How to vote in Approval

Tue Mar 26 21:26:21 PST 2002

Dave Ketchum wrote:

As I said above, it can matter. Try actually destroying the country vs
getting a god start on that but leaving office with the country still in
recoverable status.

I reply:

Sure, but even Bush will leave some Americans alive. And though he can do 
tremendous environmental
damage in various ways, he can't entirely destroy the continent, and
some sort of natural ecosystem will eventually repopulate the place.

On the other hand, someone like Gore does environmental damage too,
and costs lives in various ways. Gore is sometimes considered an
environmentalist, but I heard that the Clinton/Gore administration
actually didn't have such a good environmental record. They also weren't
so humanitarian.

So it's more a matter of degree than
you implied. When more lives are lost, there's a greater probability
that one of them will be yours or mine. But, other than that, is
it really quantifiable? Isn't really it just as bad to kill a few as lots? 
I'm reminded of the story of the shepherd who left his flock
unattended to go out into the storm to find one lost lamb. Do we really
have to accept a deal in which we settle for a somewhat lower number
of wrongful deaths and dead wildlife? Or should we just say "No. Forget it."

So Gore isn't qualitatively better than Bush.

It's been suggested that the Republicans & Democrats are a "good-cop/
bad-cop" routine, and we're being offered a deal to take whichever of
those two isn't quite as bad as the other. I suggest that we reject
the deal, and never vote for either, whatever the voting system.
I'd said:


>The strategic value of candidate i is:
>The sum, over all j (j not equal to i) of Pij(Ui-Uj)

Dave replied:

With my voter hat on I am unable to calculate the inputs to those formulas.

I reply:

Of course, that isn't easy for anyone. It has been suggested that it
might be easier to just follow one's intuitive hunches and vote for
whom one feels like one should vote for. But, whether explicitly or
not, that decision depends on utilities & tie-probabilities. And
that of course goes for Plurality too. It seems to me, therefore,
that a person is making more reliable guesses when he estimates his
utilities, and the candidates' win-probabilities (from which to estimate the 
tie probabilities that the formula uses), than would
be when just guessing whom he should vote for.

In a recent SF mayor election, I considered the limited info available
to me about the candidates and their winnability, and used that to
determine which I'd vote for in Approval, and in Plurality, on the
assumption that none are absolutely unacceptable. As it turned out,
I'd only have voted for 1 of them, if I were a voter in that election
and it were by Approval. Anyway, I determined whom to vote for by
the mathematical strategy that I described in my previous letter.
Of course it involves guessing, and guessing is unavoidable in
that kind of situation. But of course guesswork is eliminated when
the elecion has winnable unacceptable candidates, and Approval is used.

Dave continued:

I can understand the concept of holding Bush and Gore up to the
light and picking one as better/worse than the other - which is all I need
for ranked voting (unless it is a system that invites strategy).
Trying to decide whether I approve of them enough to list them for
Approval, especially with other candidates involved, is too much of a 

I reply:

Don't vote for either. They don't deserve it.

But I know that even if you agreed me about that, Approval could
still give us difficult strategy decisions in some elections.

I quite agree that I like the luxury of being able to vote as many
pairwise preferences as one wants to. And there are rank-counts that
do a very good job of eliminating defensive strategic need, letting
people rank sincerely.

But, as I was saying in an earlier posting, we tend to direct our
attention to the goal of getting to the top, electoral-reform-wise,
but we should consider the tremendous benefit of getting off the bottom.
Approval would definitely get us off the bottom. Sure, you might still
have to decide strategy, estimate utilities & winnabilities in order
to attempt optimum strategy, if you perceive no winnable unacceptable
candidates. But at least you can always fully vote for your favorite,
even if you feel strategically required to vote a compromise equal
to him/her. And, with Approval, _no one_ will bury their favorite
by voting someone else over him/her, or by not voting for him/her at
all. Maybe not perfect, but a tremendous improvement.

And Approval is very much more winnable than a good rank-method
would be. There are innumerable ways to count rank ballots, and nearly
all of them are no good. Nearly all of them aren't nearly as good
as Approval. How likely is it that one of the very few genuinely good
rank-counts can be adopted anytime soon in the IRV environment in which
we work? Much better to propose Approval instead of waiting till
the public is educated on how to count rank ballots. Eventually maybe
we can get a good rank method, but in the meantime, let's get what
benefit we can: Approval.

Mike Ossipoff

davek at c...
Dave Ketchum 108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY 13827-1708 607-687-5026
Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
If you want peace, work for justice.

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