What are we all about?

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Wed Jul 24 16:59:50 PDT 2002

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joe Weinstein [mailto:jweins123 at hotmail.com]
> Sent: 24 July 2002 21:16
> To: jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk; honky98 at aggies.org;
> election-methods-list at eskimo.com
> Subject: RE: What are we all about?
> James Gilmour writes:  "If I've got it right, Approval Voting breaks the
> first and most fundamental rule of democratic representation: "one person,
> one vote".
> JAMES, you've got it WRONG - or at any rate USELESS.

You may disagree with me ("WRONG"), but I don't appreciate anyone calling me or my views USELESS.
I've been an active and practical electoral reform campaigner for 40 years now and am well aware of most of the strengths and
weaknesses of most of the electoral systems in use around the world.

> If the rule is construed narrowly to mean just one mark allowed on a marked
> ballot, there are very few voting systems that would qualify.  In fact maybe
> none apart from the existing lone-mark plurality.  (Certainly not IRV, for
> instance.)

I'm not aware of anyone interpreting "one person, one vote" in this extremely narrow way.  It surely means "one person, one vote,
one value"?

> Rather, in any reasonable interpretation, the rule MEANS 'one person, one
> ballot' (of equal inherent power to each other cast ballot).

But this is just where Approval Voting fails, because papers with different numbers of candidates marked count for different values
in the final tally.  So your vote may count for more for more or count for less than mine depending on how many candidates each of
us marked on our respective ballot papers.

> However, if you INSIST on the narrow interpretation, then Approval voting is
> still meaningful, as a short-hand way of voting on each of a list of
> propositions.

But we are not voting on a series of propositions.  We are trying to find the one candidate who will best represent those who vote.
I would have severe reservations about any answer that gave variable values to the votes of different electors.  I cannot determine
the value of my vote - the value assigned to my vote will be determined relative to the values given to all the other votes.

>  Namely, look at each race for an office as a list of the
> propositions:

But this is not what we are about.  It is not an exercise in "social choice".

> Is candidate A acceptable? (In response you get one vote opportunity:
> "yes"=check, or "no"=blank).
> Is candidate B acceptable? (again you get one vote opportunity).
> Is candidate C acceptable?
> Etc.
> So long as at least one candidate IS acceptable to 50% or more of the
> voters, so that one or more of the propositions pass, the passed
> propositions will result in the office going to the candidate with the
> highest number of yes votes, i.e. the Approval winner.

I understand the mechanics well enough, but the system is flawed because different voters' votes have different values and because
my lower preferences count against my higher preferences (even though I cannot mark them as preferences).

> Various (though not all) on this list have argued that if there is no such
> candidate, then the office may as well remain unfilled (even by the Approval
> winner), or be filled by a legislative body, or by a re-election.

I've seen these suggestions too, but I'm not sure the electors of the USA would be too happy to leave the White House empty for a
four-year term.  Again, it comes back to defining the purpose of an election.

James Gilmour

Dr James Gilmour
E-mail: jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk

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