Discussion:
IRV vs. Plurality
James Green-Armytage
2003-08-03 23:32:35 UTC
Permalink
Dear voting methods fans,

I am interested in knowing how everyone here feels about this question:

Which is better, IRV or Plurality?

I highly doubt that this is the first time that this has been discussed
on the list, and I doubt that it will be the last. Nevertheless, I would
like to know what people have to say about it.
The reason I think that this question is important is because it has
immediate relevance for the election methods movement, if there is to be
one. That is, do the IRV people, Approval people, and Condorcet people
necessarily have to be blood enemies, or can they find a common ground in
their critique of plurality?
Personally, I am hoping that we can find a common ground, because I fail
to see how the movement could make much progress if it is so sharply
divided against itself this early in the game.


I will try to start off the discussion with some of my own thoughts.
First of all, there are two basic categories of discussion: One is the
technical evaluation of IRV versus Plurality, that is simply which one is
a more desirable voting system, leaving all other possible systems aside.
The other category deals more with the practical context. What are the
possible benefits or pitfalls of IRV advocacy? What is the relationship
between advocacy of IRV and advocacy for other, more desirable, systems?
(I assume that most people reading this know that I prefer Condorcet's
method to IRV.)


PART ONE: TECHNICAL EVALUATION OF IRV VS. PLURALITY, LEAVING OTHER METHODS
ASIDE

First, the technical side. To summarize, it seems to me that, all else
aside, IRV is a substantially better voting system then plurality.

To begin, let's assume an American-style two-party system as a starting
point. Unlike plurality, IRV allows people to vote for third party
candidates for their early choices, and still have the full power of their
vote to help decide between the two major party candidates, assuming that
the third party candidates are eliminated.
This is something in and of itself, because in many circumstances it
allows people to vote their conscience without casting a vote that is
irrelevant to the actual winner. This will allow people to get a somewhat
more realistic idea of what kind of support third parties have, and it
should add depth to political debates. It will also allow third parties to
run genuine campaigns without being demonized as spoilers, which would be
a pretty significant step towards eroding the two-party duopoly.
So, IRV works well when only two candidates are serious contenders.(In
those cases, it should always select the Condorcet winner.) However, when
there are three or more serious candidates, IRV can get somewhat chaotic.
Therefore, it may tend towards fairly binary political divisions, as does
plurality.
Also, IRV does not allow a smooth transition from a given set of two
major contenders to an alternate set, because any party attempting to
replace a current member of the dominant pair set may have to pass through
a stage where they stand a good chance of throwing the race to the other
member of the pair set, thus going against the will of their would-be
supporters.
This danger can be avoided if the supporters of the original pair set
member rank the replacement party second over the other pair set member in
sufficient number. Also, it can be avoided if the other pair set member is
severely weakened.

As far as far-wing candidates go, far left Naderish candidates for
example, they would have a lot of trouble winning under IRV, because even
if they did manage to eliminate the Democrat, they would throw the race to
the Republican unless nearly all of the Democratic voters ranked the
Naderish candidate above the Republican. Of course, any far-wing candidate
would have trouble winning with Condorcet as well, but the difference is
that IRV offers a very strong incentive for voters to betray a favorite
far wing candidate if there is a danger that s/he might eliminate the
compromise candidate and throw the race to the other side.
As a result, the benefit of IRV in providing a clearer impression of
support for third parties should begin to falter at this point.
Nevertheless, if the support does reach this point, then that is a pretty
strong message in itself.
Also, this barrier of one party trying to take the place of another as a
member of the duopoly, while it is still quite steep under IRV, is not
nearly as steep as using plurality. That is, using plurality, third party
candidates have to build up their support from zero under the constant
adversity of being labeled a spoiler, and under the constant ambivalence
of voters as to whether to stick with the lesser of two evils. With IRV,
at least third parties can build up a reasonable-sized support base before
the second-order spoiler effect comes into play, and therefore they can
get themselves within 'striking distance' of one of the major parties
while still under the umbrella of non-spoilerhood.
A centrist candidate may be less likely to cause the same kinds of
problems using IRV as a far-wing candidate might cause. That is, a
candidate who is ranked second by nearly all of one wing party's voters,
or ranked second by a good portion of both wing party's voters. If such a
candidate manages to eliminate one of the major party candidates, then
they have a much better shot at winning the whole race than a Naderish
candidate would. Still, of course, a centrist candidate has a much steeper
hill to climb using IRV than using Condorcet.

To its credit, IRV never gives strategy incentives for truncation, unlike
Condorcet, although of course it does more frequently offer incentives for
favorite betrayal and order-reversal in general. Still, that is an
attractive anti-strategy measure, that later choices in IRV can never
either help or harm earlier choices. (Approval also fails on this measure,
if you translate it as the fact that adding a sincerely lower-preference
candidate to your list of Approved candidates can cause a sincerely higher
preference candidate to lose.)

In general, IRV has significantly better Condorcet efficiency than
plurality does.

If accurate polling data is available, it is possible that strategic
voting will lead to Condorcet-like results, although at the expense of
favorite betrayal, and possibly some nasty strategizing within the polls.

In contrast to plurality, IRV allows for ranked ballots. This allows
voters to communicate in much more detail than on a plurality (or
Approval) ballot, which is in general a good thing, although admittedly
voters may either vote strategically, thus distorting their communication,
or regret their choices later.

In response to an earlier post of mine, in which I said that I believed
that Approval, IRV, and Condorcet were all superior to plurality, Eric
Gorr wrote: "For me to believe a voting system to be worthy of any
consideration, it must at least be monotonic and IRV certainly is not."
(July 9th)
That is certainly a good point, and I found it thought provoking. There
is no getting around the fact that IRV is non-monotonic, but I am not
entirely sure how devastating this would be for public elections.
One point that I would like to make is that, in practice, two round
runoff is not monotonic either.
For example, let's say that there is an election where there in one
dominant candidate on the right wing, and a few candidates competing in
the first round for the left. If your favorite candidate is the right wing
candidate, and you are fairly confident that s/he will make it to the
second round, you can use your first round vote to vote for a candidate on
the left who would be unlikely to win the second round, which could in
turn cause your sincere favorite to win, where s/he would have lost had
you voted for him/her in the first round, and let a more electable left
wing candidate into the runoff.
This is in effect a violation of monotonicity, because not voting your
sincere favorite for your first round choice can cause them to win where
they would have lost otherwise.
(Actually, there is more possibility for strategic manipulation in the
actual runoff than in IRV, because at least in IRV insincere votes can't
count for the voter's sincere favorite until after their phony favorite is
eliminated. That is, in the two round case I imagined above, you could
vote for your true favorite even if your phony favorite made it to the
next round, which is something you can't do in IRV.)
Of course, this comparison does not absolve IRV of its monotonicity
failure, but it does sort of put it in a larger context, as far as the
extent to which a non-monotonic method can be functional.
To illustrate the relative use of these methods, the single winner
systems that are used on a national level are 1. plurality (used in 68
countries with a total population of 1,849 million), 2. two round runoff
(used in 31 countries with a total population of 427 million), and 3. IRV
/ the Alternative Vote (used in two countries with a total population of
18 million). (My source is the International IDEA Handbook, and I think
that it is measuring only by what method countries use to elect their
lower house.) My point isn't that widely used systems are good; I'm just
pointing out that the two round system is not some obscure bogey system
that has been cast out of use because of its monotonicity failure.
I'm not quite sure what people on the list think about two round runoff,
but I've always assumed that it is a marginal improvement over plurality,
the cost of the second election aside. IRV, as far as I can tell, is not
very different from runoff in its basic operation, strategy, flaws, etc.
It seems to me that IRV is marginally better than two round runoff because
it allows for multiple rounds. (Also, in public elections, it is likely to
lead to higher voter turnout, etc.)
Anyway, my point is that while monotonicity is a valuable criteria, I
certainly don't think that it is all-important.


PART TWO: CONCERNS RELATING TO IMPLIMENTATION OF OTHER METHODS

So, I don't think that there is much ambiguity about the technical
superiority of IRV to plurality, however marginal some might argue it is.
What is more uncertain for me is the relationship between IRV advocacy
and the advent of other systems that are more effective, especially
Condorcet, STV, and CPO-STV.

Of course, IRV may also help lead toward STV, which I think would be a
good thing in itself. I imagine that this is a part of the reason that the
Center for Voting and Democracy decided to advocate IRV in the first
place, seeing as they started off as PR advocates with STV as their
favorite method. (The original name of the organization was "Citizens for
Proportional Representation.")
That is, of course, being familiar with IRV makes STV much, much easier
to understand, as they are essentially the same system.

