[EM] Reply to Rob L., re: IRV

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 12 16:59:24 PST 2002

Rob Lanphier wrote:

As a mental exercise, IRV may be a necessary stepping stone to methods
like Condorcet (it certainly was for me; I was a proponent of IRV for a
few months in 1995).

I reply:

But IRV wasn't what attracted you to Condorcet. It was Condorcet's
desirable properties. If you'd heard of Condorcet, but not IRV,
you wouldn't have liked Condorcet any less.

Rob L. continues:

Also, IRV elections are a great way of teaching the
electorate how to vote using ranked ballots, and getting governments to
switch equipment.

I reply:

The problem is that it might not be so easy to get people to switch
from IRV to Condorcet, after they've just adopted IRV, promoted to
them as a completely adequate genuine reform. IRV, with its
obvious lesser-of-2-evils problem in Australia, has remained in use
there for a long time. The existence of a problem doesn't guarantee
that the method will be replaced anytime soon.

They'll say "What? We've just reformed the voting system l0 years
ago." And if they're then told that IRV isn't really as good as they
were told, but that this new method _really is_ a good one, they're
going to wonder if we're telling the truth this time, or deceiving
them again, as they were deceived when they adopted IRV.

Rob L. continues:

I'm concerned about the number of Condorcet advocates who have so heartily
embraced Approval over IRV because it's a "better compromise".

I reply:

I'll save most comments about IRV vs Approval for the other
letter in which Rob discusses that, but for now I'd like to just
say that Approval is _much_ simpler to propose than Condorcet or IRV.
For one thing, a problem with rank methods is that there are so
many ways to count the rankings. How likely that people will adopt
one of the very few adequate rank-counts? Approval could be proposed
and adopted, and used while we engage in the long task of educating
the public about how to count rank ballots. Condorcetists have no
reason to object to Approval at least filling in while the
rank-count debate is still going on.
Yes it's good that CVD are pointing out that electoral reform is
the solution, but regrettably they're also botching electoral reform.

Rob continues:

Referring to IRV supporters vindictively as "IRVies" and characterizing
all of them as simpletons incapable of change is *stupid* strategy. Let
me repeat this:


I reply:

But are you saying that those characterizations aren't true of
the leadership of CVD?

Saying those things would certainly be bad strategy if CVD could
be worked with. I was a member of CVD. I tried talking to them.
I said let's get the show together before we take it on the road. I
said "Why not listen to the people who take single-winner reform
more seriously than you do, and take the time to find out what you're
doing before you do it?"

The reason why I don't consider it a strategic mistake to say what
I say about CVD is because I've tried to work with them, and I
can tell you that they're hopelessly arrogant promoters. Working
with them doesn't work. But maybe we can stop them. When IRV fails
in use in SF, that might discredit IRV nationwide. Maybe that's the
most likely end to the IRV problem.

I certainly agree that it isn't good to insult all who've been
convinced favorably about IRV. That would indeed be stupid strategy,
as you said.

But the CVD leadership are all hardcore hopeless.

But, when it comes to stupid strategy, what can compare with not
sending any information to the IRV opponents in SF, and not even
sending a 1-topic letter to the editor until the night before the
election? And did anyone do more than I did to fight IRV in SF?

As I said yesterday, you were never an IRVie, because, as I defined
"IRVie" in my letter yesterday, not all IRVists are IRVies.

Rob L. continues:

The CV&D's biggest advantage is that they have won the hearts and minds of
people who are actually willing to get off of their butts, go out on the
street, and get people to sign a petition.

I reply:

But did they do that by some kind of virtue, or because of better
resources? One way they built their "credibility" was by their
"Advisory Committee", which was really nothing but a celebrity
showcase of people who mostly weren't familiar with electoral systems.
By having Advisory Committee members from various movements and
groups, and some with famous name-recognition, well that's a shrewd
but dishonest strategy to get "credibility" and support.

Sure, they're better organizers.

Yes we should try to be better organizers. I like the fact that
an organization, maybe a loose one, or maybe a more structured one,
seems to be taking shape here now. Maybe it just takes someone who
can take the initiative and start the organizing work,&  maybe Alex
can get an effective Approval organization going.

Rob L. continues:

They've got the further
advantage that they've got the momentum of past success. We need to
acknowledge that, and learn from them.

I reply:

Sure, but I doubt that any here would stoop to some of their tactics.
But there may also be honest, ethical techniques that we could learn
from them.

It's true that, in spite of IRV's promotional gains, better voting
systems like Condorcet & Approval are preferred and even used within
groups who understand voting system merit better than CVD does.
So even a complete political sweep by IRV wouldn't kill Condorcet
or Approval. But it would take a long time to dislodge IRV, and that's
why I suggest that we do what we can to stop IRV's progress around
the country, and advise SF IRV opponents to demand public access to
the ballot-record in IRV elections, so that IRV will publicly
discredit itself. Maybe, in SF, IRV's behavior will bring down the
national IRV promotion.

Mike Ossipoff

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