>
> You wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> No, I don't.
>
> Which election method was used in Florida 2000?

Plurality failed in Florida 2000, so we can conclude that "plurality
voting always elects the right winner" is false.

We can also agree that sometimes plurality does happen to elect the
right winner.

You quote Abd as claiming that every US IRV winner has also been the
plurality winner. This is apparently wrong, but never mind.

Greg claims that in practice, IRV does indeed elect the right winner.


From this (if I've missed something, please correct me, but please
also quote the above so I don't have to go digging it up again), you
conclude that Greg is claiming that "plurality voting always elects
the right winner".

I'm still looking for the chain of logic that leads you to that
conclusion.
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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 19:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Dear Terry Bouricius,

you wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> That observation is incorrect, as there was a come-from
> behind winner in the November Pierce County IRV election,
> as well as in the famous Ann Arbor mayoral election
> in the 70s.

Well, Pierce County and Ann Arbor were counterexamples
only when the IRV winners were identical to the Condorcet
winners in these examples. Because only then these
examples show that IRV chose the "right" winner and
plurality voting chose a "wrong" winner (according to
Greg's logic).

You wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> But also, your logic is odd...Quite often plurality
> rules will happen to elect a Condorcet-winner
> candidate...but that fact is not compelling since it
> also frequently elects the Condorcet-loser. I can point
> to MANY examples where plurality has failed to elect a
> "rightful" winner (often electing the Condorcet-loser).
> In none of the IRV elections has the Condorcet-loser
> been elected (and cannot be). The point is that IRV
> does NOT always elect the plurality leader.

Greg demands real-life examples with complete ballot data
when someone wants to argue that IRV sometimes performs
worse than Condorcet voting. Therefore, it is only fair
when also Condorcet supporters demand real-life examples
with complete ballot data.

Markus Schulze


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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 19:25:06 UTC
Permalink
Dear Jonathan Lundell,

Greg Dennis wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> I've studied every IRV election for public office
> ever held in the United States, most of which have
> their full ranking data publicly available, and
> every single time IRV elected the Condorcet winner,
> something I consider to be a good, though not
> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right"
> winner.

I wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
> IRV election for public office ever held in the
> USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
> winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
> your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
> right winner?

You wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> Plurality failed in Florida 2000, so we can conclude
> that "plurality voting always elects the right winner"
> is false.

And when you apply Abd's claim to your conclusion (that
the statement "plurality voting always elects the right
winner" is false), what can you conclude about Greg's
claim?

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 19:45:00 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 11:25 AM, Markus Schulze wrote:

> Dear Jonathan Lundell,
>
> Greg Dennis wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> I've studied every IRV election for public office
>> ever held in the United States, most of which have
>> their full ranking data publicly available, and
>> every single time IRV elected the Condorcet winner,
>> something I consider to be a good, though not
>> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right"
>> winner.
>
> I wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
>> IRV election for public office ever held in the
>> USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
>> winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
>> your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
>> right winner?
>
> You wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> Plurality failed in Florida 2000, so we can conclude
>> that "plurality voting always elects the right winner"
>> is false.
>
> And when you apply Abd's claim to your conclusion (that
> the statement "plurality voting always elects the right
> winner" is false), what can you conclude about Greg's
> claim?

Greg concludes that IRV, in practice, tends to elect the Condorcet
winner. Does he conclude that it must always be so? I don't think so.

Abd says that the IRV winner in these cases was also the plurality
winner. Again, no claim of necessity.

We might equally well conclude that plurality usually elects the
Condorcet winner, and that it fails infrequently enough that we don't
have examples of IRV correcting a plurality error. (Florida 2000 is an
example of a plurality error that IRV would most likely have corrected.)


My own view is first that we're talking about marginal differences
here, and that PR vs single-winner elections is of much, much greater
interest, and second that the interesting difference between
plurality, IRV and other ranked methods is not in how they count any
particular profile, but rather in how they influence candidate and
voter behavior. In the IRV examples that Greg and Abd adduce, we don't
actually know what the ballots would have looked like if the elections
had used plurality. The set of candidates might well have been
different, the nature of the campaigns different, and voter strategies
different.

Given an IRV election, the question "how would this election have
turned out if plurality had been used" cannot be answered by counting
the IRV first choices.




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Dave Ketchum
2008-11-26 05:54:13 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, 25 Nov 2008 11:45:00 -0800 Jonathan Lundell wrote:
> On Nov 25, 2008, at 11:25 AM, Markus Schulze wrote:
>
>> Dear Jonathan Lundell,
>>
>> Greg Dennis wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>>
>>> I've studied every IRV election for public office
>>> ever held in the United States, most of which have
>>> their full ranking data publicly available, and
>>> every single time IRV elected the Condorcet winner,
>>> something I consider to be a good, though not
>>> perfect, rule of thumb for determining the "right"
>>> winner.
>>
There have not been many IRV elections in the US.

For most elections the method does not matter much - even Plurality usually
gets it right.

The ranking that IRV and Condorcet share matters. Though they look for
different aspects, they will usually agree since assuming that A>B, that is
exactly what Condorcet counts, and that will encourage A toward A being a
first choice, which is what IRV looks for.

Then look at the French election that made voters think of riots - runoffs
were UNABLE to offer acceptable choices. IRV can fail in the same way.
Even though it cannot be expected often it will be most likely in an
election fought bitterly by a bunch of candidates.

Couple minor notes about Condorcet's NxN arrays:
They help toward verifying the counting being correct.
Publishable, they help see comparative liking of the candidates.
>>
>> I wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>>
>>> If I remember correctly, Abd wrote that, in every
>>> IRV election for public office ever held in the
>>> USA, the IRV winner was identical to the plurality
>>> winner. Doesn't that mean that -- when we apply
>>> your logic -- plurality voting always elects the
>>> right winner?
>>
It encourages the dream - but certainly does not make the dream true.

DWK
>>
>> You wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>>
>>> Plurality failed in Florida 2000, so we can conclude
>>> that "plurality voting always elects the right winner"
>>> is false.
>>
>>
>> And when you apply Abd's claim to your conclusion (that
>> the statement "plurality voting always elects the right
>> winner" is false), what can you conclude about Greg's
>> claim?
>
>
> Greg concludes that IRV, in practice, tends to elect the Condorcet
> winner. Does he conclude that it must always be so? I don't think so.
>
> Abd says that the IRV winner in these cases was also the plurality
> winner. Again, no claim of necessity.
>
> We might equally well conclude that plurality usually elects the
> Condorcet winner, and that it fails infrequently enough that we don't
> have examples of IRV correcting a plurality error. (Florida 2000 is an
> example of a plurality error that IRV would most likely have corrected.)
>
>
> My own view is first that we're talking about marginal differences
> here, and that PR vs single-winner elections is of much, much greater
> interest, and second that the interesting difference between plurality,
> IRV and other ranked methods is not in how they count any particular
> profile, but rather in how they influence candidate and voter behavior.
> In the IRV examples that Greg and Abd adduce, we don't actually know
> what the ballots would have looked like if the elections had used
> plurality. The set of candidates might well have been different, the
> nature of the campaigns different, and voter strategies different.
>
> Given an IRV election, the question "how would this election have
> turned out if plurality had been used" cannot be answered by counting
> the IRV first choices.
--
***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-01 18:31:38 UTC
Permalink
At 12:54 AM 11/26/2008, Dave Ketchum wrote:

>>My own view is first that we're talking about marginal differences
>>here, and that PR vs single-winner elections is of much, much greater
>>interest, and second that the interesting difference
>>between plurality, IRV and other ranked methods is not in how they
>>count any particular profile, but rather in how they influence
>>candidate and voter behavior. In the IRV examples that Greg and
>>Abd adduce, we don't actually know what the ballots would have
>>looked like if the elections had used plurality. The set of
>>candidates might well have been different, the nature of the
>>campaigns different, and voter strategies different.

That's correct. We can make some reasonable assumptions, though. We
can look at Plurality elections and look at how many voters vote for
minor candidates with no hope of winning. We can then look at IRV
results and convert comparable percentages of these votes to
plurality votes for frontrunners. I think we could get pretty close.

Campaigns, from experience, don't seem to be much different. Voter
turnout doesn't seem to be much improved with IRV, though,
theoretically, it should improve turnout a little. The fact, however,
that the sincere preferences expressed by voters for minor candidates
don't shift results, in nearly all cases, acts contrary to this
effect, in the long run. So you get to vote "sincerely," but with no
net effect? You can "vote" more sincerely by giving a campaign
donation to a minor candidate!

Voter strategies in Plurality are based on main considerations:

(1) Vote for the favorite. This actually works, it's better than one
might think. It is *highly* likely to produce the same winner as a
more advanced method, and it is only under special conditions that it
fails. So a lot of voters do this. Note that, by definition, most
voters, voting this way, are voting for a frontrunner, so this
"sincere" strategy is the same as consideration 2.

(2) Vote for the preferred frontrunner, because all other votes are
moot. This is only important for minor party supporters who want to
express that for some other purpose than winning an election, such as
ballot position. Or for purely personal reasons, such as being pissed
at a party for not nominating their favorite, who is running, and
they either think that the possibility of the candidate from the
opposing part won't win in any case, or they don't care. Damn them
all! Yes, some voters vote like this, God bless them. It's part of
the system. Don't unnecessarily piss people off, make sure they see
the process as fair, if possible. Not always possible.

Which of these strategies the voter actually uses depends on
preference strength. Tricky to estimate, but, again, I think that by
studying average behavior, we could get close.

Essentially, we can look at IRV results and predict, probably within
a few percent, what the Plurality vote would have been. Most voters
probably use strategy 2 in Plurality; Plurality also tends to
suppress minor party candidacies which, with Plurality, show far
lower than the real party support, because of the strategic voting.
One of the benefits of Range, Warren calls it the "incubator effect,"
is that a measure of third party support becomes available, and there
is little reason to assume that this would be insincere. Why bother
voting an "insincere" rating for a non-viable candidate? Given that
the vote has about zero chance of influencing the outcome, in most elections.

(But if you prefer a major candidate, it could be foolish, with
Range, to max rate a minor candidate. It doesn't accurately represent
your preferences, but for no good strategic purpose. Only if you fear
that the minor candidate might be the runner-up, and lose to someone
worse, would you do that, and this means that you don't think this is
a minor candidate. This might be a winner. I've said this many times:
if you would seriously regret a Range Vote, under any reasonable
scenario, including some election surprise -- like Le Pen getting
second place -- don't vote that way. Adjust your vote so it is safer.
The Le Pen result was not expected, to be sure, but those French
elections, with many candidates, were very susceptible to small
variations. Had it been a Range election in the primary, Le Pen
wouldn't have made it to the runoff, I'm sure. *Maybe* Range would
have detected Jospin, maybe not. With "sincere" Range votes, sure.
But the Range winner, with no runoff, would almost certainly have
been Jospin. Note that IRV could easily have missed Jospin, for the
same reason that the plurality primary missed him. Jospin would have,
with even higher certainty, in a majority -required Range election,
been in a runoff against, again with high certainty, with Chirac, and
would have won.)

(FairVote, to criticize Range, posits a truly preposterous election
scenario, where voters prefer one candidate over another, and 99%
vote 100 for the favorite and 99 for the other. A very small set of
voters (1 or 1% in the example) vote 0 for the first and 100 for the
second, and, of course, this outweighs the preference of a huge
majority. But it is an extraordinarily weak preference, and if it was
accurate, all voters will be very satisfied with this outcome, and
they will not be saying "damn! I wish I'd voted like that selfish
voter!" They will be, instead, if this is a real election, and there
were other candidates who might have won, with significantly lower
preference, very happy with the outcome and they will all go out and
party together. In other words, FairVote wants us to think that the
violation of the Majority Criterion is a Bad Thing, when, in fact,
the outcome is very good, better than I have *ever* seen in a public
election. If that majority would regret its supposedly "sincere"
vote, why in the world did they vote that way, effectively abstaining
from an important pairwise election. Surely the exaggerated their
real preference toward the top. That is an error in voting, and
errors in voting can always produce poor results! In a real election,
how likely is this error?)

(We have 99% of the voters apparently thinking that there is a risk
that their favorite will lose, not to the second candidate, the 99,
but to someone much worse. However, in fact, there are *no* voters
who prefer the third candidate. If there is no third candidate --
FairVote doesn't specify -- then what we have is a situation where
the 99% majority essentially said, well, we have a tiny preference
for one candidate, but, really, don't listen to us unless the rest of
you really don't care. So they voted with votes of 1/100 vote value
in a binary election. Why? Only if they really don't care, this is
*almost* like a voter abstaining. Indeed, it's an almost total
abstention on the part of the voters. This vote is based on the idea
that voters are supposed to vote sincere absolute utilities, though
in this case, the utilities were normalized at the top but not at the
bottom. So the 99% may have been saying, I have a *significant*
preference for A over B, but because both A and B are not Genghis
Khan or Adolf Hitler, I'd have to be pretty grateful for the election
of either, so, to be honest with you, my preference for A over B is
only 1% -- tiny -- of my preference for B over C. I'd die to prevent
C from being elected. C isn't on the ballot? That's irrelevant, I'm
voting my "sincere utilities" because someone told me this was
better. And if they believed that, I can get rich, I can sell them
deeds to famous bridges. Voting is a choice, not a sentiment. If this
is a binary election, you are being asked to make a "sincere choice,"
not make a "sincere rating." You can rate "sincerely" if want, but if
you don't want to waste your vote, you will have to normalize your
vote to the candidate set at the bottom, too. Which would imply
voting min for B, if there are only two candidate. Voters *can* vote
as described, but, then, it *clearly* is based on a desire to
abstain. These are votes, expressed in fractions of a vote, multiples
of 1/100 vote, they are *not* sentiments. If you care about the
outcome, show it!)

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Jonathan Lundell
2008-12-01 23:15:52 UTC
Permalink
On Dec 1, 2008, at 10:31 AM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> At 12:54 AM 11/26/2008, Jonathan Lundell wrote: [attribution
> corrected]
>
>>
>> My own view is first that we're talking about marginal differences
>> here, and that PR vs single-winner elections is of much, much greater
>> interest, and second that the interesting difference between
>> plurality, IRV and other ranked methods is not in how they count
>> any particular profile, but rather in how they influence candidate
>> and voter behavior. In the IRV examples that Greg and Abd adduce,
>> we don't actually know what the ballots would have looked like if
>> the elections had used plurality. The set of candidates might well
>> have been different, the nature of the campaigns different, and
>> voter strategies different.
>
> That's correct. We can make some reasonable assumptions, though. We
> can look at Plurality elections and look at how many voters vote for
> minor candidates with no hope of winning. We can then look at IRV
> results and convert comparable percentages of these votes to
> plurality votes for frontrunners. I think we could get pretty close.

That, it seems to me, requires a leap of faith, or at least making
assumptions that are hard to find objective verification for.

> Campaigns, from experience, don't seem to be much different. Voter
> turnout doesn't seem to be much improved with IRV, though,
> theoretically, it should improve turnout a little.

An exception is the second round of a TTR election. San Francisco is a
case in point, and I'm guessing fairly typical, in having very poor
turnout for their second round, less than half the first round, IIRC.
This would be an advantage of any single-round method over TTR, of
course.

> The fact, however, that the sincere preferences expressed by voters
> for minor candidates don't shift results, in nearly all cases, acts
> contrary to this effect, in the long run. So you get to vote
> "sincerely," but with no net effect? You can "vote" more sincerely
> by giving a campaign donation to a minor candidate!

My sense is that minor parties are optimistic that a) they'd
demonstrate a higher first-round vote with IRV than plurality in any
given election, and b) that the improved showing would have a
beneficial effect on future elections. That is, the benefit of IRV
(and again this wouldn't be exclusive to IRV) extends beyond any
single election.

Is that true? I don't know, but there's some reason to think so. Green
Party candidates running "real" campaigns have typically been able to
obtain about 10% of the vote in California state assembly elections in
recent years. Suppose they could reach 15-20% of the IRV first choice.
That would give major-party candidates significantly more incentive to
appeal to those Green voters for their second choice.

> Voter strategies in Plurality are based on main considerations:
>
> (1) Vote for the favorite. This actually works, it's better than one
> might think. It is *highly* likely to produce the same winner as a
> more advanced method, and it is only under special conditions that
> it fails. So a lot of voters do this. Note that, by definition, most
> voters, voting this way, are voting for a frontrunner, so this
> "sincere" strategy is the same as consideration 2.
>
> (2) Vote for the preferred frontrunner, because all other votes are
> moot. This is only important for minor party supporters who want to
> express that for some other purpose than winning an election, such
> as ballot position. Or for purely personal reasons, such as being
> pissed at a party for not nominating their favorite, who is running,
> and they either think that the possibility of the candidate from the
> opposing part won't win in any case, or they don't care. Damn them
> all! Yes, some voters vote like this, God bless them. It's part of
> the system. Don't unnecessarily piss people off, make sure they see
> the process as fair, if possible. Not always possible.
>
> Which of these strategies the voter actually uses depends on
> preference strength. Tricky to estimate, but, again, I think that by
> studying average behavior, we could get close.
>
> Essentially, we can look at IRV results and predict, probably within
> a few percent, what the Plurality vote would have been. Most voters
> probably use strategy 2 in Plurality; Plurality also tends to
> suppress minor party candidacies which, with Plurality, show far
> lower than the real party support, because of the strategic voting.
> One of the benefits of Range, Warren calls it the "incubator
> effect," is that a measure of third party support becomes available,
> and there is little reason to assume that this would be insincere.
> Why bother voting an "insincere" rating for a non-viable candidate?
> Given that the vote has about zero chance of influencing the
> outcome, in most elections.
>
> (But if you prefer a major candidate, it could be foolish, with
> Range, to max rate a minor candidate. It doesn't accurately
> represent your preferences, but for no good strategic purpose. Only
> if you fear that the minor candidate might be the runner-up, and
> lose to someone worse, would you do that, and this means that you
> don't think this is a minor candidate. This might be a winner. I've
> said this many times: if you would seriously regret a Range Vote,
> under any reasonable scenario, including some election surprise --
> like Le Pen getting second place -- don't vote that way. Adjust your
> vote so it is safer. The Le Pen result was not expected, to be sure,
> but those French elections, with many candidates, were very
> susceptible to small variations. Had it been a Range election in the
> primary, Le Pen wouldn't have made it to the runoff, I'm sure.
> *Maybe* Range would have detected Jospin, maybe not. With "sincere"
> Range votes, sure. But the Range winner, with no runoff, would
> almost certainly have been Jospin. Note that IRV could easily have
> missed Jospin, for the same reason that the plurality primary missed
> him. Jospin would have, with even higher certainty, in a majority -
> required Range election, been in a runoff against, again with high
> certainty, with Chirac, and would have won.)
>
> (FairVote, to criticize Range, posits a truly preposterous election
> scenario, where voters prefer one candidate over another, and 99%
> vote 100 for the favorite and 99 for the other. A very small set of
> voters (1 or 1% in the example) vote 0 for the first and 100 for the
> second, and, of course, this outweighs the preference of a huge
> majority. But it is an extraordinarily weak preference, and if it
> was accurate, all voters will be very satisfied with this outcome,
> and they will not be saying "damn! I wish I'd voted like that
> selfish voter!" They will be, instead, if this is a real election,
> and there were other candidates who might have won, with
> significantly lower preference, very happy with the outcome and they
> will all go out and party together. In other words, FairVote wants
> us to think that the violation of the Majority Criterion is a Bad
> Thing, when, in fact, the outcome is very good, better than I have
> *ever* seen in a public election. If that majority would regret its
> supposedly "sincere" vote, why in the world did they vote that way,
> effectively abstaining from an important pairwise election. Surely
> the exaggerated their real preference toward the top. That is an
> error in voting, and errors in voting can always produce poor
> results! In a real election, how likely is this error?)
>
> (We have 99% of the voters apparently thinking that there is a risk
> that their favorite will lose, not to the second candidate, the 99,
> but to someone much worse. However, in fact, there are *no* voters
> who prefer the third candidate. If there is no third candidate --
> FairVote doesn't specify -- then what we have is a situation where
> the 99% majority essentially said, well, we have a tiny preference
> for one candidate, but, really, don't listen to us unless the rest
> of you really don't care. So they voted with votes of 1/100 vote
> value in a binary election. Why? Only if they really don't care,
> this is *almost* like a voter abstaining. Indeed, it's an almost
> total abstention on the part of the voters. This vote is based on
> the idea that voters are supposed to vote sincere absolute
> utilities, though in this case, the utilities were normalized at the
> top but not at the bottom. So the 99% may have been saying, I have a
> *significant* preference for A over B, but because both A and B are
> not Genghis Khan or Adolf Hitler, I'd have to be pretty grateful for
> the election of either, so, to be honest with you, my preference for
> A over B is only 1% -- tiny -- of my preference for B over C. I'd
> die to prevent C from being elected. C isn't on the ballot? That's
> irrelevant, I'm voting my "sincere utilities" because someone told
> me this was better. And if they believed that, I can get rich, I can
> sell them deeds to famous bridges. Voting is a choice, not a
> sentiment. If this is a binary election, you are being asked to make
> a "sincere choice," not make a "sincere rating." You can rate
> "sincerely" if want, but if you don't want to waste your vote, you
> will have to normalize your vote to the candidate set at the bottom,
> too. Which would imply voting min for B, if there are only two
> candidate. Voters *can* vote as described, but, then, it *clearly*
> is based on a desire to abstain. These are votes, expressed in
> fractions of a vote, multiples of 1/100 vote, they are *not*
> sentiments. If you care about the outcome, show it!)
>


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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-03 00:59:24 UTC
Permalink
At 06:15 PM 12/1/2008, Jonathan Lundell wrote:
>On Dec 1, 2008, at 10:31 AM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>That's correct. We can make some reasonable assumptions, though. We
>>can look at Plurality elections and look at how many voters vote for
>>minor candidates with no hope of winning. We can then look at IRV
>>results and convert comparable percentages of these votes to
>>plurality votes for frontrunners. I think we could get pretty close.
>
>That, it seems to me, requires a leap of faith, or at least making
>assumptions that are hard to find objective verification for.

In other words, don't let reasonable assumptions interfere with my
unfounded opinions.

By the way, I'm not insisting on *particular* assumptions, only that
we can do better than tossing our hands up in the air and saying,
"Hey, we can't tell. Let's go for IRV, then, since there is no proof
it doesn't work."

>An exception is the second round of a TTR election. San Francisco is a
>case in point, and I'm guessing fairly typical, in having very poor
>turnout for their second round, less than half the first round, IIRC.
>This would be an advantage of any single-round method over TTR, of
>course.

I don't consider that a poor turnout. The first round is held with
the general election, so a lot of voters who don't care about the
particular election vote, because they are there. Cary, NC, had about
the same turnout for the primary as for the runoff, where I looked.
But they schedule the primary in October, the runoff is with the
general November election, if it's needed. It's an off year, so it
doesn't get the big Presidential turnout.

However, if you've been reading what I've written, "poor turnout" is
simply "lower turnout than I think is good." There is no reason to
believe, actually, that low turnout harms results, if our goal is to
maximize overall voter satisfaction, and some reason to believe that
it actually enhances it.

The voters who do not participate are, on average, those with less
preference strength to express. Many of them are probably indifferent
between the two candidates on the ballot. They voted in the primary,
but their favorite lost. Others might think both are good, so, again,
they don't bother voting.

Why is low turnout A Bad Thing? I didn't see any reason given; and
when I've read about this, it has simply been assumed that high
turnout is Good. We should have High Turnout. It means that Democracy
is Working. Sure. Sometimes. In a runoff election? Not necessarily.
When voters are exercised about the candidates in a runoff, they turn
out in high numbers, witness Chirac/Le Pen or Lizard/Wizard. Both
those elections had higher turnout in the runoff than in the primary.

>>The fact, however, that the sincere preferences expressed by voters
>>for minor candidates don't shift results, in nearly all cases, acts
>>contrary to this effect, in the long run. So you get to vote
>>"sincerely," but with no net effect? You can "vote" more sincerely
>>by giving a campaign donation to a minor candidate!
>
>My sense is that minor parties are optimistic that a) they'd
>demonstrate a higher first-round vote with IRV than plurality in any
>given election, and b) that the improved showing would have a
>beneficial effect on future elections. That is, the benefit of IRV
>(and again this wouldn't be exclusive to IRV) extends beyond any
>single election.

As Smith has pointed out, this is a far more expressive phenomenon in
Range than with other voting methods. It not only shows what
candidates are leading, but also by *how much* they are leading. In
preference strength.

Sure, there are other values besides winning the immediate election.
But the hope described is surely a false one. IRV doesn't help third
parties. STV-PR does, if the districts are large enough.

>Is that true? I don't know, but there's some reason to think so. Green
>Party candidates running "real" campaigns have typically been able to
>obtain about 10% of the vote in California state assembly elections in
>recent years. Suppose they could reach 15-20% of the IRV first choice.
>That would give major-party candidates significantly more incentive to
>appeal to those Green voters for their second choice.

Compare this to Bucklin. If this effect works as you expect, would it
work with Bucklin? If not, why not? Or with Range or, for that
matter, Approval. (With Approval, unless it has something like my old
Plus option, there is no way to know the favorite. With Range, it
gets easier. Bucklin, of course, makes it obvious, the Bucklin ballot
looked like an RCV ballot except that you could vote as many
candidates as you wanted in third place (Duluth Bucklin), thus
allowing a three-rank ballot to go quite a bit deeper, that would
have been quite useful in San Francisco, where there can be more than
twenty candidates on the ballot in a single election.

However, the proof is in the pudding. Third parties don't prosper
under IRV. They may *think* they will. What helps them is STV-PR, or,
as well, Fusion Voting, as far an example of what allows third
parties to be healthy in the U.S. New York minor parties have been
stable with Fusion.

*Why* don't they prosper? I suspect it may have to do with making
major parties safer from the spoiler effect. Sure, Democrats, for
example, might court the Green vote, but really, do they need to? The
way the party constellations are arranged, implement IRV, and the
Democrats can quietly ignore the Greens. Not insult them, of course,
just not pay much attention. The Green Party doesn't control the
Green Voters, and, with IRV, most of them would choose to support the
Democrat. I.e., Plurality actually may give minor parties *more*
power, because they can spoil elections much more easily.

Now, you want to know what helps minor parties? One guess. Hint. IRV
advocates are successfully, to a small degree, getting rid of it in
favor of IRV.

The method is known for allowing minor parties to flourish.

I think I know why. Sure, it eliminates the first-order spoiler
effect like IRV. But it does something else. Which is more difficult,
to win an election, or to make it to second place? Occasionally, a
minor candidate makes it up to second place. That, where a majority
is required, now causes the minor candidate to be featured as a
possible winner, whereas before, many voters may not have been aware
of this candidate. It gives a minor candidate a real shot at, not
just getting some "vote share" for future use -- that tends to
evaporate rapidly! -- but actually winning. And it happens with real
runoff voting.

For the minor party candidate to win with IRV, they have to move all
the way up to first place in one shot. With runoff voting, they only
need make it up to second place to have a crackerjack opportunity to
convince the voters that they are best. And their supporters will
turn out for the runoff in droves. The major party candidate opposing
them won't have such highly motivated voters, quite possibly; the
most they get is Just Another of the Same They Usually Get. But, of
course, they still need to convince the electorate.

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Greg Dennis
2008-11-25 19:38:14 UTC
Permalink
> Greg demands real-life examples with complete ballot data
> when someone wants to argue that IRV sometimes performs
> worse than Condorcet voting. Therefore, it is only fair
> when also Condorcet supporters demand real-life examples
> with complete ballot data.
>
> Markus Schulze

While complete ballot data is ideal, I think a convincing case as to
how a voting method might perform in a particular election can
sometimes be made from polling data. For example, there's good exit
polling data for the Senate race in Minnesota that's being recounted,
showing that supporters of the Independence party candidate would have
preferred Al Franken over Norm Coleman by a 5% margin. That would have
given Franken at least another 20,000 votes, way more than the 215
votes he trailed by pre-recount. I think that's a pretty good case
that IRV would have selected Franken, regardless of the results of the
plurality recount.
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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 20:08:59 UTC
Permalink
Dear Greg,

you wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> While complete ballot data is ideal, I think a convincing
> case as to how a voting method might perform in a particular
> election can sometimes be made from polling data. For example,
> there's good exit polling data for the Senate race in Minnesota
> that's being recounted, showing that supporters of the
> Independence party candidate would have preferred Al Franken
> over Norm Coleman by a 5% margin. That would have given Franken
> at least another 20,000 votes, way more than the 215 votes he
> trailed by pre-recount. I think that's a pretty good case that
> IRV would have selected Franken, regardless of the results of
> the plurality recount.

Then what do you say about the opinion polls that said that
Bayrou was a clear Condorcet winner in the 2007 French
presidential elections (although IRV would have chosen
Sarkozy)?:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_presidential_election,_2007#Before_first_round_of_vote

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 20:57:49 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 12:08 PM, Markus Schulze wrote:

> Dear Greg,
>
> you wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> While complete ballot data is ideal, I think a convincing
>> case as to how a voting method might perform in a particular
>> election can sometimes be made from polling data. For example,
>> there's good exit polling data for the Senate race in Minnesota
>> that's being recounted, showing that supporters of the
>> Independence party candidate would have preferred Al Franken
>> over Norm Coleman by a 5% margin. That would have given Franken
>> at least another 20,000 votes, way more than the 215 votes he
>> trailed by pre-recount. I think that's a pretty good case that
>> IRV would have selected Franken, regardless of the results of
>> the plurality recount.
>
> Then what do you say about the opinion polls that said that
> Bayrou was a clear Condorcet winner in the 2007 French
> presidential elections (although IRV would have chosen
> Sarkozy)?:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_presidential_election,_2007#Before_first_round_of_vote

We don't actually know who IRV would have chosen, since the polling
(and the campaign) didn't happen in the context of an IRV election.
It's not an unreasonable conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a
larger percentage of first choices (some from Sarkozy and Royal) under
IRV. Nor do we know how the smaller party votes would have transferred.
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Kevin Venzke
2008-11-25 21:07:52 UTC
Permalink
Hi Jonathan,

--- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Jonathan Lundell <***@pobox.com> a écrit :
> It's not an unreasonable
> conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a larger percentage
> of first choices (some from Sarkozy and Royal) under IRV.

Could you explain this viewpoint?

Thanks.

Kevin Venzke



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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 21:20:01 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 1:07 PM, Kevin Venzke wrote:

> Hi Jonathan,
>
> --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Jonathan Lundell <***@pobox.com>
> a écrit :
>> It's not an unreasonable
>> conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a larger percentage
>> of first choices (some from Sarkozy and Royal) under IRV.
>
> Could you explain this viewpoint?

The Wikipedia article doesn't give us the actual poll questions, but I
take them to be something like "which candidate do you intend to vote
for". So the answers need to be interpreted in the context of the
first round of a TTR election in which polling suggests that the front-
runners are Royal and Sarkozy. The actual results of the first round
are consistent with that interpretation.

In that context, how many voters whose sincere first choice was some
other candidate (including Bayrou) were strategically voting for
Sarkozy or Royal? We simply don't know, and I merely assert that we
can't assume that the votes in the first round of a TTR election are
identical to the first choices in an IRV election.
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Aaron Armitage
2008-11-26 15:52:38 UTC
Permalink
--- On Tue, 11/25/08, Jonathan Lundell <***@pobox.com> wrote:

> From: Jonathan Lundell <***@pobox.com>
> Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative
> To: ***@yahoo.fr
> Cc: election-***@electorama.com
> Date: Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 3:20 PM
> On Nov 25, 2008, at 1:07 PM, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>
> > Hi Jonathan,
> >
> > --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Jonathan Lundell
> <***@pobox.com> a écrit :
> >> It's not an unreasonable
> >> conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a larger
> percentage
> >> of first choices (some from Sarkozy and Royal)
> under IRV.
> >
> > Could you explain this viewpoint?
>
> The Wikipedia article doesn't give us the actual poll
> questions, but I take them to be something like "which
> candidate do you intend to vote for". So the answers
> need to be interpreted in the context of the first round of
> a TTR election in which polling suggests that the
> front-runners are Royal and Sarkozy. The actual results of
> the first round are consistent with that interpretation.
>
> In that context, how many voters whose sincere first choice
> was some other candidate (including Bayrou) were
> strategically voting for Sarkozy or Royal? We simply
> don't know, and I merely assert that we can't assume
> that the votes in the first round of a TTR election are
> identical to the first choices in an IRV election.
> ----
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> http://electorama.com/em for list info

My understanding is that Bayrou was positioned "between" Sarkozy and
Royal, which makes it highly unlikely that his supporters were
compromising by supporting one of the other candidates or claiming to rank
them higher when asked by polls. This is because of how candidates
position themselves. If the spectrum runs from left to right, with the
center-most possible candidate marked C, like this:

---------C---------

Then the main center-left and center-right candidates want to be as close
to C as possible, or even occupy that position, because they are
guaranteed the support of everyone further out than them who cares about
strategy, and are guaranteed all their transfer votes in the final round
of counting. The most rational positioning for them is:

--------ACB--------

Or, even better:

--------AB---------

Or:

---------AB--------

Even though voters are distributed along a bell curve rather than evenly,
there are very few people who will sincerely rank C first. An IRV
supporter has to either say what you said, that somehow behavioral changes
encouraged by IRV will make it work out, without any explanation of what
would induce people to vote for a candidate further away from them rather
than one closer except raw strategy of the kind IRV supposedly frustrates,
or else denounce C as a turkey and declare that the hypothetical
possibility than a candidate C could exist who had campaigned by laying
low or avoiding issues invalidates the majority C>A and C>B preferences,
without even knowing how this particular C campaigned.

------D-ACBE-------

Now what? Under Condorcet, we know. C still wins. Unless the bell curve is
very steep, it appears E would win under IRV. Why is this better?



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Markus Schulze
2008-11-25 21:19:47 UTC
Permalink
Dear Jonathan Lundell,

Greg wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> While complete ballot data is ideal, I think a convincing
> case as to how a voting method might perform in a particular
> election can sometimes be made from polling data. For example,
> there's good exit polling data for the Senate race in Minnesota
> that's being recounted, showing that supporters of the
> Independence party candidate would have preferred Al Franken
> over Norm Coleman by a 5% margin. That would have given Franken
> at least another 20,000 votes, way more than the 215 votes he
> trailed by pre-recount. I think that's a pretty good case that
> IRV would have selected Franken, regardless of the results of
> the plurality recount.

I wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> Then what do you say about the opinion polls that said that
> Bayrou was a clear Condorcet winner in the 2007 French
> presidential elections (although IRV would have chosen
> Sarkozy)?

You wrote (25 Nov 2008):

> We don't actually know who IRV would have chosen, since
> the polling (and the campaign) didn't happen in the
> context of an IRV election. It's not an unreasonable
> conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a larger
> percentage of first choices (some from Sarkozy and
> Royal) under IRV. Nor do we know how the smaller
> party votes would have transferred.

So is it feasible to use polling data to show that
an election method would have violated some desirable
criteria? Or is complete ballot data needed?

Or are only IRV supporters allowed to use polling data
to show the greatness of IRV, while advocates of other
methods have to use complete ballot data?

Markus Schulze


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-25 21:29:25 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 25, 2008, at 1:19 PM, Markus Schulze wrote:

> You wrote (25 Nov 2008):
>
>> We don't actually know who IRV would have chosen, since
>> the polling (and the campaign) didn't happen in the
>> context of an IRV election. It's not an unreasonable
>> conjecture that Bayrou would have gotten a larger
>> percentage of first choices (some from Sarkozy and
>> Royal) under IRV. Nor do we know how the smaller
>> party votes would have transferred.
>
> So is it feasible to use polling data to show that
> an election method would have violated some desirable
> criteria? Or is complete ballot data needed?
>
> Or are only IRV supporters allowed to use polling data
> to show the greatness of IRV, while advocates of other
> methods have to use complete ballot data?

I think we must be careful about using polling data when we're
comparing election methods in which voters have different strategic
motivations, and that taking sufficient care may preclude drawing firm
conclusions.

Personally, I don't think that any available single-winner method, IRV
not excepted, is particularly "great", though I prefer ranked-ordinal
methods to FPTP or TTR. My mild preference for IRV over Condorcet
methods (and stronger preference over approval and range) has to do
with wanting to keep strategic voter considerations to a minimum. That
ends up being a somewhat subjective and intuitive conclusion; at least
that's how I see it.
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-11-26 16:30:28 UTC
Permalink
At 04:29 PM 11/25/2008, Jonathan Lundell wrote:
>On Nov 25, 2008, at 1:19 PM, Markus Schulze wrote:
>
>>Or are only IRV supporters allowed to use polling data
>>to show the greatness of IRV, while advocates of other
>>methods have to use complete ballot data?
>
>I think we must be careful about using polling data when we're
>comparing election methods in which voters have different strategic
>motivations, and that taking sufficient care may preclude drawing firm
>conclusions.

Absolutely; however, the difference in "strategic motivation" between
three-rank IRV (as is used in the U.S.) and top-two runoff is
practically nil. The vast majority of voters simply vote sincerely,
I'm sure, in both methods. They will vote in the first round of
top-two runoff for their favorite, almost certainly. Strategic voting
(such as turkey-raising) can backfire, you know. Make a mistake, you
might end up with a turkey. Top two runoff allows the voter to
postpone the decision of who to rank "second."

I just saw the video from the San Francisco Department of Elections,
2006, that said it elects winners with a "majority." No qualifier.
Not majority after excluding exhausted ballots. A lot of people,
including officials and others who should know better, *including
opponents of IRV*, were hornswoggled. If IRV were to actually be a
majority method, as claimed, i.e., if it continued to require a true
majority, it would be a much better method. I.e., top-two runoff IRV.
Instead, San Francisco gets Plurality results for a far higher cost
than Plurality. Basically, SF could have gotten the same result by
eliminating the majority requirement. There is not one election that
that has turned out differenty.

Would Plurality voters have voted the same as in IRV. Most of them
would have, I'm pretty sure. The difference would be fewer votes for
minor candidates, and the rations between the frontrunners would
generally have remained the same. Voting systems analysts have
generally thought of factional elections, where supporters of a minor
candidate will, almost entirely, vote for only one of the two
frontrunners, where vote-splitting only affects one side. In
elections with a lot of candidates, there are likely to be
vote-splits that cuts both ways. The Nader effect in Florida, for
example, would have been countered to some degree by the effect from
Libertarian and other candidates. We really don't know what would
have happened had Florida been IRV or another method allowing more
than one vote.

>Personally, I don't think that any available single-winner method, IRV
>not excepted, is particularly "great", though I prefer ranked-ordinal
>methods to FPTP or TTR.

It's almost certainly true that TTR has generally better results than
IRV. Essentially, when needed, two ballots are better than one. Three
would be better than two! Democratic process skips all this crap and
iterates binary decisions, with a majority requirement to make any
decision. It continues to iterate until a majority is found, or a
majority decides to adjourn....

None of the Above is always on the ballot with true democratic
elections, and doesn't have to be a named candidate. With Approval,
for example, just write it in! Lizard People would have been fine.

> My mild preference for IRV over Condorcet
>methods (and stronger preference over approval and range) has to do
>with wanting to keep strategic voter considerations to a minimum. That
>ends up being a somewhat subjective and intuitive conclusion; at least
>that's how I see it.

Yeah. Unfortunately, "intuition" sucks when its been misled by
centuries of diffuse propaganda and simple habitual assumptions, plus
a boatload of very targeted spin-doctrine actively promoted recently.
You want to minimize strategic voting, why not use methods designed
to do exactly that, to the point where it is debatable whether what
remains is "strategic voting" or "harmful" at all?

Why *prohibit* voters from equal ranking? Why do you imagine that you
get better results by confining the voters without clear cause? IRV
with equal ranking allowed: much better! It would allow voters to
vote Approval style or Ranked style, whichever they prefer. Power to
the Voters! Count All the Votes!


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Jonathan Lundell
2008-11-26 17:35:31 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 26, 2008, at 8:30 AM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

>> Personally, I don't think that any available single-winner method,
>> IRV
>> not excepted, is particularly "great", though I prefer ranked-ordinal
>> methods to FPTP or TTR.
>
> It's almost certainly true that TTR has generally better results
> than IRV. Essentially, when needed, two ballots are better than one.
> Three would be better than two! Democratic process skips all this
> crap and iterates binary decisions, with a majority requirement to
> make any decision. It continues to iterate until a majority is
> found, or a majority decides to adjourn....
>
> None of the Above is always on the ballot with true democratic
> elections, and doesn't have to be a named candidate. With Approval,
> for example, just write it in! Lizard People would have been fine.

This (TTR vs IRV) is a matter that we can simply disagree on. I'd set
three-rank IRV aside as an unfortunate but hopefully temporary
response to voting equipment limitations. My problem with TTR is that
it's almost as bad at encouraging strategic voting as FPTP is. Better,
yes, but not good. Approval is also a strategy game that I'd rather
not play; sure, I can imagine elections in which Approval is easy and
relatively non-strategic, but it's also easy to imagine otherwise.

I confess that I'm partial to the iterative process, at least under
the right circumstances. US political parties have used it in the
past, and it's suitable to an open-ended convention setting. The US
Greens used a kind of "live IRV" in their 2004 convention, with
multiple vote-for-one rounds with elimination and/or withdrawal
between rounds. But there are lots of reasons that we don't want an
open-ended process for public elections, or even a process (like
GPUS-2004) that guarantees eventual termination, but with an uncertain
number of rounds. I prefer the IRV compromise to TTR or Approval.

BTW, most of the list will probably be aware that the second round of
the Georgia (US) TTR senatorial election will be held next Tuesday.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Georgia,_2008
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-02 19:39:59 UTC
Permalink
At 12:35 PM 11/26/2008, Jonathan Lundell wrote:

>This (TTR vs IRV) is a matter that we can simply disagree on.

Give it some time. Below, you indicate that you are "partial to the
iterative process." So -- why not iterative process in public
elections? It can be done, you know, the claim of impracticality is
false. Top Two Runoff has the problems it has because the first and
second rounds are using Plurality instead of a better method. TTR is
a first step toward iterative process. Wouldn't you agree that it
deserves study?

It's the most widely-implemented election reform, it has been
considered an improvement over IRV, historically, and it has wide use
around the world for single-winner elections. I don't like
single-winner, fixed-term elections at all, preferring deliberative
methods, i.e., a parliamentary system, where the people, through a
representative body, elect officers. That reduces the problem to
creating a representative body which truly and accurately represents
the people. That's Asset Voting, which can use STV as a base (works
fine!), but can also be done much more simply: use Plurality as a
base, but when there is majority failure, allow the candidates who
received votes to negotiate on behalf of those who voted for them.

I've certainly seen knee-jerk objections to this, mostly based on
assumptions that the candidate set would remain the same, candidates
would be selfish, can't be trusted, would be corrupted, etc. However,
that's democracy! Not the restrictions, but the *possibility* of
them. Corruption under a mature Asset system would be extraordinarily
difficult, only able to make small nudges.

Think about it: with Asset, Plurality suddenly becomes
*strategy-free*. Vote for your absolute favorite, period. Choose a
candidate you can trust. Isn't that the most important quality in a
candidate for office? In modern offices, certainly major ones, the
ability to make good choices in delegating authority is crucial. And
that's what a candidate would do when holding votes for redistribution.

It's a spectacular method. Carroll was probably the greatest mind
considering voting systems in the nineteenth century; his work was
largely forgotten until recently. He looked at the biggest problem
with STV and suggested a simple fix. It's a shame that it's never
been tried, to our knowledge.

But it also works fine with *any* voting system. The system must
define "majority" sensibly, and then how to assign the proxies --
that's what they really are -- based on votes. With Approval, for
example, because Approval can't necessarily determine a "favorite,"
the votes would be distributed fractionally among the approved
candidates. With Range, they could be distributed according to the
vote. (The total of votes would be normalized to 1 vote, then each
vote multiplied by the necessary fraction. Or a favorite marker could
be used -- same with Approval.)

At this point, the important thing with Asset is to spread the
concept, so that it isn't forgotten, and so that it comes up as a
possibility whenever serious reform is being considered. It's
essentially be done before, i.e., proposed, there were serious
initiatives in the first part of the twentieth century to, for
example, create a city council in which the winners exercise the
votes of all those who voted for them. That's really proxy voting,
which, of course, is practically universal in large business
organizations, and is common-law allowed with property rights unless
specifically prohibited.

Now, if iterative process is a good thing (and it's the foundation of
how democracy operates, being what is done in direct democracies, and
what is done within the representatives in representative democracy),
why not "simulate" it, i.e., approach it with some form of runoff
voting. Absolutely, it's not a new idea. It's what Robert's Rules of
Order Newly Revised *prescribes* unless a bylaw has created something
else (such as election by plurality, or IRV that neglects the
exhausted ballots, which amounts to the same thing, only simply a bit
more likely to find a majority than plurality). RRONR doesn't allow
candidate elimination. Top Two Runoff sometimes does not either! In
those cases, "Top Two" refers only to the right to be on the runoff
ballot, which focuses the electorate on those two. An electorate with
a majority preference for another candidate can -- and has -- fixed a
problem with the primary or other conditions that kept that candidate
off the runoff ballot. They can do it even with a plurality, if
plurality is adequate to win the runoff.

But with plurality as a method for the runoff, that write-in
candidacy is dangerous, it can bring up the spoiler effect. Hence, a
great improvement over standard TTR would be allowing write-ins, as
is done in some places -- and using an advanced method for the runoff
that isn't subject to a true spoiler effect. The simplest is
Approval. Because of the restricted candidate set (perhaps two on the
ballot plus one serious write-in campaign), IRV should also work for
the runoff ... but why bother? Approval does it, and if one must
allow a favorite expression, Bucklin. Much easier to count. More
likely than IRV to find a majority of votes for the winner, not that
this matters much if it's a plurality election, i.e., must complete.

But we should always keep in mind that the biggest creator of
election paradoxes and problems is "must complete." It deprives the
electorate of a basic democratic right, the right of the majority to
express that they are not yet ready to decide. That they would prefer
another ballot to electing one of the existing candidates. With good
methods used for the primary and runoff, runoffs could be minimized.

But runoffs ameliorate a very serious problem which afflicts all
preferential systems and, in fact, Range voting as well: voter
ignorance. That runoffs allow much better public focus on the
realistic choices is a classic argument for it. It's *deliberative*
process, not pure single-ballot aggregation.

So: what's the objection? The classic one is low turnout, but when
voters care, they turn out. Turnout was phenomenal in the Lizard vs.
Wizard runoff and the Chirac-Le Pen runoff. Further, various means
*could* change this. A classic one is to reverse the position of the
primary and runoff, not in sequence, of course, but in connection
with the general election.

However, due to Range-like effects, I contend that low turnout in
runoffs is not pathological. It simply indicates relative low
preference strength, at least to some degree. Holding a primary with
a general election means that more voters vote who really don't care
about the outcome. This is essentially noise, if we are trying to
maximize public satisfaction with an outcome. More motivated voters,
which includes more informed voters, will turn out to vote in a
runoff. This probably improves results and overall public satisfaction.

Chirac-Le Pen-Jospin in France, 2002, caused many to question the
runoff system. But it was not the runoff that was the problem, that
made, clearly, the best choice given the input. The problem was
twofold: a limited method of choosing the top two, strongly dependent
(like IRV) on first rank preferences, which can easily eliminate a
compromise candidate, broadly acceptable, like Jospin (almost
certainly the Condorcet winner, and by a large margin), but *because
he's a centrist (in France, he's a socialist, he was the Prime
Minister when running for President)* he wasn't the first choice of
over 80% of the voters. His primary vote was really about the same as
Le Pen's, an extreme right candidate. So the problem, really, was
that the first round did not choose the best two candidates, by a
large measure. This election ought to give IRV supporters pause. One
of the methods called "IRV" by FairVote is a closer simulation of
top-two runoff, it's batch elimination of all but the top two
candidates. While it is conceivable that voting strategy would have
changed with this, in France, had this been the method, it's actually
not likely, the position of Le Pen was a big shock. So with "IRV" in
France, it's quite a reasonably possibility -- I'd give it about
fifty-fifty, because the votes for Le Pen and Jospin were so close --
that batch elimination IRV there would have elected Chirac. Not
Jospin. And, in fact, I consider the odds about the same if it had
been fully-ranked, sequential elimination IRV.

As I've mentioned, IRV was replaced, previously, by top two runoff in
the U.S. A research project for some enterprising student would be to
study why that happened. Did they know something we don't know -- or,
more accurately, have collectively forgotten? Or was this simply one
more corrupt or blindly ignorant action, like Brown v. Smallwood and
the elimination of STV in New York?

The telling arguments against TTR, FairVote knows very well.

(1) Runoffs are inconvenient. Missing from the FairVote information,
of course, is the cost, in terms of loss of democratic process and
election quality, of eliminating runoffs. There are old arguments for
runoff voting. You don't see FairVote answering these, they behave as
if those arguments don't exist!

(2) Runoffs have low turnout. Somehow this is assumed to mean "poor,"
as in a "poor election." We read, often, "turnout was poor." But low
turnout means, very obviously, that voters who don't care haven't
voted. This actually removes noise, and almost certainly improves
results. I've never seen a claim that real runoffs made results worse
that wasn't coming from someone who benefited from massively ignorant
vote. (Tends to be Democrats in some circumstances, but this also
comes from Republicans who are able to touch on hot-button issues and
convince relatively ignorant voters that they are the best.) The
primary, if held with the general election, is thus much more
susceptible to advertising and spin in the media. It's much tougher
to convince the more motivated voters in a runoff to vote against
their interests.

(3) Runoffs cost money. Yes, they do. But so does IRV, and the jury
is out on which costs more. FairVote doesn't back up their claims
with hard data, and you don't see FairVote mentioning the *very*
delayed results, with the City of San Francisco spending lots of
money for hand counting IRV, or lots of money for voting systems that
can handle IRV. There are many problems here, but the election
security people are pretty much united against IRV. FairVote claims
that IRV was a "big success" in Cary, NC, but that seems to be based
on a single poll, that voters liked the system. On the other side, we
have a lot of anecdotal evidence that many voters were confused, we
have statements from candidates and election officials that it was a
mess. The hand counting was a disaster. Cary is not likely to repeat
the experiment.

So IRV is proposed, which, it is often stated, "simulates" a series
of runoffs. However, it doesn't simulate them well, at all. In TTR,
there is a comeback election about one third of the time -- with
nonpartisan elections, which is the vast majority of U.S. IRV
implementations so far. With IRV, same jurisdictions, no comebacks.
IRV is electing the plurality winner, the candidate most preferred by
the voters in first preference, vote transfers aren't changing the
first round result. This is almost certainly due to ballot
exhaustion, and, unlike what Mr. Lundell might think, ballot
exhaustion is inevitable, for a large percentage of ballots, even if
full ranking is allowed. Voters don't want to fully rank, they don't
want to vote for one candidate over another unless they understand
both candidates and their positions, and most voters simply are not
-- and are not going to be -- that informed. They know their
favorite. That was Carroll's realization, how to empower these
voters, in a fair way, and to use that information, the favorite.

> I'd set
>three-rank IRV aside as an unfortunate but hopefully temporary
>response to voting equipment limitations.

It horrifies Chris Benham, an Australian, but it's difficult even for
knowledgeable voters to make intelligent ratings of all the
candidates. In Australia, full ranking is always allowed in the IRV
elections, and in most places it is required or the ballot is voided.

(In Australia, voting is mandatory, it's against the law not to vote.
This, as well, is highly likely to guarantee major-party dominance,
because major parties have more resources with which to influence
relatively uninterested voters, the ones who will simply hear an ad,
and go "Yeah! Those gays are going too far!" Or the like. -- in the
other direction, "The big corporations and greedy fat cats are the
cause of all our problems.")

There is little reason to believe that adding more ranks than three
would improve results, because the more ranks added, the fewer the
voters who will use them. I'm in favor of giving maximum power to
voters, generally, but I'd see a much simpler reform that would fix a
lot of the problems with IRV:

Allow equal ranking. Make it like Bucklin, which required, in Duluth,
a single vote only in the first two ranks, then as many candidates
could be approved as desired in the third rank. Personally, I'd allow
multiple voting in all ranks (and a ballot marked with the same
candidate in more than one rank would only be counted as a higher
rank vote, I'd assume. It would not be discarded. Count all the
votes, simply interpret a vote like that reasonably.)

This would make IRV into Approval for those who wanted to vote it
that way. And leave it as Later No Harm IRV for those who wanted to
vote that way.

Which would voters prefer?

I'd simply use Bucklin, of course, the risk of a true Later No Harm
violation is quite low.

Now, let's look at the French 2002 election again. The runoff had
Chirac and Le Pen on the ballot. Le Pen got about 19% of the vote in
the primary, Chirac a little over 20%, I forget the exact number. Was
the runoff a close election? No. Chirac won with 80% of the vote.
Essentially, the only people, for the most part, who voted for Le Pen
in the runoff were those who voted for him in the primary. Turnout
was higher in the runoff than in the primary.

Now, suppose that write-ins had been allowed in the runoff. Given
that Jospin was probably much more popular than Chirac, and given
that Le Pen simply wasn't going to win the runoff, even if Chirac and
Jospin evenly split the vote -- i.e., it would have been 40-40-20,
the problems with this election, if considered serious, would have
been fixed, and quite safely, with a write-in campaign for Jospin.
I'd predict he'd have won. But if not, then, indeed, the voters would
have spoken. The ballot would have given Chirac some edge. But with
very motivated voters, really exercised about the election, many of
them saying that they were going to vote for Chirac with a clothespin
on their noses, I'd say that the on-the-ballot edge would have been
fragile. No amount of additional write-in campaigns would have
allowed Le Pen to win, he was massively rejected and his only support
was his core support. So much for the Core Support Criterion,
FairVote's attempt to create an election criterion that can make
sense to people who don't understand election methods, as an attempt
to cover up IRV's massive criterion failures. It passes criteria that
can be shown as actually undesirable! And it fails the ones that
voting systems experts -- and basic democratic process -- consider
important, such as electing someone like Chirac or The Lizard. IRV
passes the Majority Criterion, because that criterion only refers to
first preferences, but it can easily elect someone, in theory, who
would lose by a landslide to a different candidate. Far from being
rare, elections like the French one and the Louisiana Lizard v.
Wizard, show that it must be reasonably common. You can't tell from
the Australian IRV data, they don't provide the critical ballot
information. IRV buries the necessary preferences, these are votes
cast by voters which are never counted. (Consider what we'd think
about a Plurality election where they didn't count votes from voters
because it had become clear that a candidate was going to lose. As
with a recount where, say, votes for candidates who didn't get
something near a plurality were ignored. Why bother adding them up?
-- Because we should Count All the Votes. Every Vote should Count, or
at least be counted. Face it, IRV is a really poor election method, I
wouldn't use it even for a poll in a democratic assembly. I'd use
plurality because it's quick, and if I wanted better data, I'd use
Approval or Range. As a poll, of course, Range is stellar.

One of my realizations a while back: while Robert's Rules of Order
prohibits overvotes on written ballots, it is silent about them with
respect to show-of-hands votes. There is no rule preventing a voter
from voting for more than one candidate in a voice vote or
show-of-hands or rising vote. I'm sure it happens. These votes are
counted. (Voice vote is rare for elections, in modern times. It's how
the Spartans did it, the winner was the one with the loudest vote.
It's a kind of Range voting, actually.) Why does RR instruct the
clerk to not count overvoted ballots? Because the "intent of the
voter cannot be discerned." This assumes that the voter does not
intend to overvote, that it was a mistake. It's against the rules
because it is a mistake and it is a mistake because the rules require
it not to be counted. Circular. There is no discussion as to why
overvotes should be prohibited. I've been unable to find legislative
history that explains the no-overvoting rules; apparently, as with
Robert's Rules of Order, it's simply been assumed that people will
vote for their favorite and leave it at that. In deliberative
assemblies, it works, because a majority is required. The need for
additional votes only appears when one goes to a single-ballot method
that resolves without a majority being needed. In an assembly,
single-vote may actually be better than Approval, except for polling.
(Robert's Rules is a bit down on polling, considering it redundant to
voting, but polling can make deliberative process proceed much more
quickly. Range polling even more quickly.)

> My problem with TTR is that
>it's almost as bad at encouraging strategic voting as FPTP is. Better,
>yes, but not good. Approval is also a strategy game that I'd rather
>not play; sure, I can imagine elections in which Approval is easy and
>relatively non-strategic, but it's also easy to imagine otherwise.

Stated, but no evidence that this is an actual problem. "Strategic
voting" here means that voters cast an informed vote. They tend not
to do that with TTR or with IRV, especially in first preference,
which is all that you get in TTR, and which might be all that counts
in IRV. I see little reason to believe that first preference votes
would shift significantly between TTR and IRV. Both systems encourage
people to vote for their favorite (exclusively in TTR, and first
preference in IRV.)

It should be realized that Approval simply makes it safe to vote for
your favorite. Otherwise Approval "strategy" is the same as with
Plurality. Want to make your vote count? Make sure you vote for one
of the frontrunners. With Approval, as with IRV, you can do this and
still vote for your favorite. Bucklin allows this, as well, Bucklin
strategy is quite simply in the vast majority of cases.

But IRV, remember, is vulnerable to Center Squeeze, just like TTR.
Consider the Chirac-Jospin election. There were a lot of voters who
voted, first round, for other than Jospin, who preferred Jospin over
any realistic winner. If they have voted strategically instead of
sincerely, first round, they'd have elected Jospin in the runoff.
That is, a group of minor party voters, realizing the danger and the
situation, could have changed the result for the better, not only for
themselves but for the majority, by voting insincerely, reversing
expressed preference.

If you are so concerned about strategic voting, why not be concerned
about a method which makes strategic voting necessary for the method
to come up with a good winner? With Range methods, normalized sincere
ratings (that needs definition) will help come up with the best
winner. Strategic voting, such as it is in range, may help you
personally, but can damage overall results. And if you vote
sincerely, the loss in personal gain, if any, is small. That's the
whole point, something that FairVote arguments completely miss, with
their example of 99% voting "sincerely" at 100, 99, and then comes
along one voter who votes "strategically," at 0, 100, and outweighs
all those "sincere voters." They will allege that this 99% of voters
will be upset because they didn't get their favorite. However, the
difference in rating, the loss to these "sincere voters" is tiny. I
don't think I'd really have any difference in reaction to the news of
the election of my 99% satisfactory winner vs the 1% one. Unless
those ratings were really distorted, i.e., I didn't really, among the
election set, have such a tiny preference strength. In which case the
100,99 votes weren't really "sincere." They were "stupid"! I.e, not
votes that would allow the method to determine the best winner, what
are really considered "sincere" range votes under any reasonable definition.

Basically, most of the criticism of Range I have seen has been
shallow and ill-considered, depending on knee-jerk reactions (like
"vulnerable to strategic voting" -- generally undefined with any
precision -- is a Bad Thing, worse than, say, can Elect a Candidate
who would Lose in a direct face-off by a landslide to the Method
Winner. Hint: IRV. The "vulnerability" of Range -- to the kind of
"strategy" that Range can provide a small benefit for -- is minor,
and does very little harm. The vulnerability of IRV to election
pathologies: huge. Most elections, we should realize, would resolve
with the same winner no matter what the method (among methods
commonly proposed). So even a large series of "successful" IRV
elections -- where the Plurality winner in the first round was
elected, and there is no data to show much more than that, would not
reveal the weaknesses, which take place in a minority of elections.
Only simulations can uncover this with reasonable efficiency and
accuracy, otherwise statistical variations swamp the possible results.

>I confess that I'm partial to the iterative process, at least under
>the right circumstances.

Yup. Nice confession, you are confessing a good thing. What
circumstances? What makes it break down?

