[EM] IRV letter in the San Jose Mercury

Joe Weinstein jweins123 at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 31 15:05:11 PDT 2002

Thanks, Alex!  In addition, consider the following points.

(1) Here's perhaps the FOREMOST point to bear in mind and address.

Our prevalent 'Lone-mark' election method allows a voter only a single check 
mark to express choice and preference and evaluation of all the candidates.  
We can certainly improve on this method.

Unfortunately, supporters of IRV often misleadingly present their method as 
the ONLY alternative method that anyone has ever conceived.

Very wrong!!  Many (in principle, infinitely many) different alternative 
election methods have been carefully examined!  Each method specifies both 
how voters can mark their ballots so as to evaluate and compare candidates, 
and how the marked ballots are to be tabulated to arrive at candidates' 
final scores and a winner.  Each method has its pros and cons.  These are 
being discussed daily in an international internet forum called 

Rather than an IRV snow-job or an IRV-vs-Lone-mark debate, it's time for 
open discussion and clear description of election problems, and realistic 
local testing of leading alternative methods which actually solve the 

(2)  What systematic election method - or at any rate evaluation method - is 
now most used in the USA?  Arguably, it's what we may call Academic Voting.  
It's used annually  - by millions of voters (namely teachers) applied to 
millions of candidates (namely students):  teacher assigns student one of 
the grades 0,1,2,3,4 (=F,D,C,B,A).  An Academic 'election' results whenever 
- in some group of students - we seek a student with highest grade average.

Academic is one 'grading' (also called 'cardinal ratings') method.  Other 
grading methods used include the simplest possible - Approval or Pass-Fail 
(grades 0 = 'fail' and 1 = 'pass'); and Olympic (grades 0 = 'total fail' 
through 10 = 'perfect').

(3) In particular - and here there is widespread agreement among many 
students and scholars of election methods - Approval is the one true reform 
method which is far and away simplest to implement using our familiar 
ballots and available computers.  This method simply removes the restriction 
that you may not vote for ('pass', check off) more than one candidate.  
Instead, you are allowed to vote for any desired number of the candidates 
(none, one, any two, ..., or even all).

(4)  SPOILAGE - two or more candidates with similar support base getting in 
each other's way - is tragic.  After all, as a voter, you have at least the 
following two legitimate goals:  (1) Give maximum effective support to your 
favorite candidate; (2) Give maximum effective support to a popular 
'lesser-evil' compromise who seems most likely to beat your 'greater-evil' 
nemesis.  These goals should not have to conflict - but with spoilage they 

Possible spoilage is unavoidable if the election method allows you to give 
your top possible degree of support only to one candidate.  That's why not 
only Lone-mark but also IRV both INHERENTLY build in possible spoilage, no 
matter what IRV propaganda claims.

On the other hand, all usual grading methods - e.g. Approval, Academic, 
Olympic - AUTOMATICALLY AVOID spoilage because they allow you to grade each 
candidate INDEPENDENTLY of how you grade other candidates.

(5)  In some contests, the only candidates who are highly acceptable to a 
majority spectrum of voters happen to be politically non-orthodox candidates 
who have little following as first-choice favorites.  (Consider candidate 
McCain for US pres in year 2000.)  Lone-mark and IRV eliminate such popular 
compromise candidates.  Approval and other grading methods give such 
candidates a much better chance.

(6)  Compared with IRV: other grading methods - and even Lone-mark too -use 
computer tabulations which run faster and far easier, and are far more 
readily verified by independent check.  For instance, in a 4-candidate 
contest, the other methods each require just 4 numbers, but IRV requires 24 
different numbers to be tabulated and then processed.  With 8 candidates, 
the other methods each need just 8 numbers, but IRV requires 40,320 (no 
matter how few the number of actual voters).  With 12 candidates, the other 
methods each need 12 numbers, but IRV needs nearly 480 million.  
Possibilities for various write-in candidates only magnify the IRV 
tabulation and verification problem.

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach CA USA

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