[EM] Approval Strategy for the Average Citizen

Joe Weinstein jweins123 at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 18 19:17:24 PDT 2002

Alex raises interesting points on two topics:  coin-toss strategy; and 
Communist Russia.

Alex writes:

'The suggestion of "toss a coin, and go with your gut if you don't like it" 
is probably a little insulting to most people....[Opponents] would mock 
Approval Voting as "Coin Toss Voting" were we to put this forward as a 
reasonable strategy for "average citizens.'

Alex seems to be saying that if we promote Approval, we will have to give 
citizens at least one simple strategy, and moreover that strategy must not 
be seen to use chance.

Alex may well be right.  If so, his point is anyhow readily addressed.

What's at issue is how a voter is to decide a 'marginal' vote - i.e. vote on 
a candidate for which (to the voter): existing information indicates that 
'yes' and 'no' votes would be equally good, and moreover that the expected 
benefit, of any feasibly gathered further information, does not exceed the 
expected cost of that information.

To decide such marginal votes, any rule whatever will work, including a 
simple deterministic one.  The 'always vote no' rule would most closely 
match both spirit and letter of today's prevalent lone-mark voting.

Alex also notes that a history of Approval use in Russia might have to read: 
  "in the Communist era and Gorbachev era (before the attempted coup) the 
Russians used Approval Voting."  He writes that this account would be 'Not 
very inspiring....'

Maybe not inspiring, but maybe quite helpful if you consider and mention the 
context.  Likely, the design goal of Russian elections then was to assure 
continued Communist Party domination while at the same time inspiring some 
popular support for the party.

In effect Russian elections may have operated as an 'open' primary would 
here, were we to have a one-party state.  In order to inspire popular 
support, savvy party leaders would have done well to use Approval to enable 
identification and selection of the most popularly accepted of the party's 

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach CA USA

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