Obviously, iterative process takes more time and requires more work
on the part of voters. Yet that is *all* we see in deliberative
bodies, which also can be short of time. They have means of making it
more efficient, such as committee systems which predigest decisions.
In a community that values consensus, I've seen this work
spectacularly. We are accustomed to committee systems that are
politically controlled; that could be avoided. That is, the process
is both hierarchical and iterative. It's all under the control of the
majority, when the system is healthy, because the majority can
overrule any officer's decision.

(Remember, folks, the flap in the Texas Assembly when the Speaker
refused to recognize a motion to vacate his office, refused to
recognize an appeal from the floor on that refusal, and declared the
meeting adjourned without vote? It was fascinating to watch him,
essentially, get away with it? He flagrantly violated the rules and
basic democratic principles. The Parliamentarian resigned and he
appointed two cronies to replace her. How did he get away with it?
Everybody wanted to go home, they didn't have the political will to
challenge him. He was a very skilled politician. The public was mad
at the legislators because it was led to think that it was all their
fault for being "partisan." Though the effort to remove him from
office was actually bipartisan. Etc. That was an Assembly not
accustomed to standing up for its rights. They could, quite simply,
have refused to adjourn. When he left the room, it was as if he'd
left his office and become absent. Standard parliamentary procedure
can deal with a situation like this, so unless the Texas assembly
(House?) had given up its rights in the standing rules -- apparently
they had not -- it would have only taken one member with the
knowledge and skill to fix the situation. Instead there was chaos. I
find it remarkable that such a body didn't know how to deal with the
situation. It's not like a chair never tried to take over and run
things undemocratically before. -- Speakers do often sidestep
democratic process, but they do so with the continuing consent of the
majority, which avoids confronting it for political reasons. Since it
is the majority which has the ultimate power, the situation
continues, often until it gets really, really bad. Politics. It can
create a lot of inertia, not in a good way.)


> US political parties have used it in the
>past, and it's suitable to an open-ended convention setting.

That's right. But it was considered an abuse of power, allowing the
"fat cats" in "smoke filled rooms" to make the big decisions. This is
a populist argument based on the premise that we can't trust
"politicians." It's part of what keeps the U.S. public from
exercising its real power. Not allowing experts chosen by the public
-- which could easily be done, and should be how parties are run --
to make decision means that big decision are referred to the public,
through primaries. Supposedly better, in theory. But, in fact, highly
vulnerable to manipulation by, what? Fat cats. Really Fat Cats. Using
the media, which they buy.

We can overcome this, when we are sufficiently exercised, which we
become when it gets really bad. Unfortunately, it has to get really
bad to wake us up. There is a better way, and it is *not* getting
everyone to be continuously active in politics. Better voting systems
are a tiny, tiny part of that, Plurality is actually good enough, if
the public is well organized outside of government, outside of big
party structures, but independently and efficiently. And freely. It's
about communication, not control. It's about trustworthy advice. How
can we manage to create that, create a system that will give us the
best advice, without creating centers of power that can be corrupted.

We know how to do it, but few even realize the need. That's what we
need right now, simply more people who can see the problem and
possible solutions.


> The US
>Greens used a kind of "live IRV" in their 2004 convention, with
>multiple vote-for-one rounds with elimination and/or withdrawal
>between rounds. But there are lots of reasons that we don't want an
>open-ended process for public elections, or even a process (like
>GPUS-2004) that guarantees eventual termination, but with an uncertain
>number of rounds. I prefer the IRV compromise to TTR or Approval.

You have not stated why, and real election results show a serious
problem. They don't show it in a way that enables me to say, it
happened in *this* election, but statistically, it's pretty clear.
We'll know even better when we have more elections to analyze, we
only have data on a relatively small number of IRV elections. But
this is the summary: in nonpartisan elections -- the vast bulk of IRV
elections in present U.S. implementations -- there are no "comeback
elections." None, so far. In a series of primary elections in Texas
-- that were TTR -- there was a comeback election in 29% of them. The
runner-up in the primary ended up beating the primary leader in the
runoff. Now, like IRV, TTR encourages voters to vote for their
favorite in the primary. My sense of real voters is this is what they
do, and it is what they've been encouraged to do. In political
primaries, as well, most voters do just that, particularly if it is
runoff voting. They trust, generally, that one of the top two
candidates in first preference will be a reasonable choice, and they
can then make their choice in the runoff if there is majority failure
in the primary. I think there is very little first-round strategic voting.

In these IRV elections, the first-round leader always goes on to win
the runoff. In theory, IRV does better than Plurality. In practice,
all IRV does is collect votes from a larger sample and, in
nonpartisan elections, it turns out that vote transfers don't change
the preference order, generally, for the remaining candidates. That
was a surprising result, but, on reflection, it makes sense. We see
something different with partisan elections, under certain
conditions, particularly those where there is only one minor party,
on one side, with significant vote strength. That party creates
vote-splitting in the first round, hence vote transfers *may* reverse
the first-round result. Have two minor parties, one on each side of
the spectrum, this effect disappears, and that seems to be a more
stable situation. It's known in Australia, where they have a fairly
stable system, two big parties (on of them technically a coalition,
but functioning non-competitively, they don't both run candidates in
any individual race, I think), that the primary leader almost always
goes on to win the election. Exceptions are likely to be elections
where the primary results were close, close enough that statistical
variations could shove the result in the other direction.

So why are there comeback elections in nonpartisan runoffs? (A
political primary is "nonpartisan" in this sense, the candidates are
not representatives of opposing parties) And not with IRV? It's
pretty obvious: Two big effects, *both of which probably improve the results*.

What we don't know is which effect is more important.

(1) Voter turnout. Voting in a runoff is *usually* less convenient
than voting in a primary. Even when the convenience is the same,
because the candidate set has been reduced to the two most popular
candidates, many voters may thing both of them adequate, they don't
have a big preference between the two, so they accept the result. If
they can't write in a vote (the most common situation, I think), and
they dislike both candidates, likewise, no incentive to vote. Lower
turnout does not indicate a problem. (But if we really think there is
a problem, we'd set quorum rules. But that is another story.) Lower
turnout means, pretty clearly, that the voters are more highly
motivated voters, voters who have a significant preference between
the two candidates on the ballot. Thus lower turnout shifts results
toward Range results, by a factor that is sincere, it can't be faked.
That's typical of a whole class of voting systems that use auctions
or bidding on lotteries; these systems are design to extract sincere
utilities from voters. Inconvenient elections do it for free, so to
speak. In a manner that probably has a roughly equal impact on rich
or poor. Certainly the unemployed may find it easier to vote!

(2) Increased voter knowledge regarding the remaining candidates.
This is one of the classic arguments for runoff voting, and it is
almost certainly true. So voters *change their minds*. They can't do
that with IRV, nor with any deterministic, single-ballot system.

My conclusion is that TTR, even with its flaws, could be a better
system than even Range as a deterministic method. But, of course, we
can fix the flaws -- it's rather easy! -- and one of the fixes might
be to use Range in the primary, ensuring that there is some way of
extracting "approval" information from the primary -- such as
defining any rating more than 50% as being acceptance of the result
being rated, making that explicit in the ballot instructions.
Further, this should be studied, the ballot might allow the
expression of a "favorite" that is independent of the ratings, i.e.,
the voter might top rate two candidates, voting approval style, but
then indicating a preference. This, indeed, I'd advise if the range
resolution is low, like lower than 10. (Range 2 is actually a rather
nice system.... except that it would be missing this favorite
indication, it would be too *expensive* to lower the next-preferred
candidate to midrange -- which could be defined as acceptance, it's a
small difference from "more than half" to exactly half.

Immediately, the conversion of top-two runoff to IRV should stop.
It's a step backwards. It's certainly possible to argue that IRV is
better than raw Plurality, that's a different matter, particularly in
partisan elections. But against top two runoff? No. Bad Idea.
Reversing old reforms, actually. Existing IRV implementations should
be studied, carefully. We now have some IRV experimentation, that's
good, actually, even though the way it came about was typically
deceptive. In Minneapolis, we may be seeing a new STV-PR usage, that,
likewise, is good, probably a significant improvement. So what we
need now are some Approval implementations, most urgently. Given that
Approval is essentially free, is theoretically better than IRV in
terms of overall voter satisfaction, it should be a no-brainer,
highly unlikely to do any harm. Because of the very low expense and
improvement in terms of fewer spoiled ballots, this really should
have been the first reform, and, then, maybe we'd have gone to
Bucklin, much cheaper than IRV, performs better. And has substantial
history behind it in the U.S.

Or Bucklin might come first. It's more complicated than Approval, but
still easy to vote. All the votes are counted (i.e., if any second
preference votes are counted, they all are, not just the ones for the
leaders.) Isn't vulnerable to Center Squeeze, yet does allow voters
to go, first, for their favorite.

I've even gotten some IRV supporters to say, yes, Bucklin looks
pretty interesting. It basically answers the objection that many have
to Approval, an inability to express who they like most.

Make Bucklin require a majority to finish, hold a runoff among the
top two if there is no majority, it would be *clear* improvement
over present top-two runoff systems, and would avoid, probably, my
estimate, about one-third of runoffs. A little better than IRV, the
only reason that IRV avoids runoffs is that the majority requirement
was dumped with the implementations.

The tragedy in San Francisco is that the voters were told that, yes,
a majority would still be required. The Dept. of Elections video
continued to claim this. The distinction between "majority of votes,"
which, if you've followed Brown v. Smallwood, means "majority of
valid ballots," i.e., "majority of voters," and "majority of votes
for candidates not eliminated" has been lost. When I started editing
the Wikipedia article to reflect the difference, there were screams
of "Too much detail, you'll confuse readers!" Right. Some people like
to have the public imagine it understands something when it does not.
That what spin-doctors are very good at.

With logic like that, we might as well say, "The winner must gain all
the votes." Simply continue the elimination process one step further.
Any vote not containing a vote for the winner is set aside.

What the IRV process does is, as implemented, is look for a majority
of votes for candidates not eliminated. If you only voted for
candidates which were eliminated, as all but two will be at the end,
Sure, this "simulates" a series of runoffs, but with declining
participation, and voters who went to the polls, and cast their
votes, for legitimate candidates, sincerely, are considered not to
exist. They aren't part of the basis for a majority. No matter that
they actually voted. Technically this is, indeed, a majority of
*remaining* ballots, not exhausted, but using the word without the
qualifying language is highly deceptive. A majority favored McCain in
2008, but Obama won. Raw deal! Oh, forgot to say: A majority of
Republicans favored McCain.

A majority of voters voted for So-and-So for San Francisco
Supervisor, so he was elected. Wait a minute, over 60% of voters did
*not* vote for him. Yes, but they don't count, they did not vote for
one of the frontrunners, so their ballots were exhausted, as will
almost certainly happen. You *must* vote for a frontrunner or you do
not count? Didn't you know that?

Now, please, after reading this, try to say again, "IRV encourages
sincere voting."

Sure it does. A little, but then, if you are fully sincere, it whops
you upside the head. You don't count, unless, of course, you are one
of the people who count, the people who support the winner and
*maybe* the people who support the runner up, though all these votes
could be eliminated and the result would not change. That problem,
the problem that we have elections for people to represent the
people, and there are *losers*, people unrepresented -- over 60% of
those who voted in that district in San Francisco -- is the problem
with single-winner.

STV-PR has the same problems as IRV, but the problems don't really
appear in the first elections, until eliminations start. There are
better methods than STV, as usually implemented, we are not
restricted to a method invented, what, 150 years ago? But certainly
STV is better than single-district, single-winner, and it gets better
the more candidates are election from a district. I.e., large districts.

Asset can go much further, allowing effective districts to be created
on-the-fly by the candidates, creating an assembly that is
practically total in its representation, with every voter having a
representative whom they chose, or who was chosen or approved by
someone they chose.

If the quota is the Hare quota, not the Droop quota, and if electors
-- those receiving votes in the election -- may vote on matters
before the assembly, directly (but not introduce motions or speak by
right to the assembly), then we have *total* representation unless
the chosen representative defaults and drops out without assigning
his or her vote to someone else. I'd say that is about as close to
total representation as we might imagine. In practice, I'm fairly
sure, it would be rare for direct votes from electors -- which
devalue votes of those who were elected to seats by them -- to shift
a result. The dregs, i.e., those who have no seat, because they can't
come together with enough other electors to choose a common
representative, wouldn't be large. And since seats are freely chosen,
presumably by those who trust them, differences in vote would be the
exception rather than the rule. It's the principle that everyone has
a vote or is represented, though, that's important. That's part of my
goal: for us to build a government that we think of as "us," because
it very clearly is. We would be *connected*.



>BTW, most of the list will probably be aware that the second round of
>the Georgia (US) TTR senatorial election will be held next Tuesday.
>
>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Georgia,_2008

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Kevin Venzke
2008-11-26 05:42:53 UTC
Permalink
Hello,

--- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> If we must have a
> single ballot, and a single winner, period, Range Voting is
> actually a trick: it is the only relatively objective method
> of assessing the expected voter satisfaction with an
> outcome, turned into an election method. It's ideal
> because it's designed that way. (The only fly in the
> ointment is the charges about strategic voting, but I've
> been arguing that this is based on a total misconception of
> what we are doing when we vote.)

I don't understand how you reconcile the two ideas here. Range is
"objective" and "ideal because it's designed that way" based on the
idea that voters have internal utilities and, if they vote them exactly,
under Range voting, the best candidate according to overall utility
will be elected every time.

At the same time you want to defend Range against the charge of
susceptibility to strategic voting, essentially by denying that the
Range voter is supposed to be mapping his true, absolute preferences
onto the ratings.

If the idea of a sincere set of ratings irrespective of context is "a
total misconception of what we are doing when we vote," then what useful
theory is Range based on? What makes it "objective" and "ideal" if not
what I stated above?

I also wonder, what, theoretically, does it look like when Range fails
and gives a poor result. Is such a thing allowed?

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-01 17:53:49 UTC
Permalink
At 12:42 AM 11/26/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>--- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman
>Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > If we must have a
> > single ballot, and a single winner, period, Range Voting is
> > actually a trick: it is the only relatively objective method
> > of assessing the expected voter satisfaction with an
> > outcome, turned into an election method. It's ideal
> > because it's designed that way. (The only fly in the
> > ointment is the charges about strategic voting, but I've
> > been arguing that this is based on a total misconception of
> > what we are doing when we vote.)
>
>I don't understand how you reconcile the two ideas here. Range is
>"objective" and "ideal because it's designed that way" based on the
>idea that voters have internal utilities and, if they vote them exactly,
>under Range voting, the best candidate according to overall utility
>will be elected every time.

I've responded to this in a prior post, the first
part of it. I did not make the claim that Range
Voting was "objective." It is a voting method and
does not automatically choose the best candidate
according to overall utility, neither in
simulated elections with practical methods, not
even if we assume "fully sincere voting."

It simply gets closer than any other single
ballot method. Of the methods that have been
tested through the simulation process, the only
method that beats Range, if I'm correct, is Range
with a top two runoff. Not a single ballot
method, not even considered a voting method by
many definitions. Arrow, in particular, made
"deterministic" one of the preconditions for his theorem to apply.

In the simulation process, absolute personal
utilities must be converted to Range votes, for,
with practical election methods, it's probably
impossible to vote absolute utilities, even if
people wanted to. The conversion process usually
takes the preference list for candidates
considered real options and looks only at the
range of utilities among those candidates. While
a voter *might* decide to extend the "coverage"
of the voter's vote, this is not what we normally
do when we are asked to make a choice. We
restrict our consideration to the practical
possibiities. This normalization process, to some
degree, makes the same "mistake" as preferential
methods do, it equates what may be a small
preference with what may be, with another, a
critical or crucial preference. Hence Range
Voting which depends on this normalization can
fail to find the truly optimal winner. It pleases
some people with little preference at the cost of
greater absolute preference satisfaction for others.

If readers have been following this, they would
know the answer to this question: but what if
voters exaggerate their preferences when they
vote? That is, of course, a possible objection to
Range Voting or to the study of real election
results based on, say, polling data. The
simulations avoid this entirely, by *assuming* an
underlying preference profile.

This underlying preference profile could get
quite sophisticated, but making it more accurate,
as to how real voters make voting decisions,
would probably not change the results
significantly. Good election methods should be
able to handle the kinds of voter preference
profiles that are used in the simulations, those
profiles aren't biased toward Range Voting. (And
the profiles make sense in restricted
environments; that real people use more complex
criteria in determining their preferences doesn't
change the usefulness of the approach. The goal
is not to simulate *people* and predict real
election results from, say, an analysis of
positions, popularity polls, etc. Rather it is to
study how election methods perform under reasonably realistic assumptions.

So let me be specific, though we will get back to
this. Range Voting isn't perfect. It does not
always choose the best winner. When it does not,
it is sometimes possible to detect the situation
and fix it; that is why Range Voting with Top Two
runoff gets lower regret results than Range
alone. It detects the relatively rare situations
that cause Range to fail to find the ideal
winner. And in my opinion, Runoff Range is not as
accurate in the simulations as it would be in
real life; that's because real runoffs test
*relative absolute preference strength,* free of
strategic considerations (when write-ins are
involved, this isn't totally true.) This effect
is something which has been largely overlooked.
Or even totally, as far as I know. It's original
with me, but it's likely someone else has written
about it somewhere. I don't consider it rocket
science, just something obvious that's been overlooked.

So TTR Range is better than Range. Range is not
perfect. Period. It is simply better, as studied
through this approach, than any deterministic
single-ballot method that is commonly studied.
(To get better, one has to find a way to
facilitate and encourage "fully sincere voting."
That may be an extraordinarily difficult problem,
but auctions can do it. Isn't that called a Clarke tax?

(Consider this proposal: One your ballot, you
indicate what percentage of your income you will
pay as tax for the next year. It is not an
absolute amount, because that leads to
plutocracy, or at least that is claimed.
(Libertarians might prefer a dollar amount, but
it's the idea I'm exploring here, not the
details, I'm just trying to propose some
reasonable ones. It's even possible that some
more complex tax structure would be involved,
where you would vote a *bracket,* designed to
make the difficult of "voting" in this way the
same for all voters.) These would be, we can
presume, absolute utilities, converted to income
percentage values. So a voter with little
preference would not, presumably, be willing to
pay much, and a voter with a large preference
would, again, be willing to pay more. It's an
auction, so the amount actually paid would
presumably be lower than the votes. The maximum
vote might be limited. How much would I have been
willing to pay to avoid the election of Bush? In
2000, a decent amount. In 2004, probably the
maximum vote allowed (there might be a limit at
100% of income, or some lower or higher figure).
In 2008, to avoid McCain, less, probably. Bush
was *really* bad, so bad that prominent
conservatives were complaining, and so concerned
that McCain would have continued poor Bush
policies that they recommended Obama. But I don't
think McCain would have been anywhere near as bad
as Bush was. In 2008, though, a lower vote was
probably necessary to elect Obama, because he was
so popular. I was wondering when he was going to
bring out the loaves and fishes, with many
others.... Obama is so popular that he's
dangerous. Not as a specific criticism of him,
but generically. It is even more important now
that we make it possible for the public to get good and trustworthy advice....)

>At the same time you want to defend Range against the charge of
>susceptibility to strategic voting, essentially by denying that the
>Range voter is supposed to be mapping his true, absolute preferences
>onto the ratings.

That's right. Range results shift, and they shift
to increase regret, when voters vote
"strategically." This is well know, but it's an
error to consider this a reason to avoid Range.
If, with realistic voting profiles, they shifted
results to make Range worse than other methods,
it would be one thing. But they do not, if the
simulations were accurate. Nobody has challenged
Warren's results. Yee diagrams are a similar
approach. Nobody has contradicted the basic work,
even though it is all published and source code
is available, etc. Instead, we see criticism that
often misunderstands the basic nature of the study.

The voter *does* map his true, absolute
preferences onto the ratings. Kevin, you are not
being careful. There is, in theory, a one to one,
continuous, monotonic transformation of absolute
voter utilities (not "preferences") to Range
votes (neglecting roundoff error, which makes the
function a step function, still monotonic.)
That's why we can, with a reasonable definition,
still call these votes "sincere," since they do
not violate the derived preference profile of the
voter. All that they do is to, possibly, equate
the vote of some candidate pairs when there is a
non-zero preference strength between them, and
that is larger than the Range resolution. In
other words, the voter thinks that, given all the
conditions, the voter exercises more effective
voting power elsewhere and -- presumably -- will
not regret the abstention from voting in that
candidate pair. This is quite what we routinely
do with real world choices under analogous
conditions. We do not bid on things in auctions
based merely on cost, when we have a limited
amount to bid. I won't go into describing such an
auction, but we factor in the probability of
success, and we put our limited auction dollars
into the preference pairs that seem more likely
to be a good investment. But we never try to pay
*more* for a candidate that we prefer *less.

The transfer function, thus, is monotonic but not
linear. With "sincere absolute preferences
normalized to the voting Range," we'd get a
limited regret-minimized result, and there may be
some voters who decide to vote this way. I'd not
advise it, though it's relatively harmless. It
improves the overall outcome at small cost to the
voter. (By definition, if the cost is large, the
sincere preference is large.) In real world
collective decision making on a small scale, we
often do exactly this: we reveal our sincere
preferences in absolutes, where possible, or, at
least, in terms of preference strength across our personal profile.

So is Range Voting "vulnerable" to strategic
voting? What does that mean? In practice, it is
used as a voting system criterion and a black
mark against Range Voting. But the "harm" done is
simply institutionalized by other voting systems,
and the possible improvement through accurate
expression of absolute preference strengths
(within the limitations) is made impossible.
Which, of course, harms the results even more. In
order to avoid the bete noir, strategic voting,
which has been redefined to include any failure
to accurately disclose a sincere preference,
voting systems students would avoid the only
method which *minimizes* the effect of such, and
allows it to operate only where it is relatively harmless.

The simulations answer the questions of "how
much" and "how often," which cannot be answered
through the prior approach, the use of voting
systems criteria. Approval Voting fails the
Majority Criterion, according to the usual
interpretations (which had to be modified to
apply to Approval Voting, and, clearly, the
modifications were designed to *cause* Approval
voting to fail, because the students thought,
intuitively, that it failed. That's what I mean
by subjective analysis! See James
Armytage-Green's study and application of the
Majority Criterion to Range Voting).

Okay, how often? It would be extraordinarily rare
in real public elections, because it requires a
significant number of voters to vote for both
frontrunners, which is the opposite of standard
Approval strategy and is, normally, a foolish
vote if the voter does have a significant
preference between them. And if the voter doesn't
have a significant preference, well, there you go. See the second question!)

And how much damage from failure? Little. When
the Majority Criterion fails, we have multiple
majorities. The majority has Approved another
candidate as well as their favorite, and,
together with other votes, this less-preferred
candidate has broader support. Is that bad? Many
would argue it's good, and this again points out
the subjective nature of the use of voting
systems criteria to judge election methods.

It's easy to show that there are reasonable
situations, in real life, where the Majority
Criterion, if followed by a voting system, would
prevent the voting system from choosing a winner
which the vast majority of people -- not voting
systems experts attached to some other method and
holding on for dear life to preposterous
arguments -- would agree is a better outcome than
the majority first preference.

Quite simply, to make sound decisions from
preference profiles, we need to know preference
strength. Preferential ballots can, sometimes,
approximate this (Borda does that, and works
better if there is a broad spectrum of candidates
on the ballot, thus creating, in the real
preference pairs, an approximation of preference
strength), and usually the majority preference
will also be the ratings winner. But a Range ballot directly expresses this.

How about an ideal ballot, no matter what the
method? Set aside the complexity issue, it would
obviously be a Range ballot that allows the
expression of small but significant preferences.
To be ideal, it must allow the expression of
equal preference and not force one choice or the
other. If there were some way to do it, it would
allow expression of absolute utilities, but I'll
set that aside and assume that it only allows
expression of preference on the range of 0-1
vote. (In fractional increments, of course.)

This ballot contains far more information than a
pure preferential ballot. *How* the information
is used is another story. The ballot could be
used for any preferential voting method, for
example. The simulations essentially do this. But
once preference strength information is
available, and through averaging, even if many or
most voters vote Approval style, as in some cases
strategic considerations suggest, we should
remember that Approval is a Range method and the
votes in Approval will tend to average out to
what more "sincere" Range votes would be, as
voters make different decisions about where to
put their approval cutoff. Because the voters are
spread across the spectrum, Approval Voting can
measure underlying preferences just as an analog
to digital converter which can only indicate
whether a signal is higher or lower than a
reference voltage can measure the signal voltage
at far, far higher resolution than 0 and 1 would
imply. An input signal can be compared with many
random references and the number of *hits* (0 and
1) results can then estimate the input signal
value. Here the "input signal" is the average
approval cutoff position in the candidate spectrum.

In other words, since we are going for
amalgamation anyway, that individual voters can't
express fine preferences, but only 0 or 1 for
each candidate, has less effect on the outcome
than it does on the individual voter behavior.

If we really wanted to know how election methods
other than Range were performing, we'd use a
Range ballot. This may actually be practical in
small or even large nongovernmental
organizations. Short of using a Range ballot,
we'd use a Range poll, as an exit poll (preferably), or as a pre-election poll.

And, of course, we'd compare these results with
simulation predictions and eventually we might
build up enough data to confirm or improve the
models. The problem with this approach for the
short term is that the simulations can study
thousands of elections and thus see the behavior
of a voting system under many different
conditions, whereas the actual experimental
approach, with a lot of effort, only shows one
instance. Useful, still, but probably best used
to improve the models used in simulations.

>If the idea of a sincere set of ratings irrespective of context is "a
>total misconception of what we are doing when we vote," then what useful
>theory is Range based on? What makes it "objective" and "ideal" if not
>what I stated above?

It does not depend on relatively subjective
considerations like which voting systems criteria
are more important than the others. It defines an
optimal winner in a manner that, once understood,
most people would agree is reasonable, and that
matches how we make decisions, when we are sane
and collectively functional, in real life. The
approach defines the "ideal winner" in a way that
works when we know absolute utilities, and there
is no reason to expect that it would stop working
simply because the utility profile can't be
directly determined. (It works when we can see it
and test it, why would it stop working when we can't?)

There is no usable definition of "a sincere set
of ratings irrespective of context," because
there is no way for voters to even determine such
in a manner that they could vote them. The
ratings that we can determine, in practice, are
not absolute, independent ratings. Now, as I've
noted, it's not totally possible, but we have to
go far beyond an ordinary voting system to do it,
we probably need an auction of some kind, or
perhaps voting on lotteries, and I'm not going there now.

We can approach, this, though, in certain
respects, through runoff elections, and we can
approach it through binary choices in sequence.
In a binary choice, we can assume sincere
preferences are expressed, there is little reason
to do otherwise (I'm not ruling this out, there
might be under some usages, a turkey-raising
motive, but that's in a fixed and predictable
series of votes. Highly dangerous in standard
majority required process, particularly where no
candidates are eliminated -- i.e., with standard
Robert's Rules of Order decision process. I keep
mentioning this because, without it, I know that
many critics will think I'm describing some
bizarre creature, never used. Wrong. Actually, in
very common use, just not in public political
elections except certain ones which take place,
for example, at Town Meeting. Majority of a
quorum required to make any decision.)

>I also wonder, what, theoretically, does it look like when Range fails
>and gives a poor result. Is such a thing allowed?

Well, what's a "poor result"? My claim is that
the only way to objectively study this is to see
how the method performs when absolute utilities
are known. That's what the simulations do, the
"know" the absolute utilities by assuming them,
in some hopefully reasonable way. (Don't think
it's reasonable? The simulators are configurable.
Use a better simulation of underlying utilities!
Until then, Warren's work is the best we've got!)

Now, following Warren's work, Range would very
rarely give a truly "poor result." It would take
some very bizarre preference profiles. You can
construct them .... but for them to occur in real
life would be practically impossible. What it can
do, and the simulations show it, is to miss the
true ideal winner according to the normalization
of absolute utilities, and, as well, due to the
non-linear expression of utilities (but still
monotonic) by voters seeking to maximize the
effect of their vote. However, when it does this,
it would not then flip to a much worse candidate,
unless, again, the conditions were truly bizarre.
It would simply choose, in almost every
simulation (quite likely all or nearly all), the
next best winner, and the best would be in second place.

That's why top-two runoff Range is better at
picking the ideal candidate than Range alone.
When Range fails, it picks a candidate who is
second best, almost always, with any kind of
reasonable preference profile. And then sincere
preference in a runoff *may* pick the better
candidate. Not always. What's the better
candidate? Is it the majority preference or is it
the absolute utility maximizer, or the relative
utility maximizer? Or what. Until you can answer
this question, how we decide what is a poor or
suboptimal result, whatever claims you might make
about poor results are *purely subjective.* These
standards are different. Probably the "best" is
the absolute utility maximizer, because what goes
around comes around -- on average -- but the
runoff procedure tests for the majority
preference. Usually the same, but not always.

In real life, though, the majority will surprise
us. The runoff will have different turnout than
the original election, and some voters will
change their votes, and both of these effects
will favor the *fully sincere, absolute* Range
winner over the majority preference, because, in
this situation the majority preference must be
weak. So only if the normalization or strategic
voting have sufficiently distorted the Range
results, I'd predict, would the apparent Range
winner fail to win the runoff. You hold the
runoff, indeed, because of this possibility, the possibility of distortion.

Are you starting to see this, Kevin? I'm not
writing just for you, as I assume you know, and
much of this, I'd think, you already understand. Or did you? Or do you?


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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-03 03:26:57 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

--- En date de : Lun 1.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > > If we must have a
> > > single ballot, and a single winner, period, Range
> Voting is
> > > actually a trick: it is the only relatively
> objective method
> > > of assessing the expected voter satisfaction with
> an
> > > outcome, turned into an election method. It's
> ideal
> > > because it's designed that way. (The only fly
> in the
> > > ointment is the charges about strategic voting,
> but I've
> > > been arguing that this is based on a total
> misconception of
> > > what we are doing when we vote.)
> >
> > I don't understand how you reconcile the two ideas
> here. Range is
> > "objective" and "ideal because it's
> designed that way" based on the
> > idea that voters have internal utilities and, if they
> vote them exactly,
> > under Range voting, the best candidate according to
> overall utility
> > will be elected every time.
>
> I've responded to this in a prior post, the first part
> of it. I did not make the claim that Range Voting was
> "objective." It is a voting method and does not
> automatically choose the best candidate according to overall
> utility, neither in simulated elections with practical
> methods, not even if we assume "fully sincere
> voting."
>
> It simply gets closer than any other single ballot method.

Can you come to this conclusion without the assumption that voters
will vote accurately?

> Of the methods that have been tested through the simulation
> process, the only method that beats Range, if I'm
> correct, is Range with a top two runoff. Not a single ballot
> method, not even considered a voting method by many
> definitions. Arrow, in particular, made
> "deterministic" one of the preconditions for his
> theorem to apply.
>
> In the simulation process, absolute personal utilities must
> be converted to Range votes, for, with practical election
> methods, it's probably impossible to vote absolute
> utilities, even if people wanted to. The conversion process
> usually takes the preference list for candidates considered
> real options and looks only at the range of utilities among
> those candidates. While a voter *might* decide to extend the
> "coverage" of the voter's vote, this is not
> what we normally do when we are asked to make a choice. We
> restrict our consideration to the practical possibiities.
> This normalization process, to some degree, makes the same
> "mistake" as preferential methods do, it equates
> what may be a small preference with what may be, with
> another, a critical or crucial preference. Hence Range
> Voting which depends on this normalization can fail to find
> the truly optimal winner. It pleases some people with little
> preference at the cost of greater absolute preference
> satisfaction for others.

So I guess you must not just assume but *hope* that voters can vote
accurately. In that case it seems fair to criticize that voters don't
have incentive to vote accurately.

> So let me be specific, though we will get back to this.
> Range Voting isn't perfect. It does not always choose
> the best winner. When it does not, it is sometimes possible
> to detect the situation and fix it; that is why Range Voting
> with Top Two runoff gets lower regret results than Range
> alone. It detects the relatively rare situations that cause
> Range to fail to find the ideal winner.

We're talking "honest" simulated Range, yes?

> And in my opinion,
> Runoff Range is not as accurate in the simulations as it
> would be in real life; that's because real runoffs test
> *relative absolute preference strength,* free of strategic
> considerations (when write-ins are involved, this isn't
> totally true.) This effect is something which has been
> largely overlooked. Or even totally, as far as I know.
> It's original with me, but it's likely someone else
> has written about it somewhere. I don't consider it
> rocket science, just something obvious that's been
> overlooked.

If you're talking about the idea that two-candidate elections are
strategy-free, then yes, that has been noted.

> > At the same time you want to defend Range against the
> charge of
> > susceptibility to strategic voting, essentially by
> denying that the
> > Range voter is supposed to be mapping his true,
> absolute preferences
> > onto the ratings.
>
> That's right. Range results shift, and they shift to
> increase regret, when voters vote "strategically."
> This is well know, but it's an error to consider this a
> reason to avoid Range. If, with realistic voting profiles,
> they shifted results to make Range worse than other methods,
> it would be one thing. But they do not, if the simulations
> were accurate.

Well, if the simulations were accurate, then strategic voter behavior
wouldn't even vary for different rank ballot methods. Everyone would
apply Borda strategy according to randomized polling data. It is not
very surprising that strategic Approval can outperform a method with
this kind of behavior.

> Nobody has challenged Warren's results.

What do you mean no one has challenged Warren's results? What would you
interpret to be "challenging" the results?

> Yee diagrams are a similar approach. Nobody has contradicted
> the basic work, even though it is all published and source
> code is available, etc. Instead, we see criticism that often
> misunderstands the basic nature of the study.

I have made such diagrams myself. I have made and seen few that simulate
any strategy, except for Approval.

> The voter *does* map his true, absolute preferences onto
> the ratings.

Really? Ok.

> Kevin, you are not being careful. There is, in
> theory, a one to one, continuous, monotonic transformation
> of absolute voter utilities (not "preferences") to
> Range votes (neglecting roundoff error, which makes the
> function a step function, still monotonic.)

Ok. So my sincere ratings of candidates A B C can be accurately recorded
as, let's say, 1 4 and 9.

> That's why
> we can, with a reasonable definition, still call these votes
> "sincere,"

I'm not sure what you mean by "still." I guess you mean, in spite of
roundoff error.

> since they do not violate the derived
> preference profile of the voter. All that they do is to,
> possibly, equate the vote of some candidate pairs when there
> is a non-zero preference strength between them, and that is
> larger than the Range resolution. In other words, the voter
> thinks that, given all the conditions, the voter exercises
> more effective voting power elsewhere and -- presumably --
> will not regret the abstention from voting in that candidate
> pair.

But under Range this probably isn't much of an issue, if the resolution
is somewhat high.

> This is quite what we routinely do with real world
> choices under analogous conditions. We do not bid on things
> in auctions based merely on cost, when we have a limited
> amount to bid. I won't go into describing such an
> auction, but we factor in the probability of success, and we
> put our limited auction dollars into the preference pairs
> that seem more likely to be a good investment. But we never
> try to pay *more* for a candidate that we prefer *less.

Ok. But didn't you claim that the concept of "sincerity" is flawed in
Range? If it *is* possible to map real preferences to the Range ballot,
then what on earth is wrong with the concept of "sincerity" in Range?

> The transfer function, thus, is monotonic but not linear.
> With "sincere absolute preferences normalized to the
> voting Range," we'd get a limited regret-minimized
> result, and there may be some voters who decide to vote this
> way. I'd not advise it, though it's relatively
> harmless. It improves the overall outcome at small cost to
> the voter. (By definition, if the cost is large, the sincere
> preference is large.) In real world collective decision
> making on a small scale, we often do exactly this: we reveal
> our sincere preferences in absolutes, where possible, or, at
> least, in terms of preference strength across our personal
> profile.
>
> So is Range Voting "vulnerable" to strategic
> voting? What does that mean?

It means that given a certain understanding of what an "accurate" vote
is under Range, typically an inaccurate vote is the strategic one.

> In practice, it is used as a
> voting system criterion and a black mark against Range
> Voting. But the "harm" done is simply
> institutionalized by other voting systems, and the possible
> improvement through accurate expression of absolute
> preference strengths (within the limitations) is made
> impossible.

"Possible improvement" must be the important thing about it all.

> Which, of course, harms the results even more.
> In order to avoid the bete noir, strategic voting, which has
> been redefined to include any failure to accurately disclose
> a sincere preference, voting systems students would avoid
> the only method which *minimizes* the effect of such, and
> allows it to operate only where it is relatively harmless.
>
> The simulations answer the questions of "how
> much" and "how often," which cannot be
> answered through the prior approach, the use of voting
> systems criteria. Approval Voting fails the Majority
> Criterion, according to the usual interpretations (which had
> to be modified to apply to Approval Voting, and, clearly,
> the modifications were designed to *cause* Approval voting
> to fail, because the students thought, intuitively, that it
> failed. That's what I mean by subjective analysis! See
> James Armytage-Green's study and application of the
> Majority Criterion to Range Voting).
>
> Okay, how often? It would be extraordinarily rare in real
> public elections, because it requires a significant number
> of voters to vote for both frontrunners, which is the
> opposite of standard Approval strategy and is, normally, a
> foolish vote if the voter does have a significant preference
> between them. And if the voter doesn't have a
> significant preference, well, there you go. See the second
> question!)

How long has it been since I noted that this is not correct, unless you
want to assume that Approval won't have more than two viable candidates.
If two candidates obtain majority approval, most likely one of them was
not a frontrunner, but a compromise choice.

This baffles me because I can't imagine why you like the Approval method,
if it doesn't occur to you that a non-frontrunner compromise choice
could conceivably obtain majority support.

> And how much damage from failure? Little. When the Majority
> Criterion fails, we have multiple majorities. The majority
> has Approved another candidate as well as their favorite,
> and, together with other votes, this less-preferred
> candidate has broader support. Is that bad? Many would argue
> it's good, and this again points out the subjective
> nature of the use of voting systems criteria to judge
> election methods.

I think it's probably good for frontrunners, since they have an easier
time getting that many votes.

> Quite simply, to make sound decisions from preference
> profiles, we need to know preference strength. Preferential
> ballots can, sometimes, approximate this (Borda does that,
> and works better if there is a broad spectrum of candidates
> on the ballot, thus creating, in the real preference pairs,
> an approximation of preference strength), and usually the
> majority preference will also be the ratings winner. But a
> Range ballot directly expresses this.

Well, that is subject to your interpretation of what the Range ballot
signifies. It certainly *could* be used for that.

> And, of course, we'd compare these results with
> simulation predictions and eventually we might build up
> enough data to confirm or improve the models. The problem
> with this approach for the short term is that the
> simulations can study thousands of elections and thus see
> the behavior of a voting system under many different
> conditions, whereas the actual experimental approach, with a
> lot of effort, only shows one instance. Useful, still, but
> probably best used to improve the models used in
> simulations.

I strongly agree with improving the models used in simulations.

> > If the idea of a sincere set of ratings irrespective
> of context is "a
> > total misconception of what we are doing when we
> vote," then what useful
> > theory is Range based on? What makes it
> "objective" and "ideal" if not
> > what I stated above?
>
> It does not depend on relatively subjective considerations
> like which voting systems criteria are more important than
> the others. It defines an optimal winner in a manner that,
> once understood, most people would agree is reasonable, and
> that matches how we make decisions, when we are sane and
> collectively functional, in real life. The approach defines
> the "ideal winner" in a way that works when we
> know absolute utilities, and there is no reason to expect
> that it would stop working simply because the utility
> profile can't be directly determined. (It works when we
> can see it and test it, why would it stop working when we
> can't?)

Because real people will be involved

> There is no usable definition of "a sincere set of
> ratings irrespective of context," because there is no
> way for voters to even determine such in a manner that they
> could vote them.

Ok, I will concede again that there is no way for voters to determine
their sincere set of ratings in a votable way.

> The ratings that we can determine, in
> practice, are not absolute, independent ratings.

Yes, I thought this was the sincere/strategic vs. accurate concept.

> We can approach, this, though, in certain respects, through
> runoff elections, and we can approach it through binary
> choices in sequence.

I don't really mind if it's theoretically possible.

> > I also wonder, what, theoretically, does it look like
> when Range fails
> > and gives a poor result. Is such a thing allowed?
>
> Well, what's a "poor result"? My claim is
> that the only way to objectively study this is to see how
> the method performs when absolute utilities are known.

Well, if we know the absolute utilities, then we can definitely call
certain votes inaccurate.

> That's what the simulations do, the "know" the
> absolute utilities by assuming them, in some hopefully
> reasonable way. (Don't think it's reasonable? The
> simulators are configurable. Use a better simulation of
> underlying utilities! Until then, Warren's work is the
> best we've got!)

I have no problem with the representation of utilities.

> Now, following Warren's work, Range would very rarely
> give a truly "poor result." It would take some
> very bizarre preference profiles. You can construct them
> .... but for them to occur in real life would be practically
> impossible. What it can do, and the simulations show it, is
> to miss the true ideal winner according to the normalization
> of absolute utilities, and, as well, due to the non-linear
> expression of utilities (but still monotonic) by voters
> seeking to maximize the effect of their vote. However, when
> it does this, it would not then flip to a much worse
> candidate, unless, again, the conditions were truly bizarre.
> It would simply choose, in almost every simulation (quite
> likely all or nearly all), the next best winner, and the
> best would be in second place.

Actually a lot of methods fail in this way: The best candidate actually
places second.

> In real life, though, the majority will surprise us. The
> runoff will have different turnout than the original
> election, and some voters will change their votes, and both
> of these effects will favor the *fully sincere, absolute*
> Range winner over the majority preference, because, in this
> situation the majority preference must be weak. So only if
> the normalization or strategic voting have sufficiently
> distorted the Range results, I'd predict, would the
> apparent Range winner fail to win the runoff. You hold the
> runoff, indeed, because of this possibility, the possibility
> of distortion.
>
> Are you starting to see this, Kevin? I'm not writing
> just for you, as I assume you know, and much of this,
> I'd think, you already understand. Or did you? Or do
> you?

Which part are you asking about, the runoff part? I'm well aware of
the fact that you prefer a runoff, and I don't disagree with the idea
that the result of the runoff could be different.

Actually the fact that you are not writing just for me, makes it hard for
me to find the answers to my questions, or even determine whether you
are specifically trying to answer them, at any point in time.

Kevin Venzke




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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-05 03:15:42 UTC
Permalink
At 10:26 PM 12/2/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:

> > I've responded to this in a prior post, the first part
> > of it. I did not make the claim that Range Voting was
> > "objective." It is a voting method and does not
> > automatically choose the best candidate according to overall
> > utility, neither in simulated elections with practical
> > methods, not even if we assume "fully sincere
> > voting."
> >
> > It simply gets closer than any other single ballot method.
>
>Can you come to this conclusion without the assumption that voters
>will vote accurately?

Yes, of course. That's what the simulations show. Range is better
than, or roughly the same as, other methods, with total usage of
strategic voting. (I should look again, by the way, but this is my
impression. It is *not* assumed that Range voters need vote with full
sincerity. We do assume that they express preferences, suppressing
only minor ones. They may vote full Approval style. In which case,
obviously, the method functions as Approval, which is a very good
method. Look at the simulation results. I'll do it and put up a URL.

>So I guess you must not just assume but *hope* that voters can vote
>accurately. In that case it seems fair to criticize that voters don't
>have incentive to vote accurately.

No. Voters not voting with "accuracy" still contribute well to the
result. The quality of the results increases with the degree of
sincerity, but the *worst case* is still very good. And we absolutely
do not expect the worst case. There will be intermediate votes, and
these, so to speak, raise all boats. Just not their own as much.

(In my exact utility study, i.e., not a simulation but a
zero-knowledge study of true expected utility for Approval style
votes vs. "sincere" votes in a Range 2 election where the true
utilities were 2, 1, 0, the sincere vote for the middle candidate of
1 had the same utility as the votes of 2, 2, 0 and 2, 1, 0, with many
votes. Interestingly the votes of 2,2,0 had a higher expected utility
than 2, 0, 0, when there were few voters. This disappears with many
voters. I generalize that when one can vote accurately, the sincere
vote has the same expected utility, zero-knowledge, as an appropriate
Approval-style vote. But I haven't proven this. Obviously, when there
is very good knowledge, a voter may flip a vote more easily by
applying full voting strength even if this is not "sincere," i.e.,
accurate to true utilities. That is dangerous when there is zero
knowledge. In the study, the accurate vote had less variation: it was
less likely to produce the voter's best outcome, but also less likely
to produce the voter's worst outcome. Often critics of Range have
focused only in the improved positive outcome from an "exaggerated
vote," neglecting the risk of a more serious negative outcome. The
risk, of course, declines with improved knowledge, until it's zero
with full knowledge of the other votes.)

> > So let me be specific, though we will get back to this.
> > Range Voting isn't perfect. It does not always choose
> > the best winner. When it does not, it is sometimes possible
> > to detect the situation and fix it; that is why Range Voting
> > with Top Two runoff gets lower regret results than Range
> > alone. It detects the relatively rare situations that cause
> > Range to fail to find the ideal winner.
>
>We're talking "honest" simulated Range, yes?

In that case, I'm not sure which was actually done. Top two runoff
Range would fix errors due to strategic voting, but it also fixes
some normalization errors. I'm not sure which was involved. I think
the original studies were done with pure sincere voting, probably
normalized on the candidate set for each voter.

> > And in my opinion,
> > Runoff Range is not as accurate in the simulations as it
> > would be in real life; that's because real runoffs test
> > *relative absolute preference strength,* free of strategic
> > considerations (when write-ins are involved, this isn't
> > totally true.) This effect is something which has been
> > largely overlooked. Or even totally, as far as I know.
> > It's original with me, but it's likely someone else
> > has written about it somewhere. I don't consider it
> > rocket science, just something obvious that's been
> > overlooked.
>
>If you're talking about the idea that two-candidate elections are
>strategy-free, then yes, that has been noted.

Yes, that's known, for sure. The likelihood of voter changes of
opinion based on better information about the candidates, that's
known. However the effect of preference strength on that is original
with me. It could be predicted, to a degree. Further the turnout
effect, I'm not aware of any publication of this, but it's certainly
possible, there is a huge amount of work that I haven't seen or even heard of.

It's clearly been overlooked, though, even if it has been published.
I've not seen any discussion of it that I did not originate. Even
now, my comments on this are being largely ignored.

> > > At the same time you want to defend Range against the
> > charge of
> > > susceptibility to strategic voting, essentially by
> > denying that the
> > > Range voter is supposed to be mapping his true,
> > absolute preferences
> > > onto the ratings.
> >
> > That's right. Range results shift, and they shift to
> > increase regret, when voters vote "strategically."
> > This is well know, but it's an error to consider this a
> > reason to avoid Range. If, with realistic voting profiles,
> > they shifted results to make Range worse than other methods,
> > it would be one thing. But they do not, if the simulations
> > were accurate.
>
>Well, if the simulations were accurate, then strategic voter behavior
>wouldn't even vary for different rank ballot methods. Everyone would
>apply Borda strategy according to randomized polling data. It is not
>very surprising that strategic Approval can outperform a method with
>this kind of behavior.
>
> > Nobody has challenged Warren's results.
>
>What do you mean no one has challenged Warren's results? What would you
>interpret to be "challenging" the results?

Showing that they were misleading. That his assumptions were
distorted, replacing them with more reasonable assumptions. Or
showing that the whole approach is defective. Unlikely. Most people
who understand his work think the approach is sound, as far as I've
seen. If there are exceptions, they aren't speaking up and revealing
what they know that we don't.

> > The voter *does* map his true, absolute preferences onto
> > the ratings.
>
>Really? Ok.

That's right. The voter, however, doesn't map them linearly, but
still monotonically. We have been considering a "sincere" vote to be
linearly mapped so that it accurately reflects relative preference
strengths. That enables the method to predict -- this is one way of
looking at it -- how the voter would respond to compromises in
negotiation. Strong preference, less likely to compromise, weak one,
more likely.

And this (the nonlinear but monotonic mapping) is exactly what we do
in ordinary decision-making. Instinctively. We can easily determine
preferences between outcomes, but we shift the preference strengths
-- corresponding to the investments we make in them -- according to
likelihood of success.

> > Kevin, you are not being careful. There is, in
> > theory, a one to one, continuous, monotonic transformation
> > of absolute voter utilities (not "preferences") to
> > Range votes (neglecting roundoff error, which makes the
> > function a step function, still monotonic.)
>
>Ok. So my sincere ratings of candidates A B C can be accurately recorded
>as, let's say, 1 4 and 9.

Only partially accurate, I'm sure. But probably good enough!


> > That's why
> > we can, with a reasonable definition, still call these votes
> > "sincere,"
>
>I'm not sure what you mean by "still." I guess you mean, in spite of
>roundoff error.

No. Roundoff error is there, but here, I was referring to monotonic
votes. If you rate a candidate higher than another, you prefer that
candidate, and the same in the other direction, i.e., lower rating
equals less preferred. Equal rating, though, does not tell us that
there is no preference, though we may still be able to place limits
on preference strenth. I.e., with ratings of a series of candidates,
we can determine that the preference strength between two candidates
does not exceed a limit, otherwise the candidate would have been
rated differently. This, by the way, is why Borda sorta works. It
makes an assumption that the candidates are evenly distributed
through the utility spectrum, so A>B>C indicates a equal preference
strength in the A>B pair and in the B>C pair, thus A>C, we can infer,
is a preference twice as strong as the closer ones.

In Range, then, if we have A, 100, B, 100, C, 80, D, 20, E, 0, F, 0,
we can assume that the preference strength in the A>B election is not
more than 20 points, otherwise the voter would have rated C at 100,
or one of A or B at 80, or something like that. It's likely less than
20 points. If this is a two-frontrunner election, and C is not a
frontrunner, we can assume that the C vote is reasonably accurate, so
the preference information is pretty strong. Likewise, we can assume
that the sincere rating of E or F would not be higher than 20. Thus
we know that the preference strength between A or B and E or F is at
least 60 points, and probably higher -- average 80 points. That's
useful! We can guess from this vote that the two frontrunners are
quite likely in the set A, B, E, F, but not necessarily, if this is a
sincere vote. If it's a sincere vote, then we know the voters
estimate of the true preference strength between the A/B clones and
the E/F clones. It is 100 points, a full-one honest, sincere, vote.

> > since they do not violate the derived
> > preference profile of the voter. All that they do is to,
> > possibly, equate the vote of some candidate pairs when there
> > is a non-zero preference strength between them, and that is
> > larger than the Range resolution. In other words, the voter
> > thinks that, given all the conditions, the voter exercises
> > more effective voting power elsewhere and -- presumably --
> > will not regret the abstention from voting in that candidate
> > pair.
>
>But under Range this probably isn't much of an issue, if the resolution
>is somewhat high.

That's right. The voter can probably vote a sincere preference with
very low risk of harm, provided it is done in connection with a
strong vote or votes exercised in the frontrunner pairs. Usually two,
easy-peasy.


> > This is quite what we routinely do with real world
> > choices under analogous conditions. We do not bid on things
> > in auctions based merely on cost, when we have a limited
> > amount to bid. I won't go into describing such an
> > auction, but we factor in the probability of success, and we
> > put our limited auction dollars into the preference pairs
> > that seem more likely to be a good investment. But we never
> > try to pay *more* for a candidate that we prefer *less.
>
>Ok. But didn't you claim that the concept of "sincerity" is flawed in
>Range? If it *is* possible to map real preferences to the Range ballot,
>then what on earth is wrong with the concept of "sincerity" in Range?

It's possible, but it's not necessarily easy. The easiest way to vote
in Range is with a certain degree of "strategy." I.e., decide on the
favorite and the worst, max and min rate them, period. Then look at
any frontrunners different from these, and max and min rate the
favorite frontrunners, or some small level away. Or some large one,
if you don't give a hoot about your personal influence on the
election. Zero knowledge, you'll try to estimate real preference
strengths. I wouldn't advise anyone to lose sleep over it. It's just
some fractions of a vote you are deciding. In any case, the simplest
voting pattern here is Approval or next-to-approval style. With some
variants on Range, that is about all that voters do.

> > The transfer function, thus, is monotonic but not linear.
> > With "sincere absolute preferences normalized to the
> > voting Range," we'd get a limited regret-minimized
> > result, and there may be some voters who decide to vote this
> > way. I'd not advise it, though it's relatively
> > harmless. It improves the overall outcome at small cost to
> > the voter. (By definition, if the cost is large, the sincere
> > preference is large.) In real world collective decision
> > making on a small scale, we often do exactly this: we reveal
> > our sincere preferences in absolutes, where possible, or, at
> > least, in terms of preference strength across our personal
> > profile.
> >
> > So is Range Voting "vulnerable" to strategic
> > voting? What does that mean?

It means that voting which is altered from the best effort of the
voter at accurate relative preferences because of knowledge of how
the rest of the electorate is perceived as being likely to vote. This
can change the result in Range, and a *small* change is not difficult
to anticipate and may be fairly safe to vote. A *big* change, quite a
different story. Very difficult and hazardous. Get it wrong, serious regret.

Part of the problem is that, for some people, "vulnerable to
strategic voting" is a synonym for "utterly unacceptable." That's a
serious mistake. The "vulnerability" of Range Voting to strategic
voting is quite confined and limited.

>It means that given a certain understanding of what an "accurate" vote
>is under Range, typically an inaccurate vote is the strategic one.

That's right. Imagine a hundred voters, any voting method. If the
hundredth voter can change the result in his favor by voting without
accurate expression of preference strengths, under any circumstances,
the method is "vulnerable to strategic voting."

That's a definition tailored to Range Voting. Anywhere else we would
just say "insincerely," i.e., reversing preference. You can get an
intimation of Arrow's theorem here. If the voter *can't* change the
result, in at least some configurations, the voter may be powerless
over one of the election pairs..... at least that's my intuition here.

An inaccurate vote with Range isn't necessarily insincere, at all.
The voter has decided not to put more effort into determining
relative utilities. The voter simply has not considered other than
two frontrunners. The voter has simply decided that full-on Yes and
No are adequate expressions.

Accurate utilities will allow a Range system to optimize the winner,
accurately. Approximate utilities will allow the system to optimize
accurately. Not complicated. The key in Range is that strategic
votes, as some want to consider them -- and by some definitions of
strategic, including the very common meaning of "with consideration
of the goals of the actor," legitimately so, are approximations of
accurate votes, and these votes averaged over many voters tend not to
deviate greatly from what the average of accurate votes would be.

We can construct artificial scenarios where it can seem otherwise,
but these scenarios require constructing very unusual or rare
situations, and, even with allowing that, what I've seen proposed as
Range "failures" were actually decent decisions, with the famous
FairVote example, purportedly showing bad behavior, elects the
candidate that is almost perfect, as distinct from one who is simply
more perfect (deviation from unanimous satisfaction, 2% for the "bad"
result, 1% from the supposedly ideal result had there been no
"strategic voting.) And that scenario requires extreme conditions.
Probably someone who actually took the time to understand Range
voting and the theory behind it could come up with something worse
and more reasonable. But every other election method, we see greater
deviations from the ideal, with more reasonableness of the scenario.

FairVote likes to claim that IRV only rarely violates major criteria
like monotonicity and the Condorcet Criterion, and they are fond of
demanding that critics of IRV come up with real elections that
violated them. However, the criterion violations aren't common in a
two-party system, where the election is really a binary choice. When
faced with a choice between two candidates, naturally, many election
methods do well, including Plurality. The extensive experience with
IRV is with it in a two-party context, without many elections where
there was a real three-way race. IRV is highly erratic when
confronted with a rough three-way tie. This is where truly massive
Condorcet failure can happen. Yes, it's rare, even in nonpartisan
races. But what's "rare?"

From fairly scanty evidence, because of the small sample size, it
appears that nonpartisan elections in the U.S. choose, roughly one
election out of ten, a candidate who would lose in a direct runoff
with one of the other candidates. Because a runoff is a separate
election, we cannot distinguish between this being a Condorcet
failure or a result of differential turnout or of voters changing
their minds. The latter are likely effects, and beneficial ones on
the quality of the results; voters changing their minds is oft-cited
as a benefit of real runoffs, you get better-informed voters in a
runoff, albeit fewer of them. The "fewer," I claim, also improves the
results, maximizing voter satisfaction over the entire electorate,
not just those who showed up in the second election. That's because
it effectively discounts the votes of those who voted in the first
election, but who had -- and who maintained -- low preference
strength. This is a genuine Range effect, based on sincere
preference, not on strategy. A real runoff would confirm the
preference differentials expressed in a Range election, hence Range
plus runoff if a majority choice is not shown can be expected to
improve real Range results, even in the presence of major strategic voting.

> In practice, it is used as a
> > voting system criterion and a black mark against Range
> > Voting. But the "harm" done is simply
> > institutionalized by other voting systems, and the possible
> > improvement through accurate expression of absolute
> > preference strengths (within the limitations) is made
> > impossible.
>
>"Possible improvement" must be the important thing about it all.

Sure. Consider this: most election methods will choose the same
winner. Plurality, I'd guess, gets it right almost 90% of the time,
because of strategic voting by the voters. So when we are talking
about election reform, we are only going to improve the results in a
few elections. It's a "possible" improvement.

This is an important point to notice: strategic voting is a method by
which informed voters improve election results. Yes, they improve
those results according to their own preferences, but, presumably,
there are many such, and in a true contest, there are informed voters
on each side, capable and willing to make the compromises to get the
best results. So, again, Plurality takes advantage, probably, of
another Range-like effect.

Voters who don't care very much about results will vote their sincere
preference in Plurality. Why not? It's the easiest way to vote.
Consider those Nader supporters. From the arguments of their
candidate, they did not believe that Gore would be better than Bush.
Nader still argues that, I saw him in an interview continuing the
argument: Obama isn't really any different, he's an "Uncle Tom for
the corporations." The interviewer either was or pretended to be
aghast. Nader really sees things through some kind of black and white
filter, so to speak.

(To be fair, Nader may have said something more like "He won't be any
different if he is just an Uncle Tom for the corporations, which
technically isn't so bad, but which politically is just as bad. The
guy was, and remains, unqualified for high office, with gaffes like
that, he and his agenda would be slaughtered. Choose a better
standard bearer, Greens and progressives! He's not it. He could have
solidified the voting power of the Green Party, but chose instead to
pursue a narrow and practically suicidal agenda, and the result has
been massive damage: eight years lost in starting to deal with a
possible environmental disaster of monumental proportions, bigger
than anything we've known so far, a huge cost in lives and property
from an unnecessary and foolish war, a packed Supreme Court that may
make change difficult for a long time, and more. And certainly no
better approach to the problems of corporate power. I'd say that the
Nader approach is totally bankrupt.)

The Nader supporters, to return to my point, didn't care about the
result of the pairwise race between Gore and Bush. Would they have
turned out to vote in a runoff? Would Nader have endorsed one of the
candidates, encouraging his followers to turn out? *What would have
happened if there had been a real runoff in Florida?* They could have
done it, you know. The states determine how the electors are chosen,
they could toss a coin if they wanted to. They could divide up the
electors. They could join the National Popular Vote Compact, which I
consider somewhat foolish but constitutional. (Foolish as written.
Basically, there are better ways to do it that would be more likely
to be implemented quickly, that could improve election results
*without* having states with a majority of electoral votes sign up.
One big state could fix every spoiled election that the U.S. has
had.... All by its lonesome, simply by deciding to award all their
votes so as to approach, for the overall electoral vote, the national
popular vote results, with, as other states join this process, they
back off to assigning electors proportionally, thus making the
electoral college actually function instead of mindlessly making it moot.

Are my ideas crazy? Maybe. But where is the process that filters out
bad ideas, while giving good ones maximized opportunity? What we've
seen, in electoral reform, is that some idea gets "momentum," because
of certain initial conditions, and then co-opts the field, possibly
preventing real reform for a generation or more. We have no
institutional memory. IRV has been tried before in the U.S. How did
it work? STV, we know, works, and when it was rejected in the U.S.,
it seems to have been for purely political advantage. New York STV
was daring to elect a few Socialists and, horrors, Negroes. So much
for democratic values. *The U.S. power structure often doesn't give a
fig about democracy.* It simply wants what it wants, and the people are asleep.

