[EM] Voting Systems Study of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota

Abd ulRahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Mon Jun 6 21:20:36 PDT 2005

At 04:39 AM 6/6/2005, Markus Schulze wrote:

>the final report on the voting systems study of the
>League of Women Voters of Minnesota has been published [...]

Here is what is in the newsletter referenced by Mr. Schulze, interspersed 
with my comments:

>... Last
>month, after looking at feedback from local
>Leagues around the state, the LWVMN
>Board adopted the following positions:

That's the core of it. We have The League of Women Voters, and it has a 
Board (I've been unable to find out quickly how the Board is selected), and 
that Board takes positions on issues without developing, I'd guess, an 
informed consensus among the members, and publishes them as the position of 
the organization, thus burying in the noise any dissent among the members. 
This is absolutely classic. And quite frustrating, if one happens to be on 
the short end of the stick.

>· LWVMN supports the option to use
>Instant Runoff Voting to elect State
>or Local Officials in single seat
>elections. LWVMN also supports the
>continued use of the plurality voting
>system in our elections.

In other words, continue a system which *could* produce totally disastrous 
results. Some would argue that it already has, but that would be, possibly, 
a partisan statement if applied only to the U.S. But in other areas of the 
world, plurality victories can be found with, for example, the election of 
Adolf Hitler.

Yes, if IRV were introduced, this particular danger would be reduced. But 
that is not exactly how they phrased it.

>· The LWVMN Board reserves the
>right to decide the appropriateness of
>legislation proposing to replace the
>plurality voting system with the
>Instant Runoff System at the state

Reserves the right against what? I find this statement mysterious; it would 
make sense only if their position statement created some kind of final 
judgement.... but, then again, Boards don't always use perfect language. 
Come to think of it, neither do I.

>· LWVMN strongly supports the right
>of local governments and municipalities
>to choose Instant Runoff Voting
>for their own local elections.

I'm glad that they support the right of governments to choose. But, it 
would seem, they do not support the right of governments to choose other 
methods. I find this, indeed, strange for an organization devoted to 
promoting democracy.

>· Voters need to understand how votes
>in an election are tabulated and how a
>candidate actually wins an election.
>If a change in elections systems
>occurs, LWVMN strongly supports
>adequate voter education.

For sure.

>· LWVMN does not support Approval,
>Borda Count, or Condorcet as alternative
>voting systems.

Now, here is what is really weird. I've read the materials from the LWVMN. 
They don't explain why this choice was made. Once again, a small board 
makes decisions for a large number of people. Sure, the individuals remain 
free, but they are faced, if they don't support the decision, with a 
Hobson's choice when it comes to supporting the League.

Something that I've never seen mentioned about Approval Voting is that it 
simply means that ballots with more than one candidate marked won't be 
spoiled. That alone would be a huge advance in equity. Yes, it appears to 
violate the "one person, one vote" principle, but what has happened here is 
that a slogan intended to sum up a principle has *become* the principle. 
The principle is that citizens should have equal voting rights. In the 
context in which "one person, one vote" was invented, I strongly suspect, 
Approval voting wasn't on the table.

The existing system spoils a ballot if a person accidentally votes for more 
than one. Yet there is clearly information remaining about the voter's 
preferences if this happens. The voter definitely prefers one of the two 
candidates over all others; at the very least, such a vote should help both 
candidates over all other candidates, though not over each other. Which is 
exactly what counting the vote would accomplish. Essentially, all that has 
to be done to implement Approval Voting is to stop trashing multiple votes.

(I'm only considering single-office elections here....)

>To find out what these terms mean, go to
>www.lwvmn.org/ and click on the link to
>Facts and Issues Report on Alternative
>Voting Systems.

It seems to be a decent report. However, over the last day it keeps coming 
back to me, the question of why we consider ballots to be spoiled which 
have an extra candidate marked. I can't think of any reason why, other than 
a pig-headed adherence to "one person, one vote," completely forgetting the 
*purpose* of the rule, which is equality of voting rights. The fact is that 