Condorcet ballot options

Steve Eppley seppley at
Tue Nov 19 08:55:09 PST 1996

Hugh Tobin wrote: 
>In the latter part of this message I suggest it may be important
>that voters be allowed to rank from the bottom, in lieu of or in
>addition to ranking from the top. 
>If this option has already been discussed to death I apologize.

We discussed it briefly a few months ago.  It seemed nice but not
very important.  If candidates aren't significant enough to explicitly
rank ahead of a horror, then one or both of the following is highly
likely: they'll be defeated by a better candidate anyway, or the
horror will defeat them anyway.  I don't think enough is gained by 
offering this option to outweigh the additional complexity for the 

A simple way to implement it is to let the voters explicitly rank a
token which represents the candidates not explicitly ranked:
   B > A > NOTR > C > the_unranked > Hitler
   2 A
   1 B
   4 C
   6 Hitler
   5 The Unranked
   3 None of the Rest

If voting booths were computerized to be more user-friendly than 
paper ballots, maybe the user interface could make it a snap to 
include tokens like "the unranked" and/or "notr".  The clear ballot
wouldn't have to begin totally clear--it could start as:
   NOTR > the_unranked
and the voter could drag candidates from a list into his/her rankings,
or click on the "up" or "down" arrows in candidates' icons.  This 
interface is a "split-screen" view, with the (still unranked) list 
of candidates on one half and the rankings (so far) on the other half.
By starting with the_unranked token already inserted in the rankings,
the voter wouldn't need to figure out how to do this for him/herself.

(I've shown the NOTR option above for completeness, not because I 
advocate it.)

Another possible user interface wouldn't split the screen.  Instead 
of using a token to represent the unranked, the "clear" rankings 
could start as:
   NOTR > A=B=C=D=...
Then the voter could drag or click candidates to move them up or down.
(Moving an "unranked" candidate down would mean s/he's less preferred 
than the unranked.)  

The nonsplit screen would probably be more intuitive, but it might
demand more tedious scrolling to keep track of things when the
number of candidates is large.  So the right thing to do would be to
provide both interfaces and let the well-trained voter switch from
the simple nonsplit default to the "power" splitscreen interface. 

---Steve     (Steve Eppley    seppley at

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