IRV, it's far from clear. It was rescinded in Ann Arbor for political
reasons, it not only elected a Democrat, but an African-American, to
boot. But, we might as, where were those supporting democratic values
in the initiative election that rescinded it? It was politically
timed to be voted upon when students were away, Ann Arbor is a
university town. Why didn't the reformers simply put up another
initiative, timing it better? One reason is that the Human Rights
Party was fading at that point. It's hard to build lasting political
power with a student base, they keep rotating in and out. They did
not build roots in the general community. The place to institute
major reform was probably within the Democratic Party, not purely
independently. Fusion Voting. That would have allowed the HRP to have
its fun, keep ballot position, and possibly grow to the point where
they might safely run a candidate here and there. This is a more
solid reform than IRV! And we have it in New York, now. It failed in
Massachusetts, two years ago I think it was. But it was poorly
promoted. It is as if progressives imagine that all they have to do
is come up with a good idea, and the public will flock to it.

No, support for reform must be built, one brick, one person at a
time, spreading out, and to be effective at bringing real change, it
must be flexible and open. Otherwise it's likely to fall into the
FairVote trap. If FairVote had decided to promote *education*, to
promote the general increase of real knowledge regarding election
systems, instead of becoming an advocate for one form, it would be,
by now, I'd suggest, more effective, not less. As it is, in its drive
to "win," it found a vulnerability with top-two runoff, it could sell
IRV as saving money and reducing voter inconvenience. In so doing, it
has been chipping away at the best voting system in use for single
winner elections, quite arguably better than IRV, and clearly
producing different results, something that IRV promoters aren't
likely to mention. They sell IRV as a "simulation" of runoff voting.
It is very much not. One nonpartisan election out of ten, different
result, roughly. And it's pretty certain that the different result is
a worse result, due to either Condorcet failure or a lack of adequate
public knowledge about the top two. Or an IRV result based on weak or
even accidental preferences, as another possibility.

Any good system will have to factor for most people being asleep to
political reality. That fixing the system depends on people becoming
politically active is an error that reformers often make. People,
need, instead, good advice, it's that simple. How can people get
trustworthy advice? That's the problem that I set out to address, and
it actually isn't difficult.

No, instead of being difficult it almost seems impossible. But that
is an appearance. Little by little, the concepts are becoming widely
understood, and little by little, they will be implemented. I have no
idea if I'll be remembered as a pioneer in this field. And it's not
important to me. We have roughly five or six independent inventions
around the world of Delegable Proxy over the last decade. Delegable
proxy is extraordinarily simple, in structure, but the reality of it
would be highly complex and sophisticated. It's hard for people to
visualize, that's one of the problems, but actually functioning
within the system would be very simple. You *don't* need to see the
whole structure, and just need to deal with a few people directly.

Delegable Proxy would make what have been called "starfish
organizations" able to rapidly find consensus and distribute
trustworthy advice on a large scale. I've been writing about starfish
for many years and thinking about them for thirty, though not under
that name. Free Association is the name I come to use recently, with
the clear model being Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that
continues to be spectacularly successful in its field, more than
sixty years after it was founded. Without any central control, it
became, almost, the only show on the road in its field, and the way
it functions makes competing organizations redundant and practically
unnecessary. This is not necessarily understood: Rational Recovery is
an atheist version of AA, promoting "responsible drinking," as I
recall. Yet that position is one found within AA. If AA members are,
in fact, prohibiting people subscribing to Rational Recovery tenets
from, say, organizing an AA meeting where members talk about these
tenets and attempt to apply them for their own sobriety, they are
themselves violating AA traditions. (Which does sometimes happen, AA
certainly is not perfect, even as an example of its own traditions.
Some members, essentially, don't really understand the AA traditions deeply.)

> > The simulations answer the questions of "how
> > much" and "how often," which cannot be
> > answered through the prior approach, the use of voting
> > systems criteria. Approval Voting fails the Majority
> > Criterion, according to the usual interpretations (which had
> > to be modified to apply to Approval Voting, and, clearly,
> > the modifications were designed to *cause* Approval voting
> > to fail, because the students thought, intuitively, that it
> > failed. That's what I mean by subjective analysis! See
> > James Armytage-Green's study and application of the
> > Majority Criterion to Range Voting).
> >
> > Okay, how often? It would be extraordinarily rare in real
> > public elections, because it requires a significant number
> > of voters to vote for both frontrunners, which is the
> > opposite of standard Approval strategy and is, normally, a
> > foolish vote if the voter does have a significant preference
> > between them. And if the voter doesn't have a
> > significant preference, well, there you go. See the second
> > question!)
>
>How long has it been since I noted that this is not correct, unless you
>want to assume that Approval won't have more than two viable candidates.

Kevin, I make no such assumption. Sure, that's what I stated, just
above, because that is, by far, the most common situation, even in
nonpartisan elections. It's unusual to have first preferences be
equally divided among three candidates. That was the French election
in 2002. FairVote argues that because Approval doesn't satisfy Later
No Harm, voters will be reluctant to add additional approvals. I'd
counter that this depends on preference strengths. A three-way race
is equivalent to zero-knowledge. What's the optimal Approval vote in
a zero-knowledge situation.

A game theory approach would suggest that one would average the
utilities of the three candidates, then approve those with utility
above that average. Let's suppose that the situation is really
symmetrical, what happens?

Full symmmetry here means that there is a Condorcet cycle, I think.
Let's suppose one-third A>B>C, one-third B>C>A, one-third C>A>B. With
some kind of even distribution of sincere utilities, voted as such,
we'd get half of each faction approving the second preference, and
half not. Thus each candidate would get half the votes, we'd still
have a very close three way race, which seems correct. However, if
voters do think Later No Harm is important, and some will, the votes
will be distorted toward bullet voting. And any distortion toward
bullet voting pulls the votes away from a majority to less than that.

And that is with a Condorcet cycle. What if there is no cycle, rather
there is a standard political spectrum.

The left is one-third, with the A candidate in the middle of that,
the B candidate is the middle third of the spectrum, and the C
candidate is the other third. This is actually quite a reasonable
distribution, though political reality pushes the A and C candidates
toward the center. If we look at this distribution and predict
utilities from it, we get that accurate Range Votes -- which, rounded
off, become sincere Approval votes, would be we get:

(I'm going to assume, at first, that voters are linearly distributed.
In fact, there will be a bell curve. I'll come back to that. This, by
the way, is more of an intuitive analysis than any kind of rigorous
one. I'd invite someone to look at it with more rigor, correcting my
errors, and I expect there is more than one, i.e., besides true
mistakes, more than one improper assumption.)

Position on political spectrum:
A: 0.166
B: 0.500
C: 0.833

A voters: all vote for A
distance from voter to B < half distance to C, one-half of A
voters vote also for B

B voters: all vote for B
voter closer to A than to C, we could assume that half the B
voters also vote for A, and one half also vote for C; however, as the
voter approaches the exact position of B, the loss from the election
of the candidate on the other side becomes less, and at some point
voting for the favorite outweighs the increase in utility by avoiding
a loss to the other side. So I'd assume that the B vote for A is less
than half. Likewise in the other direction.

C voters: all vote for C, similarly less than half vote for B.

So we have A vote total equals 1/3 plus less than one-sixth. I.e.,
less than 50%.

B vote total is 1/3 plus 1/6 plus 1/6, or 5/6.

C vote total is the same as A.

A multiple majority is unlikely. *But even if there is a multiple
majority, that candidate is still the obvious best winner, better
representing the overall electorate than the candidate on either side.

However, of course, the center candidate's "core support" tends to be
smaller, because the left and the right party tend to move their
candidate toward the center. However, in that case, avoidance of
adding additional approvals increases. While it's not nearly as clear
as with two major candidates, even when there are three evenly
balanced, natural strategy -- zero knowledge in this case, the
outcome cannot be predicted, that's the definition of three-way --
leads to avoidance of multiple majorities. And a balanced election
like that is itself rare. I consider it highly unlikely that we would
see multiple majorities in public elections. If we did, great!
Something is coming up with better candidates, when you have more
than one with a majority willing to accept him or her. In tightly
partisan races, where people place very high value on their party
winning, and less value on avoiding a poor outcome -- they may even
claim to not care which of the other two candidates wins -- what we
are more likely to see is majority failure, *no* candidate gets a
majority, and then, in this situation, we could have a top two runoff
-- or decide it on Plurality. Note that what I'd support most
strongly for U.S. implementation is Bucklin, which allows all those
voters to first express their support for their favorite, if it
matters that much to them. Then they can add an additional approval
in second rank. It is quite unlikely, again, to see a multiple
majority in the election, because many voters will not add second approvals.

From experience, what we are quite a bit more likely to see is
majority failure, not multiple majorities. That's what actually
happened. It would be interesting to know if any Bucklin election
produced multiple majorities. All of the ones I've looked at -- which
is really only two where I saw the votes, as I recall -- there was
only one candidate who obtained a majority. FairVote has claimed that
Bucklin was discontinued with its use for primary elections because
it was failing to find a majority (same as apparently happened with
IRV), so this would confirm that multiple majorities would be rare.
Primaries are really nonpartisan elections in that candidates can't
be conveniently grouped, especially not into two major parties with
easily predictable "vote transfers" in IRV or possible additional
approvals in Bucklin.

What I expect with Approval is that only a small number of voters,
maybe 10%, will add approvals. Same with Bucklin, only a relatively
small number will add additional ranked candidates, though probably
more than with Approval, because of a lesser possibility of "harm to
the favorite."

Thus it is quite unlikely that we will see multiple majorities. It's
a red herring. Approval will almost always satisfy the Majority
Criterion. Bucklin always will, it's fully MC compliant.


>If two candidates obtain majority approval, most likely one of them was
>not a frontrunner, but a compromise choice.

That's correct, if "frontrunner" refers only to first preference. If
it refers to overall popularity, predicted approval votes, it's a
different matter, and one that I did not consider above.

Yes, and this is why a runoff between the top two if there is a
multiple majority makes sense, rather than simply choosing the one
with the most votes. I'm not sure this will be as easy to explain: consider:

The winner will be the candidate with the most votes.

Add majority requirement:

The winner will be the most votes, provided that this candidate
receives a vote from a majority of voters. If there is no such
candidate, there will be a runoff election between the top two with
the most votes each.

Add multiple majority runoff requirement.

If more than one candidate receives a vote from a majority of voters,
there will also be a runoff election between the top two.

The real question here is whether or not it is worth worrying about
the multiple majority, simply to comply with a defective criterion,
the Majority Criterion. Approval approximates Range, reasonably well.
If there are multiple majorities, choosing the one with the most
votes is unlikely to damage overall satisfaction much, if it damages
it at all. It may not be worth having a runoff, often enough, just to
avoid that situation. I still prefer it, though.


>This baffles me because I can't imagine why you like the Approval method,
>if it doesn't occur to you that a non-frontrunner compromise choice
>could conceivably obtain majority support.

No, that's not the likely additional "majority winner." It's one of
the non-compromise choices, the other two that would be unusual. A
true compromise winner will get a majority in approval, or there will
be majority failure, almost certainly. Be baffled, then. It's good
for the soul.

Remember, in a three-way race -- if it's based on first preference --
we have only one-third "core support" for each candidate. In
Plurality, this spells majority failure. Approval shifts results
toward finding a majority, but mostly additional votes come from the
left or right adding a security vote for the center, and fewer come
from the center adding a security vote for the left or right. The
result is that only the center is reasonably likely to reach a majority.

It would be nice to have some real election data, wouldn't it? Some
enterprising student could look up old records of Bucklin elections.
If a multiple majority showed up there, my guess is it would have
been reported in newspapers. "Smith gained a majority of votes but
did not win because Jones got even more."

We *really* need some study of real Bucklin elections. Bucklin voting
and Approval would resemble each other, except that additional votes
are a bit more likely in Bucklin. Hence the Bucklin experience
indicates, with common majority failure, low likelihood of a multiple majority.

My main point (don't you agree with it, Kevin), is that Majority
Criterion failure in Approval is a red herring. It's quite unlikely,
one, and more to the point, even, is that if it happens it is not a
Bad Thing, it's actually a good sign, we should be so lucky as to
have this happen. The only way this would be a poor outcome is if a
public was massively duped into voting for a second preference who
really, without the deception, had no chance to win. And for this
deception to take that candidate all the way to the top -- very
unlikely. Especially with Bucklin. Getting up to second place is more possible.

> > And how much damage from failure? Little. When the Majority
> > Criterion fails, we have multiple majorities. The majority
> > has Approved another candidate as well as their favorite,
> > and, together with other votes, this less-preferred
> > candidate has broader support. Is that bad? Many would argue
> > it's good, and this again points out the subjective
> > nature of the use of voting systems criteria to judge
> > election methods.
>
>I think it's probably good for frontrunners, since they have an easier
>time getting that many votes.

Yup. However, top two runoff works better than IRV because getting to
second place, causing majority failure (due to other candidates) is
easier for a dark horse than getting all the way to the top. And then
this candidate has a chance of convincing the electorate that cares
that it's worth voting for him or her instead of the frontrunner in
the primary. Look, it's quite clear: around the world, when top two
runoff is used for partisan elections, there are strong, persistent
multiparty systems. Look at that French election with the top three
being Chirac, Le Pen, and Jospin. The *leaders* got roughly twenty
percent each. This situation is going to cause majority failure with
just about any voting system that cares about real majorities.

There has been an issue raised here that we have not addressed: Range
strategy depends on an understanding of who the frontrunners are.
What is a "frontrunner?" Is it defined by first preference, or by
likely vote in the election? We've mostly looked at first preference,
but actually, it's probability of success in the actual election that
would be the basis for proper strategy. We'd want to look at Range
polls to determine the latter. Better than Approval polls, even if
the method is Approval, but you'd want both if you could get it.

> > Quite simply, to make sound decisions from preference
> > profiles, we need to know preference strength. Preferential
> > ballots can, sometimes, approximate this (Borda does that,
> > and works better if there is a broad spectrum of candidates
> > on the ballot, thus creating, in the real preference pairs,
> > an approximation of preference strength), and usually the
> > majority preference will also be the ratings winner. But a
> > Range ballot directly expresses this.
>
>Well, that is subject to your interpretation of what the Range ballot
>signifies. It certainly *could* be used for that.

What I meant is that preference strength can be expressed directly
with a Range ballot, not with any other kind. We can, from a Range
ballot, as well, derive reasonable assumptions about true
preferences, better information from some voters than from others,
even in the presence of strategic voting, which is or approaches
binary votes (0 or 1) for each candidate. The voters who provide
little information -- other than, at a minimum, a categorization of
candidates into two classes, most preferred and least preferred --
still, when averaged together, will provide information about average
preference strength, which is what we need for amalgamation anyway.
I've mentioned many times that one can measure an analog voltage
accurately by making a series of binary comparisons with a random
voltage. If the randomness is evenly distributed, it can get very
accurate as an average of many measurements. It won't be evenly
distributed, but within a range of preferences, it will be close to that.

Look, lots of exploration of theory. It's all trumped by the
simulations. Warren's approach was brilliant. I don't think he really
invented it, but he publicized and popularized it, to a degree. It's
an approach that comes out of economics and game theory.

And he asked a fundamental question that deserves much more
attention: how can we objectively judge the performance of a voting
system. What does "good performance" mean? Voting systems criteria
were designed to indicate that, but they didn't *measure* it. They
only gave pass-fail results, with no consideration of frequency of
failure, nor with any objective measure of the value of each
criterion, so, since no voting system meets all criteria proposed,
which ones are important? How could we answer this question?

In order to do it, we need a method of *measurement* of election
performance. Enter, stage right, Bayesian regret. Got any other
alternative? Has any other alternative been seriously proposed?

Then comes the study of this using simulations. The old problem with
the utility approach, we find it in papers essentially pooh-pooing
the idea, is that utilities are incommensurable, allegedly. However,
simulation avoids the problem by starting with absolute utilities
which are *defined* as commensurable. It's true we don't actually
know these utilities except in certain situations. What may be noted
is that, in those situations, we use the equivalent of Range voting,
we sum the absolute utilities to make the optimal choice -- and where
this is inequitable, we may provide compensation, where some of the
*winners* give up some of their winnings to *losers.* Since
optimization raises all boats (on average), then, all benefit.
Collective decision-making is generally not a zero-sum game; what
Range voting does is to seek maximum *overall* benefit, choosing the
choice most satisfactory on the average.

With distorted information, its ability to do that is impaired, but
the nature of the system and averaging over many voters greatly
reduces the damage. It still works better than alternatives.

The systems that can beat it are hybrids that include it. And that
ought to be obvious! The necessary information is simply missing from
ranked systems. Somewhat distorted information, as long as all
expressed preferences are real preferences -- which is what Range
encourages -- is better than only ranked information, which is
*maximally* distorted, even if sincere, compared to Range votes. Some
voters will provide exaggerated -- or minimized -- information,
others will provide more accurate information. The average of this
will be better than all exaggerated information, i.e., Range will be
better than Approval, and Approval is better than Plurality, rather
obviously. Unless you really want to suppress third parties through
an idea that they are dangerous.

In fact, though, moderate advances in voting systems make third
parties *less* harmful.

Runoff voting is not a moderate advance, it is a major one. Want to
damage the prospects of third parties? Replace real runoff voting
with "instant runoff," an ersatz version. Cheaper? It claims to be.
Probably not. Probably significantly increases costs, or doesn't
reduce them significantly. Given that there are reforms that
accomplish the good things that IRV can do, with much less cost, the
top-two runoff to IRV convension is a very bad idea. Instead, fix the
problems with top two runoff. Make runoffs less likely by using a
better form of preferential voting. Condorcet if you must, but you'll
find it easier to sell Approval or Bucklin (probably the latter, it
answers the most common objection to Approval). Condorcet methods
don't require voters to compromise; if one must use Condorcet, make
sure that an approval cutoff is expressible, otherwise one will not
be able to determine majority acceptance of a result, that can be a
severe limitation of Condorcet. In Optional Preferential Voting, we
can assume that a voter accepts a result if they voted for the
candidate, but this form of IRV -- it's what we have used in the
U.S., unfortunately, even with only a few viable candidates, when an
instant runoff is needed, usually fails to find a majority because of
ballot exhaustion. Bucklin is a little more efficient, because it
does count all the votes.

Did I mention that we should Count All the Votes? There are some
cogent constitutional arguments raised against IRV because it does
not count all the votes. Whether a vote gets counted depends on the
sequence of eliminations. In Bucklin, second rank votes are either
all counted, or none are. (And I'd suggest that all votes be counted
regardless. We need the information for more purposes than
determining the winner.)

> > And, of course, we'd compare these results with
> > simulation predictions and eventually we might build up
> > enough data to confirm or improve the models. The problem
> > with this approach for the short term is that the
> > simulations can study thousands of elections and thus see
> > the behavior of a voting system under many different
> > conditions, whereas the actual experimental approach, with a
> > lot of effort, only shows one instance. Useful, still, but
> > probably best used to improve the models used in
> > simulations.
>
>I strongly agree with improving the models used in simulations.

Everyone who understands the issues, I think, would agree, including
Warren. He's done quite a bit of work to make them as good as he can,
and he did not design them to produce some outcome, I'm sure, but
he's only one person. To some extent, the models, though, don't need
to be accurate, they just need to be reasonable. A voting system
should be able to handle the kinds of preference distributions that
are generated in the simulations. Real voting will have different
kinds of preference distributions in different contexts. Still, its
more satisfying, and more convincing, if there is real-world
confirmation of the simulation predictions, or real-world
confirmation of the preference distributions (the former is actually
better, because it would validate the overall process, not just the
underlying utility assumptions.)


>(It works when we
> > can see it and test it, why would it stop working when we
> > can't?)
>
>Because real people will be involved

That doesn't actually answer the question. Real people are
complicated, that's true, but they still behave, more or less, in
roughly predictable ways, especially when we are looking at average behavior.

Obviously, there can be differences between behavior assumed to
continue "in the dark," so to speak and what in reality does not.
However, children learn at an early age that when they see an object
moving and it disappears behind an obstacle, they can predict, more
or less, where it will reappear. And you can play games with them by
violating the assumption of continuation, they will find it funny.
"Funny" means "unexpected."

So unless the fact that the roots of the behavior are hidden itself
causes change (and I don't see evidence for that in this case), it is
a reasonable starting assumption that the behavior will be similar
whether the roots are hidden or not.

The "roots" are the absolute utilities that voters assign or sense or
have with respect to each option possible in an election. It might be
possible, in some way, to measure these directly, through studies of
brain responses and activity. But I'm certainly not going there. I'm
only suggesting that we have internal mechanisms for making
decisions, natural ones, evolved over a long time. It is highly
likely that they use something like Rational Utilitarianism. We don't
run an internal Condorcet matrix; rather, we use a preponderance of
impulses system. We do it quickly or slowly. When needed, we do it
very quickly, instinctively, to avoid danger and seek immediate
benefit, when there is a sense of urgency (which means high immediate
preference) but when preference strengths are low, we decide slowly
-- when we are healthy -- allowing the impulses to integrate over a
longer time, thus considering more inputs, such as rational
consideration, and we do so iteratively, going back and forth between
reason and emotion. Emotion is, itself, deeply rooted and of a Range
Voting nature, coupled with chemical messenger responses, which are range-like.

Regardless, it's obvious that in natural human decision-making,
preference strength counts, and also success probabilities. We may
prefer to catch a certain fish, but if that fish is not common, we
will not design our entire food-gathering strategies around that
fish. We will put our effort where it is likely to produce a reward.
We will vote for a frontrunner! Because every other vote is likely to
be moot. It only gets tricky when there are more than two
frontrunners, but we are still well-equipped to make this kind of
decision, particularly when the investment is low. One vote is not a
high investment....

> > There is no usable definition of "a sincere set of
> > ratings irrespective of context," because there is no
> > way for voters to even determine such in a manner that they
> > could vote them.
>
>Ok, I will concede again that there is no way for voters to determine
>their sincere set of ratings in a votable way.

No single way such that we have the right to say to them that their
way is the wrong way. It's simply part of the prerogative of the
voter, always has been and so it should remain.

I was pleased to see that the ballot instructions for RCV did not
say, Rank the candidates in order of preference.

Rather, they simply said to indicate your First Choice in one column,
your Second Choice in the second, etc.

Choice. That's a vote. It is not necessarily a preference indication,
it's a decision which may include strategic considerations. For
example, RCV only has three ranks. Want to cast an effective vote?
Makes sure that one of your votes is for a frontrunner. Want to avoid
center squeeze, think it might be possible. Rank a compromise
candidate in first rank! I.e., reverse preference. A choice. Not a preference.


> > The ratings that we can determine, in
> > practice, are not absolute, independent ratings.
>
>Yes, I thought this was the sincere/strategic vs. accurate concept.
>
> > We can approach, this, though, in certain respects, through
> > runoff elections, and we can approach it through binary
> > choices in sequence.
>
>I don't really mind if it's theoretically possible.

It's standard democratic practice, proven to work quite well for
centuries. The problems we see come when we don't do this and when we
use representational methods that exclude large numbers of voters
from exercising any effective power. Often the majority is just plain shut out.

> > > I also wonder, what, theoretically, does it look like
> > when Range fails
> > > and gives a poor result. Is such a thing allowed?
> >
> > Well, what's a "poor result"? My claim is
> > that the only way to objectively study this is to see how
> > the method performs when absolute utilities are known.
>
>Well, if we know the absolute utilities, then we can definitely call
>certain votes inaccurate.

That's right. And a particular kind of "distortion" away from the
accurate votes is voting von-Neumann-Morganstern utilities, which are
modified from accurate relative utilities by probabilities of
relevance. An irrelevant alternative receives no vote strength. That,
by the way, leads to the satisfaction, by a method of amalgamation
that uses these utilities, of IIA, Independence from Irrelevant
Alternatives, a crucial stumbling block for some methods.

Remember, Arrow's theorem was not about voting systems. It was about
determining a social preference order from the collection of
preferences of individuals. He assumed a ranked preference list, and
this assumption, essentially, led to his impossibility theorem, that
no method for amalgamation existed that satisfied a short list of
what he considered reasonable assumptions and voting systems
criteria. IIA was one of them.

In order to apply IIA to cardinal ratings systems, some shifts of
definitions are needed, and what Dhillon and Mertens purport to show
-- and there is some literature which seems to confirm their result,
and none that I've seen contradicting it -- is that with a reasonable
application of the Arrovian criteria to rating systems, there is a
unique solution for the amalgamation. Starting with, instead of a
ranked preference list, include preference strength information and
modify it by probabilities, using von Neumann-Morganstern utilities
instead of absolute ones, and it is a unique solution. No other
method that is not equivalent to it can satisfy all the neo-Arrovian
criteria. Now, exactly how they pull this off isn't clear to me.
Intuitively, I imagine I understand it. But I cannot confirm the
proof, not today anyway! I'd have to learn what Warren calls
"notation from hell." And he's a mathematician, quite familiar with
ordinary notation in this field.

This is a theoretical approach. It doesn't trump the simulations,
which are closer to real-world experiment, which always trumps
theory. The reason for using simulations is that when we are
considering election system behavior, the pathologies tend to be
relatively rare, and, as well, the system may not collect or make
known the data necessary to determine if a pathology exists. We think
that, with nonpartisan elections, which is what's been the situation
with almost all IRV elections in the U.S., we only had, before
November, about 33 elections, with something on the order of, my
rough recollection, ten instant runoffs. From comparison with real
runoff elections, I'm *guessing* that we might have roughly three
problem situations in there, and if we exclude the runoff elections
where the improvement from them was due to shifts in voter
preference, from whatever cause, we might be left with only one or
so. Very rough estimate.

And we don't have full data on many of these elections. We do have
RCV data from San Francisco, the most recent elections, so there are
a few elections to work with there. When we use simulations, we have
thousands of simulated elections, so we can get a statistically much
more solid result, and we can compare various election methods using
the same starting utility sets. And it's reproducible.

> > That's what the simulations do, the "know" the
> > absolute utilities by assuming them, in some hopefully
> > reasonable way. (Don't think it's reasonable? The
> > simulators are configurable. Use a better simulation of
> > underlying utilities! Until then, Warren's work is the
> > best we've got!)
>
>I have no problem with the representation of utilities.

Good. Some do. I should have written "they know."


> > Now, following Warren's work, Range would very rarely
> > give a truly "poor result." It would take some
> > very bizarre preference profiles. You can construct them
> > .... but for them to occur in real life would be practically
> > impossible. What it can do, and the simulations show it, is
> > to miss the true ideal winner according to the normalization
> > of absolute utilities, and, as well, due to the non-linear
> > expression of utilities (but still monotonic) by voters
> > seeking to maximize the effect of their vote. However, when
> > it does this, it would not then flip to a much worse
> > candidate, unless, again, the conditions were truly bizarre.
> > It would simply choose, in almost every simulation (quite
> > likely all or nearly all), the next best winner, and the
> > best would be in second place.
>
>Actually a lot of methods fail in this way: The best candidate actually
>places second.

Yes. However, the difference with Range is that this can only
reasonably happen when the preference strength -- overall -- for the
better winner over the actual winner, first place, is weak. With
other methods, it can be quite strong. (This, in fact, is strong,
because the other methods don't consider preference strength at all,
and can thus make a huge error.)

> > In real life, though, the majority will surprise us. The
> > runoff will have different turnout than the original
> > election, and some voters will change their votes, and both
> > of these effects will favor the *fully sincere, absolute*
> > Range winner over the majority preference, because, in this
> > situation the majority preference must be weak. So only if
> > the normalization or strategic voting have sufficiently
> > distorted the Range results, I'd predict, would the
> > apparent Range winner fail to win the runoff. You hold the
> > runoff, indeed, because of this possibility, the possibility
> > of distortion.
> >
> > Are you starting to see this, Kevin? I'm not writing
> > just for you, as I assume you know, and much of this,
> > I'd think, you already understand. Or did you? Or do
> > you?
>
>Which part are you asking about, the runoff part? I'm well aware of
>the fact that you prefer a runoff, and I don't disagree with the idea
>that the result of the runoff could be different.

It's not debatable, actually. Several aspects of this are well-known,
what's new is my observation that preference strength affects turnout
and that this means that runoffs shift results toward a sincere
utility winner, among whoever is included in the runoff. In fact,
given sufficient preference strength and a runoff that allows
write-in votes, an error in the selection of the top two can be corrected.

>Actually the fact that you are not writing just for me, makes it hard for
>me to find the answers to my questions, or even determine whether you
>are specifically trying to answer them, at any point in time.

I am trying to answer your questions. If I have not answered them so
far, either I haven't understood them, or I answered them and you did
not recognize it, perhaps I buried it in too much dicta, or I simply
got diverted. It happens.

What questions remain? I see substantial agreement in certain areas.
What do you think?

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Ralph Suter
2008-11-26 23:25:37 UTC
Permalink
To Greg Dennis:

I appreciate your efforts to express your arguments clearly and defend
them with good data. Nevertheless, I find them mostly unpersuasive.

You say in your latest post that IRV resists strategic voting and
Condorcet is susceptible to burial. But both of these beliefs have
been discussed extensively on this list over the years and as far as I
can recall, there has been no consensus about them. As for the latter,
there is little evidence that Condorcet's susceptibility to burying is
anything but theoretical. If used in actual public elections, it may
turn out that burying wouldn't be a problem at all. At worst, burial
efforts by supporters of some candidates might be slightly unevenly
offset by those of the supporters of other candidates.

IRV, on the other hand, presents unquestionably serious strategy
problems when a third party candidate gains enough support to strongly
challenge two major party candidates and all three have close to the
same amount of support (say between 25% to 40% each). In such cases,
many people would begin worrying about whether strategic voting would
be a good idea but would have trouble figuring out how best to vote
strategically, given how erratically IRV functions in such situations.
Voting for their second choices could even improve the chances of
their favorites, while voting for their favorites could reduce their
chances. Strategic voting could seem very desirable yet impossible to
know how to do. So maybe IRV does resist strategic voting, but that
may not be very comforting.

Data from previous elections won't settle the IRV versus Condorcet
debate. There have not been enough of them in the U.S. More important,
there haven't been any major federal or state elections (presidential,
senatorial, or gubernatorial) and very few major local elections
(mayoral or other) using IRV. These would be far and away the most
important kinds of test cases - i.e., the kinds of elections that
would matter the most and where voters would be most familiar with all
the candidates and therefore would find it easiest to rank them.

I also must reject your contention that IRV is easier to explain.
Condorcet, or what I prefer to call IRRV (Instant Round Robin Voting)
is every bit as easy to explain as IRV. IRV and IRRV both use the same
kinds of ranked ballots. The main difference (setting aside problems
involved in permitting or disallowing equal ranking and unranked
candidates) is that IRV uses the ranking data to simulate a series of
runoff elections whereas IRRV uses the same data to simulate separate
2-person contests between each candidate and every other candidate.
There's no need to talk about matrices and other technicalities about
data storage and calculation. Using the same kinds of simple examples,
it's just as easy to explain how IRRV works as it is to explain IRV.
And although the possibility of cycles makes explaining IRRV more
complicated, other kinds of problems make explaining IRV similarly
more complicated.

The concept of a candidate who beats all others in one to one contests
may even be much more intuitively compelling to most people than the
concept of a candidate who wins a series of runoffs. They might find
IRRV especially compelling after it is explained how IRV increases the
likelihood that a strong compromise candidate would be eliminated with
the result that the winner could be a very divisive candidate who is
strongly supported by a substantial minority but strongly opposed
(even hated) by another substantial minority. Is that really the kind
of outcome most people would prefer, knowing that the compromise
candidate would have defeated both of the others in an IRRV election?

I realize that many IRV supporters are fond of dismissing compromise
candidates as "bland" and with "little core support." But this is
little more than rhetoric designed to support their debatable
opinions. It's possible for a compromise candidate to be anything but
bland. Ross Perot (vis-a-vis Bush Sr and Clinton in 1992) and Ralph
Nader (vis-a-vis Bush Jr and Gore in 2000) both may have been very
good examples. John Anderson (vis-a-vis Carter and Reagan in 1980) may
have been as well. It seems likely to me that Anderson, Perot, and
Nader all would have had much better chances in IRRV elections than in
IRV elections and that all might have made better presidents than
Reagan, Clinton, or Bush Jr.

You worry that compromise candidates may tend to be people who speak
in generalities and refuse to say where they stand whereas IRV will
help insure that we know where the winner will stand. But you cite no
examples, which is surprising given how much importance you have
attached to basing conclusions about IRV on lessons from past
elections. Until you do cite some actual examples of dangerously bland
and platitudinous candidates who, in Condorcet elections, would
threaten more forthcoming ones, your worries are totally theoretical
and far from compelling. None of the examples I gave, not Anderson nor
Perot nor Nader, could have been accused of being bland or unwilling
to explain where they stood regarding major issues and their major
party opponents.

By the way, I happen to be fairly knowledgeable about the history of
FairVote, the leading organizational advocate of IRV, having attended
the organization's founding meeting in June 1992 when it was
originally named Citizens for Proportional Representation (CPR). At
the time, reforming single winner elections was barely on the
organization's radar screen. I'm not sure it was even discussed at the
founding meeting. However, a short time after the meeting, former
presidential candidate John Anderson got an op-ed published in the NY
Times arguing in favor of "majority preferential voting", the name he
then used for what is now called instant runoff voting, and soon after
that he joined CPR's board. (He wasn't at the founding meeting.) You
can read Anderson's op-ed at:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7D91F3FF937A15754C0A964958260

A short time later, the organization's name was changed to Center for
Voting and Democracy (CVD). Anderson no doubt had something to do with
getting CVD more focused on reforming single winner elections, but it
was not until 1996 or so, four years after the founding meeting, that
CVD began taking the single winner election issue very seriously, and
it took another year or two for it to decide on Instant Runoff Voting
as the name for its favored single winner method.

I'm much less troubled, however, by the slowness of CVD to focus
seriously on single winner elections than by how it decided, with
virtually no public or even inter-organizational debate, to go with
IRV and to reject alternative voting methods, even though CVD at the
time had some notable supporters of other methods on its advisory
board. (That board included a number of highly respected voting
methods experts and political scientists, including Steven Brams and
Arend Lifphart, whereas the FairVote advisory board today has no such
people.) I personally asked CVD's executive director Rob Richie to
allow a debate at its 1997 national meeting between IRV supporters and
supporters of alternative methods, but he declined to do so, and he
has continued to refuse to sponsor or (to my knowledge) participate in
any serious public debates.

Furthermore, although an election for board members was held at the
1992 founding meeting, I later learned that the organization was
incorporated not as a membership organization but as a very
conventional board dominated nonprofit whose board members select
their successors. In other words, CPR/CVD/FairVote has itself never
been organized very democratically. It also has not operated very
transparently. It has never posted either its bylaws or the minutes of
any of its meetings on its website. We can only guess how its
decisions about IRV and many other things, including its name changes,
have been made.

Rather than participate in debates, Richie and other FairVote people
have argued, as you do, that IRV is more politically feasible. In
fact, they have argued this from the beginning, long before they began
having any success getting IRV adopted. Since then, only a very small
number of jurisdictions have adopted IRV. Furthermore, because of
serious and widespread voting system problems, IRV has been often been
implemented only with much difficulty and in ways that limit the
number of candidates permitted in any given election contest.

Given that supporters of Condorcet and other voting methods have not
yet been nearly as well organized or well-funded as IRV supporters,
I'm skeptical that IRV has anywhere near the unstoppable political
momentum you seem to believe it has. Condorcet and other methods have
gained increasing popularity in recent years for use in online voting,
especially among tech-savvy people. That popularity conceivably could
soon result in a new organization that seriously challenges IRV's
current momentum.

Finally, for me there are bigger questions right now than whether IRV
is superior to IRRV. Although I lean strongly toward the latter, I
doubt that either will be really feasible for major national and
statewide elections until problems with how elections are conducted
are much better resolved so that elections will be more secure and
accurate and able to reliably handle voting methods as complex as IRV
and IRRV. Given the current state of U.S. election systems and
equipment, there is only one alternative to plurality that is now
really feasible across the U.S., and that is approval voting, which is
nearly as simple to implement as plurality voting.

Another of my concerns is that virtually all advocates of voting
reform, including supporters of IRV, IRRV, approval, and range voting,
have neglected the question of which methods are most appropriate for
different voting situations. IRV advocates sometimes argue for using
IRV in all kinds of situations, even in small groups to decide such
things as what kind of food the group should order. But for most
small group purposes, approval voting would be much easier and quicker
to use and would produce more satisfactory results. If more precision
is needed, some form of range voting would still usually be easier and
better than either IRV or IRRV.

It may also be that approval voting or range voting would be better
for most but not all kinds of public single winner elections,
especially ones for lower level offices and primary contests where
most voters have difficulty acquiring enough information to do
confident rankings. It may be best to reserve IRV or IRRV or range
voting for a few of the highest level offices.

A new voting methods reform organization that seriously considers
these issues and allows for and encourages discussion as well as
research and experimentation about different methods and their
relative advantages and disadvantages in different kinds of situations
could conceivably transform the debate about voting methods. It could
result in much more effective efforts to get better methods adopted,
both for public elections and for all kinds of other purposes.

-Ralph Suter


***@somervilleirv.org wrote:

[begin quote]

> Greg, you didn't actually say that IRV is good, you just said
> that it's unlikely to be bad.

Huh? One reason I think it's good in part because it's very likely
to elect elect the Condorcet candidate, if that's what you mean by
"unlikely to be bad." Some other reasons I think it's good is that it
resists strategic voting, allows third parties to participate, and
paves the way for PR.

> Why bother with something that's unlikely to be bad when we
> can just as easily get something without that badness?

You can't get rid of "badness." Every system is imperfect. IRV is
non-monotonic; Condorcet is susceptible to burial. So we're left to
balance the relative pros and cons.

> Oh, and actually it _is_ likely to be bad. See that first graph?
> See how over thousands of simulated elections it gets lower
> social satisfaction?

Brian, you're graphs are computer-generated elections that you made
up. They aren't actual elections that took place in practice, which
show a high unlikelihood of being bad. When your theory is a poor
predictor of the data, it's time to change the theory, not insist the
data must be different from what they are.

[end quote]
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-03 22:52:02 UTC
Permalink
At 06:25 PM 11/26/2008, Ralph Suter wrote:
>To Greg Dennis:
>
>I appreciate your efforts to express your arguments clearly and
>defend them with good data. Nevertheless, I find them mostly unpersuasive.

Yes, we noticed. That they were unpersuasive. That Mr. Suter comments
on this is significant, given his history.
>Data from previous elections won't settle the IRV versus Condorcet
>debate. There have not been enough of them in the U.S.

My sense from my study so far is that, actually, we can find a lot of
information about IRV in the elections so far. But Mr. Suter is
correct that it is unlikely to be persuasive. Even if we find, for
example, Condorcet failure, it will be argued that the sample is
small and that this was just a fluke. I've found strong evidence that
IRV is failing to elect Condorcet candidates as tested in runoff
elections, and it will be argued that runoffs are defective because,
well, everyone knows that they have poor turnout which is obviously
bad, right? (Wrong, but it's a common idea.)

However, there is already enough data from U.S. IRV elections to
raise serious concerns. There is also now quite a bit of evidence
about the difficulty of counting IRV when an "instant runoff" is
needed. It is far, far from "instant," and it's expensive, especially
if there is a need to audit the results.

> More important, there haven't been any major federal or state
> elections (presidential, senatorial, or gubernatorial) and very few
> major local elections (mayoral or other) using IRV. These would be
> far and away the most important kinds of test cases - i.e., the
> kinds of elections that would matter the most and where voters
> would be most familiar with all the candidates and therefore would
> find it easiest to rank them.

IRV probably will look a little better from such elections,
particularly where it replaced Plurality. The tragedy is that IRV is
replacing Top Two Runoff, an older reform that actually works better
than IRV. Both of these methods suffer from Center Squeeze -- for the
same reason -- but TTR makes better choices in the last round (and
not only rarely, in roughly one-third of runoffs). Further, it's
fairly easy to fix the Center Squeeze problem, both so that there are
fewer runoffs and so that a compromise winner is more reliably
detected. In a word, use Bucklin for a primary. IRV with a true
majority requirement is better than IRV without it -- this is what
Robert's Rules of Order *actually* describes, not the IRV that is
sold by touting that as a recommendation. (And RRO also notes the
Center Squeeze problem.)

>I also must reject your contention that IRV is easier to explain.
>Condorcet, or what I prefer to call IRRV (Instant Round Robin
>Voting) is every bit as easy to explain as IRV. IRV and IRRV both
>use the same kinds of ranked ballots. The main difference (setting
>aside problems involved in permitting or disallowing equal ranking
>and unranked candidates) is that IRV uses the ranking data to
>simulate a series of runoff elections whereas IRRV uses the same
>data to simulate separate 2-person contests between each candidate
>and every other candidate. There's no need to talk about matrices
>and other technicalities about data storage and calculation. Using
>the same kinds of simple examples, it's just as easy to explain how
>IRRV works as it is to explain IRV. And although the possibility of
>cycles makes explaining IRRV more complicated, other kinds of
>problems make explaining IRV similarly more complicated.

It's easy to explain the basic Condorcet principle. It's not so easy
to explain about Condorcet cycles and resolution methods. It's also a
problem that Condorcet methods -- like *all* single ballot methods --
can elect by a plurality, even a small one. There is no doubt but
that a Condorcet winner is better than an IRV winner, but, of course,
IRV advocates argue that IRV chooses the Condorcet winner most of the
time. What's "most?" In partisan elections, in a strong two-party
system, nearly always. (Two-party systems are what makes Plurality
work reasonably well.) But in the nonpartisan elections where IRV is
replacing TTR, my estimate is one election out of roughly ten, there
is Condorcet failure.

Again, there are only two ways to fix the election-by-plurality
problem, and one of them is not only a Bad Idea, it's impossible in
the U.S., fortunately. That way is to require full ranking. This is
amount to requiring all voters to vote for every candidate but one.
So the "majority" is coerced. The other way is further process. Very
little study, to my knowledge, has been done on this among voting
systems experts, who have focused on deterministic methods, seeking
the Holy Grail of the best one. It's been found, or at least a major
characteristic of it has been found, but the single-ballot
restriction is serious. Why don't direct democratic bodies use
advanced methods to decide multiple-choice questions? Because the
single-ballot restriction is a terrible limitation, sometimes, when a
majority hasn't been found. In a deliberative body, they will
continue working on the problem until they find something better,
something a majority will accept. Or no decision is made.

Tell me, should we boil the Republicans in (1) Oil, (2) Milk, or (3)
Water? Let's use IRV. We've decided that the Australians really know
what they are doing, so, (a) It's against the law to not vote, (b) If
you don't rank all the candidates, your ballot is discarded. All,
right, folks, what are the results! Amazing, isn't it? We have a
majority for one of the choices.

In a decent election system, if you dislike all the candidates, you
can write in another and cause majority failure. So, perhaps, you
might, if you are a yellow-bellied Republican-lover, or maybe for
other reasons, write in "Nothing." Might even win. But if you haven't
been able to communicate with others who think the same way, you
might choose different other options, or at least different names. It
doesn't matter. There will be majority failure. (And this points out
why write-ins should be allowed in runoffs, as they are, by default,
in California and maybe in some other places.)

Runoffs with write-ins present the voter with a reduced set of
candidates, but they do not actually eliminate any candidates.
Determined voters can write the name in and may even win (as the
Mayor of Long Beach, California, did in a recent runoff election).
Usually the top two, even if not the best, will include the
compromise winner, and, if not, the preference strength violated is
likely to be small. Only in unusual situations will voters be
exercised to participate in a write-in campaign.

Runoff voting is a very important reform! Yes, it has a cost.
Democracy has a cost: participation.

>I realize that many IRV supporters are fond of dismissing compromise
>candidates as "bland" and with "little core support."

Yeah. Imaginative rationalization. "Little core support" is correct,
but means very little. "Core support" is a standard that was made up
to justify IRV, though it is also used to justify Plurality. If Core
Support is so important, why do we need IRV? *Usually,* it turns out,
"core support" correlates with overall support. But as has been
pointed out by another writer here, there are reasons why it could
happen otherwise, and it is not a defect of the candidate, it is a
product of the overall configuration of the political system and
political parties. Political parties create a lot of inertia, and
when one party moves too far to one side of the spectrum, and the
other does not respond by moving toward the center, a centrist
candidacy becomes possible, one where the candidate is in better
agreement with the majority of the electorate; but this candidate is
at one end of the spectrum in both major parties, and may easily fail
to win a majority in either. So the candidate must run as an
independent or third party candidate. And this party is almost
certain to be not as well organized as the major parties. Further, it
faces a huge problem: very many voters vote habitually by party
affiliation. Getting all the way to the top, in an environment like
that, is extraordinarily difficult. That's what's necessary with IRV.
With Top Two Runoff, the candidate must make it only to second place.

This is why top-two runoff is, outside the U.S., associated with
strong multiparty systems. IRV isn't.


>By the way, I happen to be fairly knowledgeable about the history of
>FairVote, the leading organizational advocate of IRV, having
>attended the organization's founding meeting in June 1992 when it
>was originally named Citizens for Proportional Representation (CPR).
>At the time, reforming single winner elections was barely on the
>organization's radar screen. I'm not sure it was even discussed at
>the founding meeting. However, a short time after the meeting,
>former presidential candidate John Anderson got an op-ed published
>in the NY Times arguing in favor of "majority preferential voting",
>the name he then used for what is now called instant runoff voting,
>and soon after that he joined CPR's board. (He wasn't at the
>founding meeting.) You can read Anderson's op-ed at:
>http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7D91F3FF937A15754C0A964958260
>
>A short time later, the organization's name was changed to Center
>for Voting and Democracy (CVD). Anderson no doubt had something to
>do with getting CVD more focused on reforming single winner
>elections, but it was not until 1996 or so, four years after the
>founding meeting, that CVD began taking the single winner election
>issue very seriously, and it took another year or two for it to
>decide on Instant Runoff Voting as the name for its favored single
>winner method.

Mr. Suter has explained this to us before, but it's good for it to be repeated.

>I'm much less troubled, however, by the slowness of CVD to focus
>seriously on single winner elections than by how it decided, with
>virtually no public or even inter-organizational debate, to go with
>IRV and to reject alternative voting methods, even though CVD at the
>time had some notable supporters of other methods on its advisory
>board. (That board included a number of highly respected voting
>methods experts and political scientists, including Steven Brams and
>Arend Lifphart, whereas the FairVote advisory board today has no
>such people.) I personally asked CVD's executive director Rob Richie
>to allow a debate at its 1997 national meeting between IRV
>supporters and supporters of alternative methods, but he declined to
>do so, and he has continued to refuse to sponsor or (to my
>knowledge) participate in any serious public debates.

How is it that one person -- or a tight group -- could make a major
decision like that? Essentially, because nobody in the group knew how
to put together an alternative to the CPR, which was organized quite
traditionally. The people with the money were used to being able to
control what happened with it, and using the traditional self-elected
board form allowed them to insure that the initial direct was as they
chose. It is a totally common situation.

Richie began discussing alternatives, to some degree, with supporters
of other methods only after, I think, these people started having
some impact on IRV implementation campaigns. The internet is changing
things. There are lots of discussions taking place in places where
Richie can't control. What he does, though, is pretty much what could
be expected. He knows a whole series of "sound bite" arguments:
brief, easily swallowed. He, or a surrogate, shows up where a
discussion is taking place, and he makes sure that the deceptive
arguments are presented. To refute these arguments takes more words,
you have to actually explain stuff, not just rely on knee-jerk
assumptions that people hold. (That's what spin-doctors do, they know
how to touch and use these assumptions.) And then, of course, Richie
can say he doesn't have time for this endless argument, and he
disappears. Each time, though, more people start to suspect that they
are being conned.

I predict that IRV implementations will become increasingly difficult
to get. And we may start to see some other experiments. There is an
obvious one: Bucklin. Wouldn't it be interesting if Duluth decided to
try again? They *loved* it when they had it. It's cheap, it's easy to count.

And, really, it's Open Voting, or Approval, turning totally into
Approval if a majority isn't found from higher preferences. So it
fixes the most common objection to Approval.

>Finally, for me there are bigger questions right now than whether
>IRV is superior to IRRV. Although I lean strongly toward the latter,
>I doubt that either will be really feasible for major national and
>statewide elections until problems with how elections are conducted
>are much better resolved so that elections will be more secure and
>accurate and able to reliably handle voting methods as complex as
>IRV and IRRV. Given the current state of U.S. election systems and
>equipment, there is only one alternative to plurality that is now
>really feasible across the U.S., and that is approval voting, which
>is nearly as simple to implement as plurality voting.

Or simpler, actually. It's Plurality minus a rule. Period. The only
people who need to vote extra votes are minor candidate supporters.
But if people still want to express a favorite and avoid the failure
of the Majority Criterion -- that's an other knee-jerk assumption, by
the way, that Richie uses well -- there is Bucklin, which would work
pretty well as two-rank, and three-rank, it can handle many more
candidates than three-rank IRV -- the only thing we've had in the
U.S. so far, in the recent implementations.

Yes, I've found that nearly all people familiar with voting systems
agree that Approval makes a good first step, and, given that it costs
nothing to speak of, and is highly unlikely to do harm, compared to
the status quo, it doesn't impede further reform.

I personally favor using Range and analyzing it to see if any
candidate beats the Range winner by pure preference. If there is such
a result, or if the Range data shows majority failure (it must have a
means of indicating "acceptance"), there is a runoff which includes
the Range winner and a candidate who beats the Range winner. (This is
quite unusual, by the way, Range usually chooses the Condorcet
winner, from what we know in the simulations.)

This is a Condorcet-compliant method. If there is a Condorcet winner,
that winner will be in the runoff, unless voters deliberately conceal
their preference (and needlessly conceal it, by the way, it can be
made cost-free to specify all preferences, but that's a detail). And
all it takes for the Condorcet winner to prevail is that the voters
in the runoff confirm it. But usually, I predict, they will not. For
a number of reasons I won't mention now; basically, a Range winner
has a natural advantage in a runoff, because this is the winner by
preference strength, which correlates with voter turnout as well as
with the likelihood of a voter to change his or her mind. On the
other side, there are anomalies with practical Range voting that can
sometimes distort, to a degree, the real utilities extracted from the
votes. So sometimes the Range winner -- it's rare! -- isn't actually
optimal. And if that is the case, the Condorcet winner is likely to
prevail. The simulations show that runoff Range has better results
than Range alone.

The Condorcet Criterion is intuitively satisfying, but the intuition
turns out to be incorrect. The Condorcet winner is not necessarily
the ideal winner, this is merely the most common case. "Condorcet" is
based on pure ranking, which entirely neglects preference strength,
and it's easy to show that this neglect makes it impossible to detect
the optimal winner, the one who will most satisfy the voters,
overall. It's easy to show examples where every reasonable person
would agree that the Condorcet result is not only wrong, but
seriously wrong, harmful.

That result is quite unlikely in real political elections, because
pre-election process *usually* doesn't allow the situation where it
would happen to arise, compromises are made before the election, etc.
But given that it is actually easy to address these problems, if only
we recognize the problem and address it, and that "Condorcet winner"
is a valuable concept which can be incorporated into a good -- but
still simple -- method, I see no reason to risk bad elections. The
cost of them could be tremendous. Our unwillingness to address these
problems brought us a disastrous eight years, now ending, where even
conservatives recognized that a serious mistake had been made.

Open Voting. (Vote for as many as you choose. -- Approval Voting.)

Don't Eliminate Candidates, Consider Them All.

Every Vote Counts, Count All the Votes.


>Another of my concerns is that virtually all advocates of voting
>reform, including supporters of IRV, IRRV, approval, and range
>voting, have neglected the question of which methods are most
>appropriate for different voting situations. IRV advocates sometimes
>argue for using IRV in all kinds of situations, even in small groups
>to decide such things as what kind of food the group should order.
>But for most small group purposes, approval voting would be much
>easier and quicker to use and would produce more satisfactory results.

Yes. I've seen it used. Very easy, very efficient, didn't even need
explanation. Just a series of options read out, and people were asked
to raise their hand if they would accept the option. The Condorcet
winner, from the outside, was one option, the status quo. Probably
over 50% of people preferred that. And about 70$ accepted it.
However, there was another option that was *unanimously* acceptable,
except for one person, and this group valued group unity. A motion
was immediately made to accept the most-widely accepted choice, and
the vote on that unanimously accepted it. I think the person who had
voted against it, at first, accepted it. This was really an example
of how the hybrid system I've designed would work. The "Range winner"
-- most broadly approved -- wasn't automatically selected. Open
Voting was used, but it was known at the outset that the majority
favored the status quo. The result was put for ratification, which
proved that *after the result was known*, this had become a unanimous
choice. (There were maybe seventy or eighty people at the meeting, it
was packed. It had been expected to be highly contentious.)

The key in any small group is to verify that *any* election method
has produced a decent result. A majority should always approve the
outcome, or it is not a democratic one. If people stand aside or
abstain, no problem. They don't care strongly, and the result isn't
going to displease them. (If so, they should not stand aside!)

> If more precision is needed, some form of range voting would still
> usually be easier and better than either IRV or IRRV.

Bingo.

>It may also be that approval voting or range voting would be better
>for most but not all kinds of public single winner elections,
>especially ones for lower level offices and primary contests where
>most voters have difficulty acquiring enough information to do
>confident rankings. It may be best to reserve IRV or IRRV or range
>voting for a few of the highest level offices.

And the larger the election, the more difficult the IRV counting....
IRRV is easier, though with a lot of candidates, it gets tricky.

In the hybrid Range/Condorcet system I've described, the counting is
easy. And it is not necessary to complete the matrix, all that is
needed is the set of pairwise votes between the Range winner and the
other candidates, or maybe just the top few.

By the way, the very concept of single-winner public elections for
high office is flawed. It is far safer to elect such offices
deliberatively, using a representative system; and the representative
systems can, actually, be made fully and accurately representative,
Lewis Carrol made the basic suggestion almost 120 years ago, we now
call it Asset Voting. This could create a virtual Electoral College
that totally represents all the voter, who then deliberate and
negotiate and do whatever it takes to get a majority. And then the
same college can undo what they've done if they, pending the next
election, conclude that they made a mistake or conditions have
changed. No term of office. Really, this is a parliamentary system.
Do we imagine that any large business would hire a CEO for a fixed
four-year term? The U.S. system created a restrained monarch with
very substantial personal power and a term. It was just a tweak on
what we were used to. Strong executive, not continuously responsible
to the people. We can't fire him, impeachment is way too difficult.
When the board of a corporation decides that a CEO isn't working out,
they don't have to try and convict him -- unless they want to avoid
paying on his contract -- they just hand him his pink slip.

I'm certainly not proposing corporate practice as idea, but ... if
what we have as a public system were a good idea, wouldn't it be a
good idea for businesses as well? It isn't, period. Bad Idea. But
better than what we had before. We've just seen some of the damage it
can cause. It could have been worse. Of course, Bush isn't gone yet. Pray.

And lets try to make sure it doesn't happen again. This was not
Bush's fault. To the extent that it was anyone's fault, it was *our
fault.* We let it happen, by tolerating a poor political system.

It's not about the Republicans, or the special interests, or the
wimpy Democrats, or even Ralph Nader.... It's about the system, which
grew like Topsy, and, big surpise, it's never been optimized, we
don't even think, most of us, about what "optimal" would look like.
That's part of what I'm trying to change.

>A new voting methods reform organization that seriously considers
>these issues and allows for and encourages discussion as well as
>research and experimentation about different methods and their
>relative advantages and disadvantages in different kinds of
>situations could conceivably transform the debate about voting
>methods. It could result in much more effective efforts to get
>better methods adopted, both for public elections and for all kinds
>of other purposes.

I start all kinds of things, but I have a terrible time keeping
things going, part of the same psychic structure that allows me to
think outside the box and to see certain things that have generally
been overlook also makes it very difficult to follow up on the ideas.
In any case, I started the Election Methods Interest Group, some time
back, and a number of experts and other interested parties did join,
including some IRV supporters. The goal was to be such a forum, and
to try to come up with consensus reports, or at least to measure the
support for various ideas among a community of informed and interested people.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/electionmethods/

This is an FA/DP organization. FA stands for Free Association. While
EMIG may report the results of polls on controversial positions, EMIG
itself will not take any controversial position. Joining it is Free
in many senses. Further, DP means that a delegable proxy structure is
set up. There is a Proxy Table. Naming a proxy on that table does not
bind the member in any way, it merely is a means whereby members can
allow another member to loosely "represent" them, we may use this in
estimating a preliminary consensus, or, in the other direction, the
proxy may inform them if there is some activity the member should
know about, in the judgement of the proxy. It's a way for, among
other things, someone who is too busy to watch mailing list traffic
can still join and participate in an indirect way. The goal was to
get some of the major experts to join, even if they don't have time.
They would name a proxy as someone they trust to more or less get it
right, or at least to let them know if something warrants their
attention. We did find that some experts joined. Now we need to
actually start using it....

This is an example of what a large consensus-negotiating and advisory
organization might look like, a small and very low-cost experiment in
that direction. Please don't depend on me to make it work. I'll try,
but I am *very* unreliable.

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James Gilmour
2008-12-03 23:35:35 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:52 PM
> The tragedy is that IRV is
> replacing Top Two Runoff, an older reform that actually works better
> than IRV.

I have seen statements like this quite a few times, and they puzzle me. I can see the benefit in TTRO in knowing before voting at
the second stage which two candidates will actually be involved in the run-off. But what concerns me is the potential chaos in
getting to that stage. The French Presidential election of 2002 is a good example of the very bad results that can come from the
first round of TTRO. And we have seen similar problems in some of the mayoral elections in England where the so-called
Supplementary Vote is used in which the voters can mark their first and second preferences but only the second preferences for the
first stage Top-Two candidates are counted. In such circumstances the outcome from TTRO is very bad and I should have thought that
an IRV election would have given a much more representative result. Condorcet might be better still, but that's a different debate.

James Gilmour


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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-12-04 08:17:29 UTC
Permalink
James Gilmour wrote:
> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:52 PM
>> The tragedy is that IRV is replacing Top Two Runoff, an older
>> reform that actually works better than IRV.
>
> I have seen statements like this quite a few times, and they puzzle
> me. I can see the benefit in TTRO in knowing before voting at the
> second stage which two candidates will actually be involved in the
> run-off. But what concerns me is the potential chaos in getting to
> that stage. The French Presidential election of 2002 is a good
> example of the very bad results that can come from the first round of
> TTRO. And we have seen similar problems in some of the mayoral
> elections in England where the so-called Supplementary Vote is used
> in which the voters can mark their first and second preferences but
> only the second preferences for the first stage Top-Two candidates
> are counted. In such circumstances the outcome from TTRO is very bad
> and I should have thought that an IRV election would have given a
> much more representative result. Condorcet might be better still,
> but that's a different debate.

I'm not Abd, but I think the argument goes like this: in TTR, if a
(usually) third candidate gets enough FPP votes to make it to the second
round, that candidate has a real chance of winning, since the second
round will be focused on those two candidates alone, whereas, on the
other hand, if it's IRV, then IRV's chaos may deprive the candidate of
its rightful victory, and even if it wouldn't, people can only vote for
the third candidate that would become the winner as one of many, not as
one of two.

If that's right, then the Supplementary vote should give significantly
worse results than TTR, simply because people can't discuss and realign
between the first and second rounds.
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James Gilmour
2008-12-04 15:09:04 UTC
Permalink
> >> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:52 PM
> >> The tragedy is that IRV is replacing Top Two Runoff, an older reform
> >> that actually works better than IRV.

