Margins, majority, strategy

Mike Ositoff ntk at
Fri Sep 18 19:22:46 PDT 1998

> Votes-Against fails this criterion because if your sincere preference
> is A > B=C, it is more likely to your advantage to rate A > B > C or 
> A > C > B.  It can back-fire, but the insincere vote is more likely
> to get you what you want, so unless you have detailed knowledge about
> how everyone else is voting, the insincere vote is better.

But that isn't really what I'd call a serious strategy
dilemma. No one is being strategically forced to do other
than vote their favorite alone in 1st place.

I don't like it when people have to rank a less-liked alternative
equal to or over a more-liked one. But if I'm indifferent between
B & C, and if I estimate that I could benefit by ranking B over
C, then that doesn't bother me. If I'm indifferent between them
why should I care if I rank one over the other?

Votes-against, & the GMC criterion are for avoiding
the much worse strategic problems I've named.

> So, why is violating SEC a problem?
> 1.  It divides voters into the naive vs. those who know how to play the
> system.  The votes of those who know the trick will be worth more.
> 2.  It is embarrassing.  Eventually campaign organizers will start to
> inform voters about the random preferences strategy.  Voters will feel
> that they were deceived in elections where they left candidates unranked
> and will be embittered towards the method.  Furthermore, many will dislike
> the idea that they are being encouraged to vote randomly, and suspect that 
> this will cause random results.
> 3.  It encourages voters to think strategically.  Once voters are inured
> to the idea that a sincere vote is sometimes a bad idea, and that
> random preferences should be marked, they will be more likely to
> accept other strategies like order-reversal.
> 4.  Eventually, when everybody knows about the trick, and nobody sincerely
> leaves candidates unranked, the method will be equivalent to Margins, with
> the exception of the ability to use truncation for some complicated 
> strategies.

No question about it: There's no perfect method. To get complianced
with one criterion you have to accept noncompliance with other
criteria. Any method will do undesirable things, things that
we'd prefer that it not do. We simply have to choose which
we consider worse. The extreme kinds of defensive strategy
that Margins forces seem worse to me than the temptation that
Blake has described, for voters in Votes-Against, to try a little
offensive strategy by expressing a preference between two
alternative between which the voter is indifferent.

I'm going to mail this now, & subsequently reply to the
2nd part.


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