Let's found an organization to oppose IRV

Blake Cretney bcretney at postmark.net
Mon Nov 13 12:42:54 PST 2000

"MIKE " <nkklrp at hotmail.com>, on the subject of 'RE: Let's found an
organization to oppose IRV', is quoted as:
>> >Mr. Ossipoff wrote--
>> >
>> >Would anyone like to help me found a national organization to
>> >prevent the enactment of IRV in the U.S.?
>> >
>>Let's look at the recent American Presidential election.  You've
>>mentioned that you support Nader.  Now, let's say you want to explain
>>a fellow Nader supporter why you prefer plurality to IRV.
>>Presumably he would say, that under IRV he gets to vote for his real
>>favourite, and still prevent the Republican from winning.
>That has symbolic value, I guess, but of course the LO2E voter can
>only do it when Nader hasn't got a chance. It's safe to vote Nader 1st
>only when it can't do any good, results-wise. You call that a reform?

I see three reasons for viewing this as more than a symbolic reform.
1)  The electoral system gives certain advantages (money) to candidates
with enough first place support.
2)  To eventually win, a party will likely have to go through a stage of
only symbolic support, which will make people take it more seriously.
3)  It seems clear that some people will vote for a third party, even
though it doesn't help.  IRV keeps their votes from being wasted, and
would obviously have had an effect in the last election.

>>Perhaps, if
>>the Green party is effective in getting its message across, and
>>aren't afraid of vote-splitting, they could eventually win.  Under
>>plurality, people won't vote Green because they are wasting their
>Yeah? Apparently we succeeded in sinking Gore. When the middle
>CW is someone like Gore, I want to get rid of the LO2E problem so
>that voters can vote sincerely, even when it matters. It isn't that
>I want to protect the likes of Al Gore.

Understood.  I certainly am not advocating a "Gore Criterion", where we
pick the method most likely to elect Al Gore.

>>In approval, he at least gets to vote his favourite as one of the
>>approved, but cannot vote it in first place without wasting the vote.
>>So, for this voter, approval appears not as good as IRV.
>Of course you're right about the mistaken belief that any rank method
>is better than any nonrank method. To that person, I'd explain that
>this safety of ranking Nader 1st disappears as soon as it could do any
>good. That same voter will later be voting a Gore over a Nader, having
>seen what IRV can do. With Approval he'd never have to do that. So I
>would explain that to him.

There's a similar problem in approval, though.  For Nader to actually
win, his supporters have to start voting for him alone.  This creates a
risk of back-firing.  It's also not clear to me that people will
understand precisely when they should make this shift.  

>>But you're not even just claiming that IRV isn't as good as approval.
>>You're claiming that it is worse than plurality.  How could you
>>that to your fellow Nader supporter, especially after the last
>There are certainly a number of ways in which Plurality is better than
>IRV. Participation, IIAC, Consistency, etc. 

Saying that approval meets IIAC is meaningless, because the method can't
represent a full ranking of the candidates.  We therefore don't know how
the voter would have voted with fewer candidates, even assuming

Participation and Consistency suggest that the method is in some way
consistent with itself.  Although I don't view these criteria as
reasonable, someone who did might argue that a methods
self-inconsistency proves that it isn't giving the ideal answer in all
cases.  However, I'm not arguing that for IRV, and you're not arguing
that for approval.

> For me, an important way
>in which IRV becomes worse than Plurality is when candidates' support
>tapers gradually away from the voter median point, with the voter
>median canddiate having the most 1st choice support. That doesn't
>at all unusual or contived. In fact it sounds typical. And in that
>ordinary, typical scenario, IRV fails where sincere voting would work
>fine in Plurality.

Obviously, if the CW gets a plurality of the votes, I agree that
plurality is picking the best winner.  However, you seem to be implying
that a gradual tapering will always result in IRV picking someone
different.  Is that true?

I wouldn't be so confident in the centre being a plurality winner.  This
depends on how close the next two most extreme positions are to the
centre on the ideological spectrum.  If people vote on a left-right
basis, then a central candidate will on average only get half the number
of votes between the nextmost left and nextmost right candidates.

>So it isn't so much that IRV is _worse_ than Plurality--it's that
>if it's better at all, it isn't significantly better. And why waste
>our time with a nonreform posing as a reform?

I certainly wouldn't argue that IRV is the best possible.  On the other
hand, I wouldn't try to organize against the efforts of people trying to
implement it.

But perhaps you can help me with what I consider to be the biggest
problem with approval.  Because in approval you must place all
candidates in one of two conditions, you run into problems if there are
a large number of reasonable candidates.

For example, if parties started running their presidential candidates
directly in the election, instead of a primary, then a voter has to make
a choice.  Do I use my ballot to distinguish between candidates from my
party, and therefore increase the danger of the other party winning, or
do I vote a strict party slate and get no opportunity to distinguish
between the candidates of my party.

When the result comes in it doesn't appear to me to be terribly
meaningful.  If one party triumphs over another, than can just mean that
it's supporters were more willing to ignore differences between its
candidates.  If one candidate wins among the candidates of one party,
that may just mean that his supporters were more willing to risk loss to
the other party.  Kind of like a game of "chicken".

For this reason, I see IRV as being substantially better than approval
when there are a large number of winnable candidates.

Blake Cretney

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