[EM] IRV wins big in SF and Vermont

Rob Lanphier robla at eskimo.com
Sun Mar 10 23:54:30 PST 2002

On Thu, 7 Mar 2002, Douglas Greene wrote:
> So, in the real world, the IRVies are kicking our asses, while we debate 
> how many voting systems can dance on the end of a ballot.

Yup.  I don't see this as an altogether bad thing, though.  It is if you
are an Approval supporter, but not if you are a Condorcet supporter.
Douglas, my understanding from looking at your other messages on this list
is that you may prefer Approval to Condorcet.  If so, this message isn't
really directed to you, but to the Condorcet supporters on this list.

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

I'm concerned about the number of Condorcet advocates who have so heartily
embraced Approval over IRV because it's a "better compromise".  I'll
outline this in another mail (so wait for that mail before starting the
flames), but suffice it to say that being up-in-arms (e.g. talking about
constitutional challenges) is poor strategy for Condorcet advocates. 

In general, the CV&D is doing a great job of presenting the problem.  The
solution is flawed, but they are doing an outstanding job of raising
awareness of the problem.  Their solution isn't even that far off the
mark:  they present electoral reform as the solution.  You can even find
references to Condorcet and Approval on their website 

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


There are certainly IRV supporters who are simpletons incapable of change.
Some may even subscribe to this list.  However, not *all* IRV supporters
are like that, and we must remember this.

As I said before, I was an "IRVie" at one point, and now I'm a pretty
rabid "Condorcetie".  When you insult IRVies as a class of people, even I
feel pretty insulted.  It's very damaging to whatever message you are
trying to make. 

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

If one really has to consider CV&D the enemy, then consider using an
"embrace and extend" strategy, to borrow a page from the Microsoft
playbook.  Leverage the resources of the CV&D to bring awareness of
Condorcet and other alternatives to first-past-the post.  You can even do
what I did, and volunteer to help out with things like website design. 
How else do you think I got a link to my Condorcet advocacy site in the
CV&D literature?  Truth is, they know that link is there; most of them
don't consider us "the enemy", just a slightly misguided extreme of their

The good news is we're not getting our asses kicked as badly as you might
think.  In general, when Condorcet is presented to mathematically savvy
people, it does quite well.  That's why the examples of Condorcet in the
wild are much more heavily skewed to the brainy types (the Debian Linux
elections, the UK newsgroup hierarchy, and rec.puzzles.crosswords, for
example).  We need to play on that strength, and make sure that we
continue to push hard for the use of Condorcet in brainiac associations. 

Rob Lanphier
robla at eskimo.com

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