Let's found an organization to oppose IRV

LAYTON Craig Craig.LAYTON at add.nsw.gov.au
Mon Nov 13 14:36:15 PST 2000

Blake Cretney wrote (in part):

>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.

I'm definately beginning to doubt the desirability of approval (vis a vis
IRV) as well.  Despite the apparent simplicity of the system, electoral
strategies, polling etc becomes much more of a problem.  Consider the effect
of successive polls in a Bush-Nader-Gore approval election (I'm giving Nader
extra support, and assuming that more Gore supporters prefer Nader over Bush
than the reverse);

1) Initial polling, and alot of media about the approval system encourages
most voters to vote for at least one of these three candidates (ie, Buchanan
voters mostly decide to vote for Bush as well).  Bush 40%, Gore 45%, Nader

2) Nader voters decide to withdraw their support for Gore, because they
appear to have a fairly good chance of winning.  Bush 40%, Gore 35%, Nader

3) Nader and Gore voters realise that Bush will win if they don't multiple
vote.  To improve their outcome, a substantial block of Nader and Gore
voters trade preferences.  Bush 40%, Gore 45%, Nader 45%.

What is the optimal strategy now? It would seem (if it were possible to
organise) that the best strategy for Gore's campaign is to pledge to support
Nader in a recipricol arrangement, but instruct voters not to vote for Nader
at the last minute (ie how to vote cards kept confidential until they are
actually being handed out on the morning of the election, showing only a x
next to Gore).  I don't suppose how to vote cards are particularly important
with plurality, but once you introduce any other method, they become
crucial.  Maybe the Gore and Nader campaigns get into a big fight & withdraw
all vote sharing arrangemets (or the voters simply don't adhere to them
because they're mad that the other party's stubborness has handed Bush the

The point is not so much that polling can be strategically abused by
approval, but rather that the outcome of approval voting is so uncertain
(any one could win, and this may or may not have any correlation to people's
actual wishes).  If there was the same contest with IRV, Gore and Nader
voters can vote for their own candidates first (ie vote sincerely) and
maximise their outcome at the same time.

I certainly don't advocate IRV, and I'm not even saying that it is superior
to approval, but I question whether it is so much worse.

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