> > James Gilmour wrote:
> > I have seen statements like this quite a few times, and they puzzle
> > me. I can see the benefit in TTRO in knowing before voting at the
> > second stage which two candidates will actually be involved in the
> > run-off. But what concerns me is the potential chaos in getting to
> > that stage. The French Presidential election of 2002 is a good
> > example of the very bad results that can come from the first round of
> > TTRO. And we have seen similar problems in some of the mayoral
> > elections in England where the so-called Supplementary Vote is used in
> > which the voters can mark their first and second preferences but only
> > the second preferences for the first stage Top-Two candidates are
> > counted. In such circumstances the outcome from TTRO is very bad and
> > I should have thought that an IRV election would have given a much
> > more representative result. Condorcet might be better still, but
> > that's a different debate.

Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2008 8:17 AM>
> I'm not Abd, but I think the argument goes like this: in TTR, if a
> (usually) third candidate gets enough FPP votes to make it to the second
> round, that candidate has a real chance of winning, since the second
> round will be focused on those two candidates alone, whereas, on the
> other hand, if it's IRV, then IRV's chaos may deprive the candidate of
> its rightful victory, and even if it wouldn't, people can only vote for
> the third candidate that would become the winner as one of
> many, not as one of two.

I'm afraid I cannot follow your argument at all. The whole point about TTRO is that a strong third-preferred candidate, who with
IRV or Condorcet might come through to be the eventual winner, is dumped at the first stage by TTRO rules. That is almost certainly
what happened in the 2002 French Presidential election - and that "defeat" ended the political career of the politician concerned.

And just to be clear, in the examples I gave we are not dealing with TTRO that started with only three candidates . In the 2002
French Presidential there 16 candidates. And some of the mayoral elections in England also have large numbers of candidates - one
immediately to hand had 14. I think in these circumstances I would prefer the risk of some lower order chaos with IRV exclusions to
the high risk of excluding of the most-preferred candidate with TTRO.

James Gilmour
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-07 19:19:31 UTC
Permalink
At 10:09 AM 12/4/2008, James Gilmour wrote:
>Kristofer Munsterhjelm > Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2008 8:17 AM>
> > I'm not Abd, but I think the argument goes like this: in TTR, if a
> > (usually) third candidate gets enough FPP votes to make it to the second
> > round, that candidate has a real chance of winning, since the second
> > round will be focused on those two candidates alone, whereas, on the
> > other hand, if it's IRV, then IRV's chaos may deprive the candidate of
> > its rightful victory, and even if it wouldn't, people can only vote for
> > the third candidate that would become the winner as one of
> > many, not as one of two.
>
>I'm afraid I cannot follow your argument at all. The whole point
>about TTRO is that a strong third-preferred candidate, who with
>IRV or Condorcet might come through to be the eventual winner, is
>dumped at the first stage by TTRO rules. That is almost certainly
>what happened in the 2002 French Presidential election - and that
>"defeat" ended the political career of the politician concerned.

But, of course, the same can happen with IRV, we need only posit a Le
Pen with some broader support, such that vote transfers don't alter
relative positions. In nonpartisan elections, this is actually the
most likely scenario. But that election was very close in the first
round, so, even if it had been nonpartisan, it could have gone either
way, the difference was down in the noise.

The argument is not that TTRO is "better" than Condorcet methods;
when the first round is Plurality, it's obvious that it can make a
poor choice of the top two. (Essentially, it's making a poor choice
of the second candidate, once the frontrunner is eliminated -- and
all the voters who voted for that candidate as well. Batch
elimination IRV, exactly.)

IRV *sometimes* will find the compromise winner, but it's not
reliable at all for this. It's really closer to TTRO than Condorcet
methods. A Condorcet method *must* find Jospin in a situation like
that which was faced, assuming that voters express the necessary preferences.

If the defeat in that election ended the political career of Jospin,
it was ripe to end. However, it wasn't Jospin's fault that the method
did what it did, and neither was it a fault that the French desire a
majority result. Rather, they simply have used a limited method for
the primary. Rather, consider using two-winner STV for the primary.
If a true majority is found for one candidate, done. If not, then
runoff between a better top two.

It can be done better and cheaper, but if that's what people want
.... The sin is in leaving behind a majority method for one which
would demolish the French multiparty system, probably, IRV.

IRV is being sold in the U.S. as finding a majority without the need
for runoffs, but that is one of the most deceptive arguments in this
field. It "finds a majority" by simply eliminating the vote of every
voter who didn't vote for one of the top two. As I've pointed out,
with a procedure like this, you can claim election by unanimity, just
carry the IRV procedure one step further. That's not a "majority of
votes cast," as the San Francisco voter information pamphlet for the
proposition that brought them RCV, their name for IRV, claimed. It's
a majority of ballots "containing votes for continuing candidates,"
i.e., excluding those who voted only for candidates other than those.
Their sin? Assuming that they could vote sincerely, and only vote for
candidates they liked.

(The latter problem still exists with full ranking allowed.)

>And just to be clear, in the examples I gave we are not dealing with
>TTRO that started with only three candidates . In the 2002
>French Presidential there 16 candidates. And some of the mayoral
>elections in England also have large numbers of candidates - one
>immediately to hand had 14. I think in these circumstances I would
>prefer the risk of some lower order chaos with IRV exclusions to
>the high risk of excluding of the most-preferred candidate with TTRO.

But the problem is not the real runoffs, it's the primary method.
Want IRV? Use it for the primary method. But you could accomplish the
same effect much more cheaply and more reliably. Bucklin.

Mr. Gilmour, you really should take a look at U.S. IRV elections,
which have almost entirely been nonpartisan. With sometimes over
twenty candidates on the ballot. IRV in that environment, functions
like plurality. There have been *no* comeback elections before
November 2008; and in this most recent election, I think there was a
comeback, but it was a partisan election, where these things happen
more often. French 2002 was very close in the primary, between all
the frontrunners, actually, so you can argue that IRV would have done better.

However, if you also look at runoff elections in the same places, I
looked at data for Cary, NC and San Francisco, runoffs were
"comebacks" about one-third of the time. There are various
explanations for this, but the lack of such elections with IRV is a
strong indication of possible Condorcet failure. You may "prefer the
risk," but you don't seem to have any idea of how strong a risk it is.

And you are making an artificially defective comparison. TTRO has
major benefits that aren't present with IRV, which involve the
reconsideration of the candidates by the electorate. There is no
doubt that the final round is a true majority result, with the
restricted set, and it's possible to *not* have a truly restricted
set, but only ballot exclusion.

Essentially, TTRO has an obvious flaw, which can strike under
conditions like that in France 2002. But that flaw can also strike
with IRV, and it is not what would reasonably be considered rare.
TTRO can be fixed or made better by quite a few different techniques,
which include:

(1) Use an advanced method in the primary. In partisan elections,
probably a method which avoids most strategic voting by voters, which
could be Bucklin or 2-winner IRV. Both of these would terminate with
a majority vote for any candidate. (I'm presuming that there isn't
obligatory ranking and that the method does allow unrestricted
bottom-ranking.) Approval is the simplest primary fix and, for sure,
it would not make matters worse, and it's free. Same ballot can be
used, except for the instructions. Any of these methods would reduce
the need for runoffs, but not eliminate it. Bucklin would almost
certainly be the most efficient at reducing runoffs.

(2) Use a better method for the runoff. Either allow more candidates
into the runoff -- which would create the possibility for a third
runoff -- or allow plurality election in the runoff, but with
write-in votes. This allows a *major* Condorcet failure, accompanied
by significant preference strength, to be corrected, and such
corrections have happened in the U.S., which sometimes allows
write-ins in all elections, including runoffs. If, of course, the
preference strength involved is small, few will bother, and be
willing to risk a spoiler effect in the runoff.

(3) Conduct the runoff using Asset Voting. I.e., each candidate
receiving votes in the primary -- which could then be vote-for-one,
though there is a neat interpretation that avoids considering
overvoted ballots spoiled, then has those votes to recast in an
"electoral college" runoff. The candidates are electors, holding
various numbers of votes reflecting their primary vote strength,
which they vote publicly. Jospin would have won, I'd predict, with
practically no fuss. Of course, he'd have had to negotiate with some
of the smaller parties. That's a good effect, and would give them
real power, reflective of their true vote strength.

Of course, the best solution here is Asset; is it a down side that
this could radically transform the entire system, shifting it toward
direct democracy (i.e., democracy by chosen proxy)?

This would be, of course, using a form of proportional representation
in the Presidential election process. Asset Voting was invented,
first proposed as far as we know, by Lewis Carroll, as a tweak to
STV, to avoid discarding exhausted ballots. The world would be a
different place if the Australians had used this instead of an
alternate, and quite undemocratic fix, requiring full ranking, which
essentially extracts noise from many voters and uses it in
determining the winners, thus making the voice of minor parties
largely moot. That's a political choice, but certainly not a
democratic one. Carroll knew that this was noise, but he realized
that these voters knew who their favorite was, the candidate they
most trusted, so he suggested utilizing that.

There have been proposals to use something like this for the U.S.
electoral college, and it would shift the college toward its original
intention, but that's politically very difficult. It's too bad that
the National Popular Vote movement didn't realize that there was a
better way than attempting to turn the U.S. Presidential contest into
pure Plurality!

(I've described elsewhere how it would be possible to move in that
direction *immediately,* state by state, without waiting for an
electoral college majority before implementing it. Basically, a state
would decide to support a representative electoral college, and would
phase that in, using its full electoral weight to rebalance the
college to reflect the popular vote. It would not be the mindless
"proportional assignment of electors for the state," such as the
Republicans attempted to set up for California, which would be
political suicide for the majority party in the state involved. It
would be a compact, of sorts, but one not dependent on other states
for it to work. If we were serious about electoral college reform,
we'd go for something like this.)




>James Gilmour
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>03/12/2008 17:41
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-07 00:46:22 UTC
Permalink
At 03:17 AM 12/4/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>James Gilmour wrote:
>>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:52 PM
>>>The tragedy is that IRV is replacing Top Two Runoff, an older
>>>reform that actually works better than IRV.
>>I have seen statements like this quite a few times, and they puzzle
>>me. I can see the benefit in TTRO in knowing before voting at the
>>second stage which two candidates will actually be involved in the
>>run-off. But what concerns me is the potential chaos in getting to
>>that stage. The French Presidential election of 2002 is a good
>>example of the very bad results that can come from the first round of
>>TTRO. And we have seen similar problems in some of the mayoral
>>elections in England where the so-called Supplementary Vote is used
>>in which the voters can mark their first and second preferences but
>>only the second preferences for the first stage Top-Two candidates
>>are counted. In such circumstances the outcome from TTRO is very bad
>>and I should have thought that an IRV election would have given a
>>much more representative result. Condorcet might be better still,
>>but that's a different debate.
>
>I'm not Abd, but I think the argument goes like this: in TTR, if a
>(usually) third candidate gets enough FPP votes to make it to the
>second round, that candidate has a real chance of winning, since the
>second round will be focused on those two candidates alone, whereas,
>on the other hand, if it's IRV, then IRV's chaos may deprive the
>candidate of its rightful victory, and even if it wouldn't, people
>can only vote for the third candidate that would become the winner
>as one of many, not as one of two.
>
>If that's right, then the Supplementary vote should give
>significantly worse results than TTR, simply because people can't
>discuss and realign between the first and second rounds.

For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the terminology,
"Supplementary Vote" is top-two batch-elimination IRV. In the United
States, there are or have been a few implementations of SV, and
FairVote claims these as IRV successes.

IRV with sequential bottom elimination is probably better than batch
elimination, because there is, at least, an opportunity for vote
transfers from other eliminated candidate. However, it is far more
difficult to count and what I've seen with U.S. IRV in nonpartisan
elections, the vote transfers tend to not change the positions of the
top three. If we imagine only three candidates, which has been the
case with some IRV elections, this is identical to Supplementary Vote.

For whatever reason, the fact is that in TTR in U.S. nonpartisan
elections (or in party primaries which are effectively nonpartisan in
this sense), we see "comeback" elections where the runner-up in the
primaries wins the runoff, roughly one-third of runoffs. This hasn't
happened yet in these IRV elections in the U.S.

Now, I have not studied the most recent elections. One writer
responded that the Pierce County, Washington, elections showed an
exception. If I'm correct, that was a partisan election. When there
are minor parties present, with relatively predictable vote
transfers, (such as, usually, Green to Democrat), IRV corrects for
the spoiler effect. *However*, don't celebrate!

If the use of a runoff method encourages more parties to be on the
ballot, majority failure becomes common. That is what had happened
with San Francisco, in the nonpartisan elections where they were
using top-two runoff. That will continue with IRV, and it has.
Usually a majority is not found through transfers if it was not found
in the primary, and, in fact, usually the first rank choices
generally express the results after transfers, as far as overall rank order.

This probably makes the world safe for major parties! A third party
is prevented from spoiling elections, which removes some of their
power. Again, for whatever reason, IRV is associated with strong
two-party systems, whereas top-two runoff, around the world, is
associated with vigorous multiparty systems. Both methods display the
problem Mr. Gilmour is concerned about, it's odd that he pins it on
TTR and not on IRV, which is merely *maybe* a *little* better in that respect.

We may speculate that with IRV, Le Pen would have slipped behind
Jospin, thus putting the true top two if second place preferences are
considered into the runoff. To come up with a guess about that would
take more information than I have and effort than I can spare. The
point here is that it can happen, and does happen, that Center
Squeeze pops up, it is not a rare effect. Center Squeeze is certainly
a problem with TTR, but IRV isn't the fix.

IRV fixes the spoiler effect in Plurality, but so does TTR, and so
would other voting reforms, starting with the terminally simple Open
Voting (Approval). Bucklin uses the same three-rank ballot as RCV
(IRV), but allows far more flexibility on the part of voters, who can
use the three ranks to vote for many more than three candidates.

Example. There are twenty candidates, San Francisco has more than
that on the ballot. The voter has a favorite and a second favorite,
but is worried that these are not going to make it to the final
round, and the voter really dislikes a frontrunner. With IRV, the
voter needs to know, to cast an effective vote, who the frontrunners
are, and to make sure that the preferred ones are supported. That can
be quite difficult when there are twenty candidates! Perhaps as a
result, one race in San Francisco, with over twenty candidates, was
won with less than 40% of the vote, there were large numbers of
exhausted ballots.

With a Bucklin ballot, even the Duluth form, where voters could add
multiple approvals only in the third rank, the voter could vote for
sincere favorites in first and second rank, and then for every
candidate but the worst frontrunner -- and also not for anyone worse,
if the voter has such an opinion. With RCV, the voter would have to
guess who else might be in the running in the last round. In France,
they would have guessed wrong, that was the "chaos." Few expected Le
Pen to edge out Jospin. (By less than one percent.)

Allow equal ranking at all ranks and Bucklin becomes easier to vote
than IRV. Very simple and effective strategy:

If you have a reasonable preference, then vote first and second ranks
as unique candidates. If not, then equal rank. You don't have to
choose, you can equally support candidates where you like both and
don't have a strong preference. Then, third rank, you can support
anyone whom you'd rather see win the election than have it go into a
runoff (if a majority continues to be required, which it should). And
if you have a strong preference against one of the frontrunners, you
can apply maximum alternative vote strength by voting for every
candidate better than this one. That's standard Approval strategy,
but, here, it's easy even with three or more candidates.

Bucklin. It deserves much more attention. It was popular. It worked.
It's cheap to count. No eliminations, so no Center Squeeze (unless
everyone bullet votes, but that's very unlikely; majority failure is
more likely in a highly partisan environment, where every voter is
fiercely loyal to their party or candidate and imagines they'd rather
die than see their vote "help" someone else. But we don't need to
drive a stake through the heart of bottom-ranked candidates in order
to satisfy these voters; their lower ranked votes will only help
another candidate beat their favorite, as some would rant and rave
about, if no majority is found and its necessary to start
compromising. Compromising means that you may not get your favorite!
What do we think about people who insist on No Compromise!

Probably much the same as the reviewer of Woodall's original paper
that defined Later No Harm: as to the criterion, disgusted.

In fact, it's not true that an additional vote "helps another hurt
the favorite." It's really an abstention in that candidate pair, a
"stand-aside." It does not act to help the other candidate more than
the favorite; rather it equally helps them.

Note that if we require a true majority, and don't coerce votes (as
in requiring full ranking), no single-ballot method satisfies Later
No Harm. It is incompatible with the requirement that a majority vote
for the winner. "Instant runoff" does not simulate real runoff except
under the artificial constraints of imagining that voters don't
change preferences, the same voters vote, and that voting Bush >
Hitler is a vote for Bush.

The solution to Center Squeeze, which is what happened in France in
2002, isn't IRV, it's using a better first round method, one not
susceptible to Center Squeeze. IRV is very much the wrong choice
there. Approval would work better, no cost. Bucklin would work even
better, probably, using a practical preferential ballot with easy
counting. And no Center Squeeze, almost certainly.

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f***@pcc.edu
2008-11-27 01:29:29 UTC
Permalink
Greg,

When someone asks for examples of IRV not working well in practice, they are usually protesting against
contrived examples of IRV's failures. Sure any method can be made to look ridiculous by some unlikely
contrived scenario.

I used to sympathize with that point of view until I started playing around with examples that seemed natural
to me, and found that IRV's erratic behavior was fairly robust. You could vary the parameters quite a bit
without shaking the bad behavior.

But I didn't expect anybody but fellow mathematicians to be able to appreciate how generic the pathological
behavior was, until ...

... until the advent of the Ka-Ping Lee and B. Olson diagrams, which show graphically the extent of the
pathology even in the best of all possible worlds, namely normally distributed voting populations in no more
than two dimensional issue space.

These diagrams are not based upon contrived examples, but upon benefit-of-a-doubt assumptions. Even
Borda looks good in these diagrams because voters are assumed to vote sincerely.

Each diagram represents thousands of elections decided by normally distributed sincere voters.

I cannot believe that anybody who supports IRV really understands these diagrams. Admittedly, it takes
some effort to understand exactly what they represent, and I regret that the accompaning explanations are
too abstract for the mathematically naive. They are a subtle way of displaying an immense amount of
information.

One way to make more concrete sense out of these diagrams is to pretend that each of the "candidate"
dots actually represents a proposed building site, and that the purpose of each simulated election is to
choose the site from among these options.

Each of the other pixels in the diagram represents (by its color) the outcome the election would have (under
the given method) if a normal distribution of voters were centered at that pixel.

So each pixel of the diagram represents a different election, but with the same candidates (i.e. proposed
construction sites).

Different digrams explore the effect of moving the candidates around relative to each other, as well as
increasing the number of candidates.

With a little practice you can get a good feel for what each diagram represents, and what it says about the
method it is pointed at (as a kind of electo-scope).

On result is that IRV shows erratic behavior even in those diagrams where every pixel represents an election
in which there is a Condorcet candidate.

My Best,

Forest














gre
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Chris Benham
2008-11-27 15:17:26 UTC
Permalink
Forest,
Given IRV's compliance with the "representativeness criteria" Mutual Dominant Third, Majority for
Solid Coalitions, Condorcet Loser and  Plurality; why should the bad look of  its "erratic behaviour"
be sufficient to condemn IRV in spite of these and other positive criterion compliances such as
Later-no-Harm and  Burial Invulnerability?

"....in the best of all possible worlds, namely normally distributed voting populations in no more
than two dimensional issue space."

Why does that situation you refer to qualify as "the best of all possible worlds" ?

Chris  Benham



Forrest Simmons wrote  (Wed. Nov.26):
Greg,

When someone asks for examples of IRV not working well in practice, they are usually protesting against
contrived examples of IRV's failures.  Sure any method can be made to look ridiculous by some unlikely
contrived scenario.

I used to sympathize with that point of view until I started playing around with examples that seemed natural
to me, and found that IRV's erratic behavior was fairly robust.  You could vary the parameters quite a bit
without shaking the bad behavior.

But I didn't expect anybody but fellow mathematicians to be able to appreciate how generic the pathological
behavior was, until ...

... until the advent of the Ka-Ping Lee and B. Olson diagrams, which show graphically the extent of the
pathology even in the best of all possible worlds, namely normally distributed voting populations in no more
than two dimensional issue space.

These diagrams are not based upon contrived examples, but upon benefit-of-a-doubt assumptions.  Even
Borda looks good in these diagrams because voters are assumed to vote sincerely.

Each diagram represents thousands of elections decided by normally distributed sincere voters.

I cannot believe that anybody who supports IRV really understands these diagrams.  Admittedly, it takes
some effort to understand exactly what they represent, and I regret that the accompaning explanations are
too abstract for the mathematically naive.  They are a subtle way of displaying an immense amount of
information.

One way to make more concrete sense out of these diagrams is to pretend that each of the "candidate"
dots actually represents a proposed building site, and that the purpose of each simulated election is to
choose the site from among these options.

Each of the other pixels in the diagram represents (by its color) the outcome the election would have (under
the given method) if a normal distribution of voters were centered at that pixel.

So each pixel of the diagram represents a different election, but with the same candidates (i.e. proposed
construction sites).

Different digrams explore the effect of moving the candidates around relative to each other, as well as
increasing the number of candidates.

With a little practice you can get a good feel for what each diagram represents, and what it says about the
method it is pointed at (as a kind of electo-scope).

On result is that IRV shows erratic behavior even in those diagrams where every pixel represents an election
in which there is a Condorcet candidate.

My Best,

Forest


Start your day with Yahoo!7 and win a Sony Bravia TV. Enter now http://au.docs.yahoo.com/homepageset/?p1=other&p2=au&p3=tagline
f***@pcc.edu
2008-11-29 18:06:10 UTC
Permalink
> From: Chris Benham > > Forest,> Given IRV's compliance with the "representativeness criteria" > Mutual Dominant Third, Majority for> Solid Coalitions, Condorcet Loser and? Plurality; why should the > bad look of its "erratic behaviour"> be sufficient to condemn IRV in spite of these and other > positive criterion compliances such as> Later-no-Harm and? Burial Invulnerability?A picture is worth a thousand words.  It shows the actual behavior, including the extent of the pathology.> > "....in the best of all possible worlds, namely normally > distributed voting populations in no more > than two dimensional issue space."> > Why does that situation you refer to qualify as "the best of all > possible worlds" ?> Three points determine a plane, so we cannot expect a lower dimension than two. What nicer distribution can you think of. than normal?  But any distribution whose density only depends on distance from the center of the distribution would give exactly the same results for any Condorcet method, without making the IRV results any nicer. Forest
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-01 16:23:06 UTC
Permalink
At 12:42 AM 11/26/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>Hello,
>
>--- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman
>Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > If we must have a
> > single ballot, and a single winner, period, Range Voting is
> > actually a trick: it is the only relatively objective method
> > of assessing the expected voter satisfaction with an
> > outcome, turned into an election method. It's ideal
> > because it's designed that way. (The only fly in the
> > ointment is the charges about strategic voting, but I've
> > been arguing that this is based on a total misconception of
> > what we are doing when we vote.)
>
>I don't understand how you reconcile the two ideas here. Range is
>"objective" and "ideal because it's designed that way" based on the
>idea that voters have internal utilities and, if they vote them exactly,
>under Range voting, the best candidate according to overall utility
>will be elected every time.

The "only relatively objective method" is not
Range Voting, itself, it is the study of Bayesian
regret using reasonably simulated internal,
absolute utilities (To be most accurate, it would
use the "HH" scale, "Heaven-Hell," which does
make the assumption that the absolute worst
possible outcome and the absolute best possible
outcome, with an effectively unlimited universe
of candidate, have equal values for all voters.)
in simulated elections. From these utilities, the
best candidate in a simulated election. The value
for each candidate is determined by some
reasonable algorithm, either by relatively simple
assumptions, or by the positions of the
candidates in an n-dimensional issue space, or
some other means. To take this further,
simulations would be guided by actual voter
preferences and intensities from polls.

That is, the performance of an election method
may depend on which kind of preference profiles
exist among the voters, not only upon the method
or how the voters decide to vote.

From the voter utility profiles, a preference
list is easily constructed. Actual voter
behavior, then, can be simulated, using various
kinds of voting strategy, from "fully sincere" in
Range, to maximally strategic, designed to
maximize personal voter outcome. That's tricker,
to be sure. However, within the simulation,
"maximally strategic" votes take place when the
voter "has accurate knowledge of the preferences
of others," and thus their likely votes.

Once this is done, with a large number of
elections, the deviation of the actual method
results, under various voter strategy profiles,
from the ideal result is determined, as a
"regret" value. The best method, when comparing
two methods, is considered to be the one with the lowest average regret.

"Ideal" assumes maximizing overall utility, i.e.,
the sum of the individual HH utilities, which are
both absolute and, we assume, commensurable (we
would want to minimize the number of voters
tossed into Hell, or close to it, and maximize
the number who experience a Heavenly result;
however, so far, only the sum is considered, to
my knowledge, in the work that has been done. In
real elections, it's possible that the ideal
winner would minimize the Hell results until the
worst utilities are above some level, this is
what true, functional organizations do, because
they value group unity and every time someone is
totally shut out of a decision, their position
neglected, the functional group becomes smaller.
Over many elections, this can have a major impact
on the success of the organization. Tyranny of
the majority is highly dysfunctional. However,
such is the state of the art, to my knowledge, of election simulation.)

(Note: this is *my idea* of Warren did or should
have done. What he *actually* did may differ in
some respects. Perhaps someone will point us to a
more accurate description. The approach is as I
described, *relatively* objective. If I'm
correct, Warren settled on Range Voting as a
result of his utility studies, not the reverse.
But, again, he or someone else could correct that.)

Prior to the use of this method, voting systems
were compared using voting criteria, and systems
either pass a given criterion or they don't. And
no method satisfies all proposed election
criteria, and, I've elsewhere argued, some
criteria commonly considered reasonable and
important *must* be violated in order for the
method to produce results that we would
rationally -- and following actual practice in
small democratic organizations with access,
because of the scale, to much more sophisticated
decision-making methods than are possible with a single ballot.

This is the "relatively objective method of
assessing" election outcome. When it's easy to
determine, in a real situation, the absolute
individual voter utilities, "fully sincere Range
Voting" implements it as a method. That is, if
the voters are honest, or if their "votes" are
determined for them by some objective method --
such as a measurement of tax impact based on,
say, the previous year's income tax return --
this obviously would produce an objective result
that could be considered ideal. In real
elections, of course, determining absolute,
commensurable utilities may not be possible.
(There are voting systems involving lotteries and
real bets made by voters that should encourage
the voting of absolute utilities, but these aren't being considered here.)

However, I stated "average voter satisfaction."
This represents normalization. It assumes that
the full satisfaction of all voters is equated,
and likewise the minimal satisfaction, given a
particular candidate set. This produces
normalized utilities. Because of the simulations,
which assume a full absolute utility profile, we
can then determine reasonable "fully sincere
votes." We can then sum these to determine a
somewhat different optimal winner, and assess
regret from actual outcomes based on that.

In real elections, voter behavior will deviate
from those "fully sincere" votes. (Fully sincere
means disclosing true preference strength, within
the resolution of the method.) It deviates from
it for two reasons: (1) voters don't care to put
that much effort into rating, it's easier to
rank, generally, because it only involves
pairwise comparisons; however, voters usually
only have meaningful preferences between a few of
the candidate pairs involved. And (2) voters are
accustomed to elections being a choice, or a set
of choices, and choices are normally made within
a context that considers outcome probabilities
where choice power is used to choose between
realistic possibilities, not merely to compare the value of each outcome.

So: How does Range, with realistic voting
patterns, compare with other methods. Range does
*not* produce zero regret. It produces relatively
low regret. If fully sincere voting could be
somehow guaranteed -- probably impossible -- it
would always choose the ideal winner (within
certain restrictions, basically normalization).
So there are two deviations from the ideal. The
first is from normalization, and the second is from strategic voting.

Range *with strategic voting* is better with
respect to regret than any other method that has
been simulated, to my knowledge. There is an
exception: Top Two Runoff Range Voting beats
Range. That's not surprising. It would detect and
fix some of the deviations due to normalization and strategic voting.

Now, to prevent the advantage that knowledgeable
voters would have from being able to vote
accurately, should we damage the outcome averaged over all voters?

This is the implication of the argument that we
should prevent "strategic voting" as it applies to Range.

To be continued.

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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-03 02:07:01 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

--- En date de : Lun 1.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
I initially wrote:
> > Hello,
> >
> > --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
> <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > I don't understand how you reconcile the two ideas
> here. Range is
> > "objective" and "ideal because it's
> designed that way" based on the
> > idea that voters have internal utilities and, if they
> vote them exactly,
> > under Range voting, the best candidate according to
> overall utility
> > will be elected every time.


> This is the "relatively objective method of
> assessing" election outcome. When it's easy to
> determine, in a real situation, the absolute individual
> voter utilities, "fully sincere Range Voting"
> implements it as a method. That is, if the voters are
> honest, or if their "votes" are determined for
> them by some objective method -- such as a measurement of
> tax impact based on, say, the previous year's income tax
> return -- this obviously would produce an objective result
> that could be considered ideal. In real elections, of
> course, determining absolute, commensurable utilities may
> not be possible. (There are voting systems involving
> lotteries and real bets made by voters that should encourage
> the voting of absolute utilities, but these aren't being
> considered here.)

In your previous message you seemed content to say that voters can't
vote "accurately" under Range because they don't know how and because
the ratings have no inherent meaning.

I'm assuming we don't introduce external incentives into the election
method.

> In real elections, voter behavior will deviate from those
> "fully sincere" votes. (Fully sincere means
> disclosing true preference strength, within the resolution
> of the method.) It deviates from it for two reasons: (1)
> voters don't care to put that much effort into rating,
> it's easier to rank, generally, because it only involves
> pairwise comparisons; however, voters usually only have
> meaningful preferences between a few of the candidate pairs
> involved. And (2) voters are accustomed to elections being a
> choice, or a set of choices, and choices are normally made
> within a context that considers outcome probabilities where
> choice power is used to choose between realistic
> possibilities, not merely to compare the value of each
> outcome.

This seems pretty different from your explanation previously.

> So: How does Range, with realistic voting patterns, compare
> with other methods. Range does *not* produce zero regret. It
> produces relatively low regret. If fully sincere voting
> could be somehow guaranteed -- probably impossible -- it
> would always choose the ideal winner (within certain
> restrictions, basically normalization). So there are two
> deviations from the ideal. The first is from normalization,
> and the second is from strategic voting.
>
> Range *with strategic voting* is better with respect to
> regret than any other method that has been simulated, to my
> knowledge.

If this is true it can only be by comparing strategic Range to strategic
(insert rank ballot method), which is at the mercy of Warren's
understanding and implementation of rank ballot strategies.

> There is an exception: Top Two Runoff Range
> Voting beats Range. That's not surprising. It would
> detect and fix some of the deviations due to normalization
> and strategic voting.

I'm not sure what this method is but it sounds vulnerable to clones.

If you're open to introducing mechanisms to fix problems caused by Range
strategy, I wonder why you would keep it to just this.

> Now, to prevent the advantage that knowledgeable voters
> would have from being able to vote accurately, should we
> damage the outcome averaged over all voters?

How is it even clear that it would be damaged? You've presented an idea
of what people are doing when they go to vote, and trying to vote
accurately wasn't part of it. People are making sincere, strategic
decisions.

> This is the implication of the argument that we should
> prevent "strategic voting" as it applies to Range.
>
> To be continued.

Ok.

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-04 19:23:12 UTC
Permalink
At 09:07 PM 12/2/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:

> > This is the "relatively objective method of
> > assessing" election outcome. When it's easy to
> > determine, in a real situation, the absolute individual
> > voter utilities, "fully sincere Range Voting"
> > implements it as a method. That is, if the voters are
> > honest, or if their "votes" are determined for
> > them by some objective method -- such as a measurement of
> > tax impact based on, say, the previous year's income tax
> > return -- this obviously would produce an objective result
> > that could be considered ideal. In real elections, of
> > course, determining absolute, commensurable utilities may
> > not be possible. (There are voting systems involving
> > lotteries and real bets made by voters that should encourage
> > the voting of absolute utilities, but these aren't being
> > considered here.)
>
>In your previous message you seemed content to say that voters can't
>vote "accurately" under Range because they don't know how and because
>the ratings have no inherent meaning.

The two considerations should be kept rigorously separate. We can
study voting systems using absolute utilities that are *assumed* in a
simulation. The absolute utilities allow the prediction of voter
behavior under various models. We can convert absolute utilities to
Range Votes. Want to actually maximize overall voter satisfaction.
Somehow arrange for absolute utilities to be voted. The "ideal"
winner may be determined using absolute utilities, in a simulation.
Then voting systems, with various "strategies" -- read "methods" --
used by the voters to translate their real preferences, including
real preference strengths -- i.e., the simulated ones -- into votes
in a voting system, and Bayesian regret is defined as the difference
in overall, summed absolute utilities generated by the difference
between the voting system winner and the best winner from the summed
absolute utility standpoint.

This regret is not minimized by normalized Range, which is how we
imagine most voters will vote, because of the normalization, which
equates the votes of voters with *overall* weak preferences for the
entire candidate set, with those with strong preferences over this
set. However, we get reasonably close, because the normalization
error more or less averages out. And we preserve "one person, one
vote," which is politically desirable.

That's an objective method of studying voting system performance.
Strategy comes in when translating voter absolute utilities into votes.

From the absolute utilities, we can generate preference lists, even
more accurately than a voter could. (If the voter would have trouble,
the simulator still detects any preference within the accuracy of the
assumed utilities -- which are sometimes generated from issue space
assumptions.

Ideally, the utility models would be correlated and corrected by
their predictions in real-world circumstances, but little work has
been done on this; at this point, we simply have reasonable
approximations being used for the models.

With the simulation models, "fully sincere Range votes" have a
precise meaning. They are simply, under one of two assumptions, votes
that are the utilities, normalized by some means, to the voting
range. What is usually called "absolute sincere Range votes" would be
the absolute utilities, with the same normalization factor for all
votes, on the Heaven-Hell scale, voted. Nobody expects voters to be
comparing Obama with Jesus Christ in Range votes, rather they will
compare Obama with the other candidates, and will rate max if he's the best.

So the next kind of "fully sincere vote," which is what we normally
mean by "sincere Range vote." These are utilities normalized to the
candidate set. And then a "strategic voter" normalizes to the
*possible* candidate set's range of utilities, not the full one. I
won't address the complication of a strategic voter in a three-way
contest, but the difference in utility between an accurate Range
vote, but normalized to the possible candidate set, and the
approval-style one, is, unless the voter has very, very good
knowledge of how the other voters will vote, minor if it exists at all.

Now, voters would have difficulty voting with high accuracy. They can
approach it, however. Voting Range 2 or Range 3 or 4 style, for
example, will give improved fidelity to the true utilities, and is
easy to do. And the voting rules can provide some real incentives to
do this: for example, if there is preference analysis on results,
with a preference winner then going into a runoff against the Range
winner, the voters are incentivized to maintain preference order. In
low-res Range, this incentive gets fairly high, but only for real
candidates. I.e., possible ones. Where this would improve results,
possibly, is with three-way races. It would encourage those who
prefer one candidate to down-rate their alternate, if they care about
the victory in that race. It's a balancing decision, but with low-res
range, it gets easy.

High-res range can be voted as low-res range, it's only about how
much the voter wants to express in fine distinctions. Further, in
real elections, with real voting strategy, the most common, I assume,
the voter will first rate a favorite and the worst. That's usually
fairly easy! (At least among those the candidate recognizes.) Then
the voter rates the frontrunners. If the method is hi-res, the voter
now makes the first real strategic decision. How much vote strength
does the voter put into the pairwise election between the favorite
and the favored frontrunner? Fully strategic: no points, except that
then there is no opportunity to influence the pairwise analysis. So
one point does it. In high-res Range, that is practically no cost in
the major election. It can be made fully no-cost by allowing voters
to rank within ratings, but that's a complication I won't address. I
want to keep the actual voting system pretty simple! Voter strategy
can be complex as long as there are easy strategies that are "good
enough," i.e., reasonably effective. And there are.

But if I want to increase the accuracy of the vote, which may not
maximize my personal utility (it's not likely to harm it much, if at
all), then it's harder. I've suggested thinking about -- and maybe
actually making -- campaign contributions. I won't go into details,
but, in theory, with three candidates, if I'd spend the same to
promote one pair, zero knowledge, as another pair, my preference
strength in those pairs is the same. If the pairs are pairs within
the frontrunners, and there are only three, that's enough to give me
a sincere midrating for the middle-preferred candidate.

I might just do it by the seat of my pants. *It's only about one
vote.* I'm *not* a dictator. A lot of voter guesses about sincere
ratings will average, probably, to something close to sincere
ratings. ("Sincere" with real people is tricky to measure, for sure,
but it's reasonable to assume that people have a transitive internal
utility scale, and not making this assumption leads us into
complexity that, at this point, is probably impossible to address.

Simply insisting on discovering a majority turns very poor voting
methods into quite good ones. Think of it as a binary detector,
making a series of pairwise comparisons, but it's even better than
that, for preferences shift between ballots, based on preference strengths.

In other words, we already know how to do sincere Range voting. It's
deliberative process with an engaged and active electorate, those who
care, and those who do not care not participating!

This is why top-two runoff is probably far better than we have
estimated based on fixed-preference analysis. Range information
enters into it as well. Runoffs do not simply confirm expressed
preferences in the primary! They shift, and voters shift, favoring
those who have stronger preferences *in reality.* Not fake ones, or
pretend ones. You either get up and go to the polls or you don't.

>I'm assuming we don't introduce external incentives into the election
>method.

Yes. It can be done in a positive way, though. I won't go there for
now. One external incentive is important, though, which is showing
support for a third party. Range allows this without harm.

> > In real elections, voter behavior will deviate from those
> > "fully sincere" votes. (Fully sincere means
> > disclosing true preference strength, within the resolution
> > of the method.) It deviates from it for two reasons: (1)
> > voters don't care to put that much effort into rating,
> > it's easier to rank, generally, because it only involves
> > pairwise comparisons; however, voters usually only have
> > meaningful preferences between a few of the candidate pairs
> > involved. And (2) voters are accustomed to elections being a
> > choice, or a set of choices, and choices are normally made
> > within a context that considers outcome probabilities where
> > choice power is used to choose between realistic
> > possibilities, not merely to compare the value of each
> > outcome.
>
>This seems pretty different from your explanation previously.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

I'm exploring. I may explore new ideas today, or restate old ones.

My position grows like a hologram, based on the sum of all these
"explanations."

> > So: How does Range, with realistic voting patterns, compare
> > with other methods. Range does *not* produce zero regret. It
> > produces relatively low regret. If fully sincere voting
> > could be somehow guaranteed -- probably impossible -- it
> > would always choose the ideal winner (within certain
> > restrictions, basically normalization). So there are two
> > deviations from the ideal. The first is from normalization,
> > and the second is from strategic voting.
> >
> > Range *with strategic voting* is better with respect to
> > regret than any other method that has been simulated, to my
> > knowledge.
>
>If this is true it can only be by comparing strategic Range to strategic
>(insert rank ballot method), which is at the mercy of Warren's
>understanding and implementation of rank ballot strategies.

Yes. Except that it is only at Warren's understanding if others don't
exercise themselves to confirm the approach. Given that this is the
only approach that has any hope of being objective, and that little
additional work has been done, apparently, it shows how much people
care about objective comparison of voting systems. Not much. They'd
rather plump for their favorite, perhaps.

The comparisons have been done, by Warren. His work is published and
should be verifiable. If not, I'm sure that reasonable questions
unanswered by his publications could be addressed here or on the
Range Voting list. If they couldn't be answered, that would radically
impeach his work, wouldn't it?

Essentially, poor simulation -- if it is poor -- is better than none.
If the simulation were designed to make Range look good, that would
be one thing. But it appears that the reverse is true: Warren went
for Range Voting because simulation work -- as well as theoretical
work -- showed it to be ideal, with sincere votes (it must be! --
with the right definitions of sincere). He didn't set out to prove
Range was best, he wanted to know.

And he wanted to answer the question of "how much." How much is, say,
IRV better than Plurality? Or Approval than IRV or Bucklin? Voting
systems criteria don't even begin to approach this.

The only superior approach would be a study of actual voter behavior,
with far more information needed than we can normally obtain.

The theoretical work behind Range Voting (such as the Dhillon-Mertens
publication) has been done in the field of economics, which studies
the same problem: how a group of people can make decisions. Arrow was
an economist. The political science people -- Brams excepted -- have
mostly looked down their noses at this approach.

Hang "objective," I want what I want, and Criterion X is the most
important. I gotta have Criterion X, and anyone who disagrees with me
is an idiot, it's intuitively obvious.

What we can now do is to study voting system behavior with, at least,
some model of what motivates voters to vote as they do. Utility
translation to preferences is pretty easy, it's strategic voting
that's more complex, but we can assume that if preferences are weak
(low differential utility), voters will not be exercised to use much
strategy. It's too much work, and get it wrong, you can seriously
regret your insincere votes! I don't think that Warren's work covered
this difference: voters who vote strategically are likely to be those
who have stronger preferences. Not those who almost don't care! These
are more likely, in a system that allows it, to rank equally. Which
is more expressive of true preference than a strong ranking, and
improves results overall.

> > There is an exception: Top Two Runoff Range
> > Voting beats Range. That's not surprising. It would
> > detect and fix some of the deviations due to normalization
> > and strategic voting.
>
>I'm not sure what this method is but it sounds vulnerable to clones.

Sure. However, the simulations don't generate clones except rarely.
In real politics as a strategy? Dangerous, but I won't go there.
Instead, I'll point out, I have *not* suggested that the runoff would
be between two top Range winners, but between a Range winner and any
candidate preferred to that winner by a majority. This is *not*
vulnerable to clones. It would produce a close Range race, that's
all. It's not going to suppress a Condorcet winner, who would make it
into the runoff. Then it's up to the voters.

I've suggested a runoff whenever a majority choice isn't clear. So,
sure, two clones might make it to a runoff, but highly unlikely that
any other candidate would be a better winner than one of them. Range
winners, if the ratings are sincere, have an advantage in runoffs. We
want a runoff to detect, among other things, the rare situations
where the ratings weren't sincere, or possibly just inaccurate. There
is normalization error as well, which a runoff fixes to a degree.

>If you're open to introducing mechanisms to fix problems caused by Range
>strategy, I wonder why you would keep it to just this.

I wouldn't. I prefer Asset Voting, which can use a Plurality ballot
quite effectively. Choose between Range and Asset? Hands-down, Asset Voting.


> > Now, to prevent the advantage that knowledgeable voters
> > would have from being able to vote accurately, should we
> > damage the outcome averaged over all voters?
>
>How is it even clear that it would be damaged?

That's what the simulations show, and nobody has controverted that
result. It's quite reasonable, by the way, it's not likely to be
generally wrong. How carefully have you looked at this work, Kevin?

It should be understood that the simulations are measuring average
Baysian regret, considering a large number of simulations for each
method. Each method then can be assigned a rating based on average
Baysian regret, and compared with other simulations using the same
input data (i.e., the same underlying voter utilities). Method
results using various voter strategies can be compared; for example,
there are experiments that compared various Approval voting strategies.

> You've presented an idea
>of what people are doing when they go to vote, and trying to vote
>accurately wasn't part of it. People are making sincere, strategic
>decisions.

No, that, as well, is only part of it. People also simply vote as
they feel. Further, in a Range voting system, people will know
exactly what the system is doing. It is collecting preference data
from all the voters, and using it to optimize overall, summed,
satisfaction, treating all voters equally. They will know that if
everyone provides accurate information, the system will produce the
best result as to overall satisfaction that is possible. They will
know that, if they have good information, they can push the result a
bit -- not a lot -- toward what they personally prefer, but at a cost
to other people.

They will know that if everyone votes sincerely -- read accurately --
in all elections, everyone will benefit from this. What goes around
comes around. Voting strategically is the Tragedy of the Commons, a
variation on it. However, in this case, it is a *relatively harmless*
variation, the damage done by it is small. *Punishing* the
miscreants, those "selfish voters" -- or the simply lazy ones -- is a
very bad approach, because it will do much more harm than good. Try
to prevent people from freely deciding *how much* they want an
outcome, mistrust them, and we get worse results, not better.

The healthier the society, the more we will see Range votes trend
toward full sincerity. We'll never get it totally, because it's too
difficult to be really accurate. I have no idea what level of Range
we will settle on. Range 2 might be just fine! -- and Range 2 is
quite simple to vote. Depending on the exact rules.

But want simple and maximally powerful? Asset Voting. Terminally
simple as a voting method. Ideal strategy: identify the eligible
person (could be yourself!) whom you most trust to make a good
decision in your absence, because you will be absent, as a voter,
until the next election. Vote for that person, period. There is no
reason to vote for anyone else, at all. Can't decide between two?
Vote for both, the system will divide your vote between them. But I
suggest that only to avoid tossing out the vote, I see no other
reason to put that in. We are deciding *representation*, not a final
decision. If we were limited to a small candidate set, then we'd want
to be able to create virtual committees by voting for more than one.
But we need not be limited to such a small candidate set.

The persons receiving votes in Asset become public voters, I usually
call them electors. There are a lot of uses for this, and it goes far
beyond single winner elections. Asset was first designed as a tweak
to STV, by Lewis Carroll, to deal with the very serious problem of
exhausted ballots. It was a much better fix than the Australian one
of requiring full ranking, which essentially coerces votes out of
people who don't have the knowledge to do deep ranking. And who
clearly would rather not, as we see where full ranking is optional,
as with Queensland, for example.

Once you have public voters, electors, though, it becomes possible to
do much more than simply resolve one election. This becomes a fully
representative "electoral college" -- no compromises at all -- which
can handle many different kinds of problems. Filling a vacant office.
"Hiring" a President instead of electing him for a fixed term, a
practice which is guaranteed to occasionally produce massive
deviation from democracy.

Runoff elections? Not necessary. Instead, we have deliberative
process among the electors, who can, partly, meet in person, but in
any case can handle an election by many different means. Because they
are public, their votes are public, and security problems are
minimized and cost is minimized.

If we must have a determinate result, in one ballot, some form of
Range is clearly the best. So far, I think the best is a hybrid of
some kind. But allowing a single runoff is a small deviation from
deterministic, and a big step toward deliberative process. That's the
biggest improvement, it may even swamp the improvement from Range,
but we have no work comparing them. (The simulations that have been
done have assumed fixed preference and the same voters, which doesn't
apply at all to real runoff elections, which run closer to Range
results than would be expected, I'm sure.)

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Dave Ketchum
2008-12-05 04:31:54 UTC
Permalink
Favored frontrunner? Trying to add some thought.

Agreed to "first rate a favorite and the worst".

Then the standard thought is "the voter rates the frontrunners".

This needs careful thought. It is likely that one of the frontruners will
win. This voter has two obvious approaches to select from:
IF this voter has a preference, proceed as Abd and others suggest.
BUT if this voter sees them as equally desirable or undesirable, it
is proper to treat them as such.

DWK

Per Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 1
On Thu, 04 Dec 2008 14:23:12 -0500 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>
> Further, in real
> elections, with real voting strategy, the most common, I assume, the
> voter will first rate a favorite and the worst. That's usually fairly
> easy! (At least among those the candidate recognizes.) Then the voter
> rates the frontrunners.
--
***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-05 18:53:09 UTC
Permalink
At 11:31 PM 12/4/2008, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>Favored frontrunner? Trying to add some thought.
>
>Agreed to "first rate a favorite and the worst".
>
>Then the standard thought is "the voter rates the frontrunners".
>
>This needs careful thought. It is likely that one of the
>frontruners will win. This voter has two obvious approaches to select from:
> IF this voter has a preference, proceed as Abd and others suggest.
> BUT if this voter sees them as equally desirable or
> undesirable, it is proper to treat them as such.

It's "proper" and it improves the results overall, but it is an
abstention with regard to the realistic election pair. That's fine.
But if the voter has a significant preference -- suppose those were
the only two candidates on the ballot, would you bother voting? --
I'd not suggest voting that way. Make a choice, if it matters. If
not, sure, stand aside and let people who care make the decision.

With your vote equating them, you can express, still, whether you
accept them or not. That can be important if a majority is required
(the Range method then must have an explicit method of indicating
that the voter will accept the election of each candidate, easy to
do, probably the easiest is that the voter rates the candidate above
midrange -- or maybe at midrange.)

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Dave Ketchum
2008-12-06 02:06:19 UTC
Permalink
My point was ONLY that the voter could have equal feeling as to the
frontrunners. Here Abd offers some thought on that topic.

DWK

On Fri, 05 Dec 2008 13:53:09 -0500 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 11:31 PM 12/4/2008, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>
>> Favored frontrunner? Trying to add some thought.
>>
>> Agreed to "first rate a favorite and the worst".
>>
>> Then the standard thought is "the voter rates the frontrunners".
>>
>> This needs careful thought. It is likely that one of the frontruners
>> will win. This voter has two obvious approaches to select from:
>> IF this voter has a preference, proceed as Abd and others suggest.
>> BUT if this voter sees them as equally desirable or undesirable,
>> it is proper to treat them as such.
>
>
> It's "proper" and it improves the results overall, but it is an
> abstention with regard to the realistic election pair. That's fine. But
> if the voter has a significant preference -- suppose those were the only
> two candidates on the ballot, would you bother voting? -- I'd not
> suggest voting that way. Make a choice, if it matters. If not, sure,
> stand aside and let people who care make the decision.
>
> With your vote equating them, you can express, still, whether you accept
> them or not. That can be important if a majority is required (the Range
> method then must have an explicit method of indicating that the voter
> will accept the election of each candidate, easy to do, probably the
> easiest is that the voter rates the candidate above midrange -- or maybe
> at midrange.)
--
***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-12-05 15:37:44 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> But want simple and maximally powerful? Asset Voting. Terminally simple
> as a voting method. Ideal strategy: identify the eligible person (could
> be yourself!) whom you most trust to make a good decision in your
> absence, because you will be absent, as a voter, until the next
> election. Vote for that person, period. There is no reason to vote for
> anyone else, at all. Can't decide between two? Vote for both, the system
> will divide your vote between them. But I suggest that only to avoid
> tossing out the vote, I see no other reason to put that in. We are
> deciding *representation*, not a final decision. If we were limited to a
> small candidate set, then we'd want to be able to create virtual
> committees by voting for more than one. But we need not be limited to
> such a small candidate set.
>
> The persons receiving votes in Asset become public voters, I usually
> call them electors. There are a lot of uses for this, and it goes far
> beyond single winner elections. Asset was first designed as a tweak to
> STV, by Lewis Carroll, to deal with the very serious problem of
> exhausted ballots. It was a much better fix than the Australian one of
> requiring full ranking, which essentially coerces votes out of people
> who don't have the knowledge to do deep ranking. And who clearly would
> rather not, as we see where full ranking is optional, as with
> Queensland, for example.

Something I've always wondered about Asset Voting. Say you have a very
selfish electorate who all vote for themselves (or for their friends).
From what I understand, those voted for in the first round become the
electors who decide among themselves who to pick for the final decision.
Wouldn't this produce a very large "parliament"?

Perhaps the situation that the voters vote for themselves is unlikely,
but some of the problem remains. Asset's advantage is supposed to be
(again, as far as I understand it) that it involves more people than
would be directly elected. So if it involves too few, that's a problem,
but if it involves too many, that's a problem as well because the
deliberative process doesn't scale.

How's that solved?
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-05 19:24:54 UTC
Permalink
At 10:37 AM 12/5/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>Something I've always wondered about Asset Voting. Say you have a
>very selfish electorate who all vote for themselves (or for their
>friends). From what I understand, those voted for in the first round
>become the electors who decide among themselves who to pick for the
>final decision. Wouldn't this produce a very large "parliament"?

No. It would produce a large "electoral college," which doesn't have
legislative power directly. As I'd have it, these small-vote electors
could not introduce motions or speak to the Assembly directly by
right, as anyone with a seat can.

Now, it's not going to happen. Yes, some people will say, "I can't
trust anyone else to vote for me," so these people will become
electors, possibly with only one vote. But this creates a problem
only for this person! The person is now a public voter, all votes
will be public record. If they don't combine their vote with others
to create a seat, they won't have anyone to, say, introduce a motion
that they'd want, unless they can convince someone else with a seat.
They can still vote, if they want, but that could be a lot of work
compared with the obvious: choose someone to represent you in the
Assembly and let that person vote on your behalf unless you *choose*
to participate in an Assembly vote. This isn't the original Asset,
this is hybrid direct/representative democracy Asset, where any
elector can vote on any matter before the assembly. If the elector
votes, the fractional value of one vote is subtracted from the vote
of the seat that represents the elector.

My guess is that only rarely would these fractional votes make a
difference. Remember, just as electors can simply vote for themselves
and are unconstrained in their choices -- beyond choosing a
registered elector, they'd have to register to vote for themselves or
to receive the votes of others -- they are only restrained in their
election of a seat by the need to make, possibly, compromises with
others, which they do deliberatively (i.e, through negotiation; all
that is necessary is to get enough electors together to vote on one
person to elect that seat. There is no opposition, it is pure
democratic cooperation.

So if you are very unrestrained, only people with strong and isolated
positions would find it very difficult to identify someone to
represent you. There is much more that may not occur to people at first blush.

The "selfish voter" problem is self-limiting, not a problem at all.
Asset creates pure representation, unopposed. It's direct democracy
at the elector level, and becomes negotiated representation at the
Assembly level, the purpose of electing a seat being representation
in deliberation, which is where the problem of scale knocks direct
democracy upside the head. This separates deliberation from
aggregation. The electors retain absolute voting power, but they
routinely delegate it to a maximally trusted holder of a seat.

>Perhaps the situation that the voters vote for themselves is
>unlikely, but some of the problem remains.

It's not a problem, it's a *feature.* There is no candidacy required
to become an elector, just registration. You then can vote to elect
seats, can vote directly in the Assembly if you choose, and there may
be other functions as well. Electors, however, would not be paid,
though they might collect donations from those they represent.
(Should that be prohibited? Probably not, but *limiting* it might
have some value. Some electors might really work full-time
representing their constituents -- who know who they are -- in
communication with a seat holder.)

"Large" is not a limitation in this case, since there are no
large-scale decisions made by the electoral college. Rather, such
decisions would be made in the Assembly, where electors can vote or
not as they choose. If they don't vote, they are still represented,
and I'd expect that to be the norm. It's much more efficient.

> Asset's advantage is supposed to be (again, as far as I understand
> it) that it involves more people than would be directly elected. So
> if it involves too few, that's a problem, but if it involves too
> many, that's a problem as well because the deliberative process doesn't scale.
>
>How's that solved?

You've made a basic mistake. The deliberation takes place on a small
scale. Not a large one. There is no "Electoral college election,"
with collective vote on the Assembly to be elected. Rather, when N
electors agree and register this, a seat is created as they have
agreed. It's not an oppositional decision, and these N electors don't
have to convince anyone else. There are plenty of social networking
methods that will work to connect electors so that they can
voluntarily create seats. I'd make the electoral college be,
effectively, an FA/DP organization.

Every elector names a proxy, voluntarily. This has nothing to do,
perhaps, with the official vote of the elector, which might be
delegatable, but this isn't that delegation. It's purely for
negotiation on behalf of the elector. Choose the other elector you
most trust. This creates "natural caucuses" which will be able, I'd
predict, to coordinate recommendations to the electors as to how to
reassign their vote. The decision remains with the elector, not with
anyone else.

It's chosen representation, as minimally constrained by the
necessities of scale, which really never had to do with voting, but
only, as you've noted, with deliberation. Delegable proxy allows
deliberation to take place in *very* small groups, but still
amalgamate consensus on a large scale.

Every seat is elected through consensus of those who choose to trust
the holder of the seat. Don't agree? Vote for someone else, or
continue to vote for yourself in the Assembly, as you can, being an elector.

It's kind of a radically libertarian/anarchist idea, don't you think?
Except that there isn't any assumption about the powers of government
and no tearing down of anything. Simply beginning to realize the
ideal of decisions being made by true representatives of the people.
Not of "a plurality of this district and a plurality of that
district," etc., nor even the much better STV representation, which
can still leave out in the cold a major chunk of the electorate, and
which leaves voters with no idea who *specifically*, they elected
with their vote. In Asset, voters may know with high precision
exactly where their vote went, most of the time. Next election, they
can choose an elector differently, if it didn't work out.

There is no investment in incumbency, every vote counts, and it stays
that way up to the Assembly.

By the way, involving "too few" is also not a problem. If everyone,
for example, freely chose one person to decide on the seats, they
would be electing a dictator. Can a democracy do that?

Yes, it can. But it won't. It would be extraordinarily stupid. And
people aren't that stupid. *Nobody* is smart enough to make all
decisions on their own. To prevent that outcome, though, by
constraining what the people can decide, will cause more damage than
to simply allow the people to become informed, which they will with a
system like this, since their vote always counts, and to make free choices.

I'm actually opposed to supermajority rules, in the long run. They
are good for preventing rash decisions, but, note, generally an
absolute majority can make any constitutional amendment they choose.
Asset makes an absolute majority, through direct vote or
representation, a realistic possibility!

An absolute majority need not even give notice of a pending
amendment! A drastic power, one might think... but there are good
reasons for it. Usually a majority of those voting would think there
should be, at least, wide discussion before making a major change. If
a majority of all people, or their most-trusted representatives,
decide that immediate change is needed, who are we to think that
something else is better?

Absolute majority is a majority of all eligible voters, not a
majority of those voting. The Australians use the world to mean the
latter. Absolute majorities are hard to come by, normally, unless you
use some kind of proxy voting, and most people name a proxy, or
remote voting is used -- which would be normal with Asset for
collecting direct votes by electors.

(Procedural rules would address the difficulties, certain questions,
mostly procedural, would only be presented for decision by seats, but
the procedural rules themselves would always be subject to vote by
all electors, should they so choose. The Assembly could not run away
with the ball, but only play with it as permitted by the electors.)



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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-12-07 19:29:08 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 10:37 AM 12/5/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>> Something I've always wondered about Asset Voting. Say you have a very
>> selfish electorate who all vote for themselves (or for their friends).
>> From what I understand, those voted for in the first round become the
>> electors who decide among themselves who to pick for the final
>> decision. Wouldn't this produce a very large "parliament"?
>
> No. It would produce a large "electoral college," which doesn't have
> legislative power directly. As I'd have it, these small-vote electors
> could not introduce motions or speak to the Assembly directly by right,
> as anyone with a seat can.

I was a bit imprecise; I meant a large deliberative body when I said
parliament, hence the quote marks.

But your description confused me somewhat, regarding what's the assembly
and what's the electoral college. So let's be more specific. Say you
want to use Asset voting to elect a president (or some other office, but
let's call it president).

Now, the advantage of Asset is representation for everybody, right? So
there seems to be two possible ways this could happen.

Either the first round is a vote for electors and the second round is a
vote by the electors for the first outcome. In that case, you'd need a
traditional single-winner method to decide the second outcome; only that
the second round would be restricted to the electors and weighted by the
votes they got in the first round....

... or, the first round vote for an elector (whoever, including yourself
if it may be) is for the composition of a deliberative body that uses
rules like RRO to determine a true majority decision (in this case, of
who becomes president). If so, you're subject to all the scaling issues
of a deliberative body - scaling issues that keep us from simply using
direct democracy.

Which is it?

(Or does Asset voting imply proxy democracy?)
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-09 03:44:38 UTC
Permalink
At 02:29 PM 12/7/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>But your description confused me somewhat, regarding what's the
>assembly and what's the electoral college.

The electoral college is simply a term for the collection of
electors, who are public voters. It's similar to the U.S. electoral
college, but these electors are chosen by voters directly, without
contest. I presme that they would be required to register, they might
get a number to be used by voters to specify them, there might e a
pamphlet published with a list of registered "candidates," we might
as well say "electors" because we may assume that they will all get
at least one vote, should they vote for themselves.

In some systems there may be a minimum number of votes to actually
qualify as an elector, but that is under "difficult conditions," I
won't consider it here.

> So let's be more specific. Say you want to use Asset voting to
> elect a president (or some other office, but let's call it president).
>
>Now, the advantage of Asset is representation for everybody, right?
>So there seems to be two possible ways this could happen.
>
>Either the first round is a vote for electors and the second round
>is a vote by the electors for the first outcome. In that case, you'd
>need a traditional single-winner method to decide the second
>outcome; only that the second round would be restricted to the
>electors and weighted by the votes they got in the first round....

