Woes with the Elections Reform List

New Democracy donald at mich.com
Wed Apr 23 06:43:43 PDT 1997

Dear List members,

     Have any of you having the same trouble that I have been having with
the Elections Reform List?

     My post to the ER list are not being accepted - it makes me think that
Steve is playing another censorship game.

     The following is the letter that I have trying to post on ER. Have any
of you received this letter from ER?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - April 23 1997
Dear members of the Elections Reform List,

     I am going to try to send this letter again to ER. I first sent it two
days ago but all I got back was a notice that the message could not be
sent(copy at end of this letter). Sorry if you get more than one.
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     I have just written some new text on single seat election methods for
my web site.

             Three Proposed Single Seat Election Methods

Approval Voting, Borda Count, and Condorcet

There are other methods proposed for electing single seat positions - other
than Preference Run-off. Three of the proposed methods are: Approval
Voting, Borda Count, and Condorcet. There are many variations of these
three - I will not be taking the space nor your time to deal with those

In these three methods and also in Preference Voting, the voter is allowed
to select a number of preferences. If there is a majority candidate on the
count of the first preferences there is a winner - the election is over -
the math of the method is not used. If there is no majority candidate then
the math of each method is followed as explained in the following short
summary of the three methods.

Approval Voting - If there is no majority candidate then the lower
preferences have equal weight with the first preference and all are added
together - the candidate with the largest total is the winner - this
candidate will usually not have a majority of all the preferences.

Borda Count - If there is no majority candidate then all the preferences
are rated - receive different weights. If we have four candidates in the
race the first preference may receive four points - the second would
receive three points - and so forth for every preference that the voter
made. The candidate with the largest total of points is the winner - this
candidate will usually not have a majority of all the points.

Condorcet - If there is no majority candidate then the candidates are
divided into every possible combination of two - this is called pairing. If
we had four candidate we will have six sets of pairs. Each pair is worked
like a run-off. The other candidates are dropped and their votes are
transferred to the two candidates of the pair. The candidate that wins most
of the pair run-offs is the winner of the election. It is possible that no
candidate has a majority of the pair wins.

The major fault of these three methods is that they deny the voters the
right to express true feelings - let me explain. Knowledgeable voters will
prefer one candidate over the rest. The true feelings of these voters is to
support this number one candidate to the hilt until that candidate is a
winner or is dropped. If dropped, the voter then wants to be able to
salvage his vote and use it on a second preference. Preference Voting gives
the voter the ability to do this - Approval Voting, Borda Count, and
Condorcet do not.

In these three proposed methods the lower preferences of a voter receive
support while his first preference is still a contender. Savvy voters will
see this and will refuse to make more than one selection. John De Lasaux
wrote the following:

"Voters have absolutely NO interest in making a SECOND selection unless
they can be assured that it doesn't color the count relative to their FIRST

It will not matter how you weight or rate the votes - you are still giving
support to lower candidates while number one is still in the race - a
condition that the voters will not accept.

Other Faults of the Three Proposed Methods

There are two tests I would like to suggest that will show other faults of
these three proposed methods.

Test number one: Does the method confirm the majority winner of the first
count? If on the first count of the ballots we have a majority winner the
election is over - there is no need to proceed with the single seat method
- whatever it may be. BUT! - if we were to proceed with the method anyway,
would the results always produce the same winner? Preference Run-off meets
this test - only one of the three proposed methods can pass this test -

Test number two: Will the method always elect with a majority? Preference
Run-off meets this test - none of the three proposed methods can pass this

                                 Test Number One    Test Number Two
                                 Always confirms     Always elects
                                 majority Winner     with majority
               Approval Voting         NO                  NO
               Borda Count             NO                  NO
               Cordorcet              YES                  NO
               Preference Run-off     YES                 YES
               These two test should be used to test any method.

Single Seat Election Dispute

In the face of the faults of these three proposed methods there are still
persons who support one or more of them. This results in a standing dispute
between Preference Run-off and the three proposed methods. This dispute
needs to be put into some perspective. I feel that this dispute continues
because of a difference of perception as to the role of the lower

 The difference of perception can be put into the form of a question.

   Should lower preferences be considered in selecting the winner?
   Or - in other words: Should the lower preferences be given votes?

These questions make up the heart of the dispute. If you are going to pick
between the two schools you must resolve these questions in your mind. I
have resolved these questions in my mind and I pick the Preference Run-off
school. Allow me to present my reasons and answers to these questions.

Should lower preferences be considered in selecting the winner?

