[EM] CR style ballots for Ranked Preferences

Bart Ingles bartman at netgate.net
Tue Sep 25 00:37:57 PDT 2001

Dave Ketchum wrote:
> A viewpoint refresher:
>      Certainly working out theories has its place.

Certainly -- preferably before attempting to put the methods in

>      Certainly voting in societies and other nonpublic elections is of
> interest, and methods could be acceptable here that are not suitable for
> public elections.

Possibly -- although there would probably be a known and predictable
reason for the difference.  As you seem to say below, some of the
methods requiring complex or unusual ballots might best be restricted to
small groups, while methods especially susceptible to strategy
manipulation (such as Borda) should be restricted to uses where voters
aren't likely to strategize.

>      My interest here is for public elections such as:
>           Mayor of New York City.  About 4,000,000 registered voters.
> With present plurality they can do reruns on both primary and general
> elections.  Getting rid of these reruns would be $$$$ saved in operating
> costs (I think next election is 2005, but it helps justify buying new
> voting machines ASAP).
>           Governor of New York State.  About 11,000,000 voters.  Expect
> a dozen candidates in 2002.  Preference voting has a special value here
> - for a party to have ballot status (own a line on the ballot for 4
> years) their candidate must get 50,000 votes - much easier to vote for
> your party's candidate as first choice even with no hope of winning if
> you can make a serious vote as second choice.
>           School board or town council - I pick on these as reminders
> that some elections are required to have multiple winners.
>      Public elections need SIMPLE rules.  Voters need to understand how
> to express their interests.  They need to understand the method of
> calculating winners.  AND, the results BETTER look reasonable (a true
> tie has to be acceptable; a near tie with disagreement as to proper
> winner is acceptable tolerance for keeping the rules simple; a distant
> loser (per visual scan of vote counts) getting declared as winner is a
> failure of the method that produced it (I see IRV as a reject based on
> this)).  Again, while great intellects are scattered around, MANY voters
> have little to apply to voting.
>      Writeins MUST be supported for public elections.  My initial
> thought is to treat them as a single candidate, who almost always loses
> without causing trouble.  Get enough writeins and you do recounts based
> on the individual write-in candidates plus the nominated candidates.
>      NOTA or NOTB (None Of The Above (Below)) should be valid
> candidates.  However, I see this as doing nothing to the methods - their
> value is in terrorizing those so unpopular as to risk losing to them.

I agree with all you've just said, with the caution that legislative and
council elections with multiple winners need to be considered

But for single-winner elections, the requirements you list above narrow
the field considerably.  IRV is obsolete for the reasons you mention,
among others.  Borda is fairly simple, but subject to manipulation. 
Condorcet might be reasonable, although the public might have trouble
grasping how the winner is calculated from the ballots.

My personal favorite is approval voting -- the "real" approval voting as
widely known in the scientific community, not the "dyadic" or other
variants proposed on this list.  In fact, since you keep coming back to
simplicity and ease of use, I wonder if you aren't confusing the two. 
Approval voting is just about as simple as you can get.  It's
essentially the same as Plurality, except that the rule "vote for one"
is changed to "vote for one or more" -- no ranking, and none of that
">>>" stuff.

Because of the potential for confusion, I actually object to using
"approval" as part of the name of methods other than approval voting.

> On Sat, 22 Sep 2001 23:27:56 -0700 Bart Ingles wrote:
> >
> > Dave Ketchum wrote:
> > >
> > > Ok, approval voting is a possibility, though I HOPE for better - I see
> > > most voters wanting to list their first choice up front, and have this
> > > affect who wins (but I think all I want in this preference list is a
> > > simple list of names).
> >
> > Something else to consider -- with preference ballots, it may appear
> > that the voter is allowed greater range of expression, but this can
> > translate into LESS ability to influence the outcome of the election,
> > even with the best imaginable voting system.
> >
> > First, suppose in your preference list, some of your true preferences
> > are much stronger than others.  By faithfully ranking all candidates,
> > you may in effect be diluting the preferences you consider important
> > with those you consider trivial.  You will frequently be better off
> > giving multiple candidates the same level of preference -- usually by
> > insincerely ranking several candidates either first or last.
> >
> > More importantly, other voters will have the same opportunity to list
> > trivial preferences.  Which means that their most trivial preferences
> > can cancel out your most important ones.  If a perfect method is defined
> > as one in which the voter can list all preferences in order and have
> > them all count fully, then the perfect method is the most vulnerable to
> > this kind of "weak preference" noise.  I know of no compensatory
> > strategy for this second problem.
> >
> > As a voter, I would much rather accept a reduced range of choice --
> > sufficient to indicate my strongest preferences, but no more -- with the
> > understanding that other voters get the same amount of restriction.  At
> > least that way if my candidate loses, he loses to a real opponent.
> I can go one step - keep ">" to say what precedes is preferred over what
> follows, and add "=" to say two candidates tie in voter's mind.
> While thinking theory I can get excited over great sophistication; come
> time to explain to average voters and I want SIMPLE.