There could be many possible ways to conduct the successive
elections. I'm presuming that the electors have a means of voting
easily. It could be by internet, phone, etc.. The votes are public
and fraud could be detected and corrected. Because they are public
votes, they could be registered and even changed until some point
considered final.

I do *not*, by the way, favor using Asset to directly elect a
president. I'd prefer to see a parliamentary election. The electors
may vote in it, but the deliberation takes place in the Assembly, and
the vote takes place there.

>... or, the first round vote for an elector (whoever, including
>yourself if it may be) is for the composition of a deliberative body
>that uses rules like RRO to determine a true majority decision (in
>this case, of who becomes president). If so, you're subject to all
>the scaling issues of a deliberative body - scaling issues that keep
>us from simply using direct democracy.
>
>Which is it?

The second. The voting method for the assembly is STV, but it is not
single-ballot, and it is likely that the Hare quota would be used.
Because all electors may retain the right to cast direct votes on
matters before the assembly, it's important that the voting power of
each seat be the same as the voting power of the electors who have
not combined to form a seat. That's why the Hare quota.

The "electoral college" is the entire body of electors, all those who
have the right, now, to vote publicly vote. They do not obtain,
thereby, deliberative rights in the Assembly, other than the right to
vote. (The right to vote in the Assembly is not part of the original
Asset; the original Asset was STV-PR, probably with a Droop quota,
which does leave a quota of voters unrepresented, which I dislike.
It's possible, using the Hare quota, to have some quasi-seats with,
possibly, restricted rights, to deal with the dregs. But simply
having the right to vote, and especially if that right can be
revocably delegated, there isn't much of a problem.

>(Or does Asset voting imply proxy democracy?)


Asset Voting is a form of proxy democracy, incorporating a base-level
proxy assignment by ballot. It's not a revocable proxy until the next
election, when all proxies are confirmed. It's not a personal proxy,
the proxy does not know the identity of the voter, but the voter
knows the proxy and knows how the proxy voted, and how whomever the
proxy gave his or her vote to voted. The voter presumably has better
access to the proxy than to the seat, hence the proxy continues to
serve as a means of communication between the public and their
representatives. The seats know who voted for them.

It's different from proxy democracy in that votes are routinely
delegated to seats; when a seat votes, the seat votes with a quota of
votes, effectively. But if any of those who voted for the seat vote,
those votes are deducted from the seat's vote. My expectation is that
most of the time, electors will simply allow their seat to vote. But
having the *right* to vote changes the nature of the system and makes
it harder for it to fail. It also deals with allowing complete
representation: even if an elector doesn't manage to put all of his
or her votes into a seat or seats, those votes aren't wasted.
Delegable proxy could be used to combine lots of loose votes, easily
and efficiently, into a few who would cast them. But if you are an
elector who only got your own vote, one vote, and you want to vote on
every issue before the assembly, you could do it. I don't know why
you'd want to, it would be an extraordinary waste of time for such a
small exercise in power, but you could do it. Nobody would be
coercing you to support something you can't support.

Asset Voting does not require a party system to produce accurate
proportional representation. In a way, it is not proportional
representation at all, it is *full* representation.

The way the problem of scale is addressed is to separate deliberation
from voting. I think that's my invention, I don't recall seeing it
described anywhere else. It's always been assumed that the two go
together. Voting can be done on a large scale, deliberation requires
concentrated representation when the scale is large. Want to present
an idea to the floor? You've got to have some support, i.e., as a
lone elector you can't do it by right, you have to get a seat to
either present the idea or ask the permission of the assembly for you
to do it. (And, actually, to allow you to present directly it would
take two seats, a motion and second, plus lack of opposition, but I'd
assume that courtesy would normally indicate a rapid second unless a
seat abused the privilege.)



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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-12-15 08:36:31 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 02:29 PM 12/7/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>> But your description confused me somewhat, regarding what's the
>> assembly and what's the electoral college.
>
> The electoral college is simply a term for the collection of electors,
> who are public voters. It's similar to the U.S. electoral college, but
> these electors are chosen by voters directly, without contest. I presme
> that they would be required to register, they might get a number to be
> used by voters to specify them, there might e a pamphlet published with
> a list of registered "candidates," we might as well say "electors"
> because we may assume that they will all get at least one vote, should
> they vote for themselves.
>
> In some systems there may be a minimum number of votes to actually
> qualify as an elector, but that is under "difficult conditions," I won't
> consider it here.

Let me see if I got this right. If you were to elect a President using
Asset (I know, not a good way to use the method, but I'm trying to keep
it simple), it would go like this:

- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.
- Electors gather and deliberative body rules are used with a threshold
(to keep scaling problems from going out of hand).
- When there's a majority, the President's elected. Otherwise the
process continues.

Something like that? Or is it

- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.
- Electors gather and discuss.
- There's an STV vote (or some good single-winner method for President)
at the end and the winner wins.
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-16 17:03:50 UTC
Permalink
At 03:36 AM 12/15/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>At 02:29 PM 12/7/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>>>But your description confused me somewhat, regarding what's the
>>>assembly and what's the electoral college.
>>The electoral college is simply a term for the collection of
>>electors, who are public voters. It's similar to the U.S. electoral
>>college, but these electors are chosen by voters directly, without
>>contest. I presme that they would be required to register, they
>>might get a number to be used by voters to specify them, there
>>might e a pamphlet published with a list of registered
>>"candidates," we might as well say "electors" because we may assume
>>that they will all get at least one vote, should they vote for themselves.
>>In some systems there may be a minimum number of votes to actually
>>qualify as an elector, but that is under "difficult conditions," I
>>won't consider it here.
>
>Let me see if I got this right. If you were to elect a President
>using Asset (I know, not a good way to use the method, but I'm
>trying to keep it simple), it would go like this:

Well, it's not keeping it simple. Simple is: use Asset to create a
proportional representation assembly. Handle officer elections there.
That's the original design (by Lewis Carroll). (The method was STV,
actually, and Asset was a tweak to handle exhausted ballots. But once
you do that, you now have the possibility of single-vote asset, or of
what I long ago proposed, FAAV, Fractional Approval Asset Voting.
Most people would vote for one, but if you did vote for more than
one, your vote was divided up. I.e., vote for three, each gets 1/3
vote. Some people propose that for normal approval, but that's a
terrible idea, because it makes those weak votes. Because no votes
are wasted in Asset, fractional votes make sense from an Approval
ballot. But bullet voting would be the norm, I'd expect. Why weaken
your representative? But it should be up to the voters, and not
tossing overvoted ballots is a benefit.)

Just for a single election, Asset may seem a tad cumbersome, but
won't necessarily be in practice.

>- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.

That's right. Unrestricted; however, I'd require registration of
candidates. This is in effect registering to become a public voter,
an elector. If you get *any* votes, you have become that. Did you
vote for yourself? That's fine, and it is secret ballot. Ah, did your
wife vote for you? If you don't get two votes, is she in trouble.
Some ask these questions, but the fact is that in places where direct
democracy is practiced, this doesn't seem to come up as a big issue,
and all votes (of certain kinds) in those places are public. There is
a solution, but I won't clutter this up with it.

So there might be a booklet with all registrants who have chosen to
pay a fee that covers printing costs. Cheap. I wouldn't prohibit
voting for others, not in the booklet, but if you do, you might be
wasting your vote. The problem with allowing unregistered votes is
that they can be hard to identify, more than one person could have
the same name, etc. So voting would be by candidate number, from the
booklet. And one would vote for a candidate not in the book (didn't
pay for it, or whatever), by the registration number that the
candidate got when registering. Could be you, yourself.

>- Electors gather and deliberative body rules are used with a
>threshold (to keep scaling problems from going out of hand).

What the electors do is up to them. It need not be a matter of law.
However, whatever structure they set up isn't binding. What is
binding is votes cast by electors in what might be a standing
election for a time. Or it might be a series of ballots. These are
public electors, the votes are public, so the security issues quiet
down a lot. It could be a web site, electors are given an account
there, and they vote there. They might be given a security code
(password) with their registration; registration involved proof of
identity. What would be legally binding would be the expressed intent
of an elector at the time of an actual election, that is, the receipt
of a quorum of votes for the office. For a single-winner election,
the quota is over half of the electors.

(Yes, it could be an absolute majority. However, I'd make provision
for nonparticipating electors, inactivity might result in temporary
exclusion from the basis for majority.)

Okay, that's an election procedure. But how do the electors manage
whom to vote for?

As I said, it's up to them. I've set up conditions for delegable
proxy, one might note, and, as far as the legal system is concerned,
it's possible that proxies could be assigned and use for voting. But
I'm not sure this is actually a good idea. Rather, I'd give proxies
no legal power, except to advise those who choose them.

So what does this accomplish? Isn't the problem of scale still there?
Sure it is. Except that we have, in one step, reduced it. We may have
reduced it very substantially, we just don't know how far it will go.
The electors can choose to hold polls, they could even, in theory,
assign their voting rights, as I mentioned, to a higher level Asset
electoral college.

Or they can use, in the polls, whatever method they choose; in the
end, the electors will vote as the choose, advised by whatever
process they have set up. I would rather not tie their hands. They
represent, collectively, all the voters, and if a majority of voters
prefer to continue the damn process, let them. It's possible that
status quo would continue unless a majority specifically decide
otherwise. (Such as naming a caretaker President.) It could be that
the electors would be required, if they don't find a decision by a
deadline, to cast their votes in an STV election or other PR method
election of a smaller college that would actually meet, but I dislike this.

>- When there's a majority, the President's elected. Otherwise the
>process continues.

Yes. Full-on democratic deliberative process, with full
representation of the electorate. Because the decision, here, is
restricted, and because amalgamation of factions can take place
independently (i.e., without floor debate), the problem of scale is
different than with full direct democracy. But if in-person
deliberation is required, then it's quite possible to put together an
Asset Assembly that's small enough to function efficiently. That
doesn't need to require unconditional transfer of votes, seats are
created for deliberative purpose and direct voting could be maintained.

But the system might start with an irrevocable election of a
traditional assembly for a term, it's just a more sophisticated form of STV.

>Something like that? Or is it
>
>- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.
>- Electors gather and discuss.
>- There's an STV vote (or some good single-winner method for
>President) at the end and the winner wins.

I'd let them decide, actually. However, it could start with some
default process in place. STV is fine, *but* a majority of those
voting should be required. It's practical to hold large numbers of
repeated elections, given the conditions, at minimal expense. That's
what you sign up for when you register as an elector instead of
simply voting for someone else. You gain participation, at the cost
of participating. Single winner, actually, I'd use Approval Voting.
Voters might start with tight approval cutoffs, bullet voting. But
they would lower their cutoff gradually, watching as the numbers
approach a majority. They would talk to the candidates, try to find
other candidates they could approve, etc. The scale has been reduced,
which makes all this more possible.




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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-06 20:08:46 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

I will have to try to keep my responses briefer as I am short on time.

--- En date de : Jeu 4.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> De: Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
> Objet: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 1
> À: ***@yahoo.fr, election-***@electorama.com
> Date: Jeudi 4 Décembre 2008, 13h23
> At 09:07 PM 12/2/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>
> > > This is the "relatively objective method of
> > > assessing" election outcome. When it's
> easy to
> > > determine, in a real situation, the absolute
> individual
> > > voter utilities, "fully sincere Range
> Voting"
> > > implements it as a method. That is, if the voters
> are
> > > honest, or if their "votes" are
> determined for
> > > them by some objective method -- such as a
> measurement of
> > > tax impact based on, say, the previous year's
> income tax
> > > return -- this obviously would produce an
> objective result
> > > that could be considered ideal. In real
> elections, of
> > > course, determining absolute, commensurable
> utilities may
> > > not be possible. (There are voting systems
> involving
> > > lotteries and real bets made by voters that
> should encourage
> > > the voting of absolute utilities, but these
> aren't being
> > > considered here.)
> >
> > In your previous message you seemed content to say
> that voters can't
> > vote "accurately" under Range because they
> don't know how and because
> > the ratings have no inherent meaning.
>
> The two considerations should be kept rigorously separate.

I don't see how they can be kept separate if you want the one to
say something about the other.

> We can study voting systems using absolute utilities that
> are *assumed* in a simulation. The absolute utilities allow
> the prediction of voter behavior under various models. We
> can convert absolute utilities to Range Votes. Want to
> actually maximize overall voter satisfaction. Somehow
> arrange for absolute utilities to be voted. The
> "ideal" winner may be determined using absolute
> utilities, in a simulation. Then voting systems, with
> various "strategies" -- read "methods"
> -- used by the voters to translate their real preferences,
> including real preference strengths -- i.e., the simulated
> ones -- into votes in a voting system, and Bayesian regret
> is defined as the difference in overall, summed absolute
> utilities generated by the difference between the voting
> system winner and the best winner from the summed absolute
> utility standpoint.
>
> This regret is not minimized by normalized Range, which is
> how we imagine most voters will vote, because of the
> normalization, which equates the votes of voters with
> *overall* weak preferences for the entire candidate set,
> with those with strong preferences over this set. However,
> we get reasonably close, because the normalization error
> more or less averages out. And we preserve "one person,
> one vote," which is politically desirable.
>
> That's an objective method of studying voting system
> performance. Strategy comes in when translating voter
> absolute utilities into votes.
>
> From the absolute utilities, we can generate preference
> lists, even more accurately than a voter could.

That is the *problem*.

It's useful in that it helps you measure performance, but with Range it
is a hindrance, because you don't know how accurately voters will
actually be able to vote.

> But if I want to increase the accuracy of the vote, which
> may not maximize my personal utility (it's not likely to
> harm it much, if at all)

Well, to say it again, one's entire vote is usually completely impotent.
In general how much will it hurt you to vote for 3rd place under FPP?

> > > So: How does Range, with realistic voting
> patterns, compare
> > > with other methods. Range does *not* produce zero
> regret. It
> > > produces relatively low regret. If fully sincere
> voting
> > > could be somehow guaranteed -- probably
> impossible -- it
> > > would always choose the ideal winner (within
> certain
> > > restrictions, basically normalization). So there
> are two
> > > deviations from the ideal. The first is from
> normalization,
> > > and the second is from strategic voting.
> > >
> > > Range *with strategic voting* is better with
> respect to
> > > regret than any other method that has been
> simulated, to my
> > > knowledge.
> >
> > If this is true it can only be by comparing strategic
> Range to strategic
> > (insert rank ballot method), which is at the mercy of
> Warren's
> > understanding and implementation of rank ballot
> strategies.
>
> Yes. Except that it is only at Warren's understanding
> if others don't exercise themselves to confirm the
> approach. Given that this is the only approach that has any
> hope of being objective, and that little additional work has
> been done, apparently, it shows how much people care about
> objective comparison of voting systems. Not much. They'd
> rather plump for their favorite, perhaps.

The problem is that an objective comparison (especially one that is
suitable for all methods) is going to be extremely difficult and will
always be open to attack when people don't agree with the assumptions.

Warren's approach could be useful when:
1. they simulate realistic voter profiles (and some of them apparently do,
but again, anyone can argue about whether they really are realistic)
2. they simulate nomination strategy that is customized to the method
3. they simulate voter strategy that is customized to the method
4. they simulate pre-election information
5. they can simulate other rank ballot formats that allow equal ranking
and truncation.

In their current state I don't think the numbers can be used except for
the "sincere" methods and potentially for strategic Approval.

> The comparisons have been done, by Warren. His work is
> published and should be verifiable. If not, I'm sure
> that reasonable questions unanswered by his publications
> could be addressed here or on the Range Voting list. If they
> couldn't be answered, that would radically impeach his
> work, wouldn't it?

I've listed deficiencies here and probably there. There are no questions
that need to be answered. The simulations just need to be improved.
They need a lot of improvement and I doubt it's worth it to him.

Some of this isn't difficult, it's just again a question of how far you
take it. Strategic voter behavior needs to be made less ridiculous.
But what kind of strategy should be allowed, for (let's say) Condorcet
methods? If everyone votes sincerely, then Range will look bad. So
clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere else.

> Essentially, poor simulation -- if it is poor -- is better
> than none.

I'm not sure why you say that.

> If the simulation were designed to make Range
> look good, that would be one thing. But it appears that the
> reverse is true: Warren went for Range Voting because
> simulation work -- as well as theoretical work -- showed it
> to be ideal, with sincere votes (it must be! -- with the
> right definitions of sincere). He didn't set out to
> prove Range was best, he wanted to know.
> And he wanted to answer the question of "how
> much." How much is, say, IRV better than Plurality? Or
> Approval than IRV or Bucklin? Voting systems criteria
> don't even begin to approach this.

But if we can only accurately measure methods in the case that voters
are sincere, I'm not sure it's very useful.

> It's too much work, and get it wrong, you can seriously
> regret your insincere votes!

But if you're doing it correctly, you've decided that your expectation
is better by voting insincerely. You can regret a vote no matter what
it is.

> I don't think that
> Warren's work covered this difference: voters who vote
> strategically are likely to be those who have stronger
> preferences.

Well, if you vote strategically, you are not "playing nice" for whatever
reason. (Either you don't want to, or you haven't read the Range Yahoo
forum and didn't realize you were hoped to.) So it need not be that
you have stronger preferences, it's just that you don't care about the
other voters' input.

I am not sure if Warren ever argued that strategic voters are more likely
to be sociopathic (etc).

> > > Now, to prevent the advantage that knowledgeable
> voters
> > > would have from being able to vote accurately,
> should we
> > > damage the outcome averaged over all voters?
> >
> > How is it even clear that it would be damaged?
>
> That's what the simulations show, and nobody has
> controverted that result. It's quite reasonable, by the
> way, it's not likely to be generally wrong. How
> carefully have you looked at this work, Kevin?

What I was getting at was again the lack of basis for trying to vote
accurately. Plus the inability of the voter to accurately determine
all his ratings. When people use the intermediate ratings, the data
could be garbage, and we would never know. This isn't a question that
simulations can answer decisively.

Kevin Venzke




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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-08 22:40:31 UTC
Permalink
At 03:08 PM 12/6/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
> > > In your previous message you seemed content to say
> > that voters can't
> > > vote "accurately" under Range because they
> > don't know how and because
> > > the ratings have no inherent meaning.
> >
> > The two considerations should be kept rigorously separate.
>
>I don't see how they can be kept separate if you want the one to
>say something about the other.

Use of utility analysis to simulate election methods and therefore
their performance is entirely separate from the use of Range Voting
as a method. It's conceivable that Range Voting turns out to be
impossible to actually use, for whatever reason -- I can't imagine
one, other than pure political opposition -- and the method of
studying voting system performance through utility simulations and
Bayseian regreat would still stand as a way of comparing practical systems.

Range Voting happens to be a method that allows voters to cast
approximations of utilities. While it's theoretically possible to
allow voters to cast absolute utilities as votes, and probably only
practical -- if practical at all -- to do so where a vote represents
some cost to the voter, either absolute or relative, that's not
generally at issue in these discussion. There *is* a cost to voting,
and that *does* affect outcomes, but that is another story, I've told
it elsewhere.

It is not true to say that the ratings have no inherent meaning. From
them, one may infer sets of preferences, which are, we can presume,
sincere (sincere with a preference is not "accurate," because it does
not express preference strength. We may be able to place, should we
desire to do so, constraints on the underlying relative preference strengths.

That there is more than one sincere vote in Approval does not prevent
extracting valuable preference information from the expressed vote,
and the same is true with Range, which is as expressive as an
Approval Vote, as a minimum, and possibly much more expressive of
true preferences.

Entirely neglected in Kevins consideration here is the possibility
I've mentioned: that the very fact that voters can express
intermediate ratings, and the near certainty that some do so,
improves the method performance. I've shown how the presence of
fractional votes in a zero-knowledge Range 2 voting scenario raises
the expected utility for *every* voter, i.e., the voter who votes the
intermediate vote *and* the voter who votes the approval-style vote.
That seemed paradoxical at first. It no longer seems so to me. It
increases the chance that the vote is an effective one, flipping a
result fully, whereas the most that a single voter can do without
that is shift a loss to a tie or a tie to win; generally, this is
half the utility increase resulting from a vote which can actually
change the result from loss to win. Ties are less likely in Range
(half as likely in Range 2 compared to Approval).

(Adding what amounts to a random offset to what might be generally
Approval style votes results dithers the output, which can be
expected to improve results. I don't know about how much this would
improve absolute utility, though, if it would be significant or not.)

> > That's an objective method of studying voting system
> > performance. Strategy comes in when translating voter
> > absolute utilities into votes.
> >
> > From the absolute utilities, we can generate preference
> > lists, even more accurately than a voter could.
>
>That is the *problem*.
>
>It's useful in that it helps you measure performance, but with Range it
>is a hindrance, because you don't know how accurately voters will
>actually be able to vote.

No, it's purely that it is useful in measuring performance in
simulations. It does not "hinder" Range, unless you insist on being
able to predict how voters will vote from their utility profiles.
There *is* a model for predicting the voter's votes, but it takes as
input not only their absolute utilities, but also their assessment of
election probabilities, and this model is far more complex than just
determining a preference order.

So it's far more difficult to predict the votes, though with good
models of voter behavior in general, which would be much more than
anyone has done so far, we could certainly get better at it. However,
we can still do something, which is explore the *limits* of voter
behavior. It's a practical certainty that voters will not all vote
approval style, and they will not all use intermediate votes, and
they may use various strategies, and have varying assessments of the
election probabilities, relatively accurate or quite rough. They
might even use some internal sense to judge which candidates are
likely to not be moot, and, essentially, exclude them from their
rating strategy, except perhaps to add them in after the backbone is
built. I.e., if you decide that the only two likely winners are the
Republican and the Democrat (in U.S. partisan elections, lucky guess,
eh?) and you want to maximize your participation in that race, you
know exactly how to vote for them, for any candidate you prefer to
both of them, and for any candidate you prefer both of them to, and
you still have a reasonable option only for candidates in the middle.
You may certainly vote outside these restrictions, *but it conveys no
advantage to you in terms of election result.*

This means that it is very easy to vote maximal strategy in Range,
for the large majority of voters in the large majority of elections.
A minority of voters will want to back off on the votes for the
frontrunners, knowing that this has a cost. But with higher
resolution Range, the cost is negligible, and there are variations on
Range which make it cost-free to express a "distinction without a
difference," which really means a preference expressed without
expressing a magnitude other than zero. There are arguments to not
allow this.... Borda *completely* disallows it, making all
preferences equal in value, which is taking the matter to the other extreme.

> > But if I want to increase the accuracy of the vote, which
> > may not maximize my personal utility (it's not likely to
> > harm it much, if at all)
>
>Well, to say it again, one's entire vote is usually completely impotent.
>In general how much will it hurt you to vote for 3rd place under FPP?

We are voting on lotteries, not actual outcomes. Yes, there is quite
a risk that the vote is moot; it is by far the most common situation.
However, there are many of us, and we are much more alike each other
than we are different. However we approach the problem of voting, and
resolve it with an attempted solution, nearly always, there will be
many others who do so in the same manner. Hence, collectively, our
votes are, in fact, powerful. It's not the individual vote, per se,
but the *approach*. What we do, others will do.

There is an absolute value to election outcome. One of us may be
paying $10,000 per year in income taxes, for example. How is the tax
level determined? How is that spent? What value does the voter
receive for it? Is it a total loss, confiscatory, or is there value
returned, as with free health care? Improving the personal value of
the way that government operates -- or reducing the cost in taxes,
say -- has an individual utility. And there is much more. What is the
value of freedom? Sure, the probability of the individual's action
affecting the vote is small. But the cost of voting is not large, and
the return can be a cumulative one. I don't know that a good utility
analysis has been done, I do know that many common statements about
the value of a vote are often based on incomplete understanding.

It's obvious, really. Many people vote, in some places turnout is
very high, and it's pretty arrogant to assume that they are stupid sheep.

Many people rationally don't vote because they don't see realistic
utility in it, the options available are too restricted, their
absolute preference strength between the options is too weak. In
runoff elections, that can come in two basic ways: weak preference
indicates nothing about whether or not the voters approve of the
expected result (generally one of two candidates on the ballot). They
may approve of both, or neither, they may be pleased (i.e., pleased
*already*) or not pleased (likewise.) There are two kinds of voters
who vote in a real runoff: those who have a stronger preference, and
those who simply vote because they like it or consider it a duty. I'd
actually advise the latter to skip it: results are improved by not
voting if you have a significant preference. Voting on elections when
you don't have any clarity on preference is not likely to improve the
outcome. But a clear "hunch" or "feeling" may be quite enough. Those,
amalgamated, can be quite intelligent! Or deceived, to be sure, when
the election environment has been manipulated by those skilled at it.
That's another reason why I prefer Asset: far less likely to be
manipulable through transient spin, sound bites, etc.

>The problem is that an objective comparison (especially one that is
>suitable for all methods) is going to be extremely difficult and will
>always be open to attack when people don't agree with the assumptions.

That's true, but there are objections and there are objections. So
far, most objections to the approach don't offer any reasonable
alternative. The models used in Smith's simulations are configurable.
Don't think the models are good ones? Design better ones.

Note that as long as the models produce reasonable distributions of
utilities and preferences, they work for the purpose. It's highly
unlikely that these models will somehow select for a particular rare
election pathology.

Now, it's true, it would be possible to try or come up with lots of
different models and try to pick one which makes some method look bad
and another look good. An obvious example is to use a voter model
where the voter simply expresses their absolute utility,
non-normalized to the candidate set on the ballot. This will make
Range look very good, and most will agree -- who understand the
approach. Range, voted sincerely, under various definitions of
sincerity, is a very, very good method. But, of course, real voters
won't vote these utilities, they will vote differently. Still, it's
useful to compare methods, because I, for one, and I think others,
would like to know how voting systems perform where voters are
motivated to be as sincere as possible, which can be the case in
highly cooperative environments.

There is no law that says that political elections can't be highly
cooperative, but if we don't use voting systems that work well in
such an environment, we may be acting to prevent such an environment
from arising!

Hence I consider it important to know that Range, with minor problems
due to normalization, is just about ideal as an election method with
fully sincere voters, and that many other methods break down with
sincere voting, under many conditions. Plurality, for example, works
best in the real situation that many voters don't vote sincerely,
unless you assume that this is a modified vote with a reduced
realistic candidate set -- which we have been calling "strategic."
People vote sincerely in Plurality, especially when write-ins are
allowed, chaos! But people don't vote that way, for the most part,
and we only see the chaos of Plurality under special conditions.

>Warren's approach could be useful when:
>1. they simulate realistic voter profiles (and some of them apparently do,
>but again, anyone can argue about whether they really are realistic)

I've pointed out that they don't have to be realistic, only unbiased,
not warped against one method and for another. So, if someone thinks
that a simulation is distorting the real behavior of a method, simply
find an alternate model. If you want to contribute to the field,
focus only on making the model more realistic. If you want to deceive
people, possibly even including yourself, try a lot of models and
pick the one that makes your favorite method look best.

Warren, I'm pretty sure, did not do that at all. If I'm correct, he
got excited about Range as a result of the simulations, he did not
pick the models to make Range look good, though it's pretty easy to
predict that sincere Range will look quite good in utility
simulations. What wasn't so easy to predict was the effect of
strategic voting behavior.

People are people, they will argue long past the point of
rationality, sometimes. But it can get pretty obvious if this is long
continued.

>2. they simulate nomination strategy that is customized to the method

This, of course, would be more useful. It's *very* tricky. Obviously,
with the right nomination strategy, Plurality works just fine! So
what's the ideal nomination strategy? Kevin, it probably uses Range
polling data. But it would be much more sophsticated than that. And
what's the goal? Overall SU maximization, or SU maximization for the
members of the party? And it all depends on the voting strength of
the party, the loyalty of party members, this is not an easy task.

>3. they simulate voter strategy that is customized to the method

That is relatively easy, and has been done.

>4. they simulate pre-election information

This is necessary for Approval and Range strategy, for sure, so I
believe this has been done. It can actually be done, in the
simulations, with perfect strategy, though, obviously, if you take
this too far, you could run into loops, so I'd guess that the best
strategy used would assume some uncertainty and would only iterate so
many times, simulating polls and then shifts in votes as a result,
then another poll, etc. The "polls" would solicit how the voter
intends to vote, and the model can assume that the voter can't hide
the information. After all, just how complicated do we want to make the model?

Heavy use of serious strategization is pretty unlikely with ranked
methods, in my opinion, most voters will simply do as the method
implies, rank in preference order, and they can do this a bit more
easily if equal ranking is allowed. Note that if we have a Range
method with N equal to the number of candidates minus 1 (Range 1 is
Approval), this is equivalent to Borda count with equal ranking
allowed (and a fixed number of ranks instead of Saari's insane
proposal that incompletely ranked votes be devalued; this, in fact,
reveals his elitist approach; he wants to force voters to do what he
thinks best for society; but I'll grant that this is less harmful
than the mandatory ranking in Australia. At least it more closely
approximates sincere relative utilities.)

>5. they can simulate other rank ballot formats that allow equal ranking
>and truncation.

They should. Truncation should represent "insufficient preference
strength," i.e., preference strength below some level that makes it
difficult to discern. That's with sincere voting. With strategic
voting, it is determined by effect, and truncation only becomes
relevant when there is a majority requirement.

To my knowledge, majority requirement hasn't been simulated with
other than top two runoff, which is a shame, I hope that is correctted.

>In their current state I don't think the numbers can be used except for
>the "sincere" methods and potentially for strategic Approval.

No, there is some data on Range that can be used. However, it will be
important that more work be done, and independently. Warren should
publish, not merely self-publish. He may need help, he may need a
co-author. Or someone else should do it. The Election Methods
Interest Group could potentially facilitate it, or, more accurately,
members of EMIG who want to support that would could use EMIG as a
peer-review device. And then publish based on that, whatever survived
the process with general support.


> > The comparisons have been done, by Warren. His work is
> > published and should be verifiable. If not, I'm sure
> > that reasonable questions unanswered by his publications
> > could be addressed here or on the Range Voting list. If they
> > couldn't be answered, that would radically impeach his
> > work, wouldn't it?
>
>I've listed deficiencies here and probably there. There are no questions
>that need to be answered. The simulations just need to be improved.
>They need a lot of improvement and I doubt it's worth it to him.

He tends to move on, as do I. We can, collectively, use his work or
ignore it. Lewis Carroll published what may be the best voting system
invented, in about 1883. Ignored. What was the cost of this
ignorance? How different the world would be! Asset is more than a
voting system reform, it is practically a revolution, though I don't
know, at all, that Carroll realized it. He was just looking at STV-PR
and how to fix the exhausted ballot problem, and the related problem
that STV seeks and needs more information than most voters could
reasonably be expected to supply. I don't think he went far into what
would occur to the whole election process as a result, once *fully
sincere, unconstrained voting* was possible. It becomes
representation by proxy rather than representation by contested
election, or at least it approaches that. (The representation could
be made, in effect, complete, in some Asset systems. And that is, in
fact, what I'd propose, being quite happy with lesser implementations
to start.)

>Some of this isn't difficult, it's just again a question of how far you
>take it. Strategic voter behavior needs to be made less ridiculous.
>But what kind of strategy should be allowed, for (let's say) Condorcet
>methods? If everyone votes sincerely, then Range will look bad. So
>clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere else.

No, you'd have to compare sincere Condorcet with some kind of sincere
Range. The biggest problem with Condorcet is that voters may be asked
to express preferences they don't have. You'd need to simulate
truncation, it is very, very real. The Condorcet simulations that
made sincere Condorcet look good probably did not do this, thus
squeezing some very marginal information from the Condorcet ballots.

In any case, strategic voter behavior in Approval and Range is not
only not ridiculous, it's realistic and corresponds to what is needed
for Rational Utilitarianism, which is probably fairly realistic as an
intelligent social welfare function utilizing voter knowledge in more
than one way (preferences, preference strengths, and probabilities).

> > Essentially, poor simulation -- if it is poor -- is better
> > than none.
>
>I'm not sure why you say that.

Because people object to the simulations but have nothing better --
and something worse -- to offer. The simulation approach addresses
performance and frequency of failure and magnitude of failure. There
is only one other approach that I know of: the use of voting systems
criteria, and, until Arrow, the holy grail was trying to find a
voting system that satisfied them all, or at least all "reasonable"
ones. Later No Harm wasn't among these!

> > If the simulation were designed to make Range
> > look good, that would be one thing. But it appears that the
> > reverse is true: Warren went for Range Voting because
> > simulation work -- as well as theoretical work -- showed it
> > to be ideal, with sincere votes (it must be! -- with the
> > right definitions of sincere). He didn't set out to
> > prove Range was best, he wanted to know.
> > And he wanted to answer the question of "how
> > much." How much is, say, IRV better than Plurality? Or
> > Approval than IRV or Bucklin? Voting systems criteria
> > don't even begin to approach this.
>
>But if we can only accurately measure methods in the case that voters
>are sincere, I'm not sure it's very useful.

I think it is quite useful. Other things being equal, a method that
works with sincere votes is better than a method which requires some
kind of strategic voting, but, of course, we need to define sincere
here. I think it is ridiculous to expect voters to not use
information they have about election probabilities, and I think it
makes the job of the voter much more difficult, on average, to make
this information moot. Avoiding all "strategic voting" is guaranteed
to make it more difficult to vote, i.e., to make it more complex.
Election probabilities simplify the voting decisions.


> > It's too much work, and get it wrong, you can seriously
> > regret your insincere votes!
>
>But if you're doing it correctly, you've decided that your expectation
>is better by voting insincerely. You can regret a vote no matter what
>it is.

It depends. In Range, the "regret" is modified by sincerity. Serious
regret for a sincere vote in Range is unlikely to be deep. You've
already voted min for a candidate you rmost don't want elected, and
you've already voted max for your favorite. If you vote approval
style, your opportunities for deeper regret can be greater, just as
your opportunity for improving the result can be greater. The sincere
vote has less variation, that's what I found with an absolute utility
of voting study. In that study, where it was possible to vote an
exact intermediate utility, the average relative expected utility was
the same for the approval style vote (both of them) and for the
sincere (accurate) vote. But the variation was larger for the
approval style vote. Choose the wrong direction (i.e., the vote of
110 or 100 that turns out to waste the vote when it could have
counted), the outcome could be the worst; get it right, it was the
best. With the sincere vote, the result lowered the expectation of
"best," but also lowered the expectation of "worst."


> > I don't think that
> > Warren's work covered this difference: voters who vote
> > strategically are likely to be those who have stronger
> > preferences.
>
>Well, if you vote strategically, you are not "playing nice" for whatever
>reason.

I don't agree. You may be attempting to improve overall results, not
just your own. And this is a voting system, not a social interaction.
Yes, being fully sincere -- which can take work -- improves overall
performance in Range. But it could be more work than it is reasonable
to expect of the voter, and potential damage from the failure might
be easy to avert. The damage in Range isn't large. It can flip a
"best" result to an "almost best" result, not a "best" result to
worst. (The converse is true: voting sincerely in Range doesn't make
a large difference in outcome, overall satisfaction, compared to
voting strategically.)

In some ranked methods, voting with reversed preference can be the
only hope of a set of informed voters to avoid a disaster, the
election of the worst candidate, and, if it's a pure ranked method,
that can represent very strong preference. (I.e, by voting
insincerely, they secure the election of the compromise. In Range,
they could do similarly by moving to or toward an approval style vote
including the compromise. That doesn't involve preference reversal,
only, potentially, minimization of preference in order to overcome,
possibly, expected extreme votes from the supporters of the worst
candidate (from their perspective).

> (Either you don't want to, or you haven't read the Range Yahoo
>forum and didn't realize you were hoped to.) So it need not be that
>you have stronger preferences, it's just that you don't care about the
>other voters' input.

That can be the case, but it's actually unlikely for most people. I'd
say that if you have a strong enough preference to express a full
preference vote in Range, you have a strong enough preference to
express one. yes. tautology.

It is up to the voter to decide how strong their preferences are, and
to decide where to express them and not to express them.


>I am not sure if Warren ever argued that strategic voters are more likely
>to be sociopathic (etc).

Not sure what this means. He does use language like that sometimes.


> > > > Now, to prevent the advantage that knowledgeable
> > voters
> > > > would have from being able to vote accurately,
> > should we
> > > > damage the outcome averaged over all voters?
> > >
> > > How is it even clear that it would be damaged?
> >
> > That's what the simulations show, and nobody has
> > controverted that result. It's quite reasonable, by the
> > way, it's not likely to be generally wrong. How
> > carefully have you looked at this work, Kevin?
>
>What I was getting at was again the lack of basis for trying to vote
>accurately. Plus the inability of the voter to accurately determine
>all his ratings. When people use the intermediate ratings, the data
>could be garbage, and we would never know. This isn't a question that
>simulations can answer decisively.

There are strategies for voting accurately, i.e, in a manner such
that if everyone votes this way, the overall result is maximized.
*Not* voting this way may improve the voter's individual expectation,
or, if the voter gets it wrong, can reduces them. I don't think that
people will use the intermediate recommendations randomly. The will
have meaning. But it's not truly predictable.

Sure, there are questions that the simulations can't answer. But I
don't see any big surprises lurking there. We don't know *how many*
voters in real elections will vote approval style. From polls we know
that, when strategic considerations are absent, they use them. My
sense is that *many* voters would vote the same way in a real
election using Range as in a poll. It's simpler and easier. That it's
not specifically determinate doesn't change its usefulness. That some
voters won't express the intermediate ratings does not remove their
value, generated by those who do. Set 50% or 50%+ as an approval
cutoff, requiring a majority, and sincere voting will improve, at
least a little, and majority failure can be detected -- otherwise
Range has no indicator for it. (Approval does, of course.)

----
Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
Chris Benham
2008-12-03 15:47:52 UTC
Permalink
Forest,
"What nicer distribution can  you think of.."

"Nice" (and "nicer") is a fuzzy emotional/aesthetic term that I might apply to food, music, people etc.
but seems unscientific and out-of-place here (and I'm not sure exactly what it's supposed to mean).

I can see that such a distribution is more comfortable for methods that try to elect the centrist candidate.

I see IRV as FPP that trades most of its monotonicity criteria (including mono-raise and Participation but
not mono-add-top, mono-add-plump or mono-append) to gain Clone-Winner and Majority for Solid
Coalitions (and Mutual Dominat Third and Condorcet Loser).

It keeps FPP's compliances with Woodall's Plurality criterion, Later-no-Harm, Later-no-Help and Clone-Loser.

The "representativeness criteria" it meets generally allow for a bigger set of allowable winners than say
the Smith set, and its monotonity failures mean that it chooses a winner from this set a bit erratically.
But I think your use of  the term "pathology" (comparing it to a disease and so something  that is self-evidently
unacceptable) is biased and out of place.

I also think that the argument that IRV makes a good stepping-stone to  PR is strong. Truly proportional
multi-winner methods meet  Droop Proportionality for Solid Coalitions (equivalent in the single-winner
case to Majority for Solid Coalitions, aka Mutual Majority.)

Single-winner STV's  virtues of  Later-no-Harm and Clone Independence survive into the multi-winner
version (which of course meets Droop Proportionality SC), while for multi-winner methods the Condorcet
criterion and Favourite Betrayal  are both incompatible with Droop PSC.  Also I think Later-no-Harm
compliance is more valuable for multi-winner methods than for single-winner methods.

Chris Benham



Forest Simmons wrote (Sat. Nov.29):

>From: Chris Benham
> > Forest,
> Given IRV's compliance with the "representativeness criteria"  Mutual Dominant Third, Majority for
> Solid Coalitions, Condorcet Loser and? Plurality; why should the  bad look of its "erratic behaviour"
> be sufficient to condemn IRV in spite of these and other  positive criterion compliances such as
> Later-no-Harm and Burial Invulnerability?
 
A picture is worth a thousand words.  It shows the actual behavior, including the extent of the pathology.

> > "....in the best of all possible worlds, namely normally distributed voting populations in no more
> than two dimensional issue space."
> >CB: Why does that situation you refer to qualify as "the best of all  possible worlds" ?
> Three points determine a plane, so we cannot expect a lower dimension than two. What nicer
>distribution can you think of. than normal?  But any distribution whose density only depends on distance
>from the center of the distribution would give exactly the same results for any Condorcet method, without
>making the IRV results any nicer. 

Forest


Start your day with Yahoo!7 and win a Sony Bravia TV. Enter now http://au.docs.yahoo.com/homepageset/?p1=other&p2=au&p3=tagline
Kevin Venzke
2008-12-06 21:33:16 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

--- En date de : Jeu 4.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > So I guess you must not just assume but *hope* that
> voters can vote
> > accurately. In that case it seems fair to criticize
> that voters don't
> > have incentive to vote accurately.
>
> No. Voters not voting with "accuracy" still
> contribute well to the result. The quality of the results
> increases with the degree of sincerity, but the *worst case*
> is still very good. And we absolutely do not expect the
> worst case. There will be intermediate votes, and these, so
> to speak, raise all boats. Just not their own as much.

So, to try to summarize. You can argue for Range in two ways. On the
one hand, if voters really do vote similarly to how they behave under
the simulations, then Range is the ideal method according to utility.
On the other hand, if Range doesn't work out that way, no one claims
it will be any worse than Approval, which many people feel is not too
bad.

So you can argue Range vs. Approval. For me this is a tough fight for
Range in the absence of a way to show that voters would/should play along
with it. On the other hand one can always point out that Range won't be
any worse. But on Approval's side, you can say that it's displeasing
for the method's results to disfavor those who play along with it.
If the method is going to degrade towards Approval, it would be nice if
the degradation were neutral in effect.

Other than that I guess you have to argue Approval vs. other methods.
That's difficult too.

> > > That's right. Range results shift, and they
> shift to
> > > increase regret, when voters vote
> "strategically."
> > > This is well know, but it's an error to
> consider this a
> > > reason to avoid Range. If, with realistic voting
> profiles,
> > > they shifted results to make Range worse than
> other methods,
> > > it would be one thing. But they do not, if the
> simulations
> > > were accurate.
> >
> > Well, if the simulations were accurate, then strategic
> voter behavior
> > wouldn't even vary for different rank ballot
> methods. Everyone would
> > apply Borda strategy according to randomized polling
> data. It is not
> > very surprising that strategic Approval can outperform
> a method with
> > this kind of behavior.
> >
> > > Nobody has challenged Warren's results.
> >
> > What do you mean no one has challenged Warren's
> results? What would you
> > interpret to be "challenging" the results?
>
> Showing that they were misleading. That his assumptions
> were distorted, replacing them with more reasonable
> assumptions. Or showing that the whole approach is
> defective. Unlikely. Most people who understand his work
> think the approach is sound, as far as I've seen. If
> there are exceptions, they aren't speaking up and
> revealing what they know that we don't.

I wonder if you have ever been curious to wonder what a "strategic" voter
is, for a rank ballot method.

> > It means that given a certain understanding of what an
> "accurate" vote
> > is under Range, typically an inaccurate vote is the
> strategic one.
>
> That's right. Imagine a hundred voters, any voting
> method. If the hundredth voter can change the result in his
> favor by voting without accurate expression of preference
> strengths, under any circumstances, the method is
> "vulnerable to strategic voting."
>
> That's a definition tailored to Range Voting. Anywhere
> else we would just say "insincerely," i.e.,
> reversing preference.

Where does truncation fit in? Surely truncation was seen as a strategy
concern, considering how old STV is.

> An inaccurate vote with Range isn't necessarily
> insincere, at all. The voter has decided not to put more
> effort into determining relative utilities. The voter simply
> has not considered other than two frontrunners. The voter
> has simply decided that full-on Yes and No are adequate
> expressions.

Sure, but that is insincere *enough* to say that it's not what would
be expected by the simulations for a sincere voter.

> > > The simulations answer the questions of "how
> > > much" and "how often," which
> cannot be
> > > answered through the prior approach, the use of
> voting
> > > systems criteria. Approval Voting fails the
> Majority
> > > Criterion, according to the usual interpretations
> (which had
> > > to be modified to apply to Approval Voting, and,
> clearly,
> > > the modifications were designed to *cause*
> Approval voting
> > > to fail, because the students thought,
> intuitively, that it
> > > failed. That's what I mean by subjective
> analysis! See
> > > James Armytage-Green's study and application
> of the
> > > Majority Criterion to Range Voting).
> > >
> > > Okay, how often? It would be extraordinarily rare
> in real
> > > public elections, because it requires a
> significant number
> > > of voters to vote for both frontrunners, which is
> the
> > > opposite of standard Approval strategy and is,
> normally, a
> > > foolish vote if the voter does have a significant
> preference
> > > between them. And if the voter doesn't have a
> > > significant preference, well, there you go. See
> the second
> > > question!)
> >
> > How long has it been since I noted that this is not
> correct, unless you
> > want to assume that Approval won't have more than
> two viable candidates.
>
> Kevin, I make no such assumption. Sure, that's what I
> stated, just above, because that is, by far, the most common
> situation, even in nonpartisan elections.

Don't you think the method being used could have an effect on this?

> It's unusual
> to have first preferences be equally divided among three
> candidates.

I didn't intend that.

> That was the French election in 2002. FairVote
> argues that because Approval doesn't satisfy Later No
> Harm, voters will be reluctant to add additional approvals.
> I'd counter that this depends on preference strengths. A
> three-way race is equivalent to zero-knowledge. What's
> the optimal Approval vote in a zero-knowledge situation.
>
> A game theory approach would suggest that one would average
> the utilities of the three candidates, then approve those
> with utility above that average. Let's suppose that the
> situation is really symmetrical, what happens?
>
> Full symmmetry here means that there is a Condorcet cycle,
> I think. Let's suppose one-third A>B>C, one-third
> B>C>A, one-third C>A>B. With some kind of even
> distribution of sincere utilities, voted as such, we'd
> get half of each faction approving the second preference,
> and half not. Thus each candidate would get half the votes,
> we'd still have a very close three way race, which seems
> correct. However, if voters do think Later No Harm is
> important, and some will, the votes will be distorted toward
> bullet voting. And any distortion toward bullet voting pulls
> the votes away from a majority to less than that.
>
> And that is with a Condorcet cycle. What if there is no
> cycle, rather there is a standard political spectrum.
>
> The left is one-third, with the A candidate in the middle
> of that, the B candidate is the middle third of the
> spectrum, and the C candidate is the other third. This is
> actually quite a reasonable distribution, though political
> reality pushes the A and C candidates toward the center. If
> we look at this distribution and predict utilities from it,
> we get that accurate Range Votes -- which, rounded off,
> become sincere Approval votes, would be we get:
>
> (I'm going to assume, at first, that voters are
> linearly distributed. In fact, there will be a bell curve.
> I'll come back to that. This, by the way, is more of an
> intuitive analysis than any kind of rigorous one. I'd
> invite someone to look at it with more rigor, correcting my
> errors, and I expect there is more than one, i.e., besides
> true mistakes, more than one improper assumption.)
>
> Position on political spectrum:
> A: 0.166
> B: 0.500
> C: 0.833
>
> A voters: all vote for A
> distance from voter to B < half distance to C,
> one-half of A voters vote also for B
>
> B voters: all vote for B
> voter closer to A than to C, we could assume that
> half the B voters also vote for A, and one half also vote
> for C; however, as the voter approaches the exact position
> of B, the loss from the election of the candidate on the
> other side becomes less, and at some point voting for the
> favorite outweighs the increase in utility by avoiding a
> loss to the other side. So I'd assume that the B vote
> for A is less than half. Likewise in the other direction.
>
> C voters: all vote for C, similarly less than half vote for
> B.
>
> So we have A vote total equals 1/3 plus less than
> one-sixth. I.e., less than 50%.
>
> B vote total is 1/3 plus 1/6 plus 1/6, or 5/6.
>
> C vote total is the same as A.
>
> A multiple majority is unlikely. *But even if there is a
> multiple majority, that candidate is still the obvious best
> winner, better representing the overall electorate than the
> candidate on either side.

Which candidate, B?

With Approval it's difficult to find "obvious best winners." The
notion of a candidate "representing" voters is difficult considering
that voters, especially in Approval, are mostly just making strategic
decisions when they vote.

> However, of course, the center candidate's "core
> support" tends to be smaller, because the left and the
> right party tend to move their candidate toward the center.
> However, in that case, avoidance of adding additional
> approvals increases. While it's not nearly as clear as
> with two major candidates, even when there are three evenly
> balanced, natural strategy -- zero knowledge in this case,
> the outcome cannot be predicted, that's the definition
> of three-way -- leads to avoidance of multiple majorities.
> And a balanced election like that is itself rare. I consider
> it highly unlikely that we would see multiple majorities in
> public elections. If we did, great! Something is coming up
> with better candidates, when you have more than one with a
> majority willing to accept him or her. In tightly partisan
> races, where people place very high value on their party
> winning, and less value on avoiding a poor outcome -- they
> may even claim to not care which of the other two candidates
> wins -- what we are more likely to see is majority failure,
> *no* candidate gets a majority, and then, in this situation,
> we could have a top two runoff -- or decide it on Plurality.
> Note that what I'd support most strongly for U.S.
> implementation is Bucklin, which allows all those voters to
> first express their support for their favorite, if it
> matters that much to them. Then they can add an additional
> approval in second rank. It is quite unlikely, again, to see
> a multiple majority in the election, because many voters
> will not add second approvals.
>
> From experience, what we are quite a bit more likely to see
> is majority failure, not multiple majorities. That's
> what actually happened. It would be interesting to know if
> any Bucklin election produced multiple majorities. All of
> the ones I've looked at -- which is really only two
> where I saw the votes, as I recall -- there was only one
> candidate who obtained a majority. FairVote has claimed that
> Bucklin was discontinued with its use for primary elections
> because it was failing to find a majority (same as
> apparently happened with IRV), so this would confirm that
> multiple majorities would be rare. Primaries are really
> nonpartisan elections in that candidates can't be
> conveniently grouped, especially not into two major parties
> with easily predictable "vote transfers" in IRV or
> possible additional approvals in Bucklin.
>
> What I expect with Approval is that only a small number of
> voters, maybe 10%, will add approvals. Same with Bucklin,
> only a relatively small number will add additional ranked
> candidates, though probably more than with Approval, because
> of a lesser possibility of "harm to the favorite."

If we expect two frontrunners under Approval, I would be very surprised
(and extremely put off) if Approval ended up failing to produce
majorities. This would go most of the way to convincing me that the
incentives are broken.

> > If two candidates obtain majority approval, most
> likely one of them was
> > not a frontrunner, but a compromise choice.
>
> That's correct, if "frontrunner" refers only
> to first preference. If it refers to overall popularity,
> predicted approval votes, it's a different matter, and
> one that I did not consider above.

This is actually interesting now that I think about it.

Some six months ago I wrote a strategy simulation for a number of
methods. One situation I tested was Approval, given a one-dimensional
spectrum and about five candidates, A B C D E.

In my simulation, once it was evident that C was likely to win, one of
either B or D's supporters would stop exclusively voting for that
candidate, and would vote also for C.

So then, the frontrunners really were either B and C, or C and D. (And
C would almost always win.)

If Approval managed to behave like that, I would consider it pretty good.
I wonder if it can be tweaked to make this scenario more likely to occur.

> If more than one candidate receives a vote from a majority
> of voters, there will also be a runoff election between the
> top two.

I don't think it is viable to have a runoff election between the top
two Approval candidates. I know you have hinted that you're not concerned
about Clone-Loser failures here.

> The real question here is whether or not it is worth
> worrying about the multiple majority, simply to comply with
> a defective criterion, the Majority Criterion. Approval
> approximates Range, reasonably well. If there are multiple
> majorities, choosing the one with the most votes is unlikely
> to damage overall satisfaction much, if it damages it at
> all. It may not be worth having a runoff, often enough, just
> to avoid that situation. I still prefer it, though.

I certainly don't think it's worth fixing, not like this. It would be
better to use MCA.

> My main point (don't you agree with it, Kevin), is that
> Majority Criterion failure in Approval is a red herring.

I wouldn't call it a "red herring" but it doesn't bother me much, because
you can't tell from the cast ballots when this criterion has been
violated.

> There has been an issue raised here that we have not
> addressed: Range strategy depends on an understanding of who
> the frontrunners are. What is a "frontrunner?" Is
> it defined by first preference, or by likely vote in the
> election? We've mostly looked at first preference, but
> actually, it's probability of success in the actual
> election that would be the basis for proper strategy.
> We'd want to look at Range polls to determine the
> latter. Better than Approval polls, even if the method is
> Approval, but you'd want both if you could get it.

In my simulations I treat poll questions as equivalent to the actual
question on the ballot. So Range voters would be asked who they would
rate where. Then the frontrunners would be those with the highest
reported scores.

> In order to do it, we need a method of *measurement* of
> election performance. Enter, stage right, Bayesian regret.
> Got any other alternative? Has any other alternative been
> seriously proposed?

I don't think so. We just called it "social utility."

> > (It works when we
> > > can see it and test it, why would it stop working
> when we
> > > can't?)
> >
> > Because real people will be involved
>
> That doesn't actually answer the question.

Well, if it doesn't work when we can't see and test it, the reason likely
has something to do with real people being involved.

> > Actually the fact that you are not writing just for
> me, makes it hard for
> > me to find the answers to my questions, or even
> determine whether you
> > are specifically trying to answer them, at any point
> in time.
>
> I am trying to answer your questions. If I have not
> answered them so far, either I haven't understood them,
> or I answered them and you did not recognize it, perhaps I
> buried it in too much dicta, or I simply got diverted. It
> happens.
>
> What questions remain? I see substantial agreement in
> certain areas. What do you think?

It is possible that we are getting closer.

My original concern is to try to reconcile the ideas that simulations
support Range and yet real voters should not be expected to mimic their
mind-read votes from the simulations.

It strikes me that ultimately you don't really need the simulations,
because you can argue in any case that Range will be at worst as good
as Approval. If you can sell Approval you can start selling Range,
basically.

Kevin Venzke



----
Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-09 02:40:02 UTC
Permalink
At 04:33 PM 12/6/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:

>So, to try to summarize. You can argue for Range in two ways. On the
>one hand, if voters really do vote similarly to how they behave under
>the simulations, then Range is the ideal method according to utility.
>On the other hand, if Range doesn't work out that way, no one claims
>it will be any worse than Approval, which many people feel is not too
>bad.

Right. In reality, Range will improve results. A little. What we
don't know is how much. But Range, unless perhaps it is afflicted by
poor ballot design, improper suggestions to voters, or bad voter
education, isn't going to make things worse. Range is nothing other
than Approval with fractional votes allowed. Just as Approval is
nothing other than Plurality with voting on more than one candidate
allowed. (I.e., it is quite analogous to common practice with
multiple conflicting initiatives, especially if there is a majority
requirement, where the analogy is practically exact. The vote on each
candidate is Yes/No. If two get a majority, the one with the most
votes wins. In initiative practice, if none get a majority, they all
fail. There is no runoff, but they could be proposed all over again....)

The procedure should be described as "voting," not "rating," just as
preferential ballots I've seen for RCV in the U.S. only call the
votes "choices." They do not use the word preference, and voting
doesn't make a statement about preference. But, nevertheless, that is
what people will do, mostly, almost all the time. My guess is that
most don't go far down the allowed ranks, my guess is that a majority
of ballots are truncated, but I don't know, it's not apparent from
the results because most of the truncations would be for frontrunners
in first choice. But it would be in the ballot images available from
San Francisco.

>So you can argue Range vs. Approval. For me this is a tough fight for
>Range in the absence of a way to show that voters would/should play along
>with it. On the other hand one can always point out that Range won't be
>any worse. But on Approval's side, you can say that it's displeasing
>for the method's results to disfavor those who play along with it.
>If the method is going to degrade towards Approval, it would be nice if
>the degradation were neutral in effect.

This repeats the misconception -- or mistaken emphasis -- that I've
been struggling against. Range does not "disfavor" those who "play
along with it." Any "harm" to them is small; as I've written, an
almost-ideal result instead of the fully-ideal one. I haven't seen
studies on the variability, i.e., *how much* does an impaired result
affect the sincere voters. There is no particular reason to expect
that sincere voters will be specially concentrated into those who
prefer one option, with maximizers concentrated into another, and
that is what it takes to get more impact on outcome, otherwise the
maximizers cancel or average each other out.

However, it's very important to recognize that I'm not proposing
Range for immediate use in political elections. In another post
today, I list three immediate priorities and I'll add a little here.

(1) Act to prevent the replacement of Top Two Runoff by Instant
Runoff Voting, particularly for nonpartisan elections, but also for
partisan ones. This is a step backwards, typically satisfying cost
concerns, supposedly -- that's probably a misrepresentation, or at
least exaggerated -- at the cost of better results. It is arguable
with a straight face that IRV is an improvement over Plurality for
partisan elections. But there are better options that are cheaper and
that perform better under the contingency that a third party actually
benefits from the improvement and rises in popularity, bring IRV to
Center Squeeze, which is generally considered a serious problem.

(2) Suggest Approval or Bucklin or other advanced method for use with
Top Two Runoff primaries, thus addressing the major known problem
with TTR, which is also Center Squeeze.

(3) Make it known that Approval is a cost-free reform, a drastic
improvement over Plurality. It really ought to be a no-brainer, if
the choice is Plurality or Approval.

(4) Make it known that Bucklin is "instant runoff Approval." It
answers the major objection raised to Approval, the inability to
express a favorite. It was widely used in the U.S. at one time, and
it is a bit of a mystery why it disappeared, but there are political
forces that, here, would act against any preferential voting system.
It doesn't technically satisfy Later-No-Harm, but its violation of
that is mild. It does not suffer from Center Squeeze, because it is
an Approval method which probably encourages broader use of
additional preferences. As an primary for TTR, it becomes even
better. (Bucklin has low counting cost as well, and, once a decision
is made to count a rank, all the votes are counted, thus it falls
under my Count All the Votes campaign. -- and I prefer that all the
votes be counted even if they are not necessary to determine a
winner, this will, in the long run, encourage more use of additional
preferences, and it is less work to count the votes than the public
put into casting them, I consider it rude not to count them.)

(5) Let Range's optimality be known, but I would not put much effort
into public implementations yet. Approval is a Range method, and
would educate voters as to how to vote effectively in Range. Then
adding additional flexibility allows more accurate voting, even
though many voters won't use it. The additional cost is small to nothing.

(6) Among voting systems theorists and those similarly interested,
encourage and develop the use of utility analysis and simulations to
compare voting systems, improving the models used. Work to develop
consensus on the application of these methods. Compare simulation
results with real elections where practical, or, working backwards,
infer or constrain models from real voting patterns.

>Other than that I guess you have to argue Approval vs. other methods.
>That's difficult too.

In the U.S. situation, which I'm mostly concerned with, the concerns
I state above are paramount. Condorcet methods are certainly
respectable, but it is easier to implement Approval or Bucklin or,
for that matter, Range. I find that it's easy enough to use Condorcet
analysis on a Range ballot, particularly if we are only going to test
if any candidate beats the Range winner with pairwise analysis, using
that information to determine a need for a runoff. So, I could see
this sequence:

1. Top Two Runoff. If it's there, keep it!
2. Bucklin primary. (probably skip Approval, though that's an option,
with Bucklin following)
3. Fractional vote options. [This could run into constitutional objections.]
4. Condorcet analysis on ballot data, as an additional trigger for runoff.

An ideal ballot would be full-on Range, but I've suggested elsewhere
that the votes could be phased in, similar to Bucklin, and a voter
might even be able to prevent the uncovering of a lower preference
until it's clear that the first preference would be eliminated if
bottom elimination were used. This would not be full LNH
compatibility, as it is usually stated, but it would be in substance.

Which is more "harm to the favorite," being eliminated because second
preference votes from other voters, possibly *many*, can't be
considered, or not being eliminated but not winning because the voter
added another preference? Contrary to what is usually said about
this, with respect to Approval or Bucklin, the voter's ballot, when
the second preference is counted and added in, doesn't actually count
*against* the favorite, it merely turns into an effective abstention
in that pairwise race. I find it weird to call this "harm."


