[EM] One more thing about "unknown middle"

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 12 21:33:03 PST 2000

Craig Layton wrote:

>Mike wrote (in part):
> >For one thing, even if he doesn't get on the ballot, he can register
> >as a write-in, and I'll include him in my ranking if it's to my
> >advantage to do so.
>Write-in? Do you mean writing the name directly on the ballot?  This would
>require special rules.

We have rules for it. The candidate must register as a write-in

>What happens when there are spelling errors?

I don't know for sure, but I expect that the voter must spell the
candidate's name correctly. Otherwise we open up a can of worms.
How different can the spelling be and still be interpreted the same?
Micky Mouse gets lots of votes in the U.S. My first name is Mike.
Maybe you'd draw the line somewhere before letting me have Micky
Mouse's votes counted for me, but the problem is deciding exactly
where to draw the line. It's best to require correct spelling.

>What happens
>if there is more than one person with that name?

That wouldn't matter if only one person by that name is registered
as a write-in.

If there are two John J. Smiths registered on the ballot, then
surely there's a rule requiring that write-in voters specify which
John J. Smith they're voting for.

>What if voters write stuff
>like 'the guy with the beard'.  If there is only one candidate with a 
>is this a valid vote?

I doubt it. I believe that the name is required.

>I think you're talking about major headaches for vote
>counters and legislators.

No, that system has been in use here for a long time, and I haven't
heard of any problems with it.

> >I believe that voters shouldn't have to rank any more candidates than
> >they want to. I'm sure that nearly all here agree with me on that.
>Ah, I really wasn't aware that this was the case.  It is perhaps a flaw 
>your (and I don't mean you in particular) examples always assume
>non-truncated rankings.

The academics do indeed always assume that. But we here don't.
Our favorite methods here are specifically intended to not be
adversely affected by truncation.

>There should, perhaps, be additional rules for
>this.  I think that pairwise contests where no candidate gets an absolute
>majority should be considered differently from pairwise contests where a
>candidate does.

Yes. A pairwise defeat that's a majority defeat has greater magnitude
than one that isn't a majority defeat. Condorcet's method recognizes
that difference in magnitude. You're right: When a majority vote
A over B, there's something special about that. A majority has the
power to get any result it agrees on. We want them to be able to get
that result with a minimum of strategy. Check our criteria at:


Several of our criteria are about the importance of majority defeats
and what they should mean. Protecting majority rule goes hand-in-hand
with getting rid of the lesser-of-2-evils problem.
> >In any case, I feel that there should be a box where a voter
> >can indicate whether or not he votes all of his ranked candidates over
> >all the others.

>I think that this is worse than requiring voters to rank all candidates.  I
>doubt that it could be phrased clearly enough so as not to confuse voters 
>hear that some American voters have difficulty identifying arrows pointing
>at circles; I think that your two options might be a bit much for them).  I
>would assume that the default interpretation is that the voter intends all
>numbered candidates to be preferred over all unnumbered candidates.  This 
>the interpretation used in all preferential systems that I'm aware of, and
>any other seems rather counter-intuitive.  You can include an instruction 
>the ballot that this is how the votes will be counted.

Thanks for pointing that out. I admit that I had a little trepidation
about that option, because, as you say, it's one more thing for the
voter to have to do on the ballot, one more decision for him to have
to make.

I guess you're right on that. Best to assume one interpretation.
Maybe, as you suggested, spell it out somewhere on the ballot.

Mike Ossipoff

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