Also, there is a chance that IRV may lead to Condorcet's method in the
long run.
That is, that advocacy for IRV and use of IRV can introduce many of the
relevant concepts to voters that they will need in order to better
understand Condorcet.
IRV introduces people to the idea of ranked ballots, of course. It
introduces people to the idea that people's second and third choice votes
can have the same weight as their first choice votes, yet their voting
power is still essentially only one vote strong.
Also, IRV advocacy introduces a critique of the plurality system that
also provides the justification for Condorcet's method. It works to show
people that the composition of government is contingent on the voting
system, and it will help wake people up to the fact that they could have a
change in government through a change in the voting system.
Basically, IRV advocacy makes promises which in fact are fulfilled better
by Condorcet's method than by IRV, such as ending the spoiler effect. By
convincing people that it is important to end the spoiler effect, IRV
proponents are perhaps advocating Condorcet more than they are advocating
IRV, at least in the long run.
I know that I heard of IRV before I heard of Condorcet's method.
Understanding both the benefits of IRV and the flaws that remain in IRV
was what enabled me to appreciate Condorcet's method.

If IRV does become widely used, then third parties will at least have a
marginally greater chance to participate in politics. They will be more
likely to be eligible for matching grants, access to debates, etc.
Hopefully this will smash the myth that the votes that third parties have
been getting under the plurality system are indicative of their true
support; that is if they start gaining more votes, it will be clear that
the voting system was holding them back. This is obvious to most election
methods fans, but most Americans probably do not think of it this way.
Perhaps if, after making big gains, their support reaches a second
stagnant equilibrium at the point just before they cause a major party
candidate to get eliminated, it will be fairly obvious that IRV is at
fault, and a move to Condorcet will seem natural (at least to the third
parties!).
Alternately, if people do vote honestly under IRV, and a big second-order
spoiler effect occurs, then the flaw in IRV will be completely transparent
to any commentator, and this could also provide a very clear opportunity
for Condorcet to come to the fore.

Ironically, the fact that IRV isn't as radical as Condorcet in
undermining two-party dominance could conceivably be a benefit in
practical terms (although it is an obvious drawback in normative terms).
IRV gives third parties less power to upset an otherwise winning democrat
or republican, which I think that many democrats and republicans actually
would appreciate. If the mainstream politicians do accept IRV, though,
alternative election methods have a pretty big foot in the door, in terms
of public awareness, etc.

Okay, those are some of the more hopeful appraisals of the relationship
between IRV advocacy and Condorcet advocacy. Now I will list a few of my
worries on the subject, about how IRV could possibly do more harm than
good.
One worry is that IRV could help to further legitimize the two-party
system and absorb the momentum needed for deeper reform.
That is, it is possible that we may all get behind IRV, and it has a
great success, but then it gets 'locked in place,' and the power to make
any changes to is taken above our reach for an extremely long period of
time.
Also, it may be possible for the powers that be to use the flaws in IRV
to bury all voting systems reform for an extremely long period of time.
For example, IRV could get fairly big, and then a major second-order
spoiler event could occur, people could be appalled, and the two-party
establishment people could take it as an opportunity to say "See, ranked
ballot voting is nonsense. Just ask Arrow. Case closed." And then go back
to plurality for an extremely long period of time. If anyone brings up
alternative voting methods, they can just say, "Don't you remember? We
tried changing the voting system and it backfired; forget about it."

Also, I'm not sure whether anyone is doing it on purpose, but we have a
real problem if IRV advocates are strawmanning Condorcet or Approval. Even
if the intentions are good, this cannot be justified.
The argument that voting systems people should wait under IRV is fully
entrenched before even bringing up alternatives does not hold water. First
of all, that could well be a very long time, quite possibly forever, and
in the meantime, there is a lot of benefit that can be had in using
Condorcet's method for purposes other than elections for representative
government. There is no sense in holding back that benefit to keep people
from questioning the idea that IRV is the best.
Along the same lines, if IRV people actually devote effort to making
Condorcet invisible, this is also unjustifiable. IRV people have no
responsibility to devote effort to promoting Condorcet, if they don't feel
like it, but there is no sense in their trying to 'keep Condorcet down.'
Again, I have no idea if anyone is actually doing this, but I think that
it is a problem if they are.


Of course, I think that this cuts both ways. I don't think that anyone
should present straw man arguments against IRV, and I don't think that
anyone should try to keep IRV out of the discussion.
In general, I think that it is very counter-productive for advocates of
Condorcet and Approval to spend their efforts trying to block attempts to
implement IRV. It seems obvious that their effort would be better spent
trying to implement their own favorite system, rather than defending
plurality against IRV.
This is a very big country, and there are lots of people who use voting
to decide things, and most of those people are still using plurality. Use
of IRV hardly means blocking Condorcet. 99% of the time, it means
overturning plurality or two round runoff.
Perhaps when we are deciding on which method to use to elect the
president, this will no longer be the case, but we are quite a long way
off that point, and for now the field is wide open.
It seems to me that there is tons of room for people to implement IRV in
some places, Condorcet in others, Approval in others, and still more
systems in others. Not only is this the most cooperative approach for the
movement to take, it is also the one that provides for the most feedback.
That is, if many groups are using each of the different methods, then
voting methods organizers will be able to track the results and see how
the different methods are working under different circumstances, and this
will enrich the theoretical debate immensely.


CONCLUSION

I have presented some of my opinions here. Although I am uncertain about
some things, I feel fairly sure about others. I am fairly sure that IRV is
technically better than plurality. I am fairly sure that IRV, Condorcet,
and Approval people should try to treat each other as allies rather than
competitors, and that they should not try to strawman or exclude each
others' systems.
I think that the voting methods movement will be healthier given a
pluralistic, multi-system approach, that is one in which different
alternative systems are being advocated for and implemented
simultaneously. I don't think that we should try to close off debate and
resolve on a single system before we begin advocacy. I think that we
should give people a chance to make intelligent decisions about voting
systems, rather than only letting them know about the system that we like
best. Of course, if they only ask for one recommendation, then we should
give them the one we prefer. But if they are interested in the
alternatives, then we should not hide them or give false arguments against
them.
Sincerely,
James

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Eric Gorr
2003-08-04 00:50:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by James Green-Armytage
Dear voting methods fans,
Which is better, IRV or Plurality?
By every measure I consider important, I see no difference between
the two. They should both be absolutely avoided.

Plurality is probably not worthy of any discussion...

As for IRV, this case clearly shows a tremendous problem with the system.
(modified from prior postings)

40 A
35 C > B
30 B

A simply should not win and it does under IRV
(http://www.fairvote.org/irv/irv_orgs.htm) even though > 60% of the
voters preferred B....who got eliminated in the very first round.

Of course, many other examples showing the absolute deficiencies of
IRV can be presented.
Post by James Green-Armytage
I am fairly sure that IRV, Condorcet,
and Approval people should try to treat each other as allies rather than
competitors, and that they should not try to strawman or exclude each
others' systems.
While there are at least be some questions regarding Approval vs.
certain versions of Condorcet, I don't there is any argument left in
the support of IRV over these two obviously superior methods.

(However, I definitely prefer RP Condorcet (Deterministic #1-wv)...or
whatever Mike O. was calling it...don't have it in front of me at the
moment....over all other single-winner methods I am aware of.)


And I will let others on this list deal with the various other issues
you presented...
--
== Eric Gorr ========= http://www.ericgorr.net ========= ICQ:9293199 ===
"Therefore the considerations of the intelligent always include both
benefit and harm." - Sun Tzu
== Insults, like violence, are the last refuge of the incompetent... ===
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Alex Small
2003-08-04 04:50:04 UTC
Permalink
IMHO, IRV is better than plurality.

Now, them's fighting words on this list. Let me defend that statement:

1) When there are only 2 strong candidates, IRV is clearly better than
plurality because it eliminates the spoiler effect.

2) When there are 3 or more strong candidates, I fully admit that IRV has
problems. Even though I have no doubt that there are other methods that
out-perform IRV in that case, IRV is still better than plurality. IRV at
least allows voters more flexibility than plurality in such situations.

3) When there are 3 or more strong candidates, IRV ensures that the
winner will defeat at least one candidate pairwise. Plurality, on the
other hand, can elect somebody who loses all pairwise contests.

4) I am a fan of PR (at least in some of its implementations), and I
believe that IRV will help in bringing about the implementation of some
form of PR (we can debate on this list which form of PR is most desirable,
of course). Say that a third party starts consistently getting 20% of the
first-place votes. That isn't enough to win in most 3-way elections, but
with a third strong option people will surely notice that there's
something wrong with single-member districts. The problem with
single-member districts will become even more glaring if 3 parties each
get around 30% of the first-place votes.

With 2 parties, the problems tend to be less glaring. Sure, we can all
come up with plenty of potential and real problems in gerrymandering. But
if the majority party draws the districts, it will get a majority of the
seats. So the problem isn't as glaring.

