[EM] Letter to Editor on "Instant Runoff Voting" article in Jan 2004 Zmagazine

Forest Simmons fsimmons at pcc.edu
Sat Jan 3 11:46:02 PST 2004

Steven Hill and Rob Richie give us the impression that Instant Runoff
Voting (IRV) is the only alternative to our traditional "plurality wins"
voting method.

In fact there are many alternatives that have been considered from the
time of Borda, Condorcet, Hare, and other pioneers in the study of voting
methods from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Kenneth Arrow received the Nobel Prize for his work in the twentieth
century which showed that no voting system could satisfy everybody's wish
list of fairness properties.

Arrow's result helps to explain why to date there is no single voting
method which has been able to garner a consensus of support among social
scientists specializing in such questions.

However, there is widespread agreement among social scientists that IRV
(essentially Hare's method) is probably not the best choice among the
available alternatives, even taking into account the momentum that it has
already gained through the efforts of the Center for Voting and Democracy
(which Hill and Richie represent).

Some of the prominent modern (post Arrow era) election methods go by the
names of Approval Voting, Ranked Pairs, Beatpath, and Schwartz Sequential
Dropping.  Of these, Approval Voting, which has been strongly advocated by
the reknowned social scientist Steven J. Brams, is considered the simplest
and most practical public proposal for solving the spoiler problem in
large scale single winner elections by the Election Methods Advisory
Council (EMAC), of which I am a member.

Those who wish to form their own opinions on the pros and cons of various
voting methods could do worse than visiting the website


and following the links, or they could simply do a google search on
"voting methods."


Forest W. Simmons

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