[EM] IRV letter in the San Jose Mercury

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Wed Jul 31 09:54:38 PDT 2002

I read the letter.  Probably the key point to mention is monotonicity (in
non-technical terms), which is similar to participation (your sincere
ballot may provide a worse outcome than that obtained if you either vote
insincerely or don't vote at all).  Simple example would be to say
"Imagine that we use IRV, and the Green makes it to the final round
against the Republican.  It could very well be that the Green stands no
chance against the Republican, but the Democrat would have beaten him in
the final round.  We should have a system that allows people to hedge
their bets.  Approval voting is one such system....."

Also, many people in the Bay Area have probably never heard of any
alternative voting system other than IRV.  Many of them probably think
well of it because (a) IRV's flaws aren't immediately obvious, (b)
plurality's flaws are glaring, and IRV fixes one of the most glaring flaws
(the effect of "minor" spoilers with less than 25% support in a 3-way
race), and (c) most people intuitively realize that a better voting system
would give more expressivity than plurality, and IRV certainly offers more

So, I would suggest opening the letter with a remark sympathetic to IRV
supporters, something like "The letter writer was indeed correct, in that
races with more than 2 candidates require a better election method.  IRV
certainly eliminates the 'spoiler effect' when the third candidate has
only weak support.  Sadly, even IRV can fail once the third candidate
becomes stronger.  Consider...." and then launch into an example like the
one above.

Anyway, just my $0.02.


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