So I believe that IRV will be the beginning of the end for single-member
districts. It might not eliminate SMD, but it will probably lead to at
least some members of our legislative bodies being elected by PR. And
that is progress. (I know, some people will jump all over me for not
saying that ANY use of SMD in a legislature is bad. All I'm saying is
that progress is progress.)



Alex


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John B. Hodges
2003-08-04 05:11:14 UTC
Permalink
Subject: [EM] IRV vs. Plurality
Dear voting methods fans,
Which is better, IRV or Plurality?
...
The reason I think that this question is important is because it has
immediate relevance for the election methods movement, if there is to be
one. That is, do the IRV people, Approval people, and Condorcet people
necessarily have to be blood enemies, or can they find a common ground in
their critique of plurality?
Personally, I am hoping that we can find a common ground,
because I fail
to see how the movement could make much progress if it is so sharply
divided against itself this early in the game.
(JBH) I propose a slogan: DOWN WITH THE TW0-PARTY SYSTEM!!!
PART ONE: TECHNICAL EVALUATION OF IRV VS. PLURALITY, LEAVING OTHER METHODS
ASIDE
(JBH) I think Merrill did as thorough a job as we need, in his book
MAKING MULTICANDIDATE ELECTIONS MORE DEMOCRATIC. IRV beats
Plurality on a long list of measures.

I think these debates over the best method for choosing a single
winner are OK as long as we are all united in saying SINGLE-WINNER
RACES ARE TO BE AVOIDED WHENEVER POSSIBLE; USE MULTI-SEAT DISTRICTS
AND PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION!

It is proportional representation that will open up the process to
"real choices, new voices", and will end the two-party duopoly. One
of my unfinished projects is to summarize the critique of Plurality
given in Douglas J. Amy's book. Exaggerated majorities, manufactured
majorities, gerrymandering as an inevitable part of the system,
denial of representation to minorities of all kinds, issueless
campaigns, etc. etc.
PART TWO: CONCERNS RELATING TO IMPLEMENTATION OF OTHER METHODS
(JBH) The key implementation issue is the use of ranked ballots. IRV
folks and Condorcet folks can agree on those; the question for the
unity of the reform movement is whether Approval advocates can also
sign onto ranked ballots. I think a reasonable compromise would be
for IRV and Condorcet folks to insist on a ranked ballot that allows
ranking two or more candidates as tied. This would then be adaptable
to straight Approval or to the three-level, four-level, N-level
modifications of Approval that have been discussed.

How the ballots are then tallied to find a winner is open to
discussion. The OVERRIDING consideration is that the method be seen
by the electorate as providing "legitimacy" to the winner. IRV is
easy to understand, as a series of runoffs with one fewer candidate
each time. I hate to call it this, but it could be called "musical
chairs runoff". Everyone is familiar with the concept of eliminating
one candidate at a time, to find a winner.

Condorcet advocates might consider a name change; call it "tournament
runoff". At least some types of sports (Chess, Judo, maybe others)
hold tournaments where every contestant is paired off versus every
other in turn. It might be easier to sell the idea to the public if
you present it as a round-robin tournament between all candidates. If
one emerges undefeated from all possible two-person runoffs, they are
declared the tournament champion. If nobody is undefeated, then we
name ________________ as the tournament winner.

The blank must be filled in a way that is easily understood. Suppose
we said "the one who wins the greatest number of two-person runoffs".
Is this the same as the Borda Count winner? Someone named Black
proposed that as a Condorcet completion method; Merrill compared
Black's method with others in his book. Advocates of other
Condorcet-based methods should work on a one-sentence description to
fill in the blank. If we allow ties on the ranked ballots, we must
also consider the possibility of ties at the end of whatever method;
designate a tie-breaker.

Approval advocates would either have to agree on a method for
converting ranked ballots to approvals, that could be easily
explained to children and busy adults, or sell the idea of declaring
the "most widely acceptable" candidate the winner, "acceptable" being
everyone listed on the first line of the ballot.
In general, I think that it is very counter-productive for advocates of
Condorcet and Approval to spend their efforts trying to block attempts to
implement IRV. It seems obvious that their effort would be better spent
trying to implement their own favorite system, rather than defending
plurality against IRV.
This is a very big country, and there are lots of people who use voting
to decide things, and most of those people are still using plurality. Use
of IRV hardly means blocking Condorcet. 99% of the time, it means
overturning plurality or two round runoff.
(JBH) [Standing ovation.]
Perhaps when we are deciding on which method to use to elect the
president, this will no longer be the case, but we are quite a long way
off that point, and for now the field is wide open.
It seems to me that there is tons of room for people to
implement IRV in
some places, Condorcet in others, Approval in others, and still more
systems in others. Not only is this the most cooperative approach for the
movement to take, it is also the one that provides for the most feedback.
That is, if many groups are using each of the different methods, then
voting methods organizers will be able to track the results and see how
the different methods are working under different circumstances, and this
will enrich the theoretical debate immensely.
(JBH) "Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend."
CONCLUSION
I have presented some of my opinions here. Although I am
uncertain about
some things, I feel fairly sure about others. I am fairly sure that IRV is
technically better than plurality. I am fairly sure that IRV, Condorcet,
and Approval people should try to treat each other as allies rather than
competitors, and that they should not try to strawman or exclude each
others' systems.
I think that the voting methods movement will be healthier given a
pluralistic, multi-system approach, that is one in which different
alternative systems are being advocated for and implemented
simultaneously. I don't think that we should try to close off debate and
resolve on a single system before we begin advocacy. I think that we
should give people a chance to make intelligent decisions about voting
systems, rather than only letting them know about the system that we like
best. Of course, if they only ask for one recommendation, then we should
give them the one we prefer. But if they are interested in the
alternatives, then we should not hide them or give false arguments against
them.
Sincerely,
James
(JBH) Let us unite in criticizing Plurality, supporting Proportional
Representation for all Legislative seats, and trying alternative
single-winner methods for all Executive seats.
--
----------------------------------
John B. Hodges, jbhodges@ @usit.net
The two-party system is obsolete and dysfunctional.
Better forms of democracy: www.fairvote.org
REAL CHOICES, NEW VOICES, by Douglas J. Amy.
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Bart Ingles
2003-09-06 20:52:58 UTC
Permalink
I had intended to reply to this thoughtful but long essay, but haven't
had time to go through it in detail before now.

On the question of IRV vs Plurality, I would like to first point out
that pure first-past-the-post is not really the norm for U.S.
elections. For nonpartisan local elections, the question should really
be IRV vs. Runoff. And for partisan state and federal elections, we
generally have primary and general elections, which are similar in
effect to runoffs.
Post by James Green-Armytage
Which is better, IRV or Plurality?
The reason I think that this question is important is because it has
immediate relevance for the election methods movement, if there is to be
one. That is, do the IRV people, Approval people, and Condorcet people
necessarily have to be blood enemies, or can they find a common ground in
their critique of plurality?
Personally, I am hoping that we can find a common ground, because I fail
to see how the movement could make much progress if it is so sharply
divided against itself this early in the game.
I don't share this pessimism. I think that so long as the various
factions debate honestly, this can only improve public awareness of
voting systems. Even contentious debate will have the effect of
educating the public, which in the long run is more important than
implementing a method which is acknowledged below to be a mere stepping
stone to better methods.

Sentiments sometimes expressed on this list notwithstanding, I haven't
really seen Approval or Condorcet advocates following IRV people around
in order to campaign against them. What I *have* seen are efforts to
correct bad information, or fill in omissions. Failure to provide
correct information whenever feasible could be considered unethical,
especially as part of a conspiracy of silence among advocates of the
various methods.

In some cases, when responding to a pro-IRV statement, the intent is to
educate the IRV advocate as well as the public (after all, I think most
of us started out as IRV advocates before learning about the
alternatives).

