[EM] To Bill Lewis Clark re: stepping-stone

Diana Galletly dag1000 at eng.cam.ac.uk
Thu Jan 22 01:58:01 PST 2004

On Wed, 21 Jan 2004, Bill Lewis Clark wrote:

> > IRV is not, in any way, an improvement - that is the point.
> I believe Mike would agree with you, but I don't think this is as
> clear-cut as you both seem to think it is.
> First and foremost, IRV is a change.  Any change at all gets people
> thinking about election system reform.

This is simply untrue, unfortunately.  When Cambridge University switched
to using STV in 1926, *one* person made any comment at all.

> Secondly, IRV gets people used to ranking candidates.

You'd think so, wouldn't you?  In reality, there have been plenty of people
who have seemed entirely unaware that the system in use is anything other
than FPTP.  One candidate, I believe, went around telling her supporters
to vote for her and her alone for some years, which has only added to the

> That means that it wouldn't be as hard to transition from IRV to
> Condorcet, as it would to go from Plurality.

I wish I had your confidence.  Still, maybe we will see, if the working
party to consider electoral reform at Cambridge ends up having some teeth.
(And before you say that clearly switching to STV/IRV has set people
thinking about voting system reform, the only times since 1926 when people
here have considered voting system reform have been when it is clear that
something has, or could have, gone wrong.  Last time it was due to some
arcane restrictions on who could be a candidate, which resulted in a more
modern form of STV being used.  *This* times it's because something very
strange happened last year that got me interested and agitating on the

> Thirdly -- and please correct me if I'm wrong here -- the problems with
> IRV aren't likely to spring up in a political climate with only two major
> parties and relatively small additional parties.

But they *can* (and I believe *do) crop up if one is considering policies
with a series of proposed amendments.

> Finally, IRV is similar enough to the existing traditional runoff system
> that it wouldn't be as difficult to convince people to transition to it,
> as it would be to convince them to switch to Condorcet outright.  Once
> they were comfortable with a new voting system that used ranking, it would
> be easier to argue for additional changes to how the votes are tallied, in
> order to complete the transition to Condorcet.

As I said above, we'll see, but I am not particularly hopeful.

> So, do you see why IRV might be a good stepping-stone, after all?

Some of us have to live with the incoherent results of its having got
things wrong ...


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