Again, you're preaching to the choir.  I consider ranking to be
unnecessarily complex.  For each candidate, mark "X" for approved, and
"blank" for not approved.  Period.  Simple enough?

> > > I do not see how to avoid my combining precincts conclusion - we are
> > > talking of millions of voters scattered across a state.
> > >
> > > I notice that Condorcet is claimed to be inconsistent.  Agreed that
> > > there are multiple choices as to how to sort the counts of pairs but,
> > > are there none that come reasonably close (when IRV declares Bush the
> > > winner when only 35% call him acceptable and 65% call Gore acceptable
> > > and Bush unacceptable - THAT is a failure)?
> >
> > It's actually the *Condorcet winning criterion* which is inconsistent.
> > Any methods which comply with the Condorcet criterion are thus also
> > inconsistent.  I don't think this is a function of how you choose to
> > sort the pair counts -- the various pairwise methods mainly differ only
> > when there is *not* a single Condorcet winner.
> Are all these fancy words defined someplace - hopefully online?
> "inconsistent" sounds like "unacceptable".  Puzzling, since what I have
> read of Condorcet sounds acceptable - and the response I got above seems
> only to repeat the word "inconsistent" without explaining why I should care.

Consistency as used here is just a term used by researchers to describe
a mathematical property.  I think it's safe to say that it wasn't
adopted as a marketing tool.

I think the reason the term cropped up is that you listed that very
property as one of your requirements for a good voting system -- I
believe in an earlier post you said you wanted to make sure that the
winner in multiple precincts would be the same as the overall winner. 
That's the definition of "consistency", at least as applied to voting
systems.  Is this property important?  You tell me.

> > > That Approval gets used in private elections does not excite me - most
> > > such elections affect FEW lives in the way that public elections do.
> >
> > But at least it's some kind of a track record, with several hundred
> > thousand participants.  I doubt that it's enough vetting to qualify it
> > for use in presidential elections, but it should be enough to take it to
> > the next step (elections for minor city and county officials?)
> Fine if it is the best we can do - better if we look around and try for
> the best we have thought of the first time.  Among other things, if we
> buy voting machines for a city with one method included, and then want a
> different method for the state - maybe the city does not want to change
> and neither the voters nor the voting machine people want to talk about
> two methods existing in one set of machines.
> > > In response to comments in other posts:
> > >      About overvoting in FL - my understanding is those voters were (at
> > > least mostly) not deliberately overvoting, but getting tricked into
> > > errors via confusing ballots (that could be interpreted as overvoting).
> >
> > I never meant to imply that the overvoting was deliberate.  My point was
> > that we would be better off it was allowed and encouraged.
> >
> > As an aside, disqualifying ballots for overvoting does nothing to
> > improve the accuracy of the count -- at worst, if the intended vote was
> > for one front-runner, and the accidental vote for the other
> > front-runner, then the votes would cancel out.  So discarding the ballot
> > changes nothing.  On the other hand, if the accidental vote went to some
> > minor candidate, this probably would have had no effect on the outcome.
> > So in this case, tossing out the ballot does more harm than good.
> If those overvotes were allowed, that would set a precedent.  Then
> voters using those ballots could take advantage.  Perhaps ok if every
> voter understood and could use the new rules.  FALLS APART if some
> voters use different ballots that do not permit overvoting (think this
> was true in FL).

Of course it would set a precedent.  Of course all voters would need to
be allowed to use the new rules.  That's what approval voting is!  And
overvoting is possible on all ballots -- it's just prohibited by law,
requiring that such ballots be discarded.  Remove that prohibition, make
sure everybody knows about it, and you have a better system.  No special
voting machines or ranked ballots needed.


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