I have a question of my own: What kinds of pro-IRV activities do you
think should be protected from interference by advocates of other
systems? Does this apply only to efforts to pass a pro-IRV law or
ballot initiative, or should we also refrain from responding to pro-IRV
editorials, for example? Or how about the recent League of Women Voters
Election Systems Studies, which were in part promoted and financed by
pro-IRV groups-- should these be considered 'IRV territory' as well?
Post by James Green-Armytage
I will try to start off the discussion with some of my own thoughts.
First of all, there are two basic categories of discussion: One is the
technical evaluation of IRV versus Plurality, that is simply which one is
a more desirable voting system, leaving all other possible systems aside.
The other category deals more with the practical context. What are the
possible benefits or pitfalls of IRV advocacy? What is the relationship
between advocacy of IRV and advocacy for other, more desirable, systems?
(I assume that most people reading this know that I prefer Condorcet's
method to IRV.)
PART ONE: TECHNICAL EVALUATION OF IRV VS. PLURALITY, LEAVING OTHER METHODS
ASIDE
First, the technical side. To summarize, it seems to me that, all else
aside, IRV is a substantially better voting system then plurality.
To begin, let's assume an American-style two-party system as a starting
point. Unlike plurality, IRV allows people to vote for third party
candidates for their early choices, and still have the full power of their
vote to help decide between the two major party candidates, assuming that
the third party candidates are eliminated.
This is something in and of itself, because in many circumstances it
allows people to vote their conscience without casting a vote that is
irrelevant to the actual winner. This will allow people to get a somewhat
more realistic idea of what kind of support third parties have, and it
should add depth to political debates. It will also allow third parties to
run genuine campaigns without being demonized as spoilers, which would be
a pretty significant step towards eroding the two-party duopoly.
But the question is, 'how significant?' On one hand, Merrill's graphs
show Condorcet and Social Utility efficiencies approximately midway
between those of Condorcet & Approval, and those of Plurality. But the
relationship between any mathematical properties and the method's actual
effectiveness in promoting multiple parties is obviously non-linear.
Starting with a fatal dose of rat poison, what are the odds of a
half-dose being fatal as well? We can't know the answer without knowing
how much overkill was present in the original dose.

The only large-scale demonstration of IRV we have is Australia's lower
house, where district elections are virtually all bipartisan (there are
apparently three parties represented in the legislature, but only two of
the three are prominent in any given district). This in spite of the
fact that Australia has a strong multi-party system fed by proportional
representation in its upper house.
Post by James Green-Armytage
So, IRV works well when only two candidates are serious contenders.(In
those cases, it should always select the Condorcet winner.) However, when
there are three or more serious candidates, IRV can get somewhat chaotic.
Therefore, it may tend towards fairly binary political divisions, as does
plurality.
Also, IRV does not allow a smooth transition from a given set of two
major contenders to an alternate set, because any party attempting to
replace a current member of the dominant pair set may have to pass through
a stage where they stand a good chance of throwing the race to the other
member of the pair set, thus going against the will of their would-be
supporters.
An excellent way of putting it.
Post by James Green-Armytage
This danger can be avoided if the supporters of the original pair set
member rank the replacement party second over the other pair set member in
sufficient number. Also, it can be avoided if the other pair set member is
severely weakened.
As far as far-wing candidates go, far left Naderish candidates for
example, they would have a lot of trouble winning under IRV, because even
if they did manage to eliminate the Democrat, they would throw the race to
the Republican unless nearly all of the Democratic voters ranked the
Naderish candidate above the Republican. Of course, any far-wing candidate
would have trouble winning with Condorcet as well, but the difference is
that IRV offers a very strong incentive for voters to betray a favorite
far wing candidate if there is a danger that s/he might eliminate the
compromise candidate and throw the race to the other side.
As a result, the benefit of IRV in providing a clearer impression of
support for third parties should begin to falter at this point.
Nevertheless, if the support does reach this point, then that is a pretty
strong message in itself.
Also, this barrier of one party trying to take the place of another as a
member of the duopoly, while it is still quite steep under IRV, is not
nearly as steep as using plurality. That is, using plurality, third party
candidates have to build up their support from zero under the constant
adversity of being labeled a spoiler, and under the constant ambivalence
of voters as to whether to stick with the lesser of two evils. With IRV,
at least third parties can build up a reasonable-sized support base before
the second-order spoiler effect comes into play, and therefore they can
get themselves within 'striking distance' of one of the major parties
while still under the umbrella of non-spoilerhood.
A centrist candidate may be less likely to cause the same kinds of
problems using IRV as a far-wing candidate might cause. That is, a
candidate who is ranked second by nearly all of one wing party's voters,
or ranked second by a good portion of both wing party's voters. If such a
candidate manages to eliminate one of the major party candidates, then
they have a much better shot at winning the whole race than a Naderish
candidate would. Still, of course, a centrist candidate has a much steeper
hill to climb using IRV than using Condorcet.
To its credit, IRV never gives strategy incentives for truncation, unlike
Condorcet, although of course it does more frequently offer incentives for
favorite betrayal and order-reversal in general. Still, that is an
attractive anti-strategy measure, that later choices in IRV can never
either help or harm earlier choices. (Approval also fails on this measure,
if you translate it as the fact that adding a sincerely lower-preference
candidate to your list of Approved candidates can cause a sincerely higher
preference candidate to lose.)
Why is this important? In general, a slight incentive for truncation
would help weed out low utility candidates. When there are no widely
accepted compromise candidates, IRV can "scrape the bottom of the
barrel" in order to fill its 50% quota.
Post by James Green-Armytage
In general, IRV has significantly better Condorcet efficiency than
plurality does.
...About midway between Plurality and Condorcet, according to Merrill's
simulations. But this assumes sincere voting. Strategy would tend to
improve Plurality's CE more than IRV, so that in practice the two would
be closer.
Post by James Green-Armytage
If accurate polling data is available, it is possible that strategic
voting will lead to Condorcet-like results, although at the expense of
favorite betrayal, and possibly some nasty strategizing within the polls.
No different from Plurality here, except that it's easier to do with
Plurality.
Post by James Green-Armytage
In contrast to plurality, IRV allows for ranked ballots. This allows
voters to communicate in much more detail than on a plurality (or
Approval) ballot, which is in general a good thing, although admittedly
voters may either vote strategically, thus distorting their communication,
or regret their choices later. [...]
I don't generally favor ranked ballots, so this would not be a point in
favor of IRV for me.
Post by James Green-Armytage
PART TWO: CONCERNS RELATING TO IMPLIMENTATION OF OTHER METHODS
So, I don't think that there is much ambiguity about the technical
superiority of IRV to plurality, however marginal some might argue it is.
What is more uncertain for me is the relationship between IRV advocacy
and the advent of other systems that are more effective, especially
Condorcet, STV, and CPO-STV.
Of course, IRV may also help lead toward STV, which I think would be a
good thing in itself. I imagine that this is a part of the reason that the
Center for Voting and Democracy decided to advocate IRV in the first
place, seeing as they started off as PR advocates with STV as their
favorite method. (The original name of the organization was "Citizens for
Proportional Representation.")
That is, of course, being familiar with IRV makes STV much, much easier
to understand, as they are essentially the same system.
Also, there is a chance that IRV may lead to Condorcet's method in the
long run.
I don't consider the "stepping stone" argument to be a valid one. It's
impossible to know whether IRV would help promote other systems more
than it would serve to delay them. It could go either way.
Post by James Green-Armytage
That is, that advocacy for IRV and use of IRV can introduce many of the
relevant concepts to voters that they will need in order to better
understand Condorcet.
IRV introduces people to the idea of ranked ballots, of course. It
This carries no weight for Approval advocates, of course. The actual
implementation of ranked ballots might be a plus for Condorcet
advocates, but only if the implementation is capable of making pairwise
comparisons and building the matrix.

