[EM] Multiple Same Choices

Steve Eppley seppley at alumni.caltech.edu
Sat Mar 2 14:00:51 PST 1996

Lucien Saumur wrote:
>          My computer system attempts to simplify the
>voting aspect by asking the voters to use a computer mouse
>and to rank the candidates by clicking on a list

I like that better than licking stamps of candidates.  Talk about
bad symbolism!

>          It is important to keep the number of buttons to
>its minimum and the complexity of the system to its least.

Would adding support for dragging candidates from rank to rank make
this more or less complicated for the voter?  Voters wouldn't have to 
use dragging, but those who attempt it would be pleasantly rewarded.

>My system has a button to restart the ranking process to
>correct a mistake. It has a button to end the ranking
>process prematurely and another button to mark when the
>rest of the candidates are unacceptable.

Does the disapproval button end the ranking?  I hope not--I erred a
couple days ago when I said I should vote just 1=NOTB if I also
disapproved of Middle in the race between Middle, Hitler, and
Stalin.  A smarter ballot is 1=NOTB 2=Middle.

What does the user interface show after the disapproval button is 

>          I am now considering the addition of a button to
>allow equal ranking and I am concerned that the system
>would be made too complicated for most voters.

How about this simple interface:

  o Clicking on a candidate highlights him/her.  Clicking again

  o Use a separate button to transfer all highlighted candidates 
    from the unranked pool to the ranked ballot.  After a transfer, 
    none of the candidates stays highlighted.

  o If multiple candidates are highlighted when the button is pushed,
    all receive an *equal* ranking.  Wrap around if needed, but make 
    sure they're clearly marked equal.

  o If the highlighted candidates are on the already-ranked side, 
    pressing the "unrank" button transfers them back to the pool, 
    and the lower-ranked candidates who weren't highlighted move 
    "up" in rank.

  o If any candidates are highlighted, attempts to also highlight 
    a candidate on the other side are ignored, with a help message.

  o Buttons which are momentarily invalid (like the "unrank" button
    when candidates in the pool are highlighted) are "grayed".

  o Onscreen instructions showing what the voter may do next.

You listed several buttons above.  You could make do with just one
button, if NOTB is a candidate and the button label changes to
reflect the currently legal operation:

Situation                             Button Label
--------------------------------      -----------------------
No candidate is highlighted.          "DONE"
Unranked candidate(s) highlighted.    "Rank him/her(them)"
Ranked candidate(s) highlighted.      "Unrank him/her(them)"

(If your system doesn't allow NOTB, then an additional button is 

The onscreen instructions should also change depending on which of
the above three situations exists.

>          I think that the voters will better understand a
>separate acceptability count than they would understand
>that NOTB has become one of the candidates.

You may be right, and this can be tested.  It does add another 
button, however, contrary to one of your principles above.

Try tossing a None Of The Below candidate into the race and see
what kind of feedback you get.

Perhaps both could be used... The candidates ranked higher than NOTB
could be clearly labelled "approved" or "acceptible" onscreen, and
the candidates ranked below NOTB could be clearly labelled
"disapproved" or "unacceptible".

>I suppose that circular tie mean that the voters have no great
>preference between the candidates involved and that the winner
>should be decided most fairly PURELY by chance (by flipping a coin).

I suspect most voters would be averse to any system which
incorporates luck, even if it's meritorious.  (Just a gut feeling.)


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