>I wonder if you have ever been curious to wonder what a "strategic" voter
>is, for a rank ballot method.

Nah, curiosity killed the cat.

I've done a fair amount of reading on this, but who remembers
anything? Often not me.

http://condorcet.org/rp/strategy.shtml has this:

>Strategic voting occurs when a voter does not vote his or her true
>preference, in the hopes that a false one will get a better result.
>All the methods that people suggest adopting (including plurality)
>have some element of strategy. Ranked Pairs is no exception.

Note that the definition does not apply to Approval or Range. The
first part implies a "true preference" which is not voted, and that
can happen with these methods, but the second part gives a motive for
this (which is often a part of the definition: "in the hopes that a
false one will get a better result." It seems that some might want to
change this to "in the hopes that not expressing it will get a better
result." That is actually quite a different statement, in some
senses. The meaning that the writer had in mind is clear: the
expression of a false preference, not the nonexpression of a true one.

http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/3/7/3/4/p137347_index.html
has this:

>A strategic vote is generally considered a vote for a second-best
>alternative that has a greater chance of winning than a preferred
>alternative. In this study, rates of strategic voting and
>misrepresentation of preferences are estimated in a model ...

The author, again, has "misrepresentation of preferences" in mind.
The definition is worded such that it could apply to multiple votes
in Open Voting.

I looked at a lot of papers and the usage of "strategic voting" was,
first of all, mostly with reference to Plurality, but, then to
preference reversal. Now, I didn't include "Approval Voting" in my
search term. What interests me here is how the term came to be used
in a highly perjorative sense with application to Approval voting.
The best place to see this may be with Saari's weird paper:

Is Approval Voting an Unmitigated Evil? A Response to Brams,
Fishburn, and Merrill. Happens to be a copy at

http://rangevoting.org/UnmitEvil.pdf

He claims to show that "AV is one of the most susceptible systems to
manipulation by small groups of voters (e.g., the outcome could be
determined by small, maverick groups.)"

"Manipulation" carries with it the smell of strategic voting. These
are "small" groups, and should small groups of voters be able to
determine an election outcome? They certainly can if the rest of the
electorate is essentially tied! "Maverick" What does that have to do
with it? Let's see what he does. As I proceed with reading the paper
how he begins by repeating the claim, without evidence, but with
simply variations of the claim:

"The more negative features of AV." "AV gets bad grades." "Why should
we consider a voting system with defects so serious that they violate
the purpose of an election?" All this, before he's actually stated
the defects, other than to give one of them a name: indeterminacy. I
agree, though, with Smith: Saari is incoherent. This paper was way
below a standard expected in peer-reviewed material.

So what kind of example does he have in mind. First of all, it's
pretty frustrating to read this paper. It is mostly repetition of the
claim that Approval is a terrible system because it is indeterminate
and this can produce awful rules, why should we use such a horrible
method, Saari's paper is worse than a badly-written rant on this
list. It's even worse than my writing! Yet there is was in Public Choice, 1988.

Out of 10,000 voters ranking the candidates A, B, C, 9,999 believe
that A will do an excellent job, that B is quite mediocre but much
preferred to C, and that C is an absolute disaster. The last voter
prefers C but believes that B is much better than A. Using "BFM's
recommended strategy of mean utility," each voter votes for his or
her top two choices. The AV tally for the first 9,999 voters is a tie
vote between A and B. This tie is broken between A and B when the
last voter votes. So excellence is the clear choice of these voters,
but AV selects mediocrity. And then he refers to small groups of
mavericks altering the outcome.

This is really appalling. Is he pulling our leg? Apparently not. He
believes what he's writing, it seems. "Excellence" was not the "clear
choice" of those voters. Saari imagined that they had a preference
profile that would imply excellence as the choice, but they
*certainly* did not choose to actually *make* that choice. Rather,
they indicated indifference, all 9,999 of them. How does Saari
justify this bizarre voting pattern?

By the way, the C voter is rational. I'd vote that way if I were C,
because B is clearly an improvement over the expected outcome, if C
has any clue as to the context. The only way that the 9,999 voter
votes are rational is that none of them have any clue about how the
others might vote. It's zero knowledge. "Mean utility" as a strategy
would be used on with zero knowledge, as one option, and I've
discussed elsewhere in this series of posts that voting mean utility
as an approval cutoff, is probably a Bad Idea, there is a better way
of estimating zero-knowledge election utilities, which is to assume
that the average voter is like you. It's true more often than not.
Real voters, absent a rough assessment of probabilities, are likely
to bullet vote unless their preference strength is small. Saari's
example is preposterous, it posited absolutely uniform decisions by
9,999 voters, when, in fact, the voters are not identical, they are
spread, they will make different decisions. In a real election like
this, with, somehow, the voters would differ in their decisions of
where to place the approval cutoff and, as it must be noted, if even
one doesn't vote for B, it's a tie, and if 2, still a tiny, tiny
percentage, don't vote for B, excellence wins.

The problem here is that the voters do *not* vote with any real
strategy, as we have been discussing strategic voting, they vote with
a mindless rule that Saari seems to think was recommended. I agree
that Brams and Fishburn may have overestimated the degree to which
voters will add additional approvals. Results with Bucklin in primary
elections seem to have shown that only about 11 percent of voters did
so, and Bucklin makes it easier to add approvals, because they are
not counted at first. Majority failure was apparently common, as one
might expect. Bucklin doesn't fix all problems! The key would be to
hold a runoff when there is majority failure, and, in fact, IRV had
similar problems when used for primaries in the U.S., I understand;
and IRV was replaced with top two runoff as a reform.

Dhillon and Mertens get it right: they think that Approval voters
will vote VNM utilities, not raw utilities with some mindless mean as
a cutoff. If 9,999 voters express indifference between A and B, *of
course* a single voter can make the choice! Those weren't voters,
they were figments.

I was looking for usages of "strategic voting," but came across this
Saari paper again. Sorry.






>Where does truncation fit in? Surely truncation was seen as a strategy
>concern, considering how old STV is.

Truncation as a strategy is problematic. It's simply equal-ranking
bottom. It does not express preference, and if there are meaningful
preferences there, we could consider the vote inaccurate. But it is
not insincere. Truncation does two things: it is effectively a vote
against all those candidates, or, more accurately, the expressed
votes are votes against all the nonranked candidates, it expresses
indifference between them, and it may cause majority failure if that
is required.

And if a majority is required, truncation is a sincere strategy that
clearly can improve the outcome. It's sincere because it really does
state that one prefers all the ranked candidates to the ones not
ranked, which is the necessary for the effect to be an improvement,
and because if none of the "approved candidates" -- those receiving
votes -- are elected, the remaining effect of the vote is to cause a
runoff or further process where one of these or even one better may
win. And the voter can decide later if preference strengths make it
worth voting in the runoff.

Indeed, with IRV, truncation allowed and a majority required (the
Robert's Rules version), truncation even after the first preference
can be a reasonable strategy. To me, the issue is whether or not the
voter prefers to rank another candidate or to cause majority failure.
If I'd rather see majority failure, there is where I stop ranking.
*And this improves outcomes, not just for me, but for the overall
result, and how much depends on the method.*


> > An inaccurate vote with Range isn't necessarily
> > insincere, at all. The voter has decided not to put more
> > effort into determining relative utilities. The voter simply
> > has not considered other than two frontrunners. The voter
> > has simply decided that full-on Yes and No are adequate
> > expressions.
>
>Sure, but that is insincere *enough* to say that it's not what would
>be expected by the simulations for a sincere voter.

That's because "sincere voter" in Range is specially defined to
include an accurate representation of relative utilities, generally.
That's "sincere Range" in the simulations. I don't think that
inaccuracy was considered. Naturally, better models would do so.

But these aren't going to change relative results much, I'm pretty confident.
>With Approval it's difficult to find "obvious best winners." The
>notion of a candidate "representing" voters is difficult considering
>that voters, especially in Approval, are mostly just making strategic
>decisions when they vote.

Well, no. They are combining utilities and preference order
information with probabilities. The former are most important, the
votes are meaningless without them. The vote will vary between bullet
voting and antiplurality. The Saari example was actually
antiplurality. Utterly the opposite of what I'd expect in real
Approval elections. In a deliberative environment, if Approval is
used to speed things up, the expectation would be that you would not
add additional approvals unless the preference strength is weak
enough that you'd rather see the process terminate earlier than
later. With significant preferences, you would start with a bullet
vote, then, each new election, you would lower the approval cutoff
until a majority is finally found. Those who resist adding additional
approvals have higher absolute preference strength, it is practically
necessary.

And that's how it actually works in a real environment where a
majority is required. Quite often, depending on how many candidates
there are, a majority is found in the first ballot. But with many
candidates each with many supporters, majority failure becomes the
norm, especially in the first round.

>If we expect two frontrunners under Approval, I would be very surprised
>(and extremely put off) if Approval ended up failing to produce
>majorities. This would go most of the way to convincing me that the
>incentives are broken.

Well, maybe, but you would be foolish to expect Approval to be *much*
better than Plurality at finding a majority. IRV does a little better
(I mean real majority, of course). Bucklin probably a little better
at that. Approval will probably be not as good as Bucklin at finding
majorities.

Approval, one has to understand, is the no-cost reform, not the ideal
one. It's a great place to start, because it sets up the idea of
voting independently on each candidate. That's necessary for SWF maximization.


> > > If two candidates obtain majority approval, most
> > likely one of them was
> > > not a frontrunner, but a compromise choice.
> >
> > That's correct, if "frontrunner" refers only
> > to first preference. If it refers to overall popularity,
> > predicted approval votes, it's a different matter, and
> > one that I did not consider above.
>
>This is actually interesting now that I think about it.

Right. However, it's addressed pretty effectively by polling for
expected votes given the voting system. If the voters know that the
real race is between A and B, not A and C, they will tend to place
the approval cutoff between A and B, thus discriminating between two
good candidates, perhaps. If the significantly worse candidate, C, is
in Range of winning, voters will shift their approval cutoff to be
making the important choice, between the A,B set and C.


>Some six months ago I wrote a strategy simulation for a number of
>methods. One situation I tested was Approval, given a one-dimensional
>spectrum and about five candidates, A B C D E.
>
>In my simulation, once it was evident that C was likely to win, one of
>either B or D's supporters would stop exclusively voting for that
>candidate, and would vote also for C.

B and D voters are motivated to ensure that C wins if their favorite
doesn't. Hence Approval will tend to find a compromise. If B or D are
not relevant, can't win, they *may* also vote for B or D, so I'm not
sure that the simulation was accurate. The vote would depend on
preference strenth in the pair involving C and their favorite. If
weak, more likely to also approve, but, note, this doesn't, by
definition, affect the outcome unless they have bad information.

In a real situation, the likelihood of bullet voting varies with
utility distance, i.e, preference strength. If we look at a voter
equidistant between B and C, the voter may actually have minimal
preference between B and C and even have difficulty deciding which to
vote for as a first preference. For some region between B and C
voting for both in Approval will be common.

As C becomes a frontrunner, and unless B is a frontrunner also, the
probability that the voter, considering this, will also vote for C
increases. It's simply VNM utilities. You place the vote strength
where your limited investment can make a difference. In Approval and
Range you have a full vote to "spend." If we lay the candidates out
in a spectrum, in preference order, accurately, where we place the
vote is only proportional to the absolute preference strength in a
true zero knowledge vote. The real vote will depend both on the
preference strength and on the probability of the vote making a
difference. No such probability, the preference order remains the
same, but no vote strength is invested in the election pair, and
approval allows you to place that vote in only one pair, but it then
operates on all pairs straddling that pair. It's a choice. The power
of the choice improves with better knowledge. Big surprise eh?
Approval rewards having better knowledge, I think that is a good
effect. But even those with zero knowledge of the probabilities (how
could that happen with a voter who was at the same time informed
about the candidates?) can contribute something: that's the vote that
Saari claims was "recommended," or, better, the bullet vote, just
vote for your favorite. It is as sincere a vote as is possible in
Approval, it expresses exclusive preference, this one over all
others, which is the kind of preference people are accustomed to
expressing. In the sorry Saari scenario, that simple vote, from two
out of 9,999 voter who were not under the evil influence of Brams,
Fishbrurn and Merrill's plot to teach voters how to elect mediocre
candidates, would have saved the day. Saari posited stupid voters,
then proposes, elsewhere, that Approval is a system for unsophisticated voters.

>So then, the frontrunners really were either B and C, or C and D. (And
>C would almost always win.)
>
>If Approval managed to behave like that, I would consider it pretty good.
>I wonder if it can be tweaked to make this scenario more likely to occur.

But that is how Approval would tend to work. You add additional
approvals when your preference strength between the candidates is
weak. You don't when it is strong. In the scenario you posited, there
may have been, initially, five frontrunners, based on first
preference, which was based on issue distance. But if you look
carefully, for a region between each of the candidates, there is a
region where preference strength is weak, even if the candidates are
spread apart; it's that the voters involved are between their
positions. Those voters will add additional preferences. But majority
failure is still likely to occur in a real election. Beware of
setting up an election scenario that is exquisitely balanced; with
five candidates it is very, very rare. Three in balance is rare enough.

Your simulation allows a determination of relative preferences, which
into "sincere Range votes" if you want to study that. It occurs to me
to add a responsiveness factor. Some voters have little overall
preference strength across the entire candidate set, and others have
strong preference. If this were a special election (like a runoff, as
an example), the absolute preference strength will affect turnout.
Low absolute preference, low range of utilities possible between the
best outcome and any of the others, lower motivation to turn out and
vote. But also higher likelihood of adding additional approvals.


> > If more than one candidate receives a vote from a majority
> > of voters, there will also be a runoff election between the
> > top two.
>
>I don't think it is viable to have a runoff election between the top
>two Approval candidates. I know you have hinted that you're not concerned
>about Clone-Loser failures here.

Approval is basically tweaked Plurality. I'm simply considering a
double majority as a kind of majority failure, the majority has
failed to clearly indicate a preference. If A and B both gain a
majority, and A has more votes, we do not know that a majority favor
A over B. It might be as few as the difference in votes that have
that preference, or, in fact, as would be asserted by the MC
criterion failure, it might be as large as the vote for A. A runoff
test this. Yes, I'm not so concerned about strategic nomination to
try to get two candidates into the runoff. That strikes me as very
foolish politically, the likely result is that neither would make it.
There is still some level of vote-splitting in Approval, particularly
if both are frontrunners, plus there is the problem of trying to get
name recognition for two candidates instead of just one. Not
efficient. Pick the best candidate and put all the effort into that
one. Approval is just a minor tweak.

The point of using Approval in a TTR primary is that it is more
likely to detect a compromise winner in the primary. Bucklin,
probably more. Condorcet methods, certainly; but they will need an
explicit approval cutoff. Not hard to do. (It's like Range; range
bears a relationship to fully-ranked methods if it has sufficient resolution.

> > In order to do it, we need a method of *measurement* of
> > election performance. Enter, stage right, Bayesian regret.
> > Got any other alternative? Has any other alternative been
> > seriously proposed?
>
>I don't think so. We just called it "social utility."

Right. Bayesian regret, for onlookers, is simply the difference
between the ideal result, the social utility maximizer, and the
actual election victor. It's calculated as an average, in the
simulations, over many elections with vary assignments of candidates
to positions and derived voter preferences. Less regret is better. If
the perfect choice could be made every time, that would be zero
regret. No known method achieves that, unless we make very
unrealistic assumptions about the voters.

However, there has been no attempt to study, say, Asset Voting with
regard to Bayesian regret. It could be argued that Asset Voting
creates an electoral college with zero deviation from ideal, since
every voter is represented there, full strength, by their ideal
choice, without opposition. The translation from that into an
assembly can be quite close, but there will be deviations, if small,
from full representation.


> > > (It works when we
> > > > can see it and test it, why would it stop working
> > when we
> > > > can't?)
> > >
> > > Because real people will be involved
> >
> > That doesn't actually answer the question.
>
>Well, if it doesn't work when we can't see and test it, the reason likely
>has something to do with real people being involved.

There is no question that real results can differ when the
circumstances change! It's just that we learn as chldren than when
someone walking passes behind some obstacle, they *often* appear on
the other side a a time correlated with the distance and how fast
they were walking. We learn to assume that they continue walking, as
a first estimate, when they pass out of sight. It's an assumption
that is more often correct than false.

If we know that a method works when utilities can be measured, there
is no particular reason to suspect that it will stop working when
they cannot be. Preference strength is real, it motivates people, and
it can sometimes be measured. But it was assumed that it was
meaningless by people like Arrow, because there is no specific
general metric for it.

Dhillon and Mertens finesse this: they define the preference strength
by what a voter expresses! And this is pretty much the conclusion I
came to. Expressing a strong preference takes, at least, a *kind* of
strong preference. That the voting is a lottery, and that, in Range
Voting, one cannot simultaneously bet the same vote on all pairs, but
only spread it and allocated it between pairs, total strength one
vote, is a restriction on the vote that encourages a kind of
sincerity. It is simply that this is modified by probabilities, and
economists were accustomed to this kind of choice, that's VNM utility.

> > What questions remain? I see substantial agreement in
> > certain areas. What do you think?
>
>It is possible that we are getting closer.

That's the goal of discussion, isn't it? Discussion to win is rather
boring and usually goes nowhere, at least here.


>My original concern is to try to reconcile the ideas that simulations
>support Range and yet real voters should not be expected to mimic their
>mind-read votes from the simulations.

Yes, of course. But real voters will follow something similar. It's
unpredictable, Saari was right that Approval is indeterminate, but
Brams and Fishburn were right that it is a feature, not a bug.

It gets harder, not easier, to manipulate other voters when their
votes are indeterminate. Saari fell into the trap of imagining that
indeterminacy would allow a group of "maverick voters" to manipulate
results, but his example showed something very different: a long
voter (maverick?) who votes sensibly and who determines the outcome,
since everyone else votes in a totally predictable and uniform way,
hence failing to express an important preference and ending up with a
mediocre election outcome. That wasn't really, a mediocre outcome,
that was a poor outcome, with have the SU of the ideal, pretty much.
That's big regret, produced by stupid strategy, applied by 9,999 out
of 10,000 voters who were totally clueless.

>It strikes me that ultimately you don't really need the simulations,
>because you can argue in any case that Range will be at worst as good
>as Approval. If you can sell Approval you can start selling Range,
>basically.

Actually, that's my conclusion, politically. Start with Approval.

Count All the Votes.

Like, Duh! What took us so long to figure this out? It's not like it
was never done before.

However, the simulations are important because they lay a framework
for studying voting system performance that isn't so thoroughly
subjective as the criteria turnout out to be. The measure of
performance works when the outcomes can be actually assessed, as
with, for example, the placement of a capital problem based on a
population of users who would all like to be at a minimum distance to
the capital. For each voter, we could determine exact travel
distance, and we could assume that we want to minimize, assuming,
say, one trip to the capital each year, total distance travelled.

So, as you did, we can use issue distance to estimate preference
strengths, in simulations. We can theorize at length on why this or
that system is better, but performance in simulations should
generally be stronger as evidence.

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Greg
2008-12-07 23:41:07 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the terminology,
> "Supplementary Vote" is top-two batch-elimination IRV. In the United
> States, there are or have been a few implementations of SV, and
> FairVote claims these as IRV successes.

That's not quite standard terminology, as I understand it. In the
"Supplementary Vote," voters may rank only two candidates. That's the
system used to elect the Mayor of London isn't currently in use in the
U.S. The top-two batch-elimination version of IRV, where voters rank
more than two, is called the "Contingent Vote." It's the Contingent
Vote, limited to three rankings, that has been implemented under the
name instance runoff in North Carolina.

Greg
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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-14 01:57:52 UTC
Permalink
Hello,

Here are some sections I wanted to quickly reply to.

--- En date de : Lun 8.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
>> What you're talking about here isn't even "playing nice," it's more
>> like using lower ratings as loose change to toss into an (inadequate)
>> street musician's hat. I'm not clear on what motivates that either.
>> I don't think I've ever wanted to communicate to a candidate that they
>> aren't acceptable (i.e. worse than what I expect out of the election
>> after considering both frontrunners' odds), but should keep trying.
>
>Why did voters vote for Nader in 2000? Were they purely stupid? You may >never have voted this way, but other real people do. Why do voters bother >to vote for minor parties, ever? Do you think that most of them imagine >that candidate could win?

I would say that they voted for Nader because they wanted him to win. It
is not relevant whether he could or not. The phenomenon I'm scratching
my head over, is where you give a lowish but positive rating to someone
who isn't good enough to be elected, but good enough to "encourage" in
a sense.

>> I'd rather "start" with MCA (two rating levels plus the option to
>> not rate at all) and stay there, as I think MCA is at least a little
>> better than Approval.
>
>How is it counted?

There are three slots (the lowest of which can be expressed through
truncation). If any candidate has top-slot ratings from more than half
of the voters, then the one of these candidates with the most, wins.
If there is no such candidate, then elect the candidate who has the
most top-slot plus middle-slot ratings. (Which is the same as saying:
Elect the candidate truncated by the fewest voters.)

I have criticized this method (and Bucklin and median rating, to which it
is similar) for not offering any great basis on which to decide whether
to rate a candidate top or middle. But I do guess that it is more stable
and more Condorcet efficient (in the abstract sense) than Approval. (In
my simulations it was definitely more stable, though it was difficult
to devise the strategic logic for it, so there could have been a flaw.)

>> That's not very generous. I can think of a couple of defenses. One would
>> be to point out that it is necessitated by the other criteria that IRV
>> satisfies. All things being equal, I consider LNHarm more desirable than
>> monotonicity, for instance.
>
>I, and certainly some experts, consider LNH to cause serious harm.
>Absolutely, it's undesirable in deliberative process, someone who insists
>on not disclosing lower preferences until their first preference has
>become impossible would be considered a fanatic or selfish. That's a
>trait I'd like to allow, but not encourage!

Well, I said "all things being equal." All things being equal I think it
is a positive thing that by providing more information, you don't have
to worry that you're worsening the outcome for yourself. Maybe something
else gets ruined, but then all things are not equal.

Again, you seem to describe LNH as though it is synonymous with the IRV
counting mechanism. MMPO and DSC do not render preferences "impossible"
thereupon "disclosing" more preferences.

>Entirely neglected in Kevins consideration here is the possibility I've
>mentioned: that the very fact that voters can express intermediate
>ratings, and the near certainty that some do so, improves the method
>performance.

There is a possibility. But even if voters do provide them, this isn't
sufficient to say that this would improve method performance, because we
can't deduce that the intermediate ratings we collect mean the same thing
as the mind-read utilities we can see in simulations.

>> Warren's approach could be useful when:
>> 1. they simulate realistic voter profiles (and some of them apparently
>do,
>> but again, anyone can argue about whether they really are realistic)
>
>I've pointed out that they don't have to be realistic, only unbiased, not
>warped against one method and for another.

I don't agree. If certain scenarios are realistic for public elections,
then those are the profiles we care about.

The idea of scoring each method according to an average of all possible
election scenarios, is not on its face very promising.

>> 3. they simulate voter strategy that is customized to the method
>
>That is relatively easy, and has been done.

No, this is the hard one! I don't know if Warren has even implemented
this for Approval and Range. I don't remember, whether the strategic
voters simply exaggerate, or actually approve above-mean.

For rank ballot methods Warren has implemented the same strategy for all,
and it is the biggest problem, with the least clear solution.

>> 4. they simulate pre-election information
>
>This is necessary for Approval and Range strategy, for sure, so I believe
>this has been done.

I don't believe Warren's simulations do this for any method. All
strategy is either zero-info, or (for rank ballot methods) based on
random arbitrary info provided uniformly to all voters.

>It can actually be done, in the simulations, with perfect strategy,
>though, obviously, if you take this too far, you could run into loops, so
>I'd guess that the best strategy used would assume some uncertainty and
>would only iterate so many times, simulating polls and then shifts in
>votes as a result, then another poll, etc. The "polls" would solicit how
>the voter intends to vote, and the model can assume that the voter can't
>hide the information. After all, just how complicated do we want to make
>the model?

Yes, my simulations are based on polls. Polls are a great idea.

How complicated do we want to make the model? Sufficiently complicated
that we can compare methods in realistic situations. Personally I only
care about public elections.

>Heavy use of serious strategization is pretty unlikely with ranked
>methods, in my opinion, most voters will simply do as the method implies,
>rank in preference order, and they can do this a bit more easily if equal
>ranking is allowed.

Warren's implementation would suggest that he strongly disagrees with you
on this.

>> Some of this isn't difficult, it's just again a question of how far you
>> take it. Strategic voter behavior needs to be made less ridiculous.
>> But what kind of strategy should be allowed, for (let's say) Condorcet
>> methods? If everyone votes sincerely, then Range will look bad. So
>> clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere else.
>
>No, you'd have to compare sincere Condorcet with some kind of sincere
>Range.

Look at it this way: To compare methods fairly we need to know how
strategic voters attempt to be, in the same situations, under whatever
methods we want to compare. Why compare strategic Method A with strategic
Method B, if Method B voters would never vote that way in reality?

What if, in real life, Condorcet voters just don't use any strategy?
And what if it's also true, that Range voters in real life turn the
method into Approval? In that case, the only useful comparison to be
done by the simulations, would happen to be sincere (or strategic, no
difference) Condorcet vs. strategic Range/Approval. And according to
Warren's simulations, Range doesn't win, in that case.

>> I wonder if you have ever been curious to wonder what a "strategic"
>>voter is, for a rank ballot method.
>
>Nah, curiosity killed the cat.
>
>I've done a fair amount of reading on this, but who remembers anything?
>Often not me.

Actually this question was specifically about the simulations.

>> Some six months ago I wrote a strategy simulation for a number of
>> methods. One situation I tested was Approval, given a one-dimensional
>> spectrum and about five candidates, A B C D E.
>>
>> In my simulation, once it was evident that C was likely to win, one of
>> either B or D's supporters would stop exclusively voting for that
>> candidate, and would vote also for C.
>
>B and D voters are motivated to ensure that C wins if their favorite
>doesn't. Hence Approval will tend to find a compromise. If B or D are not
>relevant, can't win, they *may* also vote for B or D, so I'm not sure
>that the simulation was accurate.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Voters that prefer B or D to C have
no reason to not continue voting for B or D.

The issue is that when all the D supporters (for example) *also* vote
for C, then it isn't possible for D to win. And the more that D voters
"give up" and vote for both, the less sense it makes strategically for
the remaining D-only voters to not "give up" as well.

>The vote would depend on preference
>strenth in the pair involving C and their favorite. If weak, more likely
>to also approve, but, note, this doesn't, by definition, affect the
>outcome unless they have bad information.
>
>In a real situation, the likelihood of bullet voting varies with utility
>distance, i.e, preference strength. If we look at a voter equidistant
>between B and C, the voter may actually have minimal preference between B
>and C and even have difficulty deciding which to vote for as a first
>preference. For some region between B and C voting for both in Approval
>will be common.

My simulations involve polls. When the polls find that the winner will
either be B or C, then it's strategically unwise to not approve one of
them.

At first, the polls report that C will win a lot but (due to bullet
voters for B and D) there is some chance that B or D will win. Eventually
the polls (which are subject to some randomness) will produce a prediction
that D's odds (or B's) are abnormally poor. This causes D voters to stop
voting only for D, and also vote for C. This almost immediately makes D an
unviable candidate, and the bullet voters for D disappear.

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-15 01:58:15 UTC
Permalink
At 08:57 PM 12/13/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>--- En date de : Lun 8.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman
>Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> >> What you're talking about here isn't even "playing nice," it's more
> >> like using lower ratings as loose change to toss into an (inadequate)
> >> street musician's hat. I'm not clear on what motivates that either.
> >> I don't think I've ever wanted to communicate to a candidate that they
> >> aren't acceptable (i.e. worse than what I expect out of the election
> >> after considering both frontrunners' odds), but should keep trying.
> >
> >Why did voters vote for Nader in 2000? Were
> they purely stupid? You may >never have voted
> this way, but other real people do. Why do
> voters bother >to vote for minor parties, ever?
> Do you think that most of them imagine >that candidate could win?
>
>I would say that they voted for Nader because they wanted him to win.

Mmmm.... Sure, they would *prefer* to see that
candidate win. But that avoided the issue. Did
they think the win was a realistic possibility?
Were they naive? I don't think so. I think they
knew that their vote would have no effect on the
outcome. (They did *not* cause Bush to win, if
they sinned, it was a sin of omission, not of
commission. If, in Range, they voted zero for
Gore, *then* we might say that they would have
caused Bush to win, perhaps. But it depends on
method details and the rest of their votes. If
they bullet voted for Nader, then their vote
would probably have been moot, not causing Gore to lose.)

> It
>is not relevant whether he could or not.

It's relevant to most voters who would otherwise
support a minor candidate. In fact, because of
the election method, it's quite likely that quite
a few more voters would prefer minor candidates.
They don't even go there because they don't want
to waste their time with false hopes. Give them a
better voting system, they would, indeed, tend to
become more politically sophisticated. Warren
Smith is right, to a degree: Range Voting would have an "incubator effect."

> The phenomenon I'm scratching
>my head over, is where you give a lowish but positive rating to someone
>who isn't good enough to be elected, but good enough to "encourage" in
>a sense.

It's not about the candidate, necessarily, though
candidates can grow and mature. Giving a small
but positive rating to a candidate could send a
message: you've got something. Work on it and
maybe next time I'd give you a higher rating.
It's also about the party. Giving some positive
rating to a minor party could encourage your
major party to shift in that direction.

But never give an approval rating (if that means
anything in a method) (in Range it might be above
50%) to a minor party unless you'd like to see
that party win. That's my suggestion. The
exception would be under serious
lesser-of-two-evils conditions, which, I'd argue,
would cover U.S. Presidential 2000, definitely
2004 and probably 2008. Those are just my
opinions, of course, and don't affect the principles here.

I would certainly have preferred Obama over any
of the libertarian candidates, including Ron Paul
(the libertarian "Republican"). But I'd have
given Ron Paul some serious rating strength, were
he on the ballot, because I want wider
consideration of libertarian principles, and
because I don't think he'd be a disastrous
President, and thus if it happened that, by some
rare constellation, he were to win, I'd not have been distressed.

Range Voting allows far more sophisticated
expression. Many wouldn't use it. That's not a
problem. It seems that many *would* use it. With
good voter education, they wouldn't use it
stupidly. If they care who wins the election,
they would know to vote high, perhaps max, for at
least one frontrunner, and low or even min, for
the other, and that it isn't, in any but the
rarest and weirdest of circumstances, which can
safely be neglected, advantageous to vote
reversed preference. If you prefer one candidate
to another, rate the one higher than the other,
or rate them equally if you don't want to waste
any vote strength. But don't reverse rate them, thinking this might help you.

> >> I'd rather "start" with MCA (two rating levels plus the option to
> >> not rate at all) and stay there, as I think MCA is at least a little
> >> better than Approval.
> >
> >How is it counted?
>
>There are three slots (the lowest of which can be expressed through
>truncation). If any candidate has top-slot ratings from more than half
>of the voters, then the one of these candidates with the most, wins.
>If there is no such candidate, then elect the candidate who has the
>most top-slot plus middle-slot ratings. (Which is the same as saying:
>Elect the candidate truncated by the fewest voters.)

This is Bucklin-ER with two ranks. I've been
recommending it. The only difference between it
and, say, Duluth Bucklin is that the latter had
three explicit ranks, and overvoting was prohibited in the first two.

I see no reason at all to prohibit overvoting in
the second rank, and little to prohibit it in the
first. Duluth Bucklin allowed unlimited approvals in the third rank.


>I have criticized this method (and Bucklin and median rating, to which it
>is similar) for not offering any great basis on which to decide whether
>to rate a candidate top or middle. But I do guess that it is more stable
>and more Condorcet efficient (in the abstract sense) than Approval. (In
>my simulations it was definitely more stable, though it was difficult
>to devise the strategic logic for it, so there could have been a flaw.)

I'd start with an assumption that most voters
would bullet vote. That's what happened with some
Bucklin elections. We should look at the ballot
images for IRV in San Francisco; bullet voting
isn't reported, because most bullet votes will be
for the top two, generally, and those votes aren't ever considered exhausted.

I expect that 3-rank Bucklin and 3-rank IRV
voting patterns would be practically identical,
for most voters. But, of course, strategic voting
patterns could differ. Most voters won't vote
strategically, in both systems. Except that they
will mostly try to rank, at some rank, a
frontrunner, when they have that information.
Otherwise they will simply vote "sincerely,"
which in this case means a bullet vote for a
favorite, to start. Then they would add in votes,
ranked down if there is significant preference,
but not to the extent that they rank everyone
above some mean expectation. And that's why
runoffs might still be a good idea. Expect
majority failure. It's normal with IRV, when
runoffs are needed. And it would be slightly less
common with Bucklin; the difference would be
significant with nonpartisan elections. With
partisan ones, fewer voters would approve both
frontrunners, thus there would be less of a fix
of majority failure, by Bucklin, than with
nonpartisan elections. IRV, of course, never discovers these hidden votes.



> >> That's not very generous. I can think of a couple of defenses. One would
> >> be to point out that it is necessitated by the other criteria that IRV
> >> satisfies. All things being equal, I consider LNHarm more desirable than
> >> monotonicity, for instance.
> >
> >I, and certainly some experts, consider LNH to cause serious harm.
> >Absolutely, it's undesirable in deliberative process, someone who insists
> >on not disclosing lower preferences until their first preference has
> >become impossible would be considered a fanatic or selfish. That's a
> >trait I'd like to allow, but not encourage!
>
>Well, I said "all things being equal." All things being equal I think it
>is a positive thing that by providing more information, you don't have
>to worry that you're worsening the outcome for yourself. Maybe something
>else gets ruined, but then all things are not equal.

You don't add the information if you reasonably
fear that the damage to your desired outcome
would be serious. You provide it if you think it
will increase your expected outcome.

Where I would agree is that it would be ideal if
a voter could control LNH compliance. It is
possible. This is equivalent to the voter taking
a very strong negotiating stance. But I would
not, myself, want to encourage this unless the
method tested majority failure and held a runoff
in its presence. And it's a general truth that if
there is a real runoff, with write-ins allowed,
total LNH compliance is impossible. Unless you
truly eliminate the candidate. Never again can an eliminated candidate run!

Basically, so that I can't "harm" my favorite by
abstaining in one of the pairwise elections
involving him, the *method* eliminates him! I'd
rather be responsible for that, thank you very much.

>Again, you seem to describe LNH as though it is synonymous with the IRV
>counting mechanism. MMPO and DSC do not render preferences "impossible"
>thereupon "disclosing" more preferences.

I think this is correct. LNH, however, is
strongly associated with sequential elimination
methods. It's possible to reveal lower
preferences but to not use them in the pairwise
election with the additional approval. I've not
studied all the variations, there is enough to
look at with forms of Approval and Range.

When Bucklin is mentioned to knowledgeable IRV
proponents -- there are several! -- LNH will be
immediately mentioned as if it were a fatal flaw.
But the "harm," as I've noted is actually not
harm from the ballot but only the loss of benefit
under one particular condition: the voter, by
adding a lower preference, *if* there is majority
failure in previous rounds, has abstained from
that particular pairwise election while
participating in all the rest. It should be
possible, by the way, to leave the second rank in
3-rank Bucklin empty, thus insisting on LNH for
one more round. That shouldn't be considered an
error, but a legitimate voting pattern.

> >Entirely neglected in Kevins consideration here is the possibility I've
> >mentioned: that the very fact that voters can express intermediate
> >ratings, and the near certainty that some do so, improves the method
> >performance.
>
>There is a possibility. But even if voters do provide them, this isn't
>sufficient to say that this would improve method performance, because we
>can't deduce that the intermediate ratings we collect mean the same thing
>as the mind-read utilities we can see in simulations.

Of course not, and we make no such assumption.
However, they do express sincere preferences, we
*can* assume. Further, there is the dithering
effect. More work is needed, but adding even one
intermediate vote causes all voters to have an
increased probability of altering the result,
thus increasing the expected utility for all
voters. This took me aback when I discovered it
in an analysis of absolute voting utilities in
Range 2, but if all voters vote approval style,
one vote can, at most, change a tie into a win or
a loss into a tie. If we assume, say, a coin toss
as a tiebreaker, this means that the most that
the vote can effect with the vote is one-half the
expected utility for a full shift. With the
prevote being Range, and it only takes one voter
to do this, and with many voters, we can expect
that the prevote totals are *not* integers, the
vote, if it affects the result, will do so
flipping a loss to a win for the candidate favored with a vote.

That is, the method being Range, even if all but
one voter don't use it, improves the expectation
for all voters, that their vote will make a
greater positive difference. Since nobody has
explicitly confirmed this result -- nobody has
denied it, either, and I've made the claim many
times -- this must be considered unconfirmed.

The "mind-read utilities" are used to judge
election outcomes, not to determine them (except
for the technical curiosity, "fully sincere
Range." However, rational voting strategy can be
based on those utilities, in a far more accurate
and sophisticated way than without them.

The most powerful voting strategies with Range
involve Approval style voting. However, they
aren't the safest strategies, from my study. The
variation is higher, they can produce a better
result, but, get it wrong, and the voter may
regret the vote. Another way to look at it is
that "strategic voting" in Range can optimize
your personal expectation. "Fully sincere" voting
-- i.e, attempting to accurately disclose
preference strengths -- allows the method to
optimize overall satisfaction. If everyone does
it, the optimization is perfect. If none do it,
we get the same results as optimal Approval (i.e,
assuming everyone in Approval uses a decent
optimizing strategy -- which for most voters in
most elections under anything like current
conditions would be bullet voting, simple). Which
isn't a bad result. Each voter who votes with
full sincerity brings the result closer to an
overall satisfaction, so, by voting that way, we
might be voting for the principle of maximal
distributed satisfaction. At small personal cost.
I'd probably pay that cost, myself. If you would
not, that's your choice, it's respectable and it
is not lying. "You pays your vote and you takes your choice."

(The result will usually be the same! Because
Approval voters tend to average out to vote a net
vote, over many voters, as if they had voted Range.)


> >> Warren's approach could be useful when:
> >> 1. they simulate realistic voter profiles (and some of them apparently
> >do,
> >> but again, anyone can argue about whether they really are realistic)
> >
> >I've pointed out that they don't have to be realistic, only unbiased, not
> >warped against one method and for another.
>
>I don't agree. If certain scenarios are realistic for public elections,
>then those are the profiles we care about.

Yes. However, we do get useful information from
simpler scenarios. If a method doesn't work
reasonably with a unidimensional preference
space, it seems a tad unlikely that it would work
well with a multidimensional one. Sometimes, in
some elections, the preference space is
unidimensional. In others, it's far more complex.

>The idea of scoring each method according to an average of all possible
>election scenarios, is not on its face very promising.

Not if the "average" doesn't consider frequency!
But the simulations do that. They do not consider
"all possible election scenarios," but quite a
limited set of them, those which came up in the
simulations. Thus a very rare scenario may not
occur at all. And unusual scenarios occur only
rarely and so impact average results only a little.

However, the variation should be reported. A rare
election outcome that is a disaster is of
interest. Again, the questions that we can answer
through simulations are "how much, on average."
And "how often." These are questions that are
utterly missed through the criterion approach,
where clever voting systems theorists dream up
election scenarios that are (1) highly simplified
and (2) often preposterously rare. Further, if
the result seems to violate some criterion deemed
important, the result shown is considered a
disaster, even if the actual harm is small, compared to possible alternatives.

To understand whether a result is a disaster or
not, we need to know more than preference
information, we need to know preference strength.
So ... if some election scenario violates a major
criterion, it's possible that the outcome is
actually an *improvement* over satisfying the
criterion. What we'd want to do is to find a set
of voter utilities that would create, with some
appropriate voting strategy or mix of strategies,
the problem election scenario, then look at the affect on summed utilities.

It's important that voting systems theorists
start paying attention to preference strength.
The habit of simply writing A>B>C and assuming
that this tells us enough means that a great deal
of thought and analysis is being wasted. It's
quite possible that A>B>C tells us less than
A=B>C, in terms of what is significant to the
voter. It's possible that the A>B part was
forced, the voter was actually unable to
distinguish a preference. So, okay, most experts
seem to agree that allowing equal ranking is
better than not. Saari excepted, and he is one
bizarre holdout, practically incoherent. My claim
is that giving voters more freedom is *generally*
desirable, other things being equal. So Range is
simply allowing voters to not only rank equally,
but to specify preference strengths, within a
certain restriction: the sum of preference
strengths expressed must not exceed one full
vote. This *forces* a certain kind of strategic
analysis, if the voter wants to be strategically
effective, and it happens that this analysis
involves the generation of von
Neumann-Morganstern utilities, which would be
terrifing if it weren't already instinctive for
us. We discount irrelevant alternatives, we don't
spend our vote on them. If Adolf Hitler gets on
the Range Ballot, so to speak, and Bush is on the
ballot, I don't waste part of my vote raising the
rating for Bush to discriminate him from Hitler.
That's if the goal is an election for office. If
it is an attempt to figure out the worst figure
in history, everything gets inverted and I'd put
some voting strength into that pair. How much?
I'd have to think about it! And it depends on the alternatives.

> >> 3. they simulate voter strategy that is customized to the method
> >
> >That is relatively easy, and has been done.
>
>No, this is the hard one! I don't know if Warren has even implemented
>this for Approval and Range. I don't remember, whether the strategic
>voters simply exaggerate, or actually approve above-mean.

Various strategies have been used.

"Above-mean" is an *awful* strategy, unless it's
defined to mean something other than the mean
utility for all the candidates. "Exaggerate," with Approval, is meaningless.

That strategy was indeed used: from Smith's 2001 simulation run:

>16. Honest approval (using threshhold=average candidate utility)
>17. Strategic range/approval (average of 2 frontrunner utils as thresh)
>18. Rational range/approval (threshhold=moving average)

Strategy 16 is awful. That's what Saari assumed
as a strategy when he gave his example in his
paper, "Is Approval Voting an Unmitigated Evil?"
How's that for a nice, academically objective
title? The paper does not disappoint.

Strategy 17 is better. Strategy 18 is not
described enough that I could figure out what it
means. 17 is adequate, but better strategies can
be described, and it's possible to devise a
zero-knowledge strategy (where the voter doesn't
actually know the frontrunners) that would work
better than bullet voting or only approving
candidates "almost indistinguishable" from the
favorite. The last strategy, except for the
possibility of equal ranking effective clones,
reduces to Plurality Voting, which isn't a
terrible system as long as there aren't too many
candidates and the configurations are those
common in settled Plurality voting environments. (Hint: two party system).

>For rank ballot methods Warren has implemented the same strategy for all,
>and it is the biggest problem, with the least clear solution.

This doesn't seem to be true. I'm looking at his
old simulation run, which describes the strategies briefly.

http://math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/voFdata

But, absolutely, Warren's simulation approach needs much work.


> >> 4. they simulate pre-election information
> >
> >This is necessary for Approval and Range strategy, for sure, so I believe
> >this has been done.
>
>I don't believe Warren's simulations do this for any method. All
>strategy is either zero-info, or (for rank ballot methods) based on
>random arbitrary info provided uniformly to all voters.

No. Simulations using "poll strategy" involve, as
described by Smith, simulated polls answered by
random voters pulled from the complete voter set.
That's not "random arbitrary info." It's a simulated poll of the voters.

The most common Approval Voting strategy is to
vote for the preferred frontrunner, then for any
candidate preferred to that candidate. This
leaves out intermediate candidates, i.e.,
preferred to the worst frontrunner, but the best
frontrunner is preferred to that candidate.
However, these votes are mostly moot, unless the
election is close between that candidate and the
frontrunner, which would require that there be
something close to a three-way tie.

In any case, to apply this strategy, the voter
needs poll data. I've argued that the voter can
*estimate* this from the voter's own opinion,
either alone or together with the voter's general
estimate of where the voter sits in the
electorate. This is technically zero-knowledge,
I'd assert, but it uses the voter's own opinions
as a sample to estimate election probabilities.
This has to be right more often that not! -- and
this strategy would knock Saari's silly Approval
voting scenario upside the head!

It's really crazy to expect that most voters will
approve above the mean candidate, with no regard
at all for anything else. That strategy would
make Approval highly vulnerable to clones, when
it probably is not. It would make Approval highly
vulnerable to irrelevant alternatives, when it probably is not.

> >It can actually be done, in the simulations, with perfect strategy,
> >though, obviously, if you take this too far, you could run into loops, so
> >I'd guess that the best strategy used would assume some uncertainty and
> >would only iterate so many times, simulating polls and then shifts in
> >votes as a result, then another poll, etc. The "polls" would solicit how
> >the voter intends to vote, and the model can assume that the voter can't
> >hide the information. After all, just how complicated do we want to make
> >the model?
>
>Yes, my simulations are based on polls. Polls are a great idea.

Smith used them....

>How complicated do we want to make the model? Sufficiently complicated
>that we can compare methods in realistic situations. Personally I only
>care about public elections.

I care about all of them, but I agree that public
elections are important. I agree that we should
make the models as realistic as possible;
however, we should remember that the models need
not be fully realistic, as long as they are
reasonable. The problem would be if the models
preferentially select voting scenarios that
improperly favor or denigrate a method. I think
that this has happened with Plurality, for
example, where candidates aren't random, they are
preselected to appeal to large numbers of voters,
and given cachet from this selection. Likewise,
the neglect of preferential turnout, and write-in
possibilities, has made Top Two Runoff look worse than it is.

> >Heavy use of serious strategization is pretty unlikely with ranked
> >methods, in my opinion, most voters will simply do as the method implies,
> >rank in preference order, and they can do this a bit more easily if equal
> >ranking is allowed.

Yes. I agree with both of these comments. The
problem with ranked methods is that, sometimes,
they come up with a poor result *from sincere
rankings,* but this is hugely ameliorated, I
expect, when equal ranking is allowed. Still,
there is still the problem of the defective
assumption of equal preference strength for each
ranking, and that limits the performance of ranked methods.

My opinion is that all the benefit of ranked
methods can be realized within a Range method,
with appropriate rules. This is best done with an
additional round when necessary, and this
dovetails with runoff voting, then, and the
desirability of explicit majority approval of any
result. In other words, voting systems theory,
the theory of democracy, and the long-standing
understanding that top two runoff is a major
election reform, all come together here. It's
amazing to me that this wasn't being considered
when I arrived on the EM list, it's not like it's really complicated....

>Warren's implementation would suggest that he strongly disagrees with you
>on this.

No, I don't think so. But Warren is quite quirky
and sometimes cranky. Further, I don't see that
he's doing serious continuing work on the
simulations. He pretty much has said to others
who criticize his simulations: "Fix it, then! Do
your own damn simulations, my IEVS engine is
published, you can use it and tweak it to your heart's content."

He has a point.

> >> Some of this isn't difficult, it's just again a question of how far you
> >> take it. Strategic voter behavior needs to be made less ridiculous.
> >> But what kind of strategy should be allowed, for (let's say) Condorcet
> >> methods? If everyone votes sincerely, then Range will look bad. So
> >> clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere else.
> >
> >No, you'd have to compare sincere Condorcet with some kind of sincere
> >Range.
>
>Look at it this way: To compare methods fairly we need to know how
>strategic voters attempt to be, in the same situations, under whatever
>methods we want to compare. Why compare strategic Method A with strategic
>Method B, if Method B voters would never vote that way in reality?

Well, maybe you are right. To synthesize this,
the probability of voters using some voting
strategy must be included in the simulation. In
fact, with proper ballot design and voter
education, I think we would see *more sincere*
Range voting, than just popping a Range ballot in
front of them. For starters, voters should be
encouraged to maintain preference order, where
it's distinguishable. *How much vote strength*
they give to this is another matter. They should
know that voting Range Borda style may not be optimal!

I think that there is room for some creative work
here, in ballot design and in how Range is presented.

Practically speaking, though, I'm not pushing
Range immediately. I'm pushing Approval (lowest
cost, biggest bank for the buck, by far, because
the cost is almost zero) and Bucklin (low cost,
probably comparable performance to Approval, or
better, satisfies clear voter desired to be able
to indicate a favorite, maintains Majority
Criterion compliance, avoiding that political can
of worms, and several other reasons, including a history of use in the U.S.)

(Why aren't we *outraged* that race and
red-baiting were used to torpedo STV-PR in New
York? That Bucklin was extremely popular, widely
considered fully constitutional, never produced
bad election results -- compared to Plurality --
but was removed or even outlawed, as in
Minnesota? One of the worst things a politician
can do is to manipulate voting processes to
ensure the politician's continued power. Voting
fraud is obvious, but legal manipulation is just
as damaging. We've had better systems in the
past, and we lost them because we did not defend
them! And now we are losing top-two runoff, a
system known to favor healthy multiparty systems,
in favor of IRV, known for the reverse, based on
propaganda from hucksters, selling it on spurious claims of cost savings?)

>What if, in real life, Condorcet voters just don't use any strategy?
>And what if it's also true, that Range voters in real life turn the
>method into Approval?

Well, the first is reasonably likely. The second
isn't. Rather, real voters will push Range toward
Approval, which isn't a bad result! But it won't
go all the way there, probably not even close.

Under present conditions, rational Range strategy
is, indeed, practically Approval strategy,
*except for some minor candidates." And that's
where Range makes a big difference over Approval,
though the effect works to some degree with
Approval (as it should! -- Approval is a Range method.)

Mostly minor candidates are to the fringes in the
U.S., so Range strategy, for most voters, would
be to vote Approval or Almost-Approval style, for
the frontrunners and the favorite. But it's
intermediate candidates that are interesting: for
the most part, the voters are free to rank these
with full sincerity, with no significant loss of
expected utility. Thus a minor party candidate
can rise in the ratings without harm; only when
the candidate approaches parity does something
else start to shift, as voters need to start
taking this candidate into account in strategic
voting (i.e., the two-frontrunner model becomes
inadequate, one needs to use a three-frontrunner strategy to maximize utility).

There is probably lots of time to prepare voters
for that, and certainly in such an election there
would be lots of commentary and suggestions on
how to vote. Some of it would actually be good
advice, and, as always, the most important skill
we might need, politically, is to be able to
distinguish good advice from bad! Otherwise we are sitting ducks!

>In that case, the only useful comparison to be
>done by the simulations, would happen to be sincere (or strategic, no
>difference) Condorcet vs. strategic Range/Approval. And according to
>Warren's simulations, Range doesn't win, in that case.

Depends. Do you have a page reference? Mostly
what I've seen doesn't disclose enough details to make that conclusion.

http://math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/rangevote.pdf

This is the full original paper, written in 2000.

First of all, we should realize that advanced
voting systems encourage more candidates to run.
This can cause some systems to experience
seriously increased regret. So I'm going to look
at the maximum number of candidates used, five.
Honest Copeland seems to do the best of the
Condorcet methods, in the five-candidate
elections, average regret of 0.14181. (This is
the run with issue-based utilities, 50 voters).

Sincere Range, by the way, seems to do better
with more candidates. Given that San Francisco
sees more than twenty candidates in the ballot on
their elections, this is interesting.

However, here we are comparing with strategic
Range, though: 0.23232. Strategic Range does
worse with many candidates (like Copeland),
probably because of the oversimplified votes that
result. Now, that is *fully* strategic Range,
i.e., all voters vote that way. This is highly
unlikely. I think I recall seeing that some work
has been done with mixes. However, I'd assume
that real Range Voting would roughly in between
fully sincere, what Smith calls "Honest," and
fully strategic. Honest Range with 5 candidates has regret of 0.05368.

While this may not be accurate, if 50% of the
voters vote honestly, and 50% strategically, we
might expect regret for the mix of the average:
about 0.14. Roughly the same as Honest Copeland.

Now, Smith examined strategic Copeland. The
strategy was to max rank the preferred
frontrunner and to min rank the worst
frontrunner, and to order the rest honestly. This
is a simple strategy, I don't know how effective
it is for the voter, but it's certainly easy to
apply, and I think it does increase the voter's
expected utility. Some voters will use it, if it
is reasonably rewarding. (I don't know if that is
true). (But some voters do tend to think this
way: they elevate their preferred frontrunner to
practically a kind of god, and the worst
frontrunner is equated with the devil. Even if in
other situations they would think better of that
devil.) Strategic Copeland came up with 0.5443 as regret.

I'd say, on balance, Range is superior, overall.
If you make the maximum favorable estimate of
percentage of strategic voting for Copeland
(i.e., total sincerity) and the minimum for Range
(total approval-style voting with frontrunner
strategy), sure, Copeland looks *a little better*.

It should be realized that these are all low
regret values. Honest Plurality is 0.48628.
(Except note that strategic Copeland was worse
than that!) Note that fully strategic
Range/Approval, which is implemented by simply
dumping the no-overvoting rule, i.e., this is the
cheapest possible reform, is quite good!
(0.23232) Almost as good as Honest Copeland.

Honest Bucklin was 0.22931. Slightly better than
"strategic Approval" and Bucklin probably
encourages sincere voting; however, I do expect
high truncation rates with Bucklin *and with a Condorcet method."

Realize that "Honest Copeland" means no
truncation. That is *highly unlikely.* Truncation
is common, very common, with IRV, from many
sources, for example, and is reputed to have
occurred commonly with Bucklin. Truncated votes
aren't "insincere," but they don't fully disclose
preferences, and that behavior, in fact, is quite
similar to strategic voting in Range.

I'd say that these results do favor Approval, as
the first reform. And Bucklin may be better than
Copeland, in practice, because the strategy of
ranking one frontrunner is quite likely to be common.


> >> I wonder if you have ever been curious to wonder what a "strategic"
> >>voter is, for a rank ballot method.
> >
> >Nah, curiosity killed the cat.
> >
> >I've done a fair amount of reading on this, but who remembers anything?
> >Often not me.
>
>Actually this question was specifically about the simulations.

Read the paper. Smith describes it explicitly.

> >> Some six months ago I wrote a strategy simulation for a number of
> >> methods. One situation I tested was Approval, given a one-dimensional
> >> spectrum and about five candidates, A B C D E.
> >>
> >> In my simulation, once it was evident that C was likely to win, one of
> >> either B or D's supporters would stop exclusively voting for that
> >> candidate, and would vote also for C.
> >
> >B and D voters are motivated to ensure that C wins if their favorite
> >doesn't. Hence Approval will tend to find a compromise. If B or D are not
> >relevant, can't win, they *may* also vote for B or D, so I'm not sure
> >that the simulation was accurate.
>
>I'm not sure what you mean by this. Voters that prefer B or D to C have
>no reason to not continue voting for B or D.
>
>The issue is that when all the D supporters (for example) *also* vote
>for C, then it isn't possible for D to win. And the more that D voters
>"give up" and vote for both, the less sense it makes strategically for
>the remaining D-only voters to not "give up" as well.

I think something has been missed here. The votes
for C are added, not when C becomes a
frontrunner, but when C becomes a frontrunner
preferred to another frontrunner. If B or D are
frontrunners, with C, and if the voters prefer B
or D to C, they won't vote for C in the most
common strategy. The example is incompletely
explained, I don't know if something was missed by me, or it just wasn't there.

No. If the D voters prefer D, they won't vote for
C unless there is another candidate more likely
to win if they don't vote for C. The only
situation where this breaks down is a three-way
tie (three-way close race) between their
favorite, with C and another candidate less
preferred than C. In other words, if their
candidate can win, most voters will not add an
additional approval for a likely and
significantly less-preferred rival. They might do
it with Bucklin, where it's more like insurance and an easier decision.

>My simulations involve polls. When the polls find that the winner will
>either be B or C, then it's strategically unwise to not approve one of
>them.

That's correct. However, you were talking about B
or D voters. If it's a B voter, the strategy
means "don't vote for C." If it's a D voter, it
means "Vote for C," assuming that C is preferred
to B. But in that case, the C vote is probably
harmless to D, who isn't likely to win anyway, with or without the vote.

>At first, the polls report that C will win a lot but (due to bullet
>voters for B and D) there is some chance that B or D will win. Eventually
>the polls (which are subject to some randomness) will produce a prediction
>that D's odds (or B's) are abnormally poor. This causes D voters to stop
>voting only for D, and also vote for C. This almost immediately makes D an
>unviable candidate, and the bullet voters for D disappear.

You mean that they stop indicating in polls that
this is how they will vote. I don't think that
real voters will iterate in polls like that.....
not with significant differences. Most Approval
studies of iterative voting start with bullet
votes. Then approval thresholds are gradually
adjusted. If the bullet voters for D disappear,
it must mean that the voters have concluded that
D can't win, hence they go for the compromise, C.
They will only do this if they think that the
real pairwise election is not between C and D,
but between B and C, and they prefer C.

But remember, it starts from bullet votes, pure
favorites. Plurality has a fairly good ability to
predict what a preferential voting system -- or
Approval system -- will come up with, and it only
breaks down under certain conditions. If the D
voters have a significant preference for D over
C, they will hold out longer, and some of them
will never compromise. Remember, not all voters
will follow frontrunner strategy. They don't with
Plurality, why should they start with Approval?

To summarize this, the scenario makes sense only
if B, C, and D are in a near-tie. If both B
voters and D voters prefer C over the other of B
and D, then C is, indeed, their compromise
candidate! It's perfectly rational that the B and
D voters, iterating over polls, increase their
support for C, but it will never go all the way.

The behavior described seems reasonable, proper,
and is effective for finding a compromise winner.
Is there some problem with it?

Bucklin allows them to maintain their sincere
preference, but, effectively, vote this way. Some
might add C in the second rank, some in the
third, depending on their preference strength.
But some will always bullet vote, perhaps even
most. Real voters don't give up so easily as your simulated ones!


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Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
Kevin Venzke
2008-12-16 02:58:29 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

--- En date de : Dim 14.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > >> That's not very generous. I can think of
> a couple of defenses. One would
> > >> be to point out that it is necessitated by
> the other criteria that IRV
> > >> satisfies. All things being equal, I consider
> LNHarm more desirable than
> > >> monotonicity, for instance.
> > >
> > >I, and certainly some experts, consider LNH to
> cause serious harm.
> > >Absolutely, it's undesirable in deliberative
> process, someone who insists
> > >on not disclosing lower preferences until their
> first preference has
> > >become impossible would be considered a fanatic or
> selfish. That's a
> > >trait I'd like to allow, but not encourage!
> >
> > Well, I said "all things being equal." All
> things being equal I think it
> > is a positive thing that by providing more
> information, you don't have
> > to worry that you're worsening the outcome for
> yourself. Maybe something
> > else gets ruined, but then all things are not equal.
>
> You don't add the information if you reasonably fear
> that the damage to your desired outcome would be serious.
> You provide it if you think it will increase your expected
> outcome.

I don't understand what this is a response to. LNHarm is a guarantee
that says you do not have to fear any damage.

You must be talking about methods that don't satisfy LNHarm. Yes, that's
right, you don't add the information if you fear it will hurt you, and
you do provide it when when you think it will help. You don't really
think someone would argue with that?

> Where I would agree is that it would be ideal if a voter
> could control LNH compliance. It is possible. This is
> equivalent to the voter taking a very strong negotiating
> stance. But I would not, myself, want to encourage this
> unless the method tested majority failure and held a runoff
> in its presence. And it's a general truth that if there
> is a real runoff, with write-ins allowed, total LNH
> compliance is impossible. Unless you truly eliminate the
> candidate. Never again can an eliminated candidate run!
>
> Basically, so that I can't "harm" my favorite
> by abstaining in one of the pairwise elections involving
> him, the *method* eliminates him! I'd rather be
> responsible for that, thank you very much.
>
> > Again, you seem to describe LNH as though it is
> synonymous with the IRV
> > counting mechanism. MMPO and DSC do not render
> preferences "impossible"
> > thereupon "disclosing" more preferences.
>
> I think this is correct. LNH, however, is strongly
> associated with sequential elimination methods.