For those who like both Condorcet and Approval equally, the
implementation of ranked ballots is at best neutral. For those who are
primarily Approval advocates, ranked ballots would be a step backward.
Post by James Green-Armytage
introduces people to the idea that people's second and third choice votes
can have the same weight as their first choice votes, yet their voting
power is still essentially only one vote strong.
Also, IRV advocacy introduces a critique of the plurality system that
also provides the justification for Condorcet's method. It works to show
people that the composition of government is contingent on the voting
system, and it will help wake people up to the fact that they could have a
change in government through a change in the voting system.
Not just IRV advocacy-- even the most bitter debate between advocates of
different voting systems would have the same effect (and may even
attract more press coverage).
Post by James Green-Armytage
Basically, IRV advocacy makes promises which in fact are fulfilled better
by Condorcet's method than by IRV, such as ending the spoiler effect. By
convincing people that it is important to end the spoiler effect, IRV
proponents are perhaps advocating Condorcet more than they are advocating
IRV, at least in the long run.
I know that I heard of IRV before I heard of Condorcet's method.
Understanding both the benefits of IRV and the flaws that remain in IRV
was what enabled me to appreciate Condorcet's method.
So if you and I were able to make the leap, it should be possible for
other IRV advocates to see the light as well. But would you have
learned about IRV's flaws if not for the IRV detractors on this list and
elsewhere?
Post by James Green-Armytage
If IRV does become widely used, then third parties will at least have a
marginally greater chance to participate in politics. They will be more
likely to be eligible for matching grants, access to debates, etc.
Hopefully this will smash the myth that the votes that third parties have
been getting under the plurality system are indicative of their true
support; that is if they start gaining more votes, it will be clear that
the voting system was holding them back. This is obvious to most election
methods fans, but most Americans probably do not think of it this way.
Perhaps if, after making big gains, their support reaches a second
stagnant equilibrium at the point just before they cause a major party
candidate to get eliminated, it will be fairly obvious that IRV is at
fault, and a move to Condorcet will seem natural (at least to the third
parties!).
I would rather point this out ahead of time.
Post by James Green-Armytage
Alternately, if people do vote honestly under IRV, and a big second-order
spoiler effect occurs, then the flaw in IRV will be completely transparent
to any commentator, and this could also provide a very clear opportunity
for Condorcet to come to the fore.
Ironically, the fact that IRV isn't as radical as Condorcet in
undermining two-party dominance could conceivably be a benefit in
practical terms (although it is an obvious drawback in normative terms).
IRV gives third parties less power to upset an otherwise winning democrat
or republican, which I think that many democrats and republicans actually
would appreciate. If the mainstream politicians do accept IRV, though,
alternative election methods have a pretty big foot in the door, in terms
of public awareness, etc.
Okay, those are some of the more hopeful appraisals of the relationship
between IRV advocacy and Condorcet advocacy. Now I will list a few of my
worries on the subject, about how IRV could possibly do more harm than
good.
One worry is that IRV could help to further legitimize the two-party
system and absorb the momentum needed for deeper reform.
That is, it is possible that we may all get behind IRV, and it has a
great success, but then it gets 'locked in place,' and the power to make
any changes to is taken above our reach for an extremely long period of
time.
Agreed. This does seem possible.
Post by James Green-Armytage
Also, I'm not sure whether anyone is doing it on purpose, but we have a
real problem if IRV advocates are strawmanning Condorcet or Approval. Even
if the intentions are good, this cannot be justified.
The argument that voting systems people should wait under IRV is fully
entrenched before even bringing up alternatives does not hold water. First
of all, that could well be a very long time, quite possibly forever, and
in the meantime, there is a lot of benefit that can be had in using
Condorcet's method for purposes other than elections for representative
government. There is no sense in holding back that benefit to keep people
from questioning the idea that IRV is the best.
Along the same lines, if IRV people actually devote effort to making
Condorcet invisible, this is also unjustifiable. IRV people have no
responsibility to devote effort to promoting Condorcet, if they don't feel
like it, but there is no sense in their trying to 'keep Condorcet down.'
Again, I have no idea if anyone is actually doing this, but I think that
it is a problem if they are.
Of course, I think that this cuts both ways. I don't think that anyone
should present straw man arguments against IRV, and I don't think that
anyone should try to keep IRV out of the discussion.
Fair enough, I agree with the above.
Post by James Green-Armytage
In general, I think that it is very counter-productive for advocates of
Condorcet and Approval to spend their efforts trying to block attempts to
implement IRV. It seems obvious that their effort would be better spent
trying to implement their own favorite system, rather than defending
plurality against IRV.
I repeat my question from above: What kinds of pro-IRV activities
should be protected from interference by advocates of other systems?
Specific attempts at implementation, or any activity by IRV advocates?
And what constitutes "blocking"-- actual lobbying against an IRV
initiative, or any public criticism of IRV? It seems to me that there
is a fine line between "blocking" and educating the public. Where would
you draw the line? And if the attempt to implement IRV happens to be in
my own hometown, can I lobby my own council members against it, or
should I move to another city before contacting my representatives?

In general, I see nothing wrong with competition. That's democracy. In
some cases, the controversy could be beneficial. While I don't favor
following IRV advocates around and attempting to counter all of their
efforts, I don't feel any particular obligation to engage in a
conspiracy of silence either. In the extreme-- and I'm not saying
that's what's being advocated here, but I have seen it elsewhere-- the
suggestion that we should hide our differences from the public strikes
me as elitist and unethical.
Post by James Green-Armytage
This is a very big country, and there are lots of people who use voting
to decide things, and most of those people are still using plurality. Use
of IRV hardly means blocking Condorcet. 99% of the time, it means
overturning plurality or two round runoff.
Perhaps when we are deciding on which method to use to elect the
president, this will no longer be the case, but we are quite a long way
off that point, and for now the field is wide open.
It seems to me that there is tons of room for people to implement IRV in
some places, Condorcet in others, Approval in others, and still more
systems in others. Not only is this the most cooperative approach for the
movement to take, it is also the one that provides for the most feedback.
That is, if many groups are using each of the different methods, then
voting methods organizers will be able to track the results and see how
the different methods are working under different circumstances, and this
will enrich the theoretical debate immensely.
CONCLUSION
I have presented some of my opinions here. Although I am uncertain about
some things, I feel fairly sure about others. I am fairly sure that IRV is
technically better than plurality. I am fairly sure that IRV, Condorcet,
and Approval people should try to treat each other as allies rather than
competitors, and that they should not try to strawman or exclude each
others' systems.
I think that the voting methods movement will be healthier given a
pluralistic, multi-system approach, that is one in which different
alternative systems are being advocated for and implemented
simultaneously. I don't think that we should try to close off debate and
resolve on a single system before we begin advocacy. I think that we
should give people a chance to make intelligent decisions about voting
systems, rather than only letting them know about the system that we like
best. Of course, if they only ask for one recommendation, then we should
give them the one we prefer. But if they are interested in the
alternatives, then we should not hide them or give false arguments against
them.
My opinion of IRV is lower than James's, so my approach to advocacy will
naturally differ accordingly. In my view, while IRV might be a
technical improvement in some ways, it could also be considered a step
in the wrong direction, much as walking northward into a blind alley
would be an impediment to actually traveling north.

I pretty much agree with the rest of this conclusion, although I would
put it that "IRV, Condorcet, and Approval people should treat each other
as competitors rather than enemies." But again, I think that
competition can be healthy & beneficial if conducted honorably.

Regards,
Bart
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Forest Simmons
2003-09-06 22:06:56 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 6 Sep 2003, Bart Ingles wrote:
...
Post by Bart Ingles
Post by James Green-Armytage
In contrast to plurality, IRV allows for ranked ballots. This allows
voters to communicate in much more detail than on a plurality (or
Approval) ballot, which is in general a good thing, although admittedly
voters may either vote strategically, thus distorting their communication,
or regret their choices later. [...]
I don't generally favor ranked ballots, so this would not be a point in
favor of IRV for me.
On the basis of evidence that I summarized recently under the heading
"simplicity" I believe that most of the US public would consider ranked
ballots a nuisance in public elections.

What do you think of the Candidate Proxy / Approval hybrid that I
suggested a few months ago?

Voters fill out regular approval style ballots. If a voter makes only one
mark on the ballot, then (by default) the marked candidate (as proxy for
the voter) may approve additional candidates on behalf of the voter in the
Election Completion Convention.

If a voter wants to approve only one candidate without the proxy option,
then the voter must make another mark on the ballot on the "no proxy"
line. [Treating the "no proxy" line the same as a candidate line allows
the use of standard plurality ballots.]

In summary, if a voter marks at least two lines on the ballot by approving
at least two candidates or by marking a candidate and the "no proxy" line,
then the approval ballot will be counted "as is" in the Election
Completion Convention, otherwise the lone mark candidate is proxy for the
voter. [If the lone mark is on the "no proxy" line, then no candidate is
approved by the ballot.]

Even if I had rather strong feelings about whom to approve and whom to not
approve, if I trusted my favorite enough I might go ahead and designate
her as my proxy in order to give her more leverage in the Election
Completion Convention.

Also if I didn't trust the polls, and the popularity of the candidates was
an important consideration in deciding the approval cutoff, I might want
to give proxy status to my favorite, since her final decisions would be
made after the "as is" approval ballots were tallied.

It seems to me that the average voter would find this method to be simpler
to use than Approval, and that the method would preserve all of the
advantages that Approval has over other methods.

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Bart Ingles
2003-09-14 16:35:07 UTC
Permalink
I think it would be hard to get the proxy concept into public elections,
but maybe for party primaries. As a sort of "approval purist", I would
lean toward making "No Proxy" the default, replacing the checkbox with
one labeled, "Allow Proxy".

One way to judge the applicability of the proxy idea is to consider a
Proxy/FPTP hybrid. If proxy voting adds anything to an approval
election, then the benefit when added to a first-past-the-post election
should be even greater, shouldn't it?

