[EM] Website-owner's reply to Randy

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Sat Aug 11 19:58:57 PDT 2001

>From Russ Paielli, owner of the electionmethods website:

>Douglas Greene wrote:
> >http://www.electionmethods.org/IRVproblems.htm

Thanks for reading our website and providing feedback. Even if we
disagree with your comments, we still like to know how well our site is
understood. Since Mike already replied, my reply will be brief.

>The page referenced above makes several vague, unsubstantiated arguments.
>The claim that IRV votes cannot be summed is flat out wrong.

I agree that IRV votes can be counted, but with more than six or so
candidates the number of permutations becomes unwieldy, and the
bookkeeping becomes extremely error prone. Please see our "summability
criterion" on our "Technical Evaluation" page.

>The phraseology is deceptive (it is your web page, you are welcome to do
>that).  For example, take the sentence
>      IRV therefore seems to allow supporters of minor parties to cast
>      protest votes without ``wasting'' their votes.
>In my view, there is no "seeming" about it, and the votes are not "protest"
>votes.  I'd be voting for the candidate I most prefer, without having to
>think strategicly.  I would agree that as I consider who gets my #2 rank,
>and #3, etc. I am more considering who is the least worst candidate.
>You go on to state:
>      This advantage is illusory, however, because it applies only as
>      long as those minor parties are sure to lose
>The advantage is not illusory.  If an Al Gore is campaigning and knows that
>getting the Nader votes in round 2 will win him the election, then he will
>try to appeal to them.  Likewise, a George Bush would realize that he has 
>moderate his position because he knows he's not really in the majority to
>start with.  If we go along with your assertion that they are protest 
>I say bring them on.  I'll bet there's millions of eligible voters out 
>in our country that are aching to cast a protest vote, but they feel it
>won't make a difference.  IRV would have it make a difference.  Citizens 
>politicians both would take note of first round votes vs. second round 
>and adjust their strategies accordingly.

If Nader was nowhere close to strong enough to win, then he would have
been eliminated under IRV and the election would have reduced to a
two-way race between Bush and Gore. It would be exactly as if the Nader
supporters had all been convinced to "dump their principles" and vote
for "the lesser of two evils." Sure, they had the priveledge of casting
a meaningless "protest" vote, but it really didn't affect the final
result one iota. If Nader was a real threat to win, on the other hand,
and IF (IF IF IF IF IF IF!) all voters voted "sincerely," (in reality
they wouldn't, of course) than I contend that the result would be
comparable to what would happen if all voters voted sincerely under
plurality. That is, the winner would be elected by some kind of random
process depending, not on how well the candidates are liked, but how the
vote happens to split.

>IRV is not perfect.  But I will argue that at its worst, it is no worse 
>our current plurality system, and at its best, it is a great improvement.
>In particular, I agree that IRV can have a certain kind of plurality-like
>affect in regards to eliminating the bottom candidate, when Condorcet might
>actually keep such a candidate in.  However, in a country that currently
>accepts plurailty and a President who got less than 50% of the votes cast, 
>doubt that's really a big problem.

IRV is not only not perfect, it is erratic. Please check out our
"Technical Evaluation" page. The reason we took the time to compile that
page is precisely for people like you, who think they have justified
IRV. When you have a dispute at the "debate" level, you resolve it by
going deeper, to the logical level. That page is strictly objective and
logical. Emotions do not count unless they are backed by logic. If you
read that page carefully, I think you will realize that IRV is an
erratic and downright stupid system. Don't feel bad, I was once sold on
it too--before I knew better. I'll be interested to see how long it
takes you to see the light.


>You go on later:
>      In other words, IRV can have either of two completely opposite
>      effects, depending on whether
>      a third party is truly competitive or not. Before a third party is
>      competitive, the effect of IRV is
>      equivalent to a plurality system in which all supporters of minor
>      parties are somehow
>      convinced to abandon their principles and vote for the ``lesser of
>      two evils.''
>What are you talking about here?   Are you suggesting that voting for, eg.
>Nader#1, Gore#2, is a lessor of two evils vote because I'm voting for Gore
>over Bush in my #2 vote?  That's exactly what I want to be able to do.  No,
>I suspect you are assuming you've made your case about the #1 rank somehow
>not coming through, and the #2 rank doesn't either.  It's very simple: your
>#1 lost and your #2 lost.  We'll live with it.

No, that's not what I meant. I mean that as long as Nader is sure to
lose, then he will be eliminated before the race gets down to Gore v.
Bush. By then all the Nader votes will presumably have transferred to
Gore. It's exactly as if Gore's campaign had convinced them under
plurality to forget Nader and help him defeat Bush.

>You go on:
>      IRV has other serious problems too, which are explained in more
>      detail elsewhere at the
>      website. It is an erratic voting system because ranking a
>      candidate higher can actually cause
>      the candidate to lose, and ranking a candidate lower can cause the
>      candidate to win. As if that
>      weren't bad enough, it can also fail to elect a candidate who is
>      preferred over each of the other
>      candidates by a majority of the voters. It is also much more
>      difficult to implement with
>      security and integrity because the votes cannot be summed as in
>      most other election methods.
>You have given no evidence to argue that the higher ranked candidate will
>lose unfairly, or that a lower ranked candidate will win unfairly.  It is 
>more difficult than regular elections to turn in counts that can be summed,
>and I have demonstrated that in other postings to this mailing list, and
>will gladly and easily demonstrate it to any who ask.  Briefly, all you 
>to do is turn in counts for each unique set of rankings.  Eg. there will be
>a certain number of L-D-R, L-R-D, R-L-D votes, etc.  So the actual number 
>counts turned in might go up a lot, but are certainly manageable.  Such
>counts could be published and anybody who wants to could apply the
>elimination process themselves to check the results.

As I wrote above, please see our "summability criterion."

>I consider IRVs similarities to the current plurality system an advantage 
>in the people understand it and will accept it.  It also does not have to 
>the final solution, but will be an improvement over what we already have.

IRV is MUCH more different from our current system than Approval voting
is. You IRV supporters are making true election reform much more
difficult than it should be, and you could be setting back the cause for
years or decades. Good intentions are fine, but if they are not backed
by solid reasoning they can be counterproductive.

Russ Paielli

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