[EM] Letter to Discover Magazine

Joe Weinstein jweins123 at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 3 04:25:49 PST 2000

Hello, everyone.

This is my first list posting, and I won't be able to post anything more for 
a week or so, but I can't delay saying that I really appreciate Bart's 
letter and its example's insight into what is wrong with all schemes (or, 
for that matter, theoretical discussions and conclusions such as Arrow's) 
that look only at qualitative preference - or a la Borda assume a 
Mickey-Mouse quantitative preference wherein successive preference rank 
differences can be treated as equal (e.g., that for a live voter in a 
particular contest, rank 1 exceeds rank 2 by the same amount as rank 2 
exceeds rank 3).

Bart's example is intended to make the case for 'approval' - i.e. a voter's 
pass-fail grading of all competing options (i.e. candidates or measures).  
In fact it makes an even better case for higher-resolution grading, where 
there are more grades than just 0 (fail) and 1 (pass). Using today's (or 
anyhow next year's) computer, there seems every prospect that elections can 
allow voters to use a higher-res grading scale, say the the scholastic 
5-grade scale (F=0, D=1, C=2, B=3, A=4) or, better yet, the 0-100 grade 

Such higher-res grading admittedly allows a hitherto seeming no-no: a 
two-option contest to be LOST by the option that is preferred 
(qualitatively) by the majority.  That is actually quite OK:  the 
sufficiently fierce preference of a sufficient minority OUGHT to outweigh 
the mild preference of the majority.

Unconstrained high-res grading would seem to combine the best features of 
unconstrained crude-res grading (i.e. pass-fail grading - alias 'approval') 
and of artificially constrained high-res grading (e.g. ranking schemes).

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach CA USA

>From: Bart Ingles <bartman at netgate.net>
>Reply-To: election-methods-list at eskimo.com
>To: "election-methods-list at eskimo.com" <election-methods-list at eskimo.com>
>Subject: [EM] Letter to Discover Magazine
>Date: Sun, 29 Oct 2000 22:30:21 -0800
>Dear Editor:
>Dana Mackenzie's article [May the Best Man Lose, November] may be the
>best treatment of the subject I have seen in a popular publication.  Of
>the featured voting systems, Borda could well be the method of choice
>for engineering applications where the voters are automata incapable of
>varying preference levels.
>Not so with human voters.  Suppose the voters rate candidates on a scale
>of 0-10 (ratings in parentheses):
>45%   Clinton(10)   Perot(1)   Bush(0)
>25%   Perot(10)     Bush(1)    Clinton(0)
>30%   Bush(10)      Perot(1)   Clinton(0)
>Here Perot is the Borda winner, even though 75% of voters strongly
>dislike Perot.  The runoff winner (Bush) is despised by 70%, while the
>plurality winner is only rejected by 55% (and seems the best choice in
>this example).
>Of course, if either Bush or Perot were more highly rated as a second
>choice, then Runoff or Borda would choose the better winner.  No
>deterministic voting system can be correct in all cases where the voters
>are either strongly for or strongly against each candidate.
>Approval voting does adapt to all of these scenarios, if we assume the
>voters are rational and willing to make modest compromises in exchange
>for large gains in probable outcome.  To me it seems more important for
>a system to behave reliably in such highly polarized situations, than to
>worry about which solution is best when the voters themselves are
>Bart Ingles, Jr.

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