Ok, but that doesn't make it effective to criticize LNHarm using
characterizations that only apply to IRV.

> It's
> possible to reveal lower preferences but to not use them in
> the pairwise election with the additional approval. I've
> not studied all the variations, there is enough to look at
> with forms of Approval and Range.
>
> When Bucklin is mentioned to knowledgeable IRV proponents
> -- there are several! -- LNH will be immediately mentioned
> as if it were a fatal flaw. But the "harm," as
> I've noted is actually not harm from the ballot but only
> the loss of benefit under one particular condition: the
> voter, by adding a lower preference, *if* there is majority
> failure in previous rounds, has abstained from that
> particular pairwise election while participating in all the
> rest. It should be possible, by the way, to leave the second
> rank in 3-rank Bucklin empty, thus insisting on LNH for one
> more round. That shouldn't be considered an error, but a
> legitimate voting pattern.

It's impossible for me to imagine how you could use this option
effectively.

If I were voting under Bucklin, with equal ranking allowed, I would
vote approval-style, with one exception. If I had some reason to believe
that my favorite candidate is either the majority favorite, or else not
especially viable, then I would use the top two slots.

More complicated scenarios are theoretically possible but I can't imagine
the information would be adequate in real elections to act on them.

> > >> 3. they simulate voter strategy that is
> customized to the method
> > >
> > >That is relatively easy, and has been done.
> >
> > No, this is the hard one! I don't know if Warren
> has even implemented
> > this for Approval and Range. I don't remember,
> whether the strategic
> > voters simply exaggerate, or actually approve
> above-mean.
>
> Various strategies have been used.
>
> "Above-mean" is an *awful* strategy, unless
> it's defined to mean something other than the mean
> utility for all the candidates.

Above-mean is zero-info strategy.

>"Exaggerate," with
> Approval, is meaningless.
>
> That strategy was indeed used: from Smith's 2001
> simulation run:
>
> > 16. Honest approval (using threshhold=average
> candidate utility)
> > 17. Strategic range/approval (average of 2 frontrunner
> utils as thresh)
> > 18. Rational range/approval (threshhold=moving
> average)
>
> Strategy 16 is awful. That's what Saari assumed as a
> strategy when he gave his example in his paper, "Is
> Approval Voting an Unmitigated Evil?" How's that
> for a nice, academically objective title? The paper does not
> disappoint.
>
> Strategy 17 is better. Strategy 18 is not described enough
> that I could figure out what it means. 17 is adequate, but
> better strategies can be described, and it's possible to
> devise a zero-knowledge strategy (where the voter
> doesn't actually know the frontrunners) that would work
> better than bullet voting or only approving candidates
> "almost indistinguishable" from the favorite. The
> last strategy, except for the possibility of equal ranking
> effective clones, reduces to Plurality Voting, which
> isn't a terrible system as long as there aren't too
> many candidates and the configurations are those common in
> settled Plurality voting environments. (Hint: two party
> system).

17 would be good if Warren simulated some kind of poll to determine
who the frontrunners are. He selects the frontrunners arbitrarily.

> > For rank ballot methods Warren has implemented the
> same strategy for all,
> > and it is the biggest problem, with the least clear
> solution.
>
> This doesn't seem to be true. I'm looking at his
> old simulation run, which describes the strategies briefly.
>
> http://math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/voFdata

The part that I criticize is the reliance on "same strat as 26." He
judges the performance of his Condorcet method and IRV alike as though
the "strategic" voters all employ a half-baked Borda strategy.

> But, absolutely, Warren's simulation approach needs
> much work.
>
> > >> 4. they simulate pre-election information
> > >
> > >This is necessary for Approval and Range strategy,
> for sure, so I believe
> > >this has been done.
> >
> > I don't believe Warren's simulations do this
> for any method. All
> > strategy is either zero-info, or (for rank ballot
> methods) based on
> > random arbitrary info provided uniformly to all
> voters.
>
> No. Simulations using "poll strategy" involve, as
> described by Smith, simulated polls answered by random
> voters pulled from the complete voter set. That's not
> "random arbitrary info." It's a simulated poll
> of the voters.

Wrote something here but see lower instead.

> The most common Approval Voting strategy is to vote for the
> preferred frontrunner, then for any candidate preferred to
> that candidate. This leaves out intermediate candidates,
> i.e., preferred to the worst frontrunner, but the best
> frontrunner is preferred to that candidate. However, these
> votes are mostly moot, unless the election is close between
> that candidate and the frontrunner, which would require that
> there be something close to a three-way tie.
>
> In any case, to apply this strategy, the voter needs poll
> data. I've argued that the voter can *estimate* this
> from the voter's own opinion, either alone or together
> with the voter's general estimate of where the voter
> sits in the electorate. This is technically zero-knowledge,
> I'd assert, but it uses the voter's own opinions as
> a sample to estimate election probabilities. This has to be
> right more often that not! -- and this strategy would knock
> Saari's silly Approval voting scenario upside the head!
>
> It's really crazy to expect that most voters will
> approve above the mean candidate, with no regard at all for
> anything else. That strategy would make Approval highly
> vulnerable to clones, when it probably is not. It would make
> Approval highly vulnerable to irrelevant alternatives, when
> it probably is not.

Approving above the mean candidate is again the zero-info strategy.
If you decide that similar candidates are probably clones, then you're
guessing what other voters think, which is info.

The reason this fact doesn't make Approval vulnerable to clones is that
in a real election you would have info.

> > >It can actually be done, in the simulations, with
> perfect strategy,
> > >though, obviously, if you take this too far, you
> could run into loops, so
> > >I'd guess that the best strategy used would
> assume some uncertainty and
> > >would only iterate so many times, simulating polls
> and then shifts in
> > >votes as a result, then another poll, etc. The
> "polls" would solicit how
> > >the voter intends to vote, and the model can
> assume that the voter can't
> > >hide the information. After all, just how
> complicated do we want to make
> > >the model?
> >
> > Yes, my simulations are based on polls. Polls are a
> great idea.
>
> Smith used them....

Wrote something here, but see lower instead.

> > >Heavy use of serious strategization is pretty
> unlikely with ranked
> > >methods, in my opinion, most voters will simply do
> as the method implies,
> > >rank in preference order, and they can do this a
> bit more easily if equal
> > >ranking is allowed.
>
> Yes. I agree with both of these comments.

These are your own comments though.

> The problem with
> ranked methods is that, sometimes, they come up with a poor
> result *from sincere rankings,* but this is hugely
> ameliorated, I expect, when equal ranking is allowed. Still,
> there is still the problem of the defective assumption of
> equal preference strength for each ranking, and that limits
> the performance of ranked methods.
>
> My opinion is that all the benefit of ranked methods can be
> realized within a Range method, with appropriate rules. This
> is best done with an additional round when necessary, and
> this dovetails with runoff voting, then, and the
> desirability of explicit majority approval of any result. In
> other words, voting systems theory, the theory of democracy,
> and the long-standing understanding that top two runoff is a
> major election reform, all come together here. It's
> amazing to me that this wasn't being considered when I
> arrived on the EM list, it's not like it's really
> complicated....
>
> > Warren's implementation would suggest that he
> strongly disagrees with you
> > on this.
>
> No, I don't think so.

Well, I think so, based on the page you just linked to.

> But Warren is quite quirky and
> sometimes cranky. Further, I don't see that he's
> doing serious continuing work on the simulations. He pretty
> much has said to others who criticize his simulations:
> "Fix it, then! Do your own damn simulations, my IEVS
> engine is published, you can use it and tweak it to your
> heart's content."
>
> He has a point.

I do make my own simulations.

I wouldn't let my lack of desire to improve IEVS stop me from criticizing
it. Hopefully no one will take this personally.

> > >> Some of this isn't difficult, it's
> just again a question of how far you
> > >> take it. Strategic voter behavior needs to be
> made less ridiculous.
> > >> But what kind of strategy should be allowed,
> for (let's say) Condorcet
> > >> methods? If everyone votes sincerely, then
> Range will look bad. So
> > >> clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere
> else.
> > >
> > >No, you'd have to compare sincere Condorcet
> with some kind of sincere
> > >Range.
> >
> > Look at it this way: To compare methods fairly we need
> to know how
> > strategic voters attempt to be, in the same
> situations, under whatever
> > methods we want to compare. Why compare strategic
> Method A with strategic
> > Method B, if Method B voters would never vote that way
> in reality?
>
> Well, maybe you are right. To synthesize this, the
> probability of voters using some voting strategy must be
> included in the simulation. In fact, with proper ballot
> design and voter education, I think we would see *more
> sincere* Range voting, than just popping a Range ballot in
> front of them. For starters, voters should be encouraged to
> maintain preference order, where it's distinguishable.
> *How much vote strength* they give to this is another
> matter. They should know that voting Range Borda style may
> not be optimal!

> > What if, in real life, Condorcet voters just don't
> use any strategy?
> > And what if it's also true, that Range voters in
> real life turn the
> > method into Approval?
>
> Well, the first is reasonably likely. The second isn't.
> Rather, real voters will push Range toward Approval, which
> isn't a bad result! But it won't go all the way
> there, probably not even close.

Well then, if Warren agreed with you, the interesting study would be
just how far Range must approach Approval before Range and (sincere)
Condorcet are tied.

> > In that case, the only useful comparison to be
> > done by the simulations, would happen to be sincere
> (or strategic, no
> > difference) Condorcet vs. strategic Range/Approval.
> And according to
> > Warren's simulations, Range doesn't win, in
> that case.
>
> Depends. Do you have a page reference? Mostly what I've
> seen doesn't disclose enough details to make that
> conclusion.
>
> http://math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/rangevote.pdf

Yes. First of all, I want to note that on page 19, Warren explains that
he did not see the need to do any real polls, because his profiles were
so random that the selection of any pair of frontrunners was as likely
as any other. The identities of the frontrunners are hard-coded.

On the same page he justifies the use of Borda-style strategy under
IRV and Condorcet as "plausible-sounding." It is amazing how much work
has been done depending on the logic in this single paragraph.

Also, the "moving average" concept is defined starting on page 7 and
doesn't involve a more sophisticated polling mechanism. It basically
means you redetermine the average every time you assign some status to
a candidate (and then leave that candidate out). I could be mistaken.

To answer your question, Warren's relevant remarks on Condorcet "LR" are
on page 25.

Quoting:
>If a large fraction of voters had somehow become
>falsely convinced that honesty is the best voting
>strategy in the Condorcet-LR system – but they
>correctly understood Range voting strategy – then
>since honest-CLR (#4) exhibits smaller (up to 30%
>smaller) regret values than rational-Range (#18),
>CLR would become the best system. This is conceivable,
>since I myself once suffered from that delusion
>about CLR (and also Hare-STV)!
...
>So the only contenders for the Title are Condorcet-LR
>and Range – and CLR can only compete if the voters are
>deluded.

> This is the full original paper, written in 2000.
>
> First of all, we should realize that advanced voting
> systems encourage more candidates to run. This can cause
> some systems to experience seriously increased regret. So
> I'm going to look at the maximum number of candidates
> used, five. Honest Copeland seems to do the best of the
> Condorcet methods, in the five-candidate elections, average
> regret of 0.14181. (This is the run with issue-based
> utilities, 50 voters).
>
> Sincere Range, by the way, seems to do better with more
> candidates. Given that San Francisco sees more than twenty
> candidates in the ballot on their elections, this is
> interesting.
>
> However, here we are comparing with strategic Range,
> though: 0.23232. Strategic Range does worse with many
> candidates (like Copeland), probably because of the
> oversimplified votes that result. Now, that is *fully*
> strategic Range, i.e., all voters vote that way. This is
> highly unlikely. I think I recall seeing that some work has
> been done with mixes. However, I'd assume that real
> Range Voting would roughly in between fully sincere, what
> Smith calls "Honest," and fully strategic. Honest
> Range with 5 candidates has regret of 0.05368.
>
> While this may not be accurate, if 50% of the voters vote
> honestly, and 50% strategically, we might expect regret for
> the mix of the average: about 0.14. Roughly the same as
> Honest Copeland.
>
> Now, Smith examined strategic Copeland. The strategy was to
> max rank the preferred frontrunner and to min rank the worst
> frontrunner, and to order the rest honestly. This is a
> simple strategy, I don't know how effective it is for
> the voter, but it's certainly easy to apply, and I think
> it does increase the voter's expected utility. Some
> voters will use it, if it is reasonably rewarding. (I
> don't know if that is true).

Whether it increases the voter's expected utility depends on how badly
it is needed/rewarded to compromise and bury to that extent. I can't
really comment on Copeland.

> > >> I wonder if you have ever been curious to
> wonder what a "strategic"
> > >>voter is, for a rank ballot method.
> > >
> > >Nah, curiosity killed the cat.
> > >
> > >I've done a fair amount of reading on this,
> but who remembers anything?
> > >Often not me.
> >
> > Actually this question was specifically about the
> simulations.
>
> Read the paper. Smith describes it explicitly.

I hope you're saying *you* read the paper rather than asking me to.
I have been trying to tell you what he did.

> > >> Some six months ago I wrote a strategy
> simulation for a number of
> > >> methods. One situation I tested was Approval,
> given a one-dimensional
> > >> spectrum and about five candidates, A B C D
> E.
> > >>
> > >> In my simulation, once it was evident that C
> was likely to win, one of
> > >> either B or D's supporters would stop
> exclusively voting for that
> > >> candidate, and would vote also for C.
> > >
> > >B and D voters are motivated to ensure that C wins
> if their favorite
> > >doesn't. Hence Approval will tend to find a
> compromise. If B or D are not
> > >relevant, can't win, they *may* also vote for
> B or D, so I'm not sure
> > >that the simulation was accurate.
> >
> > I'm not sure what you mean by this. Voters that
> prefer B or D to C have
> > no reason to not continue voting for B or D.
> >
> > The issue is that when all the D supporters (for
> example) *also* vote
> > for C, then it isn't possible for D to win. And
> the more that D voters
> > "give up" and vote for both, the less sense
> it makes strategically for
> > the remaining D-only voters to not "give up"
> as well.
>
> I think something has been missed here. The votes for C are
> added, not when C becomes a frontrunner, but when C becomes
> a frontrunner preferred to another frontrunner. If B or D
> are frontrunners, with C, and if the voters prefer B or D to
> C, they won't vote for C in the most common strategy.
> The example is incompletely explained, I don't know if
> something was missed by me, or it just wasn't there.

I may have supposed that B and D voters sincerely rate C above midrange
(when the ratings for B and D define a range).

> No. If the D voters prefer D, they won't vote for C
> unless there is another candidate more likely to win if they
> don't vote for C. The only situation where this breaks
> down is a three-way tie (three-way close race) between their
> favorite, with C and another candidate less preferred than
> C. In other words, if their candidate can win, most voters
> will not add an additional approval for a likely and
> significantly less-preferred rival. They might do it with
> Bucklin, where it's more like insurance and an easier
> decision.

But a three-way close race is likely to break down, just as it would
under Plurality. Eventually people realize that somebody is in third
place. They will *try* to see that someone is in third place, so that
they know how to participate in the "real" contest.

> > My simulations involve polls. When the polls find that
> the winner will
> > either be B or C, then it's strategically unwise
> to not approve one of
> > them.
>
> That's correct. However, you were talking about B or D
> voters. If it's a B voter, the strategy means
> "don't vote for C." If it's a D voter, it
> means "Vote for C," assuming that C is preferred
> to B. But in that case, the C vote is probably harmless to
> D, who isn't likely to win anyway, with or without the
> vote.

What I'm saying is that D only has to slip a little in the polls to be
hit by an avalanche of "defecting" supporters. It's just like Plurality.
And just like Plurality it's not very likely that D can make a comeback.

> > At first, the polls report that C will win a lot but
> (due to bullet
> > voters for B and D) there is some chance that B or D
> will win. Eventually
> > the polls (which are subject to some randomness) will
> produce a prediction
> > that D's odds (or B's) are abnormally poor.
> This causes D voters to stop
> > voting only for D, and also vote for C. This almost
> immediately makes D an
> > unviable candidate, and the bullet voters for D
> disappear.
>
> You mean that they stop indicating in polls that this is
> how they will vote. I don't think that real voters will
> iterate in polls like that..... not with significant
> differences.

Not sure what you mean. Polls may not work exactly like this, but we
do observe that in most Plurality elections we end up with two candidates.
We use primary elections to remove and institutionalize some of the chaos,
but even if we didn't, we would still end up with two candidates somehow,
because voters are smart and information is easy to come by.

If the voters want, or cannot do better, they can give lousy information
in the polls. Or the polls could just by nature be lousy. The voters will
get lousy information back. But they will still have to base their
strategy on this information.

> Most Approval studies of iterative voting start
> with bullet votes. Then approval thresholds are gradually
> adjusted. If the bullet voters for D disappear, it must mean
> that the voters have concluded that D can't win, hence
> they go for the compromise, C. They will only do this if
> they think that the real pairwise election is not between C
> and D, but between B and C, and they prefer C.

Right.

They don't necessarily have to conclude that D can't win, so much as fear
that they're about to waste their votes if they don't list a second
choice. This just happens to sink D in the process.

> But remember, it starts from bullet votes, pure favorites.
> Plurality has a fairly good ability to predict what a
> preferential voting system -- or Approval system -- will
> come up with, and it only breaks down under certain
> conditions. If the D voters have a significant preference
> for D over C, they will hold out longer, and some of them
> will never compromise. Remember, not all voters will follow
> frontrunner strategy. They don't with Plurality, why
> should they start with Approval?

Well, I'm not using "frontrunner strategy" but "better than expectation"
strategy, since that can be applied more universally.

If D voters are more resilient then it's possible that B will sink
instead. It's not as likely to be C, though, since C has an avenue of
bouncing back that B and D lack.

In this simulation, I don't simulate voters who don't care if their
vote isn't expected to be effective.

> To summarize this, the scenario makes sense only if B, C,
> and D are in a near-tie. If both B voters and D voters
> prefer C over the other of B and D, then C is, indeed, their
> compromise candidate! It's perfectly rational that the B
> and D voters, iterating over polls, increase their support
> for C, but it will never go all the way.

Well it wouldn't be both the B and D factions. You would only add votes
for C if you believe your expectation is dropping. That happens when
your preferred candidate (D) looks to be slipping. The B voters have no
need to compromise that far.

In this situation, D voters who decline to vote in the main contest
are basically "voting for Nader."

> The behavior described seems reasonable, proper, and is
> effective for finding a compromise winner. Is there some
> problem with it?

No, I don't think so. It's pretty good behavior actually. At least on its
face, it would seem that Approval would ruthlessly favor the median
voter's candidate in this kind of scenario.

The big concern is what happens when poll stability can't be achieved.

> Bucklin allows them to maintain their sincere preference,
> but, effectively, vote this way. Some might add C in the
> second rank, some in the third, depending on their
> preference strength. But some will always bullet vote,
> perhaps even most. Real voters don't give up so easily
> as your simulated ones!

I did simulate MCA, and yes, the D voters continued to vote for D as
their favorite (they were not allowed to list multiple favorites, but
this was simply to make the coding more manageable).

I don't know what you mean by voters not giving up so easily as my
simulated ones. How easy is easy?

I could conceivably program some voters to insist on being sincere.
(In whatever sense that it is not sincere to vote also for C.) But
it seems to me that this type of voter is a bad thing for Approval,
just as it is under Plurality.

Kevin Venzke



----
Election-Methods mailing list - see http://
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-17 00:32:22 UTC
Permalink
At 09:58 PM 12/15/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
Kevin's post had lost all formatting, the quoted
material was extremely difficult to follow, and
the new text was only distinguishable with
difficulty, because I recognize, sort of, my own
writing. So I may have missed a lot....

>Hi, --- En date de : Dim 14.12.08, Abd
>ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :

>>Remember, not all voters will
>>follow >frontrunner strategy. They don't with
>>Plurality, why should they start with Approval?

>Well, I'm not using "frontrunner strategy" but
>"better than expectation" strategy, since that can be applied more universally.

"Frontrunner strategy" is a common one that seems
to help with ranked methods as well as Range
ones. Make sure you cast a maximally effective
vote for a frontrunner, and, where "against"
matters, against the worst one. Usually there are
only two frontrunners, so it's easy.
"Expectation" is actually tricky if one doesn't
have knowledge of the electorate's general
response to the present election situation. How
do you determine "expectation." Mean utility of
the candidates is totally naive and non-optimal.
It's not how I'd vote, but, then again, I
strongly want to see majority requirements, which
makes bullet voting much safer.

But it's a complex issue. My point is that
"better than expectation" has been taken to mean
"average of the candidates," which is poor
strategy, any wonder that it comes up with mediocre results?

> If D voters are more resilient then it's
> possible that B will sink instead. It's not as
> likely to be C, though, since C has an avenue
> of bouncing back that B and D lack. In this
> simulation, I don't simulate voters who don't
> care if their vote isn't expected to be effective.

Sure. To my knowledge, nobody has. But if you
generate random utilities, then, you are missing
something: voters with below a certain level of
preference strength won't put any effort into
voting. They won't show up for a special election
like a runoff or a primary that isn't scheduled
with the general election. Some of them will
bullet vote, if they have a distinguishable
preference, but it doesn't mean much, they won't
exercise themselves for strategy, since it is all
the same to them, more or less.

I have in mind, remember, Saari's preposterous
example, where 9,999 voters approve the middle
candidate ("mediocre") because this one is at or
above the average of their favorite and the
worst. And then comes one "nutty voter" who votes
reversed preference, and Mr. Mediocre wins. Of
course, what if the "nutty voter" hadn't come
along? Mr. Mediocre might still have won, if
there was a tiebreaker method. Totally silly
example. People just won't vote that way.

The hard part is encouraging people to add
additional Approvals, if they prefer a
frontrunner, or just if they have a significant
preference for one. And it's not clear that we
should even try! Not in a first round, anyway.
Bucklin is nice because it puts up a small fence,
to protect a first preference, but not to prevent
compromise in the second round, etc. In Bucklin,
do you think that a majority of voters would add
a mediocre second choice as an additional
approval in the first round? Hardly! So *theory*
might show Bucklin as not satisfying the Majority
Criterion if we allow additional approvals in the
first rank, but that's totally unrealistic in
public elections. People will bullet vote, lots
of them. FairVote claims almost 90% did in
Bucklin elections used for political primaries in
the U.S (What they don't say is that IRV likewise showed heavy truncation.)

The facility of additional votes helps supporters
of minor candidates, it gives them a choice that
they didn't have under Plurality. But most voters
don't need it and most won't use it. Fixing the
spoiler effect, generally, takes only a few
percent of voters using additional ranks or
approvals. (This is entirely separate from the
illusory help provided by IRV, in fabricating a
majority by discarding exhausted ballots.)

>>To summarize this, the scenario makes sense
>>only if B, C, and D are in a near-tie. If both
>>B voters and D voters prefer C over the other
>>of B and D, then C is, indeed, their compromise
>>candidate! It's perfectly rational that the B
>>and D voters, iterating over polls, increase
>>their support for C, but it will never go all the way.

> Well it wouldn't be both the B and D factions.
> You would only add votes for C if you believe
> your expectation is dropping. That happens when
> your preferred candidate (D) looks to be
> slipping. The B voters have no need to
> compromise that far. In this situation, D
> voters who decline to vote in the main contest
> are basically "voting for Nader."

That's right, and it is their right, and that
many voters do this prevents the "mediocre
candidate" scenario from happening. And if a
majority is required, it's all safer. Want to
vote for Nader alone in the primary? Fine. If
enough people do that, there will be majority
failure and there will be a runoff. Slightly
improved chance that Nader is in that runoff!
I.e., the polls or whatever other expectations
existed were wrong. He wasn't a "minor
candidate," he was a frontrunner, in fact.

Approval and similar methods simply allow voters
to make a *reasonably safe* move toward some
compromise. IRV "protects" them from helping an
opponent of their favorite, but, at the same
time, protects other candidates such that the
favorite might be prevented from winning. IRV
proponents emphasize the protection, but
certainly not the loss of opportunity. In
reality, the question doesn't arise for most
voters. Would Nader voters have been worried, in
2000, that their vote for a frontrunner, say
Gore, might have "helped Gore to beat Nader"? I don't think so.

As to those who prefer a frontrunner, they are
highly unlikely to add an additional Approval for
another frontrunner. Voting for Gore *and* Bush? What? Why bother?

>> > The behavior described seems reasonable,
>> proper, and is > effective for finding a
>> compromise winner. Is there some > problem with it?

>No, I don't think so. It's pretty good behavior
>actually. At least on its face, it would seem
>that Approval would ruthlessly favor the median
>voter's candidate in this kind of scenario.

Well, probably. That's the most likely candidate
to be the best compromise, to attain a majority.
(If plurality Approval is adequate, all methods are more dangerous!)

>The big concern is what happens when poll stability can't be achieved.

Nah! Most voters won't pay that much attention to
polls, they will just vote their gut. Polls will
be used by those who are very seriously involved,
who want to maximize the power of their vote. I
think most of the "big concern" is simply
imagination. There won't be big surprises with Approval. Little ones, sure.

A poll would have to be *way* off to seriously
impact my Approval Vote in a majority-required
system. In plurality Approval, strategy based on
polls would loom larger. Sure, it could
oscillate. But how large would the osciallations
be? And, in the end, the winner is the candidate
accepted by the most voters. It's not going to be
a terrible result, if Approval falls flat on its
face, it elects a mediocre candidate because the
voters didn't get the strategy right.

But working against this is the natural tendency
to bullet vote, which should prevent that
outcome.... and which might increase the need for
a runoff, but a runoff between, say, top two
approved candidates, should fix the "mediocre"
problem. (I prefer, you know, using a full Range
ballot and preference analysis, to detect
Condorcet failure and provide a means for the
majority (or at least a plurality!) to fix it.


>>Bucklin allows them to maintain their sincere
>>preference, but, effectively, vote this way.
>>Some might add C in the second rank, some in
>>the third, depending on their preference
>>strength. But some will always bullet vote,
>>perhaps even most. Real voters don't give up so easily as your simulated ones!


>I did simulate MCA, and yes, the D voters
>continued to vote for D as their favorite (they
>were not allowed to list multiple favorites, but
>this was simply to make the coding more
>manageable). I don't know what you mean by
>voters not giving up so easily as my simulated
>ones. How easy is easy? I could conceivably
>program some voters to insist on being sincere.
>(In whatever sense that it is not sincere to
>vote also for C.) But it seems to me that this
>type of voter is a bad thing for Approval, just
>as it is under Plurality. Kevin
>Venzke ---- Election-Methods mailing list
>- see http://electorama.com/em for list info

What type of voter is bad for Approval? Easy compromiser or tough bullet voter?

(Multiple favorites isn't terribly important in
Bucklin, but it's a way of handling overvotes:
interpret them! And if there are two candidates
and I have trouble deciding which I prefer, they
are both "favorite," allowing equal ranking makes
the voter easier -- and more accurate as well,
more true to actual preferences.)


>

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Kathy Dopp
2008-12-16 06:24:32 UTC
Permalink
> Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 02:58:29 +0000 (GMT)
> From: Kevin Venzke <***@yahoo.fr>
> Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 2
>
> Hi,
>
> --- En date de?: Dim 14.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a ?crit?:
>> > >> That's not very generous. I can think of
>> a couple of defenses. One would
>> > >> be to point out that it is necessitated by
>> the other criteria that IRV
>> > >> satisfies. All things being equal, I consider
>> LNHarm more desirable than
>> > >> monotonicity, for instance.

Abd ul,

That is about the strangest position I've seen you take on any subject
because it is equivalent to saying that it is more important for a
voting method not to hurt my lower choice candidates than my first
choice candidates.

I.e. Monotonicity is, briefly stated, "first no harm".

So you are saying that you don't want a voter's second choice to hurt
the voter's first choice, but you don't mind if the voter's first
choice hurts the voter's first choice.

I find that position to be very bizarre.

Cheers,

Kathy Dopp

The material expressed herein is the informed product of the author's
fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a Mathematician,
Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in exit poll
discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at

P.O. Box 680192
Park City, UT 84068
phone 435-658-4657

http://utahcountvotes.org
http://electionmathematics.org
http://electionarchive.org
http://kathydopp.com/serendipity/

How to Audit Election Outcome Accuracy
http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/VoteCountAuditBillRequest.pdf

History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of
Election Auditing Fundamentals
http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/History-of-Election-Auditing-Development.pdf

Voters Have Reason to Worry
http://utahcountvotes.org/UT/UtahCountVotes-ThadHall-Response.pdf
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Kathy Dopp
2008-12-16 06:32:04 UTC
Permalink
Sorry folks, self-correction here:

> Abd ul,

I misstated this:

>
> That is about the strangest position I've seen you take on any subject
> because it is equivalent to saying that it is more important for a
> voting method not to hurt my lower choice candidates than my first
> choice candidates.

*should* have typed.

"because it is equivalent to saying that it is more important for a
voting method not to result in having my second choice hurt my first
choice, than it is for a voting method not to result in having my
FIRST choice hurt my first choice"

Below is correct. I.e. First no harm is not important but Later no
harm is? Just a position is impossible for me to understand.

It is OK if your first choice candidate hurts your first choice
candidate, but *not* OK if your second choice candidate hurts your
first choice candidate.

It is OK for voters not to know if their first choice might hurt their
first choice, but not for their second choice to hurt their first
choice if their second choice were more popular with a majority?

This seems to me to be a very illogical position you're taking in
prioritizing "later no harm" as more important than "first no harm
(monotonicity)" Abd ul when normally your positions seem so logical.

Kathy

>
> I.e. Monotonicity is, briefly stated, "first no harm".
>
> So you are saying that you don't want a voter's second choice to hurt
> the voter's first choice, but you don't mind if the voter's first
> choice hurts the voter's first choice.
>
> I find that position to be very bizarre.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Kathy Dopp
>
> The material expressed herein is the informed product of the author's
> fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a Mathematician,
> Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in exit poll
> discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at
>
> P.O. Box 680192
> Park City, UT 84068
> phone 435-658-4657
>
> http://utahcountvotes.org
> http://electionmathematics.org
> http://electionarchive.org
> http://kathydopp.com/serendipity/
>
> How to Audit Election Outcome Accuracy
> http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/VoteCountAuditBillRequest.pdf
>
> History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of
> Election Auditing Fundamentals
> http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/History-of-Election-Auditing-Development.pdf
>
> Voters Have Reason to Worry
> http://utahcountvotes.org/UT/UtahCountVotes-ThadHall-Response.pdf
>



--

Kathy Dopp

The material expressed herein is the informed product of the author's
fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a Mathematician,
Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in exit poll
discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at

P.O. Box 680192
Park City, UT 84068
phone 435-658-4657

http://utahcountvotes.org
http://electionmathematics.org
http://electionarchive.org
http://kathydopp.com/serendipity/

How to Audit Election Outcome Accuracy
http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/VoteCountAuditBillRequest.pdf

History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of
Election Auditing Fundamentals
http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/History-of-Election-Auditing-Development.pdf

Voters Have Reason to Worry
http://utahcountvotes.org/UT/UtahCountVotes-ThadHall-Response.pdf
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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-16 13:49:08 UTC
Permalink
Hi Kathy,

You are responding to me, not Abd ul-Rahman Lomax.

--- En date de : Mar 16.12.08, Kathy Dopp <***@gmail.com> a écrit :
> > Hi,
> >
> > --- En date de?: Dim 14.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
> <***@lomaxdesign.com> a ?crit?:
> >> > >> That's not very generous. I can
> think of
> >> a couple of defenses. One would
> >> > >> be to point out that it is
> necessitated by
> >> the other criteria that IRV
> >> > >> satisfies. All things being equal, I
> consider
> >> LNHarm more desirable than
> >> > >> monotonicity, for instance.
>
> Abd ul,
>
> That is about the strangest position I've seen you take
> on any subject
> because it is equivalent to saying that it is more
> important for a
> voting method not to hurt my lower choice candidates than
> my first
> choice candidates.

The reason I believe LNHarm is more valuable than monotonicity is that
when a method fails LNHarm, the voter is more likely to realize in
what insincere way to vote differently, in order to compensate. When
a method fails monotonicity, a voter will rarely know to do anything
differently because of it. Thus, *all things being equal* (which must
be kept in mind if it's IRV that is on your mind), I would expect that
failing LNHarm will provoke more insincerity (and thus destroy more
information) than failing monotonicity.

IRV has other issues that can lead to a different conclusion, but that
isn't what I was discussing.

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-17 00:56:56 UTC
Permalink
At 08:49 AM 12/16/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>Thus, *all things being equal* (which must
>be kept in mind if it's IRV that is on your mind), I would expect that
>failing LNHarm will provoke more insincerity (and thus destroy more
>information) than failing monotonicity.

Highly speculative. Bucklin probably experiences about the same level
of bullet voting due to LNH fears as IRV, not much more, because the
"harm" only happens when a majority isn't found in the first round.
And it isn't really a "harm," that's an unfortunate aspect of the
name. What the second vote harms is not exactly the favorite, but the
first vote for the favorite, and only in the specific pairwise
election against the additionally approved candidate. It is backing
up and saying, okay, if my candidate isn't getting a majority from
favorite votes, this additional candidate is also acceptable to me.

And, sure, that can cause the additional candidate to win. If that
candidate is also approved by more people than my favorite. (Multiple
majorities are rare, BTW, I've never heard of one happening in a
Bucklin election, and I doubt that it ever happened. So, if the
second vote "harms the favorite," it's because lower-ranked candidate
got a majority, and the favorite didn't.

IRV can pretend that there is no harm from the second vote for two
reasons: it eliminates the first candidate before using the second
vote. The *voter* hasn't harmed the first candidate, because the *method* has.

Requiring that the favorite be eliminated before a second rank choice
is considered cuts two ways. It prevents this alleged "harm," but it
also prevents "help." I.e., second rank votes coming from other
candidates; those are exactly the votes which would allow IRV to find
a "compromise winner," as Robert's Rules notes. In other words,
Center Squeeze is a direct consequence of LNH compliance by IRV.

LNH is also incompatible with actual runoff voting when there is
majority failure, unless the runoff is simply the top two IRV
candidates. In Vermont, the governor must be elected by a majority.
If there is majority failure, the election goes to the legislature,
which votes by secret ballot (Plurality election, if I'm correct)
from among the top three candidates. The IRV legislation introduced
by Terrill Bouricius had a ballot instruction included: voting for a
lower ranked candidate can't hurt your favorite. It wasn't true. Your
lower ranked vote could cause the election to complete, whereas
without it, there would be further process, which your candidate
could win. Even Robert's Rules of Order gets this one wrong.

Interesting, eh? Top three. A Condorcet winner is almost certainly in there!



>IRV has other issues that can lead to a different conclusion, but that
>isn't what I was discussing.
>
>Kevin Venzke
>
>
>
>----
>Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info

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James Gilmour
2008-12-20 23:27:33 UTC
Permalink
Kevin Venzke > Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:49 PM
> The reason I believe LNHarm is more valuable than
> monotonicity is that when a method fails LNHarm, the voter is
> more likely to realize in what insincere way to vote
> differently, in order to compensate. When a method fails
> monotonicity, a voter will rarely know to do anything
> differently because of it.

LNH is important to ordinary electors, as I have explained in a recent post, at least where the voting system is susceptible to LNH
effects. If the vote counting method is not LNH-compliant, electors are likely to vote strategically in an attempt to avoid or
mitigate the effects of LNH-failure or to try to gain some real or imagined advantage from its effects.

Monotonicity, or more specifically, the lack of monotonicity, is of no importance whatsoever in public elections because neither
candidates nor voters can exploit it. It would be "nice" if the vote counting system were monotonic, but we cannot have
monotonicity AND some of the other criteria we consider desirable. For example, monotonicity and later-no-harm are incompatible in
IRV and STV-PR. Of the two, LNH is important - non-monotonicity is irrelevant.

James Gilmour
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Juho Laatu
2008-12-21 02:11:25 UTC
Permalink
Here's one explanation to why LNH might be more
important to voters than monotonicity.

Most voters are used to election methods where
they bullet vote one of the candidates. It is a
quite natural thought that if one votes multiple
candidates on a single ballot then the vote that
the second favourite gets may take some power
away from the first favourite. This may not be
based on facts, but of course we don't expect
the voters to be aware of all the technical
properties of the methods.

The voter may be happy and trust the experts if
they tell that this particular method is LNH
compatible and therefore they can mark also their
later preferences without losing power. Also this
may be based on facts but need not be.

Strictly speaking it is enough if it is more
probable that later preferences will help the
voter than that they will cause harm. Therefore a
method that is LNH compatible in 90% of the cases
may be good enough, i.e. the voter could happily
mark also the later preferences in the ballot.

Monotonicity is a similar but reverse case.
Typical voters expect their vote to support the
candidates that they vote for. They don't expect
it to make the results worse from their point of
view. Therefore the voters are not afraid of
non-monotonicity but are happy to vote although
it could be that their vote will make the
results worse.

If the experts would convincingly tell the voters
that their vote may actually lead to a worse
result, then maybe some voters would stop voting
in the hope of improving the results.

But also here it can be claimed that it is enough
if it is more probable that the vote will improve
the results than it is to make them worse.

Voters may thus find LNH more important than
monotonicity. But this does not mean that the
method should be formally LNH compatible. It is
good enough if the methods typically behave as
wanted. It is easier for experts to convince the
voters if they themselves are convinced of their
cause, e.g. as a result of a compatibility proof
that proves that the method meets some criterion
100%.

Sufficient compatibility with the criteria may
thus often be enough. And risks may be higher in
areas where the voters don't expect risks than in
areas where they expect to find them. But the
fact remains that voters may fear some threats
more than others, rationally or irrationally.

Juho


--- On Sun, 21/12/08, James Gilmour <***@globalnet.co.uk> wrote:

> > The reason I believe LNHarm is more valuable than
> > monotonicity is that when a method fails LNHarm, the
> voter is
> > more likely to realize in what insincere way to vote
> > differently, in order to compensate. When a method
> fails
> > monotonicity, a voter will rarely know to do anything
> > differently because of it.
>
> LNH is important to ordinary electors, as I have explained
> in a recent post, at least where the voting system is
> susceptible to LNH
> effects. If the vote counting method is not LNH-compliant,
> electors are likely to vote strategically in an attempt to
> avoid or
> mitigate the effects of LNH-failure or to try to gain some
> real or imagined advantage from its effects.
>
> Monotonicity, or more specifically, the lack of
> monotonicity, is of no importance whatsoever in public
> elections because neither
> candidates nor voters can exploit it. It would be
> "nice" if the vote counting system were monotonic,
> but we cannot have
> monotonicity AND some of the other criteria we consider
> desirable. For example, monotonicity and later-no-harm are
> incompatible in
> IRV and STV-PR. Of the two, LNH is important -
> non-monotonicity is irrelevant.
>
> James Gilmour
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> Checked by AVG - http://www.avg.com
> Version: 8.0.176 / Virus Database: 270.9.19/1857 - Release
> Date: 19/12/2008 10:09
>
>
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> http://electorama.com/em for list info




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Kristofer Munsterhjelm
2008-12-21 09:31:35 UTC
Permalink
James Gilmour wrote:
> Kevin Venzke > Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:49 PM
>> The reason I believe LNHarm is more valuable than
>> monotonicity is that when a method fails LNHarm, the voter is
>> more likely to realize in what insincere way to vote
>> differently, in order to compensate. When a method fails
>> monotonicity, a voter will rarely know to do anything
>> differently because of it.
>
> LNH is important to ordinary electors, as I have explained in a
> recent post, at least where the voting system is susceptible to LNH
> effects. If the vote counting method is not LNH-compliant, electors
> are likely to vote strategically in an attempt to avoid or
> mitigate the effects of LNH-failure or to try to gain some real or
> imagined advantage from its effects.
>
> Monotonicity, or more specifically, the lack of monotonicity, is of
> no importance whatsoever in public elections because neither
> candidates nor voters can exploit it. It would be "nice" if the vote
> counting system were monotonic, but we cannot have
> monotonicity AND some of the other criteria we consider desirable.
> For example, monotonicity and later-no-harm are incompatible in
> IRV and STV-PR. Of the two, LNH is important - non-monotonicity is
> irrelevant.

We can't have both LNHs, mutual majority, and monotonicity (by Woodall).
FPTP has LNH* (simply because later choices are ignored) and
monotonicity. IRV has LNH* and mutual majority, but not monotonicity.

I'd say that IRV's monotonicity problem is indeed a problem, because
it's so pervasive. Just look at Yee diagrams. On the other hand, I'm not
unbiased, and so I may be saying that because it's "unaesthetic".

In any case, it may be possible to have one of the LNHs and be monotonic
and have mutual majority. I'm not sure, but perhaps (doesn't one of DAC
or DSC do this?). If so, it would be possible to see (at least) whether
people strategize in the direction of early truncation by looking at
methods that fail LNHarm but pass LNHelp; that is, Bucklin. Was bullet
voting pervasive under Bucklin?

Unfortunately, no method that passes only LNHarm has been used, so we
can't do the same there (to see if there was pervasive random filling in
that case).

We can stil get some idea of how easily voters would strategize by
looking at Bucklin, though; or for that matter, at ranked voting methods
that fail both LNHs. Schulze's used in some technical associations
(Debian, Wikimedia), and, although I don't have raw voting data, they
seem to be mostly honest. The Wikimedia election had no Condorcet cycles
down to the sixth place, for instance.

> James Gilmour
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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-17 00:41:40 UTC
Permalink
At 01:24 AM 12/16/2008, Kathy Dopp wrote:
> > Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 02:58:29 +0000 (GMT)
> > From: Kevin Venzke <***@yahoo.fr>
> > Subject: Re: [EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 2
> >
> > Hi,
> >
> > --- En date de?: Dim 14.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
> <***@lomaxdesign.com> a ?crit?:
> >> > >> That's not very generous. I can think of
> >> a couple of defenses. One would
> >> > >> be to point out that it is necessitated by
> >> the other criteria that IRV
> >> > >> satisfies. All things being equal, I consider
> >> LNHarm more desirable than
> >> > >> monotonicity, for instance.
>
>Abd ul,
>
>That is about the strangest position I've seen you take on any subject
>because it is equivalent to saying that it is more important for a
>voting method not to hurt my lower choice candidates than my first
>choice candidates.

I didn't write that. Venzke's quotation got all messed up. If you get
the list mail and keep it, look back at my post. Venzke wrote that
thing about monotonicity.

LNH, has, I think, been pretty widely misunderstood. I don't consider
it desirable *at all*. That is, it interferes with the very desirable
process of compromise that public elections should simulate. However,
Bucklin Voting allows a voter-controllable level of LNH compliance
that I consider good. Pure Approval doesn't allow sufficient
flexibility of expression. Range only allows preference expression,
of a favorite over a frontrunner, with some sacrifice of voting
strength in the real election. That may be a good thing, but
politically, at this point, concern over this, including Later No
Harm, inhibits the adoption of Approval, though it really ought to be
totally obvious that Approval is a huge bang-for-the-buck reform:
Open Voting, Count All the Votes. Free. And actually one of the
better methods, considering how simple it is.

Bucklin uses an RCV ballot, but is much, much simpler to count, and
doesn't suffer from the serious pathologies that afflict IRV. Monotonic.

>I.e. Monotonicity is, briefly stated, "first no harm".
>
>So you are saying that you don't want a voter's second choice to hurt
>the voter's first choice, but you don't mind if the voter's first
>choice hurts the voter's first choice.
>
>I find that position to be very bizarre.

So do I. However, in defense of Venzke, he thinks that the situations
where IRV is non-monotonic are rare enough that it's not worth worrying about.

But nonmonotonicity is a clue that there is something seriously wrong
with the amalgamation method, it's quirky and unreliable. The real
bite is with Center Squeeze.

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James Gilmour
2008-12-20 19:19:02 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:42 AM
> LNH, has, I think, been pretty widely misunderstood. I don't consider
> it desirable *at all*. That is, it interferes with the very desirable
> process of compromise that public elections should simulate.

I don't have time to read any of the extended essays that now feature on this list, but these two remarks in a recent post caught my
eye and I could not let them pass.

LNH may well be pretty widely misunderstood, but Abd's view that it is not desirable at all conflicts with my experience of the
reaction of ordinary electors. When preferential voting systems are first introduced to them, it is a common reaction for them to
say "I'll vote only for my first preference because any later preference would count against my most preferred candidate". It is
only when it is explained to them that under the counting rules that will actually be used, a second or later preference can never
harm their first preference, that they begin to see the merit in marking all the preferences they really have. So Later-No-Harm
does seem to be important to ordinary electors, at least here in the UK.

There are two very different situations in which to consider Abd's assertion that purpose of public elections should be to simulate
a process of compromise.

Taking the general first, where an assembly of some kind is being elected (e.g. city council, state legislature, House of
Representative, Federal Senate), the fundamental requirement in a representative democracy is for such an assembly to be
representative of all significant viewpoints among those who vote (as expressed by their votes for the candidates who offer
themselves for election). So the purpose of such an election should be to reflect that diversity. It should not be the purpose of
the election to manufacture some consensus in the determination of the candidates who are to be elected.

Reflecting the diversity of voters' views is, of course, impossible when a single winner is required in a single-office election
(e.g. city mayor, state governor). In this situation there MAY be a case for suggesting that one of the purposes of the public
election should be to simulate compromise. However, even then, most of our voters would expect the winner to be the candidate who
has a majority of the first preferences even if some other candidate had greater overall "compromise" support, i.e. they would
expect LNH to apply and operate. When there is no majority winner they may well be prepared to take a compromising view, but there
are some very real difficulties in putting that into effect for public elections.

James Gilmour



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-21 01:44:04 UTC
Permalink
At 02:19 PM 12/20/2008, James Gilmour wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:42 AM
> > LNH, has, I think, been pretty widely misunderstood. I don't consider
> > it desirable *at all*. That is, it interferes with the very desirable
> > process of compromise that public elections should simulate.
>
>I don't have time to read any of the extended essays that now
>feature on this list, but these two remarks in a recent post caught
>my eye and I could not let them pass.

I don't expect anyone in particular to read all that I write. If I
write something of note, worth responding to, someone may respond....
that's as it should be.

>LNH may well be pretty widely misunderstood, but Abd's view that it
>is not desirable at all conflicts with my experience of the reaction
>of ordinary electors.

LNH as an absolute principle, which, as an election criterion, it is,
is harmful. It prevents the system acting as a negotiator seeking
compromise, because it prevents compromise until and unless the
favorite is eliminated. Frankly, I doubt that anyone who fully
understands the implications would prefer an LNH system to one which
more appropriately negotiates on behalf of the voter, seeking the
best compromise. LNH means *no compromise unless you eliminate my
candidate totally!* That kind of position will readily be seen as
fanatic, intransigent, and selfish, in normal negotiation situations.
LNH in a system *enforces* this, requiring all voters to be just this
intransigent.

It is no wonder that a referee, reviewing Woodall's original paper
describing and naming Later No Harm, called it "disgusting." (This is
reported by Woodall in the paper.) So this is not just my view, James.


> When preferential voting systems are first introduced to them, it
> is a common reaction for them to
>say "I'll vote only for my first preference because any later
>preference would count against my most preferred candidate". It is

That's right. That's how they are used to voting. And, in fact, it
seems, this is how most vote when presented with a preferential
ballot, even if it *is* Later No Harm compliant.

Now, the real question is not whether or not Bucklin satisfies Later
No Harm, but whether or not it *sufficiently* satisfies it to mollify
the voters, who will bullet vote in fairly large numbers no matter
what system you feed them. Carroll, over 120 years ago, understood
why; he knew that with STV, most voters would still bullet vote,
because that's what they are clear about: they know who their
favorite is. They don't necessarily know how to rank the other candidates.

Look, when I see a nonpartisan local election for some minor office,
I'm lucky if I can even identify a single candidate! This isn't just
really ignorant voters, it's *ordinary* voters. Given that Bucklin
only looks at additional votes if there is majority failure, that the
vote doesn't really "harm" the favorite unless the additional vote is
considered in isolation from the first, I really doubt that real
voters would vote differently, in significant numbers, with a
three-rank Bucklin ballot vs a three-rank RCV (IRV) ballot.

You have to look at the forces which cause voters to bullet vote, and
LNH violation in a method would not be the most prominent reason, and
avoiding later harm, strategically, matters in only isolated and
relatively rare situations.

"Ordinary electors?" Consider this: ordinary electors, by the
definition of "frontrunner" prefer frontrunners. Usually there are
two; in a two-party system, almost always, in partisan elections,
there are two. These voters aren't going to add a lower preference
vote for the other major candidate unless you force them. Why should
they? And if they add a lower preference vote for a minor candidate,
it would mean that they support this candidate enough to make that
statement -- and to risk the possibility that, by gum, a plurality
thought the same way! Most people will bullet vote, if they prefer a
frontrunner, unless, again, you force them to do otherwise, but with
IRV, we don't even know, since those ballots are almost never exhausted.

So where does it make a difference? Well, if the voter favors a minor
candidate! *And* has a strong preference for another candidate, a
frontrunner, over the worst frontrunner.

Is this voter afraid to add a second rank vote? I don't think so.
These are the voters who will use additional ranks. And LNH is
meaningless to them because they know that their favorite is not
going to win. Their second rank vote is not going to "help defeat"
their favorite. (Even if that were what would happen with a one-vote
victory by the lower-preference candidate over the favorite; in fact,
take the voter's vote out, the result doesn't change. The voter did
*not* help defeat the favorite, it's merely that by voting for the
second preference candidate, the voter consented to that election in
the event that *other* voters preferred that candidate. The voter
will only do this if the voter either has low preference in the first
place, or fears the election of a third candidate.

LNH doesn't consider the context of failure. Nor, apparently, did you
or the electors you talked to. In reality, IRV suffers from, quite
possibly, the same level of truncation as Bucklin did. With Bucklin,
we can tell, because, generally, all the ranks were counted and
reported (in one case, election of the Cleveland mayor in 1913, even
when not needed). With IRV, we cannot tell how much truncation there
is because *not all the votes are counted.* In fact, it's possible
that *most* votes aren't counted.

By how you present the facts to a relatively ignorant voter (and most
people are ignorant about the implications of various voting
systems), you can elicit quite varied responses. I don't wonder at
your report, James, I think it probably is accurate. But that doesn't
affect what I said. How many people think of voting systems as ways
of negotiating a social compromise? How many are familiar with
Arrow's approach and Theorem? (The task: to construct a social
preference order from a collection of individual preference orders.)

>only when it is explained to them that under the counting rules that
>will actually be used, a second or later preference can never
>harm their first preference, that they begin to see the merit in
>marking all the preferences they really have. So Later-No-Harm
>does seem to be important to ordinary electors, at least here in the UK.

Sure. No doubt about it. But garbage in, garbage out. First of all,
if a system requires a majority, which is known to be the only way to
ensure democratic results and truly foster healthy multiparty
systems, LNH failure is intrinsic, though it depends on the details
of the runoff. In a fully democratic system, there are no actual
eliminations, simply a reconsideration by the electorate, with minor
candidates, with no hope of winning but having made their point as to
their support, dropping out, or other compromises being made, and
there is no limitation on the number of ballots.

So, consider the first ballot in such a fully democratic process. A
voter is deciding whether or not to add a second preference. What's
the optimal strategy?

It's quite obvious: Unless the preference strength is relatively low,
you bullet vote. Suppose the method is IRV. If you add a second
preference vote, this could cause the lower-preference candidate to
gain a majority and win. Otherwise, there is a runoff and your
candidate, not being "eliminated," could proceed, with new
opportunities, to win, a very real possibility if the candidate is in
third place only by a small margin. (Consider Jospin in France, 2004,
tiny margin behind Le Pen, whom he would have defeated by a landslide
in a runoff, and he probably almost as strongly have defeated Chirac.)

(For IRV and LNH, I have the image of, they take them out back and
shoot them, that guarantees that your vote can't harm them since the
*method* has taken care of it for you. By preventing you from helping
other candidates, until your candidate is disposed of, other voters
are quite the same prevented from helping your favorite. Hence LNH
compliance is intimately connected with Center Squeeze.)

>There are two very different situations in which to consider Abd's
>assertion that purpose of public elections should be to simulate a
>process of compromise.

When possible, people vote directly in meetings; standard
deliberative process avoids multiple-choice questions, but when they
are used, as is often the case with elections, requiring a majority
is the norm. We hold public elections because it's considered
impractical to directly elect through deliberative process and
unlimited ballots, even though we know quite well that this is the
best method from a democratic perspective. (It's possible to argue
that Range can do better, but I consider that purely theoretical, in
practice I would just as strongly assert that a Range result should
be approved of by a majority, relatively easy to do: an explicit
approval cutoff. And then, of course, you could get majority failure
and the need for a runoff.)

>Taking the general first, where an assembly of some kind is being
>elected (e.g. city council, state legislature, House of
>Representative, Federal Senate), the fundamental requirement in a
>representative democracy is for such an assembly to be
>representative of all significant viewpoints among those who vote
>(as expressed by their votes for the candidates who offer
>themselves for election). So the purpose of such an election should
>be to reflect that diversity. It should not be the purpose of
>the election to manufacture some consensus in the determination of
>the candidates who are to be elected.

I'll agree absolutely. Single-winner elections, actually, should
*not* be about *general* compromise, but the lesser kind of
compromise which is necessary for a smaller group to agree on a
single representative. There actually is a near-perfect method for
doing this: Asset Voting. Beyond that, STV does a quite good job. And
*in this context*, Later-No-Harm makes much more sense. But Asset
Voting was a tweak on STV, allowing voters to bullet vote, as Dodgson
knew many would, and still find representation. Necessarily, it means
that candidates aren't again, totally eliminated, they simply don't
get immediate votes; rather, the method looks for quotas and when a
quota is found with standing votes (not "eliminated"), the seat is
awarded. But, then, because there are exhausted ballots, those who
were in first preference position on those ballots may later exercise
them, to create additional seats. I don't know if Dodgson fully
realized the implications. With a system like this, I'd expect bullet
voting to become so common that the STV ballot would be dropped. If
your goal is to create representation, why not create it *absolutely*
and through a deliberative process where you are unconditionally
represented. Vote for your absolute favorite, with practically no
restriction. (There could be *many* candidates.)

The Dodgson system, later called Asset Voting by Warren Smith (and
implemented in a Range-like environment with the constraint that your
votes added up to one full vote -- only a mathematician!), used with
an STV ballot and canvassing method, is not LNH compatible, since
your second preference vote could deprive your first preference of
your vote for later exercise. Would any voter care? Sure. They would
bullet vote! Unless they didn't care, in which case they might add a
second preference, though it is really beyond me why anyone would do
so rationally. I trust Smith enough to prefer him for the office,
where he will effectively vote for me, and the rest of the quota, on
issues of importance, but I don't trust him to make a good decision
on whom to elect as that representative? This is a strange kind of
trust? It's more like cynicism, in fact.

>Reflecting the diversity of voters' views is, of course, impossible
>when a single winner is required in a single-office election
>(e.g. city mayor, state governor). In this situation there MAY be a
>case for suggesting that one of the purposes of the public
>election should be to simulate compromise.

Of course. My entire discussion was about single-winner elections.
There is some kind of compromise necessary, it's highly unlikely that
everyone will get their first preference!

(In fact, with good deliberative process, people, as they learn the
preferences of others, shift their first preference to consider the
value of overall agreement. We could call this compromise, but it's
more than that. It is seeking a more sophisticated kind of
preference, one which recognizes the power of consensus, that it's
far easier to implement decisions when everyone is on board,
everything gets better for everyone, just about. But it is *really
difficult,* we think, to do this on a very large scale. And certainly
it's difficult trying to do it with simple direct discussion, except
under narrow circumstances.)

> However, even then, most of our voters would expect the winner to
> be the candidate who
>has a majority of the first preferences even if some other candidate
>had greater overall "compromise" support, i.e. they would
>expect LNH to apply and operate.

Sure. This is because the concept of preference strength has been so
obscured for centuries, and even rejected out-of-hand by people like
Arrow. Yet it is obviously used and applied in ordinary
decision-making, including collective decision-making. Take these
same people and present them with what I've called the "pizza
election," and they will quite easily agree that the first preference
of the majority isn't the highest standard. It's an *approximation*
that *often* works, but not always.

However, James, you applied the majority criterion here. That's not
really fair. With the LNH violating methods like Bucklin, the second
rank vote, in the situation described, wouldn't produce a violating
result. It's only with majority failure that the possibility of LNH
violation comes up, and it's been misnamed; if it's presented
accurately to these electors, they might not be so quick to think it necessary.

Here is what I've seen with real people: in deliberative process, it
was clear that a strong majority favored one option. However, the
organization was one which valued unity, and certainly it was not
going to make a decision without hearing from everyone who wanted to
speak. And that's what happened (and deliberative process normally
requires a two-thirds majority to close discussion, so this is normal
that there would be full discussion of alternatives before voting on
a conclusion.) There were something on the order of a half-dozen
alternatives. So it was decided to do a poll. For each alternative,
voters were to indicate what they would be willing to "accept." This
was *not* going to decide the result. It was just a poll.

Previously, I'd heard a member of this group say that the status quo,
the majority favorite, wasn't going to change except "over my dead
body." That's how strong feeling was. And there were others, a
relatively small number, who felt that the status quo was utterly unacceptable.

It turned out that the majority favorite was acceptable to maybe 70%
of those polled. There was another option that was acceptable to all
but one. (Something like 60:1). Now, for the first time, a motion was
presented. To adopt the alternative. It was seconded and the question
was called, without objection. What was the vote for adoption?

James, it was 100%. Apparently the single holdout changed her mind.

Majority vote would have come up, quite apparently, with a defective
decision, if it were done prematurely, without adequate discussion
and information about the general opinion of the electorate. Was this
a "mediocre result." I don't think so. Years of experience have shown
the new option, the one adopted, to be far more effective for the
purposes of the group than the prior status quo, which was steadily
discouraging small numbers of members, accumulating to many over the
years. Yet it had been used for about fifty years, and there were
reasons why some were quite attached to it.

Now, the ultimate decision was still made by majority vote. But after
a process that included an Approval poll. A Range poll would have
been even more informative, but the Approval method was sufficient,
as it would often be. Approval is a lot simpler to canvass, just
count all the votes, it can be done by show of hands, as it was in this case.

> When there is no majority winner they may well be prepared to take
> a compromising view, but there
>are some very real difficulties in putting that into effect for
>public elections.

Bucklin did it. It worked. There are some reasons for believing that
Bucklin had roughly the same level of bullet voting as IRV
(single-winner) does, when ranking is optional.

Most voters, quite simply, coming out of a Plurality environment,
where LNH simply isn't on their radar, are going to vote with
reasonable sincerity. If they have a strong preference for their
favorite, they will bullet vote. If that preference is weak, or if
they fear that their favorite doesn't have a chance, they will add
additional preferences. Every preference they express is sincere. The
averaging causes this process to show preference strength estimates.

The voters who think that their favorite doesn't have a chance are
quite accustomed to making compromises. They won't give a fig about
LNH. They'll be happy to be able to express their first preference,
without harm to their voting power.

Show these voters a Center Squeeze result from IRV, and they will be
horrified. Point out to them that if their preference for the
compromise candidate, over the remaining candidate, the worst of
three from their point of view, who goes on to win the IRV election,
which preference they took the trouble to express on the ballot, and
in which they agree with two-thirds of the voters, can't be
considered until it's too late, and won't be counted at all, they
will start to have less respect for the Later No Harm criterion.

Later No Harm has been elevated by FairVote to practically the most
important election criterion. The far more significant Condorcet
Criterion is totally neglected by them. This is raw appeal to
ignorance, LNH *sounds good*, but actually stinks. *Other things
being equal,* sure, LNH could be a good thing. But they are *not*
equal and, I hope I've shown, LNH conflicts directly with highly
desirable characteristics of voting systems.

