[EM] To Bill Lewis Clark, re: Approval, CR, & IRV

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 18 01:44:01 PST 2004

Bill Lewis-Clark--

You're alright, because you sound like an advocate of CR over IRV.

You wrote:

I want to call into question the claim that Cardinal Ratings (CR) is
strategically equivalent to Approval Voting (AV.)

I reply:

I address that question farther down in this reply.

You continued:

In particular,
I'd like to question this claim in light of some of the AV vs. IRV
points raised on the Fairvote website (among other places.)

>From http://www.fairvote.org/irv/approval.htm :

(Claim 1:)
* Approval voting does not solve the spoiler problem.  Voting for
your second choice candidate can in some cases lead to the defeat of
your favorite candidate.

I reply:

What this amounts to is that if you wan to vote a compromise over someone 
worse, you can't vote a preference between your favorite and the compromise.

Sure, Approval doesn't let you vote all of your pairwise preferences. But at 
least it reliably counts all those pairwise preferences that you consider 
important enough to be the ones that you vote. That can't be said for IRV, 
which ignores many or most of the pairwise preferences that are voted.

The IRV argument continues:

  (This problem is less severe than in
plurality voting, but instant runoff voting does a better job of
addressing the spoiler problem.)

I reply:

No, not really. Often in IRV it's necessary to protect a compromise by 
insincerely voting it in 1st place, to save it from immediate elimination. 
Compared to IRV & Plurality, Approval requires twice as many mistaken 
compromisers to give away an election.

The IRV argument continues:

Campaigns would urge – quietly at
least – their supports to "bullet" vote for their candidate only,
and approval voting would thus tend to revert back to plurality

I reply:

Yes, we always hear that from the IRV advocates. But it isn't true. 
Progressives now often vote Democrat. Why should they stop doing so with 
Approval? The difference is that with Approval they'll also vote for their 
favorite. It's difficult to understand how the IRVists could be cluless 
enough to keep using that silly claim.

The IRV argument continued:

Approval voting is unlikely to work in practice as it is
supposed to work in theory.

I reply:

In practice, not just in theory, voters in Approval will always be able to 
vote for their favorite. No one will ever have strategic incentive to not 
fully support their favorite. That can't be said for IRV, with which people 
will often wish that they'd buried their favorite in order to save a 
compromise from immediate elimination.

There's no justification for the IRVists' silly claim that the people who 
now vote for a lesser-evil will stop doing so in Approval. The difference 
will be that they'll also be able to vote for everyone whom they like better 
than that lesser-evil compromise. They'all always be able to fullyl support 
their favorite.

Approval is used by mathematical and engineering professional societies with 
combined membership over 600,000. Approval is used by the U.N. to choose the 
Secretary General.

(Claim 2:)
* Approval voting forces voters to cast equally weighted votes for
candidates they approve of.  Voters cannot indicate a strong
preference for one candidate and a weak preference for another.
Voters in fact almost always will have different degrees of support
for different candidates.

I reply:

As I said, Approval doesn't let us vote all of our pairwise preferences, but 
at least it counts the ones that we vote. That can't be said for IRV.

CR obviously does not suffer from this problem (although this is not
technically a strategy issue.)

(Claim 3:)
Approval voting would challenge our notions of majority rule:
Adoption of approval voting could cause the defeat of a candidate
who was the favorite candidate of 51% of voters. If this result were
to happen the system would likely be repealed.

I reply:

Majority rule? that's a funny thing to hear from IRVists, because IRV will 
often violate majority rule, when it eliminates the majority rule 

When Approval fails to elect the CW, it will tend to err toward the middle. 
When IRV fails to elect a CW, it will tend to err toward an extreme. Which 
is more dangerous and unstable?

The example already provided addresses this claim, as well.

Basically, I don't understand why CR and AV were ever considered
strategically equivalent in the first place.  They're obviously not,
at least from my perspective.

I reply:

Say we conducted an Approval vote, collected the ballots, and then said "Now 
we'll do another Approval balloting, whose results will be added to those of 
the previous balloting". How do you vote in the 2nd balloting? The same as 
in the 1st balloting.

At electionmethods.org, in Approval Strategy I, I discuss considerations for 
voting in Approval. It has to do with how you rate the candidates, and 
certain probabilities that you estimate. In the 2nd balloting has any of 
that changed? Your ratings of the candidates haven't changed. Have the 
probabilities changed? Not unless your own vote could change the 
probabilties. And in a public election your vote isn't going to 
significantly change the probabilities.

Therefore, in the 2nd balloting you vote exactly as you did in the 1st 
balloting. Likewise if there are additional ballotings.

As I said, the votes in these ballotings are added together. Since you're 
voting for the same candidates each time, some candidates are getting the 
maximum possible number of votes from you and some are getting the minimum 
possible (zero).

The election procedure that I've just described is the same as if CR were 
conducted one point at a time. "To which candiates would you give a point?"; 
"To what candidates would you give a point in addition to anythng that you 
might have already given them?"...etc, N times.

That's the same as saying "Give candidates point ratings from 0 to N".

I've told you why it's to your advantage to give maximum points to all the 
candidates for whom you'd vote in Approval, and minimum points to the rest.

Check the Approval Strategy articles at electionmethods.org, for some 
suggestions on how to vote in Approval (and therefore in CR).

Personally, I like Approval better than CR, because in CR, if some people 
vote sincerely, they might be had by people who vote strategically. Still, 
in CR I sometimes would give point assignments between the minimum and the 
maximum. Maybe sometimes I'd want to express a gradation of preference, 
though it isn't strategically in my best interest to do so. Maybe I'm not 
sure whether a certain candidate is good enough to rate an Approval vote. So 
I give him/her a rating halfway between maximum & minimum.

In CR, if you're not sure who should get an Approval vote, then there's 
nothing wrong with giving them points in proportion to how likely they are 
to qualify for an Approval vote.

But CR is still strategically equivalent to Approval. And that's why I like 
CR. Also, CR is familiar to people, and Approval is not. That could make CR 
a lot more winnable than Approval. Approval often elicits a confused 
"1-person-1-vote" objection. CR elicits no such confusion. So CR may well be 
a better public proposal than Approval.

If you're going to propose Approval, please introduce it as a point system, 
like 0-10, etc. But a simpler point system. In that way you can avoid that 
1-person-1-vote confusion that results when peoiple perceive Approval as 
illegal Plurality voting. Don't introduce Approval by saying that it's like 
Plurality but you can vote for as many as you want. People will judge it in 
terms of Plurality's rules and tradition, and will consider it illegal 
voting, a violation of the grand old tradiition of 1-person-1-vote.

You wrote:

Dennis Kucinich for President in 2004

I reoly:

Kucinich wasn't always the progressive that he's posing as now. He said that 
the 1st gulf war was justified. He also had said "Let the sanctions work" 
(lots of people are dead because the sanctions worked). He voted yes on an 
Iraq regime-change bill.

Don't vote for Kucinich in the primary. Vote for Sharpton. Then vote for 
Nader in the general election (or maybe Camejo if he wins the Greens' 

Mike Ossipoff

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