Bart
Post by Forest Simmons
What do you think of the Candidate Proxy / Approval hybrid that I
suggested a few months ago?
Voters fill out regular approval style ballots. If a voter makes only one
mark on the ballot, then (by default) the marked candidate (as proxy for
the voter) may approve additional candidates on behalf of the voter in the
Election Completion Convention.
If a voter wants to approve only one candidate without the proxy option,
then the voter must make another mark on the ballot on the "no proxy"
line. [Treating the "no proxy" line the same as a candidate line allows
the use of standard plurality ballots.]
In summary, if a voter marks at least two lines on the ballot by approving
at least two candidates or by marking a candidate and the "no proxy" line,
then the approval ballot will be counted "as is" in the Election
Completion Convention, otherwise the lone mark candidate is proxy for the
voter. [If the lone mark is on the "no proxy" line, then no candidate is
approved by the ballot.]
Even if I had rather strong feelings about whom to approve and whom to not
approve, if I trusted my favorite enough I might go ahead and designate
her as my proxy in order to give her more leverage in the Election
Completion Convention.
Also if I didn't trust the polls, and the popularity of the candidates was
an important consideration in deciding the approval cutoff, I might want
to give proxy status to my favorite, since her final decisions would be
made after the "as is" approval ballots were tallied.
It seems to me that the average voter would find this method to be simpler
to use than Approval, and that the method would preserve all of the
advantages that Approval has over other methods.
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Forest Simmons
2003-09-17 00:59:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bart Ingles
I think it would be hard to get the proxy concept into public elections,
but maybe for party primaries. As a sort of "approval purist", I would
lean toward making "No Proxy" the default, replacing the checkbox with
one labeled, "Allow Proxy".
I prefer this default, too. The only reason I suggested the other was
that it would make it easier to tabulate the ballots using existing
machinery:

You would just pass the ballots through the precinct counting machines
twice, once with the single winner FPTP setting, and once with the
Multiple Winners at Large setting.

In the first pass all of the ballots with more than one mark (i.e. the non
proxy approval ballots) would be ignored, since they would be "scratch"
ballots according to the rules of FPTP.

In the second pass all of the ballots (including proxy) would be counted
as approval ballots.

To get the true approval ballot results, subtract the first pass results
from the second pass results.
Post by Bart Ingles
One way to judge the applicability of the proxy idea is to consider a
Proxy/FPTP hybrid. If proxy voting adds anything to an approval
election, then the benefit when added to a first-past-the-post election
should be even greater, shouldn't it?
Definitely. Personally, I think that this hybrid, though not as good as
the Proxy/Approval hybrid, would beat IRV in performance, as well as in
public appeal.

Furthermore, it would work well for Proportional Representation, either as
is or as Proxy/Cumulative, since Cumulative and Plurality are
strategically equivalent, and Cumulative doesn't do that bad for PR when
the polls are good and the voters can coordinate, both conditions being
satisfied in the Election Completion Convention under Candidate Proxy
methods.

Forest

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Rob LeGrand
2003-09-06 23:40:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Forest Simmons
What do you think of the Candidate Proxy / Approval hybrid that I
suggested a few months ago?
Voters fill out regular approval style ballots. If a voter makes only one
mark on the ballot, then (by default) the marked candidate (as proxy for
the voter) may approve additional candidates on behalf of the voter in
the
Post by Forest Simmons
Election Completion Convention.
I like it. My only worry is that the candidates themselves might be far
less willing to compromise than the voters. In the California
gubernatorial "race", Bill Simon pulled out to avoid drawing votes away
from Schwarzenegger, but he's an exception. Most of the candidates are
running despite not having any chance of winning, and many of them (Arianna
Huffington, Tom McClintock, Peter Camejo, etc.) are likely to take
significant votes away from the frontrunners. A candidate would seem to
care much more about his own, even slim, chances than about who ends up
winning. When I ran for state rep in Texas, I wouldn't have considered
voting for one of my major-party opponents even if I had vastly preferred
one to the other. (I didn't.)

On the other hand, maybe a candidate would be likely to compromise in an
Election Completion Convention once it's obvious that he has no chance of
winning. It's fun to play kingmaker, even if the results might sometimes
resemble the "corrupt bargain" of 1824. Would the public accept the winner
of an ECC if he didn't get the most proxy votes in the public election?

=====
Rob LeGrand, psephologist
***@approvalvoting.org
Citizens for Approval Voting
http://www.approvalvoting.org/

__________________________________
Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software
http://sitebuilder.yahoo.com
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Forest Simmons
2003-09-09 17:59:55 UTC
Permalink
Thanks for the insights, Rob.
Post by Rob LeGrand
Post by Forest Simmons
What do you think of the Candidate Proxy / Approval hybrid that I
suggested a few months ago?
Voters fill out regular approval style ballots. If a voter makes only one
mark on the ballot, then (by default) the marked candidate (as proxy for
the voter) may approve additional candidates on behalf of the voter in
the
Post by Forest Simmons
Election Completion Convention.
I like it. My only worry is that the candidates themselves might be far
less willing to compromise than the voters. In the California
gubernatorial "race", Bill Simon pulled out to avoid drawing votes away
from Schwarzenegger, but he's an exception. Most of the candidates are
running despite not having any chance of winning, and many of them (Arianna
Huffington, Tom McClintock, Peter Camejo, etc.) are likely to take
significant votes away from the frontrunners. A candidate would seem to
care much more about his own, even slim, chances than about who ends up
winning. When I ran for state rep in Texas, I wouldn't have considered
voting for one of my major-party opponents even if I had vastly preferred
one to the other. (I didn't.)
On the other hand, maybe a candidate would be likely to compromise in an
Election Completion Convention once it's obvious that he has no chance of
winning. It's fun to play kingmaker, even if the results might sometimes
resemble the "corrupt bargain" of 1824. Would the public accept the winner
of an ECC if he didn't get the most proxy votes in the public election?
The "kingmaker" image somehow brings to mind the Senate Confirmation
hearings for Clarence Thomas.

Remember all of the senators strutting their stuff before the public?

The Election Completion Convention could become the highlight of the
election!

Also, remember how Gore and Bush managed to shut out all other candidates
from the public debates?

That wouldn't be as likely to happen if they were courting other
candidates' approval with the Election Completion Convention in mind.

Forest

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Joe Mason
2003-09-07 00:43:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rob LeGrand
I like it. My only worry is that the candidates themselves might be far
less willing to compromise than the voters. In the California
gubernatorial "race", Bill Simon pulled out to avoid drawing votes away
from Schwarzenegger, but he's an exception. Most of the candidates are
running despite not having any chance of winning, and many of them (Arianna
Huffington, Tom McClintock, Peter Camejo, etc.) are likely to take
significant votes away from the frontrunners. A candidate would seem to
care much more about his own, even slim, chances than about who ends up
winning. When I ran for state rep in Texas, I wouldn't have considered
voting for one of my major-party opponents even if I had vastly preferred
one to the other. (I didn't.)
There are secondary targets when running beyond winning the whole thing,
though - ISTR the US having a threshold at 5% of the votes for a party
to get better consideration in the next election, for instance, and less
formally there are single-issue parties who merely want to gather votes
they can point to during negotiations or publicity campaigns to show how
many people support their cause. I suspect many of the California
governor candidates just want to see how much they can get, perhaps to
kick-start a political career.

I'd think people would be much more willing to compromise in an Approval
situation, or if they weere still able to use non-proxy votes for pride
or publicity.

Joe
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Forest Simmons
2003-09-13 19:27:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joe Mason
Post by Rob LeGrand
I like it. My only worry is that the candidates themselves might be far
less willing to compromise than the voters. In the California
gubernatorial "race", Bill Simon pulled out to avoid drawing votes away
from Schwarzenegger, but he's an exception. Most of the candidates are
running despite not having any chance of winning, and many of them (Arianna
Huffington, Tom McClintock, Peter Camejo, etc.) are likely to take
significant votes away from the frontrunners. A candidate would seem to
care much more about his own, even slim, chances than about who ends up
winning. When I ran for state rep in Texas, I wouldn't have considered
voting for one of my major-party opponents even if I had vastly preferred
one to the other. (I didn't.)
Let's say you were one of three major contenders. If the proxy votes
controlled by you were not pivotal, then there could be little or no
instrumental benefit to voting for one of your opponents.

On the other hand, if your proxy votes were pivotal, then with holding
your approval from one of the leading candidates is de facto support for
the other: you cannot be neutral in that case.
Post by Joe Mason
There are secondary targets when running beyond winning the whole thing,
though - ISTR the US having a threshold at 5% of the votes for a party
to get better consideration in the next election, for instance, and less
formally there are single-issue parties who merely want to gather votes
they can point to during negotiations or publicity campaigns to show how
many people support their cause. I suspect many of the California
governor candidates just want to see how much they can get, perhaps to
kick-start a political career.
I'd think people would be much more willing to compromise in an Approval
situation, or if they weere still able to use non-proxy votes for pride
or publicity.
Good points.

I was thinking how this version of Candidate Proxy might have played out
in the 2000 US presidential election.

I think many voters who preferred Nader to Gore would have approved both.

Most of those who actually voted for Nader (like myself) in the actual
election would probably have granted him proxy power in a Candidate Proxy
election.