Preference Run-off uses the lower preferences in two ways: When a candidate
is dropped the votes of this candidate are not dropped - the votes are
salvaged by transferring them to the next preferences. The second way in
which the lower preferences are used is in the event of a tie between
candidates. The next preferences of the tied candidates are used to solve
the tie - the candidate with the lowest number of next preferences is
dropped.  Using lower preferences to solve ties is acceptable because the
candidates are at a equal point together on a level playing field - they
have equal size windows to the same number of possible preference votes.
(equal mathematical consideration)

This is the extent of the use of the lower preferences by Preference
Run-off. The proposed methods school uses the lower preferences more
extensively - as I  have shown in the above summaries of the three methods.

Should the Lower Preferences be given votes?

The position of the Run-off school is that preferences are not votes. Each
voter has only one vote and that vote belongs to the candidate that is the
first preference of the voter. That vote must stay with that candidate and
cannot be taken away as long as that candidate is a contender. If the time
comes in which that candidate is last and no longer a contender, the
candidate is dropped but the vote is not dropped - the vote is salvaged and
transferred to the next lower preference of the voter. The position of the
proposed methods school is that every preference is a vote and can be used
as desired per whichever method. The proposed methods people are claiming
that every lower preference is the same as the first preference, and that
all preferences should carry the same weight. This is not true. <B>When a
voter selects one candidate as his first preference that means that the
voter prefers that candidate more than any other candidate.</B> The lower
preferences are only to be used to salvage the voter's vote in the event
the first preference is dropped - and in cases of ties between candidates.

Unrealistic Examples

These people who support Condorcet or another one of these proposed methods
will show you many election examples like: 49 AC 41 BC 10 CB - so they can
show you a candidate with strong support in the lower preferences and they
will argue that lower preferences should be taken into consideration when
we seek a winner. And you may be inclined to think that: Yes - maybe the
strength of a candidate in lower preferences should be taken into account.
Well - let me say that these kinds of examples are unrealistic.

A point that you should be aware of is that all the examples that the
proposed methods people will be showing you are concocted. In a three
candidate race there will be fifteen possible combinations - not merely
three. In a real election the voters will be using all combinations. All
the voters that voted for the same candidate are not going to march lock
step and select the same lower preference. Usually in a real election the
candidates that receive high vote counts on the first preferences will also
be in the high counts of the second preferences - and it follows that the
low count candidates will still be in the low counts of the second
preferences.  When examples become real the winning candidate of the
proposed methods will be the same as the Preference Run-off winning
candidate. Which raises the question why bother with the proposed methods?
Why Indeed! Condorcet will only produce a different winner in unrealistic
examples of election results - results that will never happen in a real
election. The deceit about these three proposed methods is that they must
create a problem so they can solve a problem. These proposed methods may be
cute as parlor games but we do not need cute in a real election in the real
world. These proposed methods people do this because they are living in a
world of their own - not the real world.

Is it Proper to Drop the Last Candidate?

The proposed methods people also argue that it is not proper to drop
candidates. The postition of the Run-off School is that after each election
the last candidate is no longer a contender and shall be dropped. The
position of the proposed methods School is that after the general election
all candidates are to be considered as being contenders and some way should
be found and used so as to meet this end. The proposed methods people think
it is wrong for Run-off Method to drop the last candidate - but most of
these proposed methods people believe in pairing, the practice of
conducting a run-off between every possible pair of candidates, and they
see no conflict of policy when they drop four candidates at one time in
each of fifteen pairings in a six candidate race. And on the average these
four dropped candidates will have together a majority of the votes. Most of
the pairs will be solved with the pair candidates starting with only a
minority of the vote together.

Before the election all candidates have equal mathematical consideration to
all the votes - a level playing field - how many each receives will depend
on the voters - they will decide which candidate is going to be last. After
the election the candidates are no longer equal - this is a point that must
be observed - the candidates are no longer equal. How much consideration
are the voters of the last place candidate entitled to at this point? The
Run-off Method allows these voters to salvage their votes and place them on
another preference. Some of these voters will be making "lesser of two
evils" decisions, but most people are not opposed to their second
preference. And consider this - these voters will be in the position of
deciding the winner of the contest - they will be the "King Makers" so to
speak. What Run-off does not give these voters is a chance for their
dropped candidate to win. In a single seat election we are only going to
have one winner - we must have a system that reduces the field down to one.
The Preference Run-off method is already engineered and works fine - part
of it is the policy of dropping the last candidates - one by one.

It is one thing to talk about protecting the rights of all candidates but
it is another thing to produce the mathematics that will do it. So far the
people of the three proposed methods do not have anything. What they have
is not acceptable. Approval Voting, Borda Count, and Condorcet are not


Donald Eric Davison of New Democracy at http://www.mich.com/~donald
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