I suggested, years ago, a system called A+P/W, or Approval Plus,
Pairwise. There is another name for it, but I don't recall. It was
Approval Voting, with a Preference indicator (the "Plus"). If the
Plus indicator was used, the vote would remain an exclusive vote for
the preferred candidate in the pairwise elections involving other
approved candidates. It's a two-expressed rank system, with equal
ranking allowed (I would have allowed multiple use of Plus, just
because I don't like discarding ballots. Count All the Votes.) ....
This would be LNH compliant. But I think Bucklin, simpler to canvass,
is quite adequate and sufficiently protects voters from a reasonable
fear of "harming their favorite."

Approval is maximally vulnerable to this LH fear, in a
three-frontrunner environment. It's simply moot with two
frontrunners, which is most elections, by far. Range ameliorates it
(you can rate intermediate ratings and, sure, that can reduce the
power of your vote for A over B, but it will increase the power of
your vote for B over C. It's a tradeoff.) Bucklin is even more
protective. IRV totally protects, but at great cost. All the methods
get better if real runoffs are used when a majority hasn't been
found. (IRV should be used as a two-winner method, perhaps, if it's a
primary stage. In Vermont, gubernatorial election, plurality, no
majority? Top Three go to the legislature for secret ballot choice.
Plurality, I think. Yes, sometimes the third place candidate won.
Politics, certainly FairVote claimed that. But there are other
possibilities. That could have been the compromise candidate,
possibly eliminated with both IRV and Top Two Runoff.

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Dave Ketchum
2008-12-21 03:51:16 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 20 Dec 2008 19:19:02 -0000 James Gilmour wrote:
> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax > Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:42 AM
>
> I don't have time to read any of the extended essays that now feature on this list, but these two remarks in a recent post caught my
> eye and I could not let them pass.
>
Responding to one thought for IRV vs C (Condorcet):
>
> Reflecting the diversity of voters' views is, of course, impossible when a single winner is required in a single-office election
> (e.g. city mayor, state governor). In this situation there MAY be a case for suggesting that one of the purposes of the public
> election should be to simulate compromise. However, even then, most of our voters would expect the winner to be the candidate who
> has a majority of the first preferences even if some other candidate had greater overall "compromise" support, i.e. they would
> expect LNH to apply and operate. When there is no majority winner they may well be prepared to take a compromising view, but there
> are some very real difficulties in putting that into effect for public elections.

Given that a majority of first preferences name Joe, IRV and C will agree
that Joe wins.

Given four others each getting 1/4 of first preferences, and Joe getting a
majority of second preferences:
IRV will award one of the 4, for it only looks at first preferences
in deciding which is a possible winner.
C will award one of the 5. Any of them could win, but Joe is
stronger any outside the 5.
>
> James Gilmour
--
***@clarityconnect.com people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.



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Kevin Venzke
2008-12-19 03:36:39 UTC
Permalink
Hello,

--- En date de : Mar 16.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
>However, in defense of Venzke, he thinks that the situations where IRV
>is non-monotonic are rare enough that it's not worth worrying about.

What I think would be rare is that such situations (or the risk of such
situations) would have any effect on voter behavior.

>The real bite is with Center Squeeze.

I agree with this.

--- En date de : Mar 16.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > Thus, *all things being equal* (which must
> > be kept in mind if it's IRV that is on your mind),
> I would expect that
> > failing LNHarm will provoke more insincerity (and thus
> destroy more
> > information) than failing monotonicity.
>
> Highly speculative. Bucklin probably experiences about the
> same level of bullet voting due to LNH fears as IRV, not
> much more, because the "harm" only happens when a
> majority isn't found in the first round.

If methods typically won't require more than the top rank, then I guess
neither LNHarm nor monotonicity failures will be much of a problem.

>In other words, Center Squeeze is a direct consequence of LNH compliance
>by IRV.

Well, MMPO satisfies LNHarm, and is nearly a Condorcet method.

>Interesting, eh? Top three. A Condorcet winner is almost certainly in
>there!

I think this is doubly likely if you arrange the incentives so that it's
likely that third place achieved that position better than randomly.

In other words: I want to have a TTR election where candidates risk being
spoilers if they place worse than third.

This places part of the election process outside of the election itself,
but we already do this with Plurality.

>From the first message:

> "Frontrunner strategy" is a common one that seems
> to help with ranked methods as well as Range ones. Make sure
> you cast a maximally effective vote for a frontrunner, and,
> where "against" matters, against the worst one.
> Usually there are only two frontrunners, so it's easy.
> "Expectation" is actually tricky if one
> doesn't have knowledge of the electorate's general
> response to the present election situation. How do you
> determine "expectation." Mean utility of the
> candidates is totally naive and non-optimal.

Mean utility is supposed to be naive, and it is optimal, if you are
"naive" about win odds.

"Better than expectation" is mean *weighted* utility. You weight the
utilities by the expected odds that each candidate will win. (There is
an assumption in there about these odds being proportional to the odds
that your vote can break a tie.)

"Frontrunner strategy" is just a special case of "better than
expectation," where only two candidates are expected to have any chance
of winning.

> But it's a complex issue. My point is that "better
> than expectation" has been taken to mean "average
> of the candidates," which is poor strategy, any wonder
> that it comes up with mediocre results?

"Average of the candidates" is the special case of "better than
expectation," where there is no information on candidates' win odds.

> > The big concern is what happens when poll stability
> can't be achieved.
>
> Nah! Most voters won't pay that much attention to
> polls, they will just vote their gut. Polls will be used by
> those who are very seriously involved, who want to maximize
> the power of their vote. I think most of the "big
> concern" is simply imagination. There won't be big
> surprises with Approval. Little ones, sure.

I use the term "polls" loosely. It is hard to imagine that under any
election method, voters in this recent election might not have realized
that the important contest was McCain vs. Obama.

If voters "vote their gut" and don't consciously use any strategy, I'd
say this will be well beyond the point where polls have already taken
their toll and removed unviable candidates from the voters'
consciousness.

I absolutely want voters to pay attention to polls, because if they don't,
this is probably the same as the polls being unable to stabilize around
two frontrunners. And the results of such elections would be rather
arbitrary, I would guess.

> In plurality
> Approval, strategy based on polls would loom larger. Sure,
> it could oscillate. But how large would the osciallations
> be?

The only situation I'm concerned about is where, when the polls report
that A and B are the frontrunners, this causes voters to shift their
approvals so that the frontrunners change, and when the polls report
this, the voters react again, etc., etc. Obviously it wouldn't be as
neat as that (in my simulation, not everyone is allowed to change their
vote at the same time; they receive random opportunities). But I guess
the result is that there would ultimately be more than two frontrunners
in the voters' consciousness.

> And, in the end, the winner is the candidate accepted by
> the most voters.

But when one (such as myself, and I think also you) portrays Approval as
a strategy game, under which "sincerity" is a red herring, a statement
like the above falls very flat. What does it mean to be "accepted" by the
most voters?

If candidates were at least obtaining majority approval, I could be
content with the statement. But if no one obtains a majority, offering as
consolation that the most "accepted" candidate won is not much more
comforting under Approval than under Plurality.

> It's not going to be a terrible result,
> if Approval falls flat on its face, it elects a mediocre
> candidate because the voters didn't get the strategy
> right.

Well, what is a "terrible result" after all? It seems to me you don't
have to be too picky to find methods that only fail by electing mediocre
candidates.

> > I did simulate MCA, and yes, the D voters continued to
>> vote for D as their favorite (they were not allowed to list
>> multiple favorites, but this was simply to make the coding
>> more manageable). I don't know what you mean by voters
>> not giving up so easily as my simulated ones. How easy is
>> easy? I could conceivably program some voters to insist on
>> being sincere. (In whatever sense that it is not sincere to
>> vote also for C.) But it seems to me that this type of voter
>> is a bad thing for Approval, just as it is under Plurality.
>
> What type of voter is bad for Approval? Easy compromiser or
> tough bullet voter?

The type of voter who is willing to cast a suboptimal vote due to
principle. It is harmful under Plurality and here is a situation where
it would be harmful under Approval.

Kevin Venzke



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Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2008-12-19 21:18:57 UTC
Permalink
At 10:36 PM 12/18/2008, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>Hello,
>
>--- En date de : Mar 16.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman
>Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> >However, in defense of Venzke, he thinks that the situations where IRV
> >is non-monotonic are rare enough that it's not worth worrying about.
>
>What I think would be rare is that such situations (or the risk of such
>situations) would have any effect on voter behavior.

This is more true than false. However, this
judgment depends on voter ignorance or laziness,
when strategic voting would substantially improve
results. Further, eventually, we will see, I
predict, the norm to be that full ballot images
will be available. It's happening in San
Francisco with limited images. (The "images" are
ballot data summarized by the Opscan equipment,
so, for example, what is legally moot may have
been removed. I don't recall details, but certain
possibly interesting voting patterns have been
removed. (An example would be an overvote in a
second rank, with no third rank expressed; this
is indistinguishable, to my memory, from the same
overvote but with one of the candidates, or
another candidate, voted in the third rank. That
is a vote where a reasonable voter intention
could be deciphered, and even if the overvote
itself were not resolvable, a better estimate of
voter intentions as to the whole election could
be made. But at the least, the claim is made that
IRV leads to more ballot spoilage, or that it
presents more opportunities for voter error, at least....)

So, some big election shows monotonicity failure,
if some small set of voters had abstained, or
voted insincerely, they'd have gotten better
results. This is different from majority
criterion failure, a remote possibility and
arguably harmless possibility with approval
methods. This would, if discovered, create a
sense of illegitimacy in the election, and there
would be, in addition, two reasonably likely
outcomes: (1) the rejection of the voting reform
-- and increased suspicion regarding all voting
reform (in this situation, a majority might agree
that the result was poor) -- and (2) increased use of strategic voting.

The idea that voters won't vote strategically
misses a huge phenomenon: the use of vote cards
in Australia, where voting strategy is decided by
a political party, and then voters are advised. Many will follow this advice.

And, of course, there is truncation. And there
will be lots of truncation, unless full ranking
is required, and, not only is this unlikely to be
used in the U.S., it's been found
unconstitutional in the past. Full ranking was
required in the Oklahoma application of Bucklin,
and, contrary to what's been claimed or implied
-- the voting system aspect of it, aside from the
three-rank ballot -- wasn't an issue for the
Court rejecting the method. It was the obligatory
additional choice votes, when there where three
or more candidates. So voters cast first rank
votes, *and they weren't counted.*

> >The real bite is with Center Squeeze.
>
>I agree with this.

Thanks. You and me and nearly everyone who understands the issue.

> > Highly speculative. Bucklin probably experiences about the
> > same level of bullet voting due to LNH fears as IRV, not
> > much more, because the "harm" only happens when a
> > majority isn't found in the first round.
>
>If methods typically won't require more than the top rank, then I guess
>neither LNHarm nor monotonicity failures will be much of a problem.

With LNH, the "harm" is that the voter sees a
second preference candidate elected rather than
the first preference. In fact, in full-vote
methods (only Range is different), a single vote
never purely flips an election result, rather it
turns an election into a tie or a tie into an
election. Voter's won't be exercised about a rare
LNH failure. Most voters will bullet vote in a
situation where LNH is a real risk.

And, yes, methods in the U.S., at least, will not
require full ranking, and for very good reasons.
The Oklahoma case gave them in about 1926, as I
recall. Dove v. Ogleby. Full ranking forces
voters to vote for someone, effectively, whom
they may detest, striking at the heart of the
freedom of the voter. Democratic process only
"forces" this when there really is no
alternative, as agreed upon by a majority of
voters. They would rather see the office filled
by the Lizard than go vacant. In real democratic
process, election failure is always an option
that a majority can create -- or prevent.

Majority rule. Don't try this at home?

> >In other words, Center Squeeze is a direct consequence of LNH compliance
> >by IRV.
>
>Well, MMPO satisfies LNHarm, and is nearly a Condorcet method.

I'd have to look at it. How does MMPO work? I
worry about "nearly," but, sure, if the exception
took extraordinarily rare conditions, and the
results then were merely suboptimal, not
disastrous.... I can imagine a method that
uncovers the votes and uses them to decide other
pairwise contests, but I'm suspicious of the claim.

> >Interesting, eh? Top three. A Condorcet winner is almost certainly in
> >there!
>
>I think this is doubly likely if you arrange the incentives so that it's
>likely that third place achieved that position better than randomly.
>
>In other words: I want to have a TTR election where candidates risk being
>spoilers if they place worse than third.

That would be a system where the candidate is
risking damage to the overall benefit of the
election. Did you mean to write it as you did? A
spoiler typically will drop the "spoiled" candidacy one rank, not two.

By the way, I'm seeing, now, some work done in
the last two decades on the Clarke tax or similar
devices to give voters "incentive" to vote
sincerely. However, it seems to me that under
this is an assumption that voters won't vote sincerely, naturally.

The trick is to consider that their votes are
some mixture of sincerity and "strategy," i.e.,
that the votes already take into account, for
some voters, what the voters sense as a
reasonable compromise. It seems that some of us
don't trust that voters are capable of doing this.

The "incentives" may be trying to fix something
that's not broken. We have *theory* that voters
will "exaggerate" and thereby cause damage, but
if we look at the simplest case, Approval, there
is no Approval vote that makes sense that is
actually "exaggeration." If two candidates are
true clones, setting one's approval cutoff
between them makes no sense, the voter would, by
definition, be equally satisfied with the
election of either and should therefore support both.

Sometimes at this point, it will be said, "But
the voter wants his or her favorite to win!" Of
course. That's a preference difference. The
candidates aren't clones, for that voter. The
voter is attached to one of them. The reason for
the attachment isn't our business!

I claim that Range is strategically the same as
Approval, simply with additional opportunities
for a deeper expression of preference strength.
We can assume, in Range, even though it may not
be exactly true, that voters who express some
preference strength in Range actually have a
preference. And that when they don't express a
preference, they do not consider the preference
significant enough to warrant wasting a vote or fraction of a vote on it.

There is some indication, from a paper in
progress by Warren Smith, that a mixture of
"fully sincere" and "strategic" voting in Range
produces less regret than either "strategy"
alone. If this is true, the whole concept of
"strategic voting" as some kind of negative must be examined.

In any case, a good voting system will not
produce poor results with "strategic voting," but
only, at most, results that have been mildly made
less than theoretically optimal. All of the
"nightmare scenarios" that I've seen presented
for "vulnerability to strategic voting" in Range
have been results where the "sincere voters" got a very, very good result!

The exception is Saari's "mediocre" election,
where the supposed "sincere voters" simply follow
a totally stupid strategy, a mindless
approval-above-the-mean strategy, when we all
know to avoid this in real life, we don't use
that strategy, unless modified by estimated probabilities.

The *theory* of oscillation or endless regression
based on feedback between polls and voter
decisions is just that, a theory. It probably
doesn't happen much, because there are other,
stronger forces. Ron Paul might have made a good
Republican candidate, but .... campaign funding
would have to be addressed! I think Paul
supporters could have overcome poll bias, the
only Range poll that I saw on this (MSNBC Range
2, with votes of -1, 0, +1, and a default vote of
0 -- nice method!) showed Paul way ahead, far
above the other Republicans. Even with
participation bias, this was impressive. Same
polls showed, at that time, Obama way ahead of
Clinton. And, as I recall, McCain was, aside from
Paul, the most approved Republican. I find that
really interesting.... I should look again.

Voters aren't going to look at every poll and
shift their voting decisions; many or most of
them will only look at a few. Did anyone need a
poll to know that the U.S. Presidential election
was between Obama and McCain? Or that, in later
Democratic primaries, it was between Clinton and Obama?

Sure, that makes us dependent on the media. So
new? So got any alternative? (I do, we should own
the media, collectively, and we could do it,
effectively. Nothing stopping us but inertia. It
would be a good investment, done right.
Alternative: we don't own the media, but we are
well advised as to which media to trust. Same
difference. I prefer the ownership, because,
then, there is no conflict of interest, we
wouldn't prefer bad advice to a small loss in
share value, except that the loss won't happen;
the more trustworthy we find the media, the more
useful it becomes, and thus the greater the value, including economic value.)

>This places part of the election process outside of the election itself,
>but we already do this with Plurality.

Yes. It's normal. We need to remember that voting
systems are a special solution to a special
problem: the difficulty of managing full
deliberative process when the scale is large. As
such, we should try to imitate deliberative
process, to the extent practical. Asset Voting is
a totally new idea that is actually old, but
which escaped notice, turning any election into a
deliberative process using chosen representatives
as distinct from elected ones.

Short of Asset, what Range does is to imitate
various participation strategies: strong
preferences tend to lead to strong negotiating
positions, even a pretense of "gotta have it."
I.e., bullet voting. Weaker preferences *or a
desire for overall satisfaction,* which is a
normal human behavior, to value social
satisfaction even above one's personal
satisfaction, provided the personal loss is
perceived as small compared to the overall social
gain, leads to full initial disclosure of accurate utilities.

The voting pattern reflects two things:

(1) Preference strength.
(2) How much effort the voter is willing to put
into being accurate, which is related to (1).

I.e., what we've been calling "strategic voting"
in Range may be more sincere than we realize! It
modifies the linear transformation of utilities
into votes, it becomes more sensitive to strong
preference and less sensitive to weak, but that
is not a bad result, necessarily.

And the most that's needed as a protection is a
majority approval requirement. Hence runoff forms
of Range. Voting systems theorists almost
completely missed this in the search for ideal
methods, because completing in one round was
considered essential. It's actually a severe and
unnecessary restriction; it simply has a cost,
and it's possible to keep that cost low, lower
than the value of the improved results, when runoffs are needed.

It's possible that a good Range method would so
rarely need a runoff, and would only choose
second-best in the presence of only a small
difference in social utility from that winner and
the best, that runoffs wouldn't be worth it. If
we had runoff Range operating, we could measure
this with real elections. Until then, we need more and better simulations.

We need simulations that will predict truncation.
We need simulations that will predict turnout.
The models don't have to be perfect, some
modelling is better than none. We know that, in a
runoff special election, the idea that runoff
turnout is always poor is false when voters have
a very strong preference, such as the Lizard v.
the Wizard or the similar Chirac v. Le Pen runoff
elections, where final turnout exceeded that of
the primary. The reverse should be true: low
preference strength equals low turnout in runoff
election *and that is not a bad thing.*

So many false or weak assumptions, so little time!



> >From the first message:
>
> > "Frontrunner strategy" is a common one that seems
> > to help with ranked methods as well as Range ones. Make sure
> > you cast a maximally effective vote for a frontrunner, and,
> > where "against" matters, against the worst one.
> > Usually there are only two frontrunners, so it's easy.
> > "Expectation" is actually tricky if one
> > doesn't have knowledge of the electorate's general
> > response to the present election situation. How do you
> > determine "expectation." Mean utility of the
> > candidates is totally naive and non-optimal.
>
>Mean utility is supposed to be naive, and it is optimal, if you are
>"naive" about win odds.

I know that this (mean voting strategy in
Approval) has been proposed, but it's a poor
model. A voter who is "naive" about win odds is a
voter who is so out of touch with the real world
that we must wonder about the depth of the
voter's judgment of the candidates themselves!

This naive voter has no idea if the voter's own
preferences are normal, or completely isolated
from those of other voters. This is far, far from
a typical voter, and imagining that most voters
will follow this naive strategy is ... quite a stretch, don't you think?

Instead, most voters will, in fact, assume that
their own preference are reasonably normal, and
this will indicate a far different strategy to
them than mean utility. They will bullet vote, in
the presence of significant preference between
the favorite and other candidates, *and this is
known to happen*, even when voting systems give
them other options. The exception will be when
the preference is low. Making that call can be a
difficult choice. Did we claim that voters should
only be presented with easy choices?

Other voters will know that they have unusual or
idiosyncratic preferences, and they will vote accordingly.

So in Saari's example, the supposed "nutty" voter
is the only one out of 10,000 voters who votes a
reasonable strategy! -- he or she approves the
supposedly "mediocre" candidate. If this voter
had voted the "I'm normal strategy," there would
have been a tie between Best and Mediocre --
because this is how all of the 9,999 other voters
voted. Saari should have been so thoroughly
discredited by that paper, "Is Approval Voting an
Unmitigated Evil," that he'd have had trouble getting anything else published.

Smith claims that Saari is right on in many ways,
and that sometimes he writes much better. Maybe.
All I know is that in that particular paper,
which is almost entirely polemic without solid
foundation, he went way outside academic norms and standards.

>"Better than expectation" is mean *weighted* utility. You weight the
>utilities by the expected odds that each candidate will win. (There is
>an assumption in there about these odds being proportional to the odds
>that your vote can break a tie.)

Sure. That's the correct understanding of "mean
utility." It means a reasonable expectation of
the outcome. However, what's incorrect is
assuming that voters have no idea of the probably votes of others.

Being human, each voter is a sample human, and
more likely to represent the views of other
humans than not. This is a far more accurate
model of human behavior than the assumption that
candidate preferences are random, which only
would be true in a simulation that assigns the
preferences that way. Voters are members of
society, and not independent in the sense that
their choices can't be predicted, with some level
of accuracy, by those of a sample, even a sample as small as one voter.

By this argument, the rational vote,
zero-knowledge, is the bullet vote. This happens
to be the vote that has the best probability of
favorably affecting the outcome (i.e., if the
voter is the last voter). We've done it
backwards. The default vote should be a bullet
vote, and only in the presence of significant
strategic considerations should the voter deviate from that.

Now, if the voter has low preference between two
candidates, one of them the favorite, when the
preference strength is low enough, the voter may
indeed approve both of them. But this is far from
Saari's example, where the middle candidate was
equally placed between the best and worst
("mediocre"), not "almost as good as the best."

Or if the voter has some sense of the other
voters that leads the voter to conclude that the
voter's personal preferences don't reflect the
overall ones, then the voter will consider strategy to address that situation.

And for the voter's sample to be only one voter
would require that the voter doesn't discuss the
election with anyone! Indeed, because birds of a
feather flock together, voters are quite likely
to have a biased view of the overall preferences,
tending toward bullet voting, again.

So most voters, we can think, under current
conditions, will bullet vote. Fantasies that
large numbers will approve mediocre candidates
based on a stupid strategy is just that: a
fantasy, an example of how naive game theory can
fall flat on its face. Won't happen. Bullet Voting *will* happen.

>"Frontrunner strategy" is just a special case of "better than
>expectation," where only two candidates are expected to have any chance
>of winning.

Sure. There remains the issue of how to rate a
middle candidate. I think that the "mean
strategy" overlooks other factors, including what
might be called "absolute approval." I.e., if I
absolutely disapprove of a candidate -- never
mind the other options -- in that I would not
want it to be in my history that I voted for him
or her, I won't, no matter what the math tells
me. I'll listen to my gut instead of the math,
because it's more likely, in fact, that the math
is wrong than that the gut is wrong. The "gut"
was developed over millions of years of
evolution, where making wrong decisions was life
or death, or starvation or nutrition, and the
math is how old? The "gut" does use math, in a
sense, Warren is right. But it's VNM utilities, probably, that it follows.


> > But it's a complex issue. My point is that "better
> > than expectation" has been taken to mean "average
> > of the candidates," which is poor strategy, any wonder
> > that it comes up with mediocre results?
>
>"Average of the candidates" is the special case of "better than
>expectation," where there is no information on candidates' win odds.

Which is a non-existent situation, unless you
posit radically artificial conditions. "No idea
of probable outcomes" is rare in the real world,
it mostly crops up with gambling, where random
choice is artificially created. And, indeed, we
can make bad decisions under those conditions,
assuming, as would be natural and generally
correct, dealing with nature, that we can improve
our performance the more we play the game!

What I'm pointing out is that the voter's
knowledge of himself or herself is adequate for a
better default "zero-knowledge" strategy than "mean utility of the candidates."

In Range, i.e., Range N with N>1, I'd rate,
candidates, "sincerely," i.e., with reasonable
accuracy, but with some bias towards approval
strategy, perhaps. I.e., the transform from
utilities to range votes might be linear, except
that the transformation is truncated, possibly at
the top and bottom. In particular, I'd be
unlikely to give candidates I'd not like to see
win the election, purely on their own, any positive rating at all.

But we overlook, in these analyses, that most
voters don't know enough to "sincerely rate" all
the candidates. As Carroll noticed, most voters
may know their favorite, maybe their favorite's
main opponents, and that's it. So what do you do,
how do you vote, when you don't recognize the candidate?

Naively, Warren Smith thinks you might abstain,
and he wants to see average Range rather than sum
of votes range (Sum of votes range usually treats
an abstention as a bottom rating, though it could
be, for example, midrange, as it was in the MSNBC polls.)

However, only voting for candidates I recognize
and approving the best of these and not the
worst, is a kind of frontrunner strategy, for the
best-known candidates tend to be the
frontrunners. I may only know one candidate
(Carroll's realization), my favorite. Bullet
voting is my response, as it should be.

What we have done, too often, is to study voting
systems through their theoretical performance in
preposterously rare situations. As I've written
many times, a very common objection to Approval
Voting, including among experts, is Majority
Criterion failure. Yet MC failure with Approval
is, in the vast majority of real political
elections, highly unlikely, because of the
preponderance of bullet voting, and when it
happens, it's hardly a disaster (only if the
majority were drastically misinformed about
themselves would it be a mediocre result). (By
definition, the supporters of frontrunners when
there are only two, have no incentive to add
additional approvals unless they don't mind that
these votes, by some miracle, elect a minor party
candidate. So bullet voting when the voters are
voting for a frontrunner can be expected, it
would be the norm. It's only when voters prefer a
minor party candidate that we will see an
increase in the usage of additional votes, and
this is true for optional ranked systems. I
should look at the Australian OPV data, but the
reported data doesn't show truncation in votes
for the top two. I do know that ballot exhaustion
is *common* with OPV, which would mean bullet
voters who *don't* vote for a frontrunner.

We have to realize this: many or most voters will
ordinarily vote for one candidate, and habit
isn't the only cause for this, it is probably
better strategy for the majority of voters than a
naive "mean of the candidates."

And, of course, we can then see Saari's example
as the piece of preposterousness that it is. If
two voters out of 9,999 vote this very common
strategy -- under Plurality, where it's costly if
wrong! --, which we have every reason to think
will be normal, certainly not rare, the Best wins.



> > > The big concern is what happens when poll stability
> > can't be achieved.
> >
> > Nah! Most voters won't pay that much attention to
> > polls, they will just vote their gut. Polls will be used by
> > those who are very seriously involved, who want to maximize
> > the power of their vote. I think most of the "big
> > concern" is simply imagination. There won't be big
> > surprises with Approval. Little ones, sure.
>
>I use the term "polls" loosely. It is hard to imagine that under any
>election method, voters in this recent election might not have realized
>that the important contest was McCain vs. Obama.

And I can't think of an exception. Probably the
closest would have been Ross Perot. Some people
may have voted for him thinking he could win. But
I think most realized exactly what they were
doing. They simply didn't have enough preference
between Bush Sr. and Clinton to make it
worthwhile to them to drop the value of the statement of a vote for Perot.

To emphasize this, we have been diverted by the
idea that "strategic voting" is a bad thing,
instead of looking at what's underneath the hood:
preference strength. If you don't have
significant preference strength involved, you
don't bother with utility maximization, you don't
care enough even if you are *certain* that it
will be A or B, you'd rather vote for C for other
reasons. In a preferential method, *some* of you
will vote for A or B. Some won't. How many of
each? *Depends on preference strength.*

The idea that preference strength was useless,
the easy rejection of it because it wasn't
"practical," the claim that "voters will
exaggerate," all this diverted us from this large
gray pachyderm in our main living space.
Preference strength drives voter behavior, and
preference strength is behind voter turnout
(particularly in special elections), and how voters choose to vote.

>If voters "vote their gut" and don't consciously use any strategy, I'd
>say this will be well beyond the point where polls have already taken
>their toll and removed unviable candidates from the voters'
>consciousness.

But it happens without polls! That a candidate
isn't "in the voter's consciousness" is the worst
nightmare of campaign managers. "Bad publicity is better than no publicity."

Consider this: in real IRV elections, nonpartisan
is important, vote transfers seem to behave,
where I've looked, as if the supporters of an
eliminated candidate are a representative sample
of all the other voters, i.e., their lower preferences will match, generally.

I was astonished to see this, in fact, it was a
totally unexpected result. But if you think about
it, it makes a great deal of sense. In
nonpartisan elections, there isn't some automatic
means for voters to connect candidates. It's easy
for a Green Party supporter to assume that a
Democrat will be a better choice than a
Republican. Take the party markers away, what's left?

The candidates themselves, and the combination of
their character as viewed by the public, to some
degree their policies, and how well they are known.

For whatever reason, the vote transfers tend to
not alter the social order among the remaining
candidates, so the first round leader wins the
election. No exception, so far, in nonpartisan
IRV elections in the U.S. -- which is the large
bulk of nonpartisan elections. It's quite
different with Top Two Runoff, where the
runner-up wins the runoff in about one-third of
elections. At this point, the sample size is
small enough that this could be some statistical
fluke. But it's actually a known effect in
Australia. "Comeback elections" remain relatively
rare, even with partisan elections (which the
Australian PV elections are), and it is
practically unknown (totally? as I recall, maybe
one or two elections in the last century?) for
the first round third place candidate to win.

Using Approval isn't going to magically increase
the voter awareness for minor candidates! The
only system I know of that gives these candidates
a real chance, except under quite unusual
circumstances, some sea change, is Top Two
Runoff, which better simulates deliberative
process. So ... we should be following that clue.
Require a majority approve a result, *at least*
for an election to be decided on the first
ballot. Use better methods for discovering a
majority if one can be found in the votes, i.e.,
use Bucklin or a Condorcet method instead of IRV,
and better methods of picking what happens in the
runoff. I've been making Range/Condorcet hybrid
proposals. Asset, though, finesses the whole
mess. One election to pick the electors, and the
electors handle the rest, and can use as many
ballots as they choose. With public voters, the
whole secret ballot/security/counting expense thing goes away.

>I absolutely want voters to pay attention to polls, because if they don't,
>this is probably the same as the polls being unable to stabilize around
>two frontrunners. And the results of such elections would be rather
>arbitrary, I would guess.

Only when preference strengths are small! Give me
a large enough preference strength, I don't give
a fig about polls! And I think that's true of most voters.

So the "oscillation," the lack of stability, will
only take place when the choice isn't terribly
important to most voters. Like most voters, I'd
guess, in this last Presidential election, what
was most important to me was that a Democrat win.
I.e., I had *intrinsic* low preference among the
major Democratic candidates, I'd have supported
any of them. I came to favor Obama, early on, but
for a combination of electability and an
assessment of him as a person. Clinton had -- as
the MSNBC polls showed -- too many negatives, not
so much personally, but as to electability.

Please don't give me an open primary, the IRV
supporters' suggestions that IRV could replace
primaries and general elections with a single
ballot is very, very dangerous. Range might do
it, but I'd *insist* on a true majority approving the winner.


> > In plurality
> > Approval, strategy based on polls would loom larger. Sure,
> > it could oscillate. But how large would the osciallations
> > be?
>
>The only situation I'm concerned about is where, when the polls report
>that A and B are the frontrunners, this causes voters to shift their
>approvals so that the frontrunners change, and when the polls report
>this, the voters react again, etc., etc.

Of course. Except it's not going to happen.
Voters will overstate their tendency to bullet
vote in the polls. Voters will only approve more
than one when they have lower than a certain
threshold of preference strength, and even there,
it's questionable how much they will do it unless
they really have no significant preference, it's
hard for them to state a preference between two, so they approve both.

Further, the results don't shift the way you seem
to expect. A and B are the frontrunners, a poll
shows. How do voters respond? One common response
would be no response. Then there are the
supporters of C. They get this news, they now
plan to add a vote for A or B, from their prior bullet vote for C.

There is only one class of voter who will shift
their vote: those who already preferred a
frontrunner, but who, in ignorance of this
situation, already approved both. You have to
understand that this is an unusual situation, in
itself. Most voters in early polls will bullet
vote, unless preference strength is low, and if
preference strength is low, they aren't likely to
stop approving both. But voters who did vote like
this may raise their approval cutoff to reflect
how they probably should have voted in the first place!

Sure, it could oscillate. But only if most voters
have low preference between A and B. In which
case it doesn't matter that much who wins! Sure,
the choice would then be somewhat arbitrary. This
is Approval, after all, the terminally simple
Range 1. It's like a control mechanism with only
two motor speeds: Off or Full-On. Such systems
will oscillate under some conditions,
oversteering. In Range, even Range 2, the
response is damped. If, in an initial poll, I
rated Obama 1 and Clinton 1 -- our unusual
situation, I wouldn't have done that in reality
-- I'd not drop Clinton to -1 if a poll showed
them running neck and neck, I'd have dropped her
to 0.5. Now, in reality, I did, in fact, rate
Clinton at 0 -- midrange -- in the MSNBC poll.
And finding out that they were running neck and
neck, I don't think it would have shifted my
rating at all. (Remember, I've got other
candidates rated too, some at 1 or 0.5, some at
zero, this was a "primary poll," not for the
election itself.) Allowing intermediate responses
will reduce oscillation. The idea that everyone
is going to want to go full-on for their favorite
against everyone else is just as preposterous as
the idea that everyone will add additional preferences.

Instead, even with Approval, the results are
damped, through averaging. People aren't the
same, will respond differently, so the average
Approval votes will tend toward Range results.

(Like an analog to digital converter that
collects a lot of 0s and 1s based on a comparator
output, where the voltage of interest is compared
with either a random voltage in some range or is
swept. Either way, if the random distribution is
correct, the sum of outputs of the comparator
will vary quasi-linearly with the analog voltage
being studied even though all the "votes" are binary.

In other words, when we study Approval using
limited examples that assume large numbers of
voters voting identically, and switching their
votes identically, we get a much poorer image of
the method than some simulation that imitates the
varying underlying utilities and approval
cutoffs, the latter being a process of feedback,
of interaction between absolute utilities and
their probability-modified VNM versions.

This process is part of how a participating
electorate seeks and finds compromise. It's much
better than raw voting system theory might
predict. It considers and measures preference
strength, not directly, but through the outputs, the votes.

> Obviously it wouldn't be as
>neat as that (in my simulation, not everyone is allowed to change their
>vote at the same time; they receive random opportunities). But I guess
>the result is that there would ultimately be more than two frontrunners
>in the voters' consciousness.

Actually, in real elections, there may be only
one. The incumbent advantage is a real one, and
difficult to overcome, and it's not even clear
that it *should* be overcome. I prefer Asset,
though, because it bypasses the whole can of
worms. Vote for your favorite, period. Don't
trust your favorite to carry on in your place?
Why, then, are you voting for such an
untrustworthy person? The qualification for
office *generally* implies qualification for
delegating responsibility and authority. I.e.,
for choosing who will hold the office. Real
officeholders, especially major offices, must be
able to delegate authority; someone very good at
the office, as to what they *personally* do, but
who doesn't know whom to trust, can be a
disaster, vulnerable to unscrupulous staff or
associates. So the only reason that I can think
of that one would vote for someone considered
untrustworthy is a system that doesn't allow
voting for the true favorite; the "favorite" in
this case is a lesser evil, not actually trusted.
And if the voter has *nobody* whom the voter can
trust, given the vast freedom in a mature Asset
system, well, there are two responses, and, beyond that, TANSTAAFL.

(1) Adjust medication.
(2) Register as an elector and vote for yourself.

> > And, in the end, the winner is the candidate accepted by
> > the most voters.
>
>But when one (such as myself, and I think also you) portrays Approval as
>a strategy game, under which "sincerity" is a red herring, a statement
>like the above falls very flat. What does it mean to be "accepted" by the
>most voters?

It means that the voters literally "accepted" --
which is an *action*, not a sentiment, sincerity
has practically nothing to do with it -- the candidate.

It's possible to have a Range system where the
voter specifies a value that is an approval
cutoff. So the voter could vote with total
sincerity, accurately representing preferences.
The approval cutoff is a separate decision, and
that cutoff is *always* a strategic decision. You
are offered $159,000 for your house. Do you
accept? You answer will depend on what you think
you can get, you will generally approve better
than your expectation, and not approve what is
below your expectation. Expectation, not
"desire." It's pure judgment, or should be!

Approval is *partly* a strategy game, but not
entirely. The same is true for Range. We may
assume, with Range, for example, that all
expressed preferences are sincere. (Exceptions
would be rare, largely moot). So "preference
expression" is sincere in both Approval and
Range. The "game" aspect has to do with where to
set the approval cutoff. With Range, and in
particular with hi-res Range, we can treat a
rating of 100% as indicating a favorite, or a
candidate so close to the favorite that there is
no difference worth considering, because the
strategic value of voting 100 vs. 99 is so low
that we might as well forget about it. (And it's
possible to have preference markers in Range
where voters can indicate pure preference or
precedence within a rating. There are actually
some simple, practical possibilities for doing
this. I just don't think that those markers are
necessary once the range resolution is high enough.)

Kevin, you've neglected this: the votes in Range
and Approval reflect both sincerity and strategy,
a mix. You can infer certain preferences from
them, and those inferences will generally be
accurate. The strategic part has to do with what
the voter is concealing as to preference, or
simply not disclosing. We don't know if this is strategic or accurate.

Call it Later No Harm! It's the same idea,
really. The voter isn't disclosing certain
preferences, for whatever reason. Do we want
preference disclosure to be cost-free? I'd
suggest that this is not a good idea, it
introduces noise into the system more than it
increases information. Remember, the big concern
about Range is supposed to be "vulnerable to
strategy." Behind this is an assumption that
"exaggerating" is insincere, since, supposedly,
it's cost-free. But it isn't cost-free, unless it's moot!

In a three-way election, approval A and B against
C, you've just abstained from the AB election, in
favor of defeating C. There was a cost to the
"exaggeration," if that is what it was. There is
a cost either way, but .... when the number of
voters is small, it turns out, the optimal
strategy is the bullet vote. The incremental
utility gets smaller and smaller as the number of
voters increases (and this is relative utility,
with the assumption that the vote affects the
result, so this effect is compounded by the
increasing rarity of ties and near-ties), but it
never disappears. That optimal strategy is such
when the middle candidate has an exact middle
utility. I've not studied the other cases. But my
sense is that as the middle utility moves toward
A, the optimal vote moves toward double Approval.
Has to be, I'd think, because if the utility gap
goes to zero, the optimal vote is obviously
double Approval, 100% guarantee of no regret over the vote.

Another example, by the way, of how "mean
candidate" is a bad Approval zero-knowledge
strategy. It has to be probability modified, and
the voter's own preference *must* be considered
to weight the probability, since the voter is a
member of the electorate, and if all other voters
are unknown, we still have a net vote weighted,
by one vote, toward our voter's position.

>If candidates were at least obtaining majority approval, I could be
>content with the statement. But if no one obtains a majority, offering as
>consolation that the most "accepted" candidate won is not much more
>comforting under Approval than under Plurality.

This is an argument for requiring a majority,
isn't it? Sure. However, suppose there is some
other threshold than "more than half" of the
ballots approving. Set this threshold at X.

Whatever X is, that one candidate exceeds it with
a greater margin is "more comforting" *on
average* than that, say, the other candidate be
chosen. Absolutely, this might not be much
improvement. Take the California gubernatorial
election with its bizarre number of candidates.
Make it approval. (not a bad idea, actually,
certainly better than what they did!). If the
winner has 17% of the vote, whereas with
Plurality it would have been 15%, sure, not very comforting.

Plurality is an anomaly. No business may be
decided, in deliberative process, with less than
a majority, of those voting, voting for it.
"Voting for it" is "accepting it." Using Approval
Voting doesn't change that one bit. So Plurality
voting has only to do with multiple-choice
questions, and is only used where it is
impractical to use repeated balloting, and this
has been specified in the bylaws.

I consider, it should be made clear, requiring a
majority to be so important that I'd not replace
Top Two Runoff, with all its defects, with
Approval Voting. Instead, I'd suggest: use
Approval or other method, such as Bucklin or
Range with specified approval cutoff, for the
primary, reducing the need for runoffs.

And Top Two Runoff is much better than we have
thought, particularly if write-in votes are
allowed in the runoff, and it gets even better if
advanced methods are used in the primary and runoff.

Bucklin runoff with write-ins allowed, two-rank,
totally cool. Easy to count. Sure, if voters
bullet vote for the write-in, there could easily
be majority failure. No limited-ballot system is
going to be perfect, Range and hybrid methods just get as close as is possible.

But who is likely to bullet vote for a write-in
in a runoff election between the top two
candidates from the first ballot? One of those
candidates was, say, the Range winner, and one is
a Condorcet winner if different -- or there was
no Condorcet winner beating a Range winner, so
it's top two Range, nobody having gained a
majority. Bucklin would allow voters limited LNH
protection: vote for a favored write-in, then for
the favored candidate on the ballot. Wouldn't you?

(I.e., if you thought that somehow something went
wrong with the first election, the best candidate
got eliminated, which would be vanishingly rare
with a Range/Condorcet runoff system, or everyone
got low approval so a new campaign is needed, you
can still mount a write-in campaign without
spoiling the election. There haven't *really*
been any eliminations, only restricted ballot
position, thus the method gets closer to pure
deliberative process, where no possible
compromise is every ruled out until a final decision has been made.)

> > It's not going to be a terrible result,
> > if Approval falls flat on its face, it elects a mediocre
> > candidate because the voters didn't get the strategy
> > right.
>
>Well, what is a "terrible result" after all? It seems to me you don't
>have to be too picky to find methods that only fail by electing mediocre
>candidates.

When ranked methods fail, they can fail
spectacularly, and with sincere votes. It gets
unusual, to be sure, with better ranked methods
(it may be as high as 10% failure with IRV, under
nonpartisan conditions, but most of those
failures will also be of minor effect.)

I really shouldn't have written "mediocre."
Rather, Approval can elect a "less controversial"
candidate, which perhaps many or even most of the
voters would judge a "more mediocre" result than
the best candidate, were all the preferences
accurately known. Saari used "mediocre" to refer
to a candidate with mean utility between the best
and worst, as seen by the vast majority of
voters. It's correct, that would be a "mediocre"
winner. Better than the worst case for ranked methods.

(Or, perhaps I should say, "some ranked methods."
Borda, for starters, looks like a ranked method
but is more accurately a ratings method with a
highly restricted way of expressing the ratings.
I'm not familiar with *how bad* Condorcet methods
can fail. Generally, with reasonable
distributions of candidates, the difference
between a Condorcet winner and a Range winner are
small. So I've had in mind a method like IRV,
where the winner could be opposed by two-thirds
of the voters, and that could be a maximally
strong preference -- they will revolt! -- and
that's with sincere votes. Strategic voting
could, indeed, improve the results.)

> > What type of voter is bad for Approval? Easy compromiser or
> > tough bullet voter?
>
>The type of voter who is willing to cast a suboptimal vote due to
>principle. It is harmful under Plurality and here is a situation where
>it would be harmful under Approval.

What does that mean?

Here is what I get from it. The Nader voter cast
a supposedly "suboptimal vote" under Plurality.
For principle, i.e., the importance of voting for
the best candidate, in one's opinion.

Is that the meaning? But who are we to say that
this vote was suboptimal? Remember, the campaign
rhetoric, by Nader, was that it didn't matter who
won, Bush or Gore, they were both totally in the
pocket of the large corporations. So why can't we
just assume that the voter made an *optimal*
decision? From the voter's perspective.

Or does this mean the voter who supports Nader,
but who *does* have a reasonably strong
preference between Gore and Nader, and decides to vote that?

Note that these situations apply to Approval.
Both scenarios will happen with Approval just as
with Plurality. In the first situation, i.e.,
Nader is believed, there is no incentive to add a vote for Gore or Bush.

(We presume that the Nader voter would vote for
Gore, but if there is no difference, why one over
the other? And if there is a difference, why in
the world does the voter prefer Nader, who has
just tried to feed him some nonsense? A believe
that all politicians, including Nader, are going
to lie? That, my friends, is why the American
electorate voted in large numbers for Bush, when
they knew he was lying. They all lie, after all,
so why not vote for the one who tells you the
lies you want to hear, since he'll perhaps feel
some need to follow up on *some* of those
promises, more than the other guy, who if he does
what he says he will do, you won't like it.)

In Approval, the second situation doesn't create
a big conflict, that's the improvement. With
Bucklin, the remaining conflict is resolved, the
voter can vote first preference and then indicate
alternate choices. But, still, voters, including
minor party supporters, will bullet vote, some
percentage of them. And almost all those who
truly prefer a major candidate will bullet vote.

----
Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
Kevin Venzke
2008-12-21 05:56:48 UTC
Permalink
Hello,

--- En date de : Ven 19.12.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > > Highly speculative. Bucklin probably experiences
> about the
> > > same level of bullet voting due to LNH fears as
> IRV, not
> > > much more, because the "harm" only
> happens when a
> > > majority isn't found in the first round.
> >
> > If methods typically won't require more than the
> top rank, then I guess
> > neither LNHarm nor monotonicity failures will be much
> of a problem.
>
> With LNH, the "harm" is that the voter sees a
> second preference candidate elected rather than the first
> preference.

Actually, the harm need not take that form. It could be that you add an
additional preference and cause an even worse candidate to win instead of
your favorite candidate.

> In fact, in full-vote methods (only Range is
> different), a single vote never purely flips an election
> result, rather it turns an election into a tie or a tie into
> an election.

Yes, but the concern should not be that you personally will ruin the
result, it's that you and voters of like mind and strategy will ruin the
result.

> > >In other words, Center Squeeze is a direct
> consequence of LNH compliance
> > >by IRV.
> >
> > Well, MMPO satisfies LNHarm, and is nearly a Condorcet
> method.
>
> I'd have to look at it. How does MMPO work? I worry
> about "nearly," but, sure, if the exception took
> extraordinarily rare conditions, and the results then were
> merely suboptimal, not disastrous.... I can imagine a method
> that uncovers the votes and uses them to decide other
> pairwise contests, but I'm suspicious of the claim.

The "opposition" of candidate A to candidate B is the number of voters
ranking A above B. (There are no pairwise contests as such, though the
same data is collected as though there were.)

Score each candidate as the greatest opposition they receive from another
candidate.

Elect the candidate with the lowest score.

This satisfies LNHarm because by adding another preference, the only
change you can make is that a worse candidate is defeated.

DSC is harder to explain. Basically the method is trying to identify the
largest "coalitions" of voters that prefer a given set of candidates to
the others. The coalitions are ranked and evaluated in turn. By adding
another preference, you can get lumped in with a coalition that you
hadn't been. (Namely, the coalition that prefers all the candidates that
you ranked, in some order, to all the others.) But this doesn't help
the added candidate win if a different candidate supported by this
coalition was already winning.

> > >Interesting, eh? Top three. A Condorcet winner is
> almost certainly in
> > >there!
> >
> > I think this is doubly likely if you arrange the
> incentives so that it's
> > likely that third place achieved that position better
> than randomly.
> >
> > In other words: I want to have a TTR election where
> candidates risk being
> > spoilers if they place worse than third.
>
> That would be a system where the candidate is risking
> damage to the overall benefit of the election. Did you mean
> to write it as you did? A spoiler typically will drop the
> "spoiled" candidacy one rank, not two.

That is what I meant to write, although I don't understand your second
statement.

As far as it being a "system where the candidate is risking damage to
the overall benefit of the election": We already have this with FPP,
with every candidate who places third or worse.

Basically I want a hybrid of FPP and TTR, that does better than either
at providing an actual third choice that might be able to win. That
everyone and their mother can be nominated fairly safely under TTR is
nice and democratic, but I think it's a waste of potential.

> The *theory* of oscillation or endless regression based on
> feedback between polls and voter decisions is just that, a
> theory.

What is the alternative? Do you think polls will settle on two
frontrunners almost arbitrarily?

The only alternative I can think of is that there would be no effective
polls. And I suspect that would be just as bad as having polls that don't
stabilize.

> > >From the first message:
> >
> > > "Frontrunner strategy" is a common one
> that seems
> > > to help with ranked methods as well as Range
> ones. Make sure
> > > you cast a maximally effective vote for a
> frontrunner, and,
> > > where "against" matters, against the
> worst one.
> > > Usually there are only two frontrunners, so
> it's easy.
> > > "Expectation" is actually tricky if one
> > > doesn't have knowledge of the
> electorate's general
> > > response to the present election situation. How
> do you
> > > determine "expectation." Mean utility
> of the
> > > candidates is totally naive and non-optimal.
> >
> > Mean utility is supposed to be naive, and it is
> optimal, if you are
> > "naive" about win odds.
>
> I know that this (mean voting strategy in Approval) has
> been proposed, but it's a poor model. A voter who is
> "naive" about win odds is a voter who is so out of
> touch with the real world that we must wonder about the
> depth of the voter's judgment of the candidates
> themselves!

I can't understand what you're criticizing. It is the zero-info strategy.
You seem to be attacking this strategy by attacking the voters who would
have to use it. That doesn't mean that those voters wouldn't have to use
it.

> This naive voter has no idea if the voter's own
> preferences are normal, or completely isolated from those of
> other voters. This is far, far from a typical voter, and
> imagining that most voters will follow this naive strategy
> is ... quite a stretch, don't you think?

I don't know of anyone who said that voters would follow this strategy
in a public election.

> > "Better than expectation" is mean *weighted*
> utility. You weight the
> > utilities by the expected odds that each candidate
> will win. (There is
> > an assumption in there about these odds being
> proportional to the odds
> > that your vote can break a tie.)
>
> Sure. That's the correct understanding of "mean
> utility." It means a reasonable expectation of the
> outcome. However, what's incorrect is assuming that
> voters have no idea of the probably votes of others.

Ok, but I have never done that. "Better than expectation" strategy
does not really depend on ignorance of other voters' intentions.

> Being human, each voter is a sample human, and more likely
> to represent the views of other humans than not. This is a
> far more accurate model of human behavior than the
> assumption that candidate preferences are random, which only
> would be true in a simulation that assigns the preferences
> that way. Voters are members of society, and not independent
> in the sense that their choices can't be predicted, with
> some level of accuracy, by those of a sample, even a sample
> as small as one voter.
>
> By this argument, the rational vote, zero-knowledge, is the
> bullet vote.

But when this argument is accepted, the situation isn't zero-knowledge
anymore.

> This happens to be the vote that has the best
> probability of favorably affecting the outcome (i.e., if the
> voter is the last voter). We've done it backwards. The
> default vote should be a bullet vote, and only in the
> presence of significant strategic considerations should the
> voter deviate from that.

> > "Frontrunner strategy" is just a special
> case of "better than
> > expectation," where only two candidates are
> expected to have any chance
> > of winning.
>
> Sure. There remains the issue of how to rate a middle
> candidate.

According to "better than expectation" strategy, if e.g. the two
frontrunners are expected to have 50% odds of winning each, then for
the middle candidates, you must approve those who are better than the
average utility of the two frontrunners.

> I think that the "mean strategy"
> overlooks other factors, including what might be called
> "absolute approval." I.e., if I absolutely
> disapprove of a candidate -- never mind the other options --
> in that I would not want it to be in my history that I voted
> for him or her, I won't, no matter what the math tells
> me. I'll listen to my gut instead of the math, because
> it's more likely, in fact, that the math is wrong than
> that the gut is wrong.

I don't think "mean strategy" overlooks that factor (unless you just
mean that real voters won't stick to effective strategy). I would rather
say that the numbers have been filled in incorrectly, when the result
doesn't agree with one's gut. (This is subject to the assumption that
the voter is trying to vote optimally.)

> > > But it's a complex issue. My point is that
> "better
> > > than expectation" has been taken to mean
> "average
> > > of the candidates," which is poor strategy,
> any wonder
> > > that it comes up with mediocre results?
> >
> > "Average of the candidates" is the special
> case of "better than
> > expectation," where there is no information on
> candidates' win odds.
>
> Which is a non-existent situation, unless you posit
> radically artificial conditions.

I never said that the zero-info case was an existent situation. I am
saying that the strategy of approving above the simple mean, is the
zero-info strategy, not the generally recommended strategy.

> So the "oscillation," the lack of stability, will
> only take place when the choice isn't terribly important
> to most voters.

I don't think I understand this argument.

A simple example of what I mean would be where there is a preference
cycle of A>B>C>A. Imagine that everyone likes their top two choices
better than midrange. Then, when polls predict that the frontrunners
are A and B, for instance, this causes the electorate to plan to vote
in such a way that B will actually place third. When polls pick up on
this and report that the frontrunners are actually A and C, then A can
be expected to place third. And this could go on, in theory,
indefinitely.

> > > In plurality
> > > Approval, strategy based on polls would loom
> larger. Sure,
> > > it could oscillate. But how large would the
> osciallations
> > > be?
> >
> > The only situation I'm concerned about is where,
> when the polls report
> > that A and B are the frontrunners, this causes voters
> to shift their
> > approvals so that the frontrunners change, and when
> the polls report
> > this, the voters react again, etc., etc.
>
> Of course. Except it's not going to happen. Voters will
> overstate their tendency to bullet vote in the polls.

But that isn't inherently good. That means a compromise choice without
many sincere first preferences can only win by unexpected accident.
The compromise choice would be much more likely to win if he were
identified as a frontrunner.

> Voters
> will only approve more than one when they have lower than a
> certain threshold of preference strength, and even there,
> it's questionable how much they will do it unless they
> really have no significant preference, it's hard for
> them to state a preference between two, so they approve
> both.
>
> Further, the results don't shift the way you seem to
> expect. A and B are the frontrunners, a poll shows. How do
> voters respond? One common response would be no response.
> Then there are the supporters of C. They get this news, they
> now plan to add a vote for A or B, from their prior bullet
> vote for C.
>
> There is only one class of voter who will shift their vote:
> those who already preferred a frontrunner, but who, in
> ignorance of this situation, already approved both. You have
> to understand that this is an unusual situation, in itself.
> Most voters in early polls will bullet vote, unless
> preference strength is low, and if preference strength is
> low, they aren't likely to stop approving both. But
> voters who did vote like this may raise their approval
> cutoff to reflect how they probably should have voted in the
> first place!
>
> Sure, it could oscillate. But only if most voters have low
> preference between A and B. In which case it doesn't
> matter that much who wins!

I'm not sure what you think my concern is. My concern is about
situations where which two candidates are seen as the frontrunners, is
something that doesn't stabilize.

> The incremental utility gets smaller and smaller as
> the number of voters increases (and this is relative
> utility, with the assumption that the vote affects the
> result, so this effect is compounded by the increasing
> rarity of ties and near-ties), but it never disappears. That
> optimal strategy is such when the middle candidate has an
> exact middle utility. I've not studied the other cases.
> But my sense is that as the middle utility moves toward A,
> the optimal vote moves toward double Approval. Has to be,
> I'd think, because if the utility gap goes to zero, the
> optimal vote is obviously double Approval, 100% guarantee of
> no regret over the vote.

Yes, it does, assuming the favorite and least-favorite candidates have
equal win odds. In that case your expectation is somewhere between the
midrange and whatever the middle candidate is worth.

> Another example, by the way, of how "mean
> candidate" is a bad Approval zero-knowledge strategy.

This is "mean strategy" I assume.

> It has to be probability modified, and the voter's own
> preference *must* be considered to weight the probability,
> since the voter is a member of the electorate, and if all
> other voters are unknown, we still have a net vote weighted,
> by one vote, toward our voter's position.

Yes, but in a public election, this vote is of microscopic value, which
is why no one tries to count it.

> > If candidates were at least obtaining majority
> approval, I could be
> > content with the statement. But if no one obtains a
> majority, offering as
> > consolation that the most "accepted"
> candidate won is not much more
> > comforting under Approval than under Plurality.
>
> This is an argument for requiring a majority, isn't it?

Not necessarily, because requiring a majority would alter the strategy
of the method, possibly in a bad way.

What I'm saying is that I view it as bad if large numbers of Approval
voters are failing to participate in the most important contest, or
failing to even identify such a contest.

> Sure. However, suppose there is some other threshold than
> "more than half" of the ballots approving. Set
> this threshold at X.
>
> Whatever X is, that one candidate exceeds it with a greater
> margin is "more comforting" *on average* than
> that, say, the other candidate be chosen.

I am not disputing that the candidate with the most Approval is the best
candidate to win an Approval election. Same as I wouldn't dispute that
if we run out of food we should resort to cannibalism rather than starve.
I'm saying it's bad if we do something that is prone to leading us in this
direction.

> > > It's not going to be a terrible result,
> > > if Approval falls flat on its face, it elects a
> mediocre
> > > candidate because the voters didn't get the
> strategy
> > > right.
> >
> > Well, what is a "terrible result" after all?
> It seems to me you don't
> > have to be too picky to find methods that only fail by
> electing mediocre
> > candidates.
>
> When ranked methods fail, they can fail spectacularly, and
> with sincere votes. It gets unusual, to be sure, with better
> ranked methods (it may be as high as 10% failure with IRV,
> under nonpartisan conditions, but most of those failures
> will also be of minor effect.)

I would have thought IRV would be squarely in the category that fails
by electing a mediocre candidate, and rarely by electing a terrible
one.

> I really shouldn't have written "mediocre."
> Rather, Approval can elect a "less controversial"
> candidate, which perhaps many or even most of the voters
> would judge a "more mediocre" result than the best
> candidate, were all the preferences accurately known.

Well, if voters tend to bullet vote under Approval, I guess it really
won't be much different from FPP or IRV.

> (Or, perhaps I should say, "some ranked methods."
> Borda, for starters, looks like a ranked method but is more
> accurately a ratings method with a highly restricted way of
> expressing the ratings. I'm not familiar with *how bad*
> Condorcet methods can fail. Generally, with reasonable
> distributions of candidates, the difference between a
> Condorcet winner and a Range winner are small. So I've
> had in mind a method like IRV, where the winner could be
> opposed by two-thirds of the voters, and that could be a
> maximally strong preference -- they will revolt! -- and
> that's with sincere votes. Strategic voting could,
> indeed, improve the results.)

If you listen to Warren Smith, Condorcet methods are prone to
catastrophic failure because voters have incentive (real or instinctive)
to attempt burial strategy against the worse frontrunner. When
too many voters do this, and there's no majority favorite, the result
will be the election of a candidate that nobody cared about, who was
just being used as a pawn.

This makes it odd that he has seemed to prefer Condorcet to IRV,
seeing as IRV can't have such disastrous failures.

> > > What type of voter is bad for Approval? Easy
> compromiser or
> > > tough bullet voter?
> >
> > The type of voter who is willing to cast a suboptimal
> vote due to
> > principle. It is harmful under Plurality and here is a
> situation where
> > it would be harmful under Approval.
>
> What does that mean?
>
> Here is what I get from it. The Nader voter cast a
> supposedly "suboptimal vote" under Plurality. For
> principle, i.e., the importance of voting for the best
> candidate, in one's opinion.
>
> Is that the meaning?

Yes.

> But who are we to say that this vote
> was suboptimal? Remember, the campaign rhetoric, by Nader,
> was that it didn't matter who won, Bush or Gore, they
> were both totally in the pocket of the large corporations.
> So why can't we just assume that the voter made an
> *optimal* decision? From the voter's perspective.

There are two possibilities. If the voter really didn't have a preference
between the two frontrunners, then it doesn't matter. But if they did,
then by not voting for one of them, they vote "suboptimally" because
they fail to vote in a way that maximizes their expectation. And it is
suboptimal overall, because the wrong frontrunner will be elected.

> Or does this mean the voter who supports Nader, but who
> *does* have a reasonably strong preference between Gore and
> Nader, and decides to vote that?

I don't understand what you're saying here. If the frontrunners are
Gore and Bush, then I'm calling "suboptimal" all votes that don't favor
one over the other, when the voter actually had a preference.

> Note that these situations apply to Approval. Both
> scenarios will happen with Approval just as with Plurality.
> In the first situation, i.e., Nader is believed, there is no
> incentive to add a vote for Gore or Bush.

But under Plurality it is hardly ever a concern, because the polls are
sufficiently stable that voters who wish to cast a meaningful vote have
no difficulty in doing so.

If Approval polls prove relatively unable to whittle the field down to
two frontrunners, I would expect more votes on principle and (with it)
more waste of votes.

Kevin Venzke



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