At the beginning of the Election Completion Convention, in all likelihood
Gore would have been ahead in the approval count.

Given this, there would still be two possibilities depending on whether or
not Nader had enough proxy votes to swing the win to Bush.

If not, then he should just approve himself on behalf of the proxies.
That's what the proxies would expect and overwhelmingly want in that case.

If he did have the power to swing it to Bush, then he would use his
leverage to find out which of the two leading candidates offered the
greater concessions to Green Party interests. He should give the win to
the candidate with the best offer, all things considered (including
wisdom, trustworthiness, credibility, etc.)

Note that in this position Nader cannot be neutral. Using his proxy votes
to approve only himself is knowingly giving the win to Gore.

Forest

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John B. Hodges
2003-09-07 22:06:33 UTC
Permalink
Date: Sat, 06 Sep 2003 13:52:58 -0700
Subject: Re: [EM] IRV vs. Plurality
I have a question of my own: What kinds of pro-IRV activities do you
think should be protected from interference by advocates of other
systems? Does this apply only to efforts to pass a pro-IRV law or
ballot initiative, or should we also refrain from responding to pro-IRV
editorials, for example? Or how about the recent League of Women Voters
Election Systems Studies, which were in part promoted and financed by
pro-IRV groups-- should these be considered 'IRV territory' as well?
(much snipped)
Post by James Green-Armytage
In general, I think that it is very counter-productive
for advocates of
Post by James Green-Armytage
Condorcet and Approval to spend their efforts trying to block attempts to
implement IRV. It seems obvious that their effort would be better spent
trying to implement their own favorite system, rather than defending
plurality against IRV.
I repeat my question from above: What kinds of pro-IRV activities
should be protected from interference by advocates of other systems?
Specific attempts at implementation, or any activity by IRV advocates?
And what constitutes "blocking"-- actual lobbying against an IRV
initiative, or any public criticism of IRV? It seems to me that there
is a fine line between "blocking" and educating the public. Where would
you draw the line? And if the attempt to implement IRV happens to be in
my own hometown, can I lobby my own council members against it, or
should I move to another city before contacting my representatives?
In general, I see nothing wrong with competition. That's democracy. In
some cases, the controversy could be beneficial. While I don't favor
following IRV advocates around and attempting to counter all of their
efforts, I don't feel any particular obligation to engage in a
conspiracy of silence either. In the extreme-- and I'm not saying
that's what's being advocated here, but I have seen it elsewhere-- the
suggestion that we should hide our differences from the public strikes
me as elitist and unethical.
JBH here- IMHO, if you have a serious proposal to place before the
voters as an alternative to IRV, THEN it would be legitimate
competition to compare and contrast the relative virtues and flaws of
the respective proposals. If you do not have any specific alternative
to offer, and are criticizing because the IRV proposal is not the
best you could imagine, then your efforts are simply obstructive.
When the effective alternatives are IRV vs. status-quo, unless you
honestly take the position that IRV is worse than plurality, worse
than two-round runoff, then you should not oppose IRV proposals.

And frankly, IMHO, no honest person can say that IRV is worse than
plurality, worse than two-round runoff, however brilliant they or
others think they may be.

So I am repeating something I have said before. If you think that
Ranked Pairs Condorcet, or plain Approval, or MCA/Bucklin, are better
than IRV, and you wish to do the work to put a proposal on the ballot
to implement your favored system, GO FOR IT!!! If you don't wish to
do the work, then please, stay out of the way of those who do.

Bart also said he didn't accept the "stepping-stone" argument. Again
IMHO, there is very little worth to ANY single-winner method, unless
it is part of a larger agenda for proportional representation. In
abstract models you can argue that the legislature will choose the
same proposals under single-seat districts as it would under PR, if
the single-seat districts choose their reps by some good
single-winner method. IMHO this is losing sight of the differences
between abstract models and reality. Theorists and professional
academics sometimes do this, it is a failing to guard against.
Reality is discontinuous, nonlinear, multidimensional, and "messy" in
many ways; having mathematical assurances of equilibrium tendencies
of abstract systems is no substitute for having a real human being in
the legislature whom you voted FOR as articulating your own views and
priorities. To seriously reform the current system, we need to move
to a multiparty system; to allow a larger fraction of the population
to see someone in the legislature who they voted FOR, who represents
their views, there is no alternative (AFAIK) to proportional
representation in multi-seat districts. Single-winner methods are
sometimes unavoidable; for executive seats, we might as well use the
best method we know of. There is no good in using single-seat methods
when they are not necessary.
--
----------------------------------
John B. Hodges, jbhodges@ @usit.net
Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Be Irreverent.
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Dave Ketchum
2003-09-08 08:32:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by John B. Hodges
Bart also said he didn't accept the "stepping-stone" argument. Again
IMHO, there is very little worth to ANY single-winner method, unless it
is part of a larger agenda for proportional representation. In abstract
models you can argue that the legislature will choose the same proposals
under single-seat districts as it would under PR, if the single-seat
districts choose their reps by some good single-winner method. IMHO this
is losing sight of the differences between abstract models and reality.
Theorists and professional academics sometimes do this, it is a failing
to guard against. Reality is discontinuous, nonlinear, multidimensional,
and "messy" in many ways; having mathematical assurances of equilibrium
tendencies of abstract systems is no substitute for having a real human
being in the legislature whom you voted FOR as articulating your own
views and priorities. To seriously reform the current system, we need to
move to a multiparty system; to allow a larger fraction of the
population to see someone in the legislature who they voted FOR, who
represents their views, there is no alternative (AFAIK) to proportional
representation in multi-seat districts. Single-winner methods are
sometimes unavoidable; for executive seats, we might as well use the
best method we know of. There is no good in using single-seat methods
when they are not necessary.
What, useful, did this long paragraph contribute?


Topic of the thread is a couple varieties of single-winner methods.

Then, trying to decipher what you said, there is VERY LITTLE:
You do not like single-winner - your privilege but, evenso, this is
off topic for this thread.
You, RELUCTANTLY, concede that single-winner is appropriate for
executive seats.
Since that is NOT all it is good for in the US, you demonstrate, at
a minimum, not understanding how this country is put together.

Since you dislike single-winner, why do you not:
Leave it to those of us who see the need and are working at it?
Work at PR - toward the better possible methods and the advantages
of each? When I could make districts of 5 or 25 seats, what are the
advantages of leaning toward few or many?
--
***@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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Bart Ingles
2003-09-14 17:25:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by John B. Hodges
Date: Sat, 06 Sep 2003 13:52:58 -0700
From: Bart Ingles
Subject: Re: [EM] IRV vs. Plurality
I have a question of my own: What kinds of pro-IRV activities do you
think should be protected from interference by advocates of other
systems? Does this apply only to efforts to pass a pro-IRV law or
ballot initiative, or should we also refrain from responding to pro-IRV
editorials, for example? Or how about the recent League of Women Voters
Election Systems Studies, which were in part promoted and financed by
pro-IRV groups-- should these be considered 'IRV territory' as well?
(much snipped)
Post by James Green-Armytage
In general, I think that it is very counter-productive
for advocates of
Post by James Green-Armytage
Condorcet and Approval to spend their efforts trying to block attempts to
implement IRV. It seems obvious that their effort would be better spent
trying to implement their own favorite system, rather than defending
plurality against IRV.
I repeat my question from above: What kinds of pro-IRV activities
should be protected from interference by advocates of other systems?
Specific attempts at implementation, or any activity by IRV advocates?
And what constitutes "blocking"-- actual lobbying against an IRV
initiative, or any public criticism of IRV? It seems to me that there
is a fine line between "blocking" and educating the public. Where would
you draw the line? And if the attempt to implement IRV happens to be in
my own hometown, can I lobby my own council members against it, or
should I move to another city before contacting my representatives?
In general, I see nothing wrong with competition. That's democracy. In
some cases, the controversy could be beneficial. While I don't favor
following IRV advocates around and attempting to counter all of their
efforts, I don't feel any particular obligation to engage in a
conspiracy of silence either. In the extreme-- and I'm not saying
that's what's being advocated here, but I have seen it elsewhere-- the
suggestion that we should hide our differences from the public strikes
me as elitist and unethical.
JBH here- IMHO, if you have a serious proposal to place before the
voters as an alternative to IRV, THEN it would be legitimate
competition to compare and contrast the relative virtues and flaws of
the respective proposals. If you do not have any specific alternative
to offer, and are criticizing because the IRV proposal is not the
best you could imagine, then your efforts are simply obstructive.
When the effective alternatives are IRV vs. status-quo, unless you
honestly take the position that IRV is worse than plurality, worse
than two-round runoff, then you should not oppose IRV proposals.
So am I correct in inferring that you believe the public (or
legislators, or anyone being asked to implement IRV) should be shielded
from the negatives of that IRV? In other words, we know what's best for
the public, and shouldn't confuse them with inconvenient facts. This
doesn't sound like such a humble opinion to me.

