FAQ Candidate (Re: [ER] Methods versus Selling)

John De Lasaux jdelsey at primenet.com
Sun Feb 16 19:36:27 PST 1997

At 04:02 PM 2/16/97 -0800, Rob Lanphier wrote:
>On Mon, 3 Feb 1997, John De Lasaux wrote:
>> When the mathematical/logical issues get to be so complex that well-educated
>> people like the ones on this list can't agree on the utility of a particular
>> method in a stated situation, I wonder how the electorate (much less a
>> legislature, riddled with secret political agenda) could ever reach
>> Has anyone addressed this issue?
>As has become obvious on the ER list, not to everyone's satisfaction.
>I've switched this thread to the EM mailing list in my response to you
>because a stated goal of the EM list is to provide much-needed educational
>material.  A frequently-asked questions list would be an excellent thing
>to have, and this issue probably belongs at the top of it. 
>Here's my attempt to rephrase (yes, this is slightly different than the
>question you initially asked) and respond:
>Q:  All of these methods are so difficult to understand.  How can
>something I can barely grasp benefit me, and how can I be sure that it
>A:  Some of the most powerful and useful things in modern society are
>difficult to understand, but simple to benefit from.  Very few of us
>know exactly how jet propulsion works, yet buying an airline ticket is
>a reasonably straightforward process (disregarding, of course, the black
>art of getting cheap airfares).

Weak analogy, Rob. The first day a jet showed up, most people would never
buy a ticket on it. People evaluated the risks by watching the planes in
action, and then they bought a ticket.

How do the people get "experience" with a particular voting system, so they
can find out that it gets the outcome they want? How do these people avoid
being bamboozled by the "spin doctors", who can take whatever side of an
argument their "political employer" pays them to support? We are not dealing
with rationality or logic in this arena ... only what argument the biggest
pile of dollars can buy.
>Most voting systems don't ask nearly as much of the voter as they do of
>the voting officials responsible for tallying the ballots.  Our current
>vote-for-only-one voting system is only marginally easier to understand
>than a ranked-ballot system, where the voter is expected to rank a list of
>candidates by preference.
>The only confusion, then, occurs when trying to understand the mechanics
>of the system.  It is quite reasonable to want to understand a voting
>system before endorsing it.  However, we would be a rather
>If you feel uncomfortable supporting new voting systems because you don't
>understand them, but are at least convinced that something is wrong with 
>the status quo, here are some things that you could do that would allow
>you to stay true to yourself and still promote the betterment of the

I don't have a problem endorsing the IDEA of a ranked-ballot system. I am
only putting forth the concept that all those other folks out there will
have to buy in to the idea, and the "fur will fly" when all the "experts"
and media jerks start working over all the possible ideas.

>a)  Ask your elected representitives about these issues.  Sadly,
>the chances are that they will have no clue about this stuff, but you
>will have raised their awareness of the issue, and if they are a great
>representative, they will investigate this issue as your representative.

They may be dumb, but they aren't stupid. The VERY FIRST thing they will
check out will be: How will this new scheme affect MY chances of being

>b)  Support efforts to investigate the merits of alternative voting
>systems.  The need to find the best system is great, and the only way to
>find them is to start looking.

This is where I get lost. The discussions get all mixed together. We need to
"separate the variables", so to speak.

For example, it sounds as though the voting method for President may not be
appropriate for a Congressman, or a judge, or a city councilman. The optimum
method depends upon the type of office and the political subdivision of the
area. If that is true, then the discussion should be divided, to avoid the
endless arguments as the people post messages that "shoot right by and miss
the mark".
>c)  Ask your mathematically-inclined friends about these systems.  Once
>they understand how they work, they may be able to give you the
>information you need to make up your mind.
I AM mathematically and logically and statisticallyinclined. But, I get
frustrated when the mathematical discussion ends with a conclusion that
someone was "talking about a different situation", so the mathematics
presented doesn't really apply to the case at hand.

>d)  Read about it.  There have been several articles printed in magazines
>and journals about various election methods, as well as web sites
>dedicated to them.  Try your best to understand the debates there.

Make the above statement to the average voter, and he/she will ignore you
and wait for Sam Donaldson to come on the TV and clarify everything for them.

>As a member of a democratic society, everyone is a decision-maker, and
>with that comes the burden of understanding the issues at hand.  If you
>want to move on to the jet-age of democracy, you have to accept that
>things may get more sophisticated and potentially confusing in the
>process.  Hopefully, we can evaluate systems on their merits rather than
>our ability to size them up in a 5-minute readthrough of a voters' guide.
>This may be trimmed down and changed quite a bit, but I think the answer
>to this question should try to engage the unengaged rather than trying to
>trying to convert the unengaged from a dead-stop.
>The blue-ribbon panel in New Zealand had a large role in helping
>proportional representation in the door there, since there were those that
>took it on faith that the panel did their job. I think having a body
>responsible for investigating election methods would be a good way to at
>least give these methods a moderated forum to duke it out on merits.  I'm
>not so naive as to believe that the politics of the entrenched status quo
>wouldn't enter in, but at least it would be better than nothing.
So, how do we "sell" the "appropriate methods" (more than one!!) to the

John De Lasaux

Truth to a Politican is like Sunlight to a Vampire!

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