Personally, I believe that public education trumps any particular ballot
proposal, even in the absence of a competing proposal.
Post by John B. Hodges
And frankly, IMHO, no honest person can say that IRV is worse than
plurality, worse than two-round runoff, however brilliant they or
others think they may be.
So anyone who disagrees with you is dishonest? Thanks, John.

I believe that IRV is worse than Plurality and Runoff in this way: The
current situation is irritating to the top two parties, giving them at
least some incentive for reform. If IRV is widely implemented in
partisan elections, the top two parties will be completely shielded from
3rd party and independent candidates, and will be free to focus
exclusively each other. There will be no more incentive to court 3rd
party swing voters, except where these voters also happen to be swing
voters relative to the top two candidates.

And worst of all, there will be no more incentive for the
top-two-party's voters and elected representatives to move beyond IRV.
This means no incentive to graduate to Approval or Condorcet in
executive elections, and definitely no incentive for proportional
representation.

Given the choice were between (1) IRV now and forever, and (2) live with
Plurality and Runoff with the prospect of implementing approval voting
(or some other Duverger-independent system) in the future, I would
gladly choose (2).
Post by John B. Hodges
So I am repeating something I have said before. If you think that
Ranked Pairs Condorcet, or plain Approval, or MCA/Bucklin, are better
than IRV, and you wish to do the work to put a proposal on the ballot
to implement your favored system, GO FOR IT!!! If you don't wish to
do the work, then please, stay out of the way of those who do.
I'm doing the work, to the extent that I am able. Right now the work is
laying the groundwork in terms of public awareness. What really bugs me
is the fact that many of the pro-IRV people I have deal with in the past
five years seem to take the view that competitors should stay out of the
way of IRV propaganda campaigns which are NOT connected with specific
ballot proposals.
Post by John B. Hodges
Bart also said he didn't accept the "stepping-stone" argument. Again
IMHO, there is very little worth to ANY single-winner method, unless
it is part of a larger agenda for proportional representation. In
abstract models you can argue that the legislature will choose the
same proposals under single-seat districts as it would under PR, if
the single-seat districts choose their reps by some good
single-winner method. [...]
As I argued above, I don't believe that IRV is a step toward PR any more
than it is a step toward better executive elections. With IRV in place,
there is simply no incentive for the top two parties to move toward
anything else.
Post by John B. Hodges
To seriously reform the current system, we need to move
to a multiparty system; to allow a larger fraction of the population
to see someone in the legislature who they voted FOR, who represents
their views, there is no alternative (AFAIK) to proportional
representation in multi-seat districts. Single-winner methods are
sometimes unavoidable; for executive seats, we might as well use the
best method we know of. There is no good in using single-seat methods
when they are not necessary.
AFAIK, IRV is a single-seat method. So why would you promote it?

Bart
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D***@aol.com
2003-09-08 23:05:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bart Ingles
On the question of IRV vs Plurality, I would like to first point out
that pure first-past-the-post is not really the norm for U.S.
elections. For nonpartisan local elections, the question should really
be IRV vs. Runoff. And for partisan state and federal elections, we
generally have primary and general elections, which are similar in
effect to runoffs.
A good system should be a good system anywhere in the world. The primary
system is pretty much unique to the U.S. The results of elections in Britain
where, until recently, every election at every level was a plurality,
first-past-the-post election demonstrate how unfair and unrepresentative plurality is.
Post by Bart Ingles
(snip) I don't share this pessimism. I think that so long as the various
factions debate honestly, this can only improve public awareness of
voting systems. Even contentious debate will have the effect of
educating the public, which in the long run is more important than
implementing a method which is acknowledged below to be a mere stepping
stone to better methods.
Contentious debate can easily turn into all-out war resulting in the mutual
destruction of all sides. "Unity is strength" and "divide and conquer" are not
empty phrases.
Post by Bart Ingles
The only large-scale demonstration of IRV we have is Australia's lower
house, where district elections are virtually all bipartisan (there are
apparently three parties represented in the legislature, but only two of
the three are prominent in any given district). This in spite of the
fact that Australia has a strong multi-party system fed by proportional
representation in its upper house
For an example of a three party IRV election ( the Queensland state election
of 1998 where Pauline Hanson's anti-immigrant One Nation Party challenged the
Labour party and Liberal/National coalition ) visit Adam Carr's Electoral
Archive:

http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/a/australia/states/qldindex.shtml

12 out of 76 members of the Australian Senate belong to parties other than
National, Liberal or Labour.

David Gamble
Anthony Duff
2003-09-10 00:28:27 UTC
Permalink
--- ***@aol.com wrote: > Bart Ingles wrote in
part:


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Dave Ketchum
2003-09-12 07:20:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by D***@aol.com
Post by Bart Ingles
On the question of IRV vs Plurality, I would like to first point out
that pure first-past-the-post is not really the norm for U.S.
elections. For nonpartisan local elections, the question should really
be IRV vs. Runoff. And for partisan state and federal elections, we
generally have primary and general elections, which are similar in
effect to runoffs.
For New York State the standard is partisan for all elections in the state
except:
By law, villages can choose nonpartisan.
New York City is considering nonpartisan for city offices.
School boards are in their own world - at least some are nonpartisan.

I question this emphasis on runoff. It could be true for PARTS of the US,
but I did not find the word in a quick search of New York State election
law. Also, within NYS, some cities, etc., do do runoffs.

Relating primaries to runoffs bothers me:
A primary is an election within a party to decide which of competing
candidates the party shall nominate for the general election.
A party would not WANT to nominate competing candidates for the
general election (assuming Plurality) - such could split the vote of party
backers, thus improving the odds of some other party's candidate winning.
A party COULD use a runoff to resolve primary results being too
close to a tie.
Post by D***@aol.com
David Gamble
--
***@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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Bart Ingles
2003-09-14 17:42:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bart Ingles
Post by Bart Ingles
On the question of IRV vs Plurality, I would like to first point out
that pure first-past-the-post is not really the norm for U.S.
elections. For nonpartisan local elections, the question should
really
Post by Bart Ingles
be IRV vs. Runoff. And for partisan state and federal elections, we
generally have primary and general elections, which are similar in
effect to runoffs.
A good system should be a good system anywhere in the world. The
primary system is pretty much unique to the U.S. The results of
elections in Britain where, until recently, every election at every
level was a plurality, first-past-the-post election demonstrate how
unfair and unrepresentative plurality is.
I didn't say the primary and Runoff systems were good, I just said they
were "similar in effect". The point was that IRV would not be as big a
change as is often claimed.

The 2002 California gubernatorial election is an example. If Davis,
Riordan, and Simon had competed using Runoff or IRV, the outcome would
likely have been the same, with the result that we are now involved in a
recall election for the non-Condorcet winner.
Post by Bart Ingles
For an example of a three party IRV election ( the Queensland state
election of 1998 where Pauline Hanson's anti-immigrant One Nation
Party challenged the Labour party and Liberal/National coalition )
http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/a/australia/states/qldindex.shtml
Sure, there are occasional 3-way elections, just as there are in the
U.S. (just search for "Jesse Ventura").
Post by Bart Ingles
12 out of 76 members of the Australian Senate belong to parties other
than National, Liberal or Labour.
That's my point-- PR in the Senate should, if anything, lend strength to
3rd party candidates in the House. If IRV was conducive to electing
third-party and independent candidates, it would have been evident by
now.

Bart
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D***@aol.com
2003-09-14 22:27:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bart Ingles
Post by D***@aol.com
12 out of 76 members of the Australian Senate belong to parties other
than National, Liberal or Labour.
That's my point-- PR in the Senate should, if anything, lend strength to
3rd party candidates in the House. If IRV was conducive to electing
third-party and independent candidates, it would have been evident by
now.
You cannot judge an electoral system by its performance in one country. Many
factors effect the political culture/party system of a country the electoral
system being just one of them- albeit an important one. For example both Eire
and Malta have used STV as their electoral system for many decades- in Ireland
a multi-party system has developed, in Malta a two party system- even though a
minor party needs just 1/6 of the vote in one constituency to secure
representation.

France today ( 5th Republic) has essentially the same electoral system ( 2nd
ballot- very similar to top two run-off) as the 3rd Republic ( 1870- 1940) had
for most of its existence. The Third Republic was governed ( or failed to be
governed) by shifting and unstable coalitions of the centre whereas Fifth
Republican France has two multi-party blocks one on the left and one on the right
who since 1981 have alternated in government. The electoral systems of the
Third and Fifth Republics are essentially the same other factors have altered the
political culture/party system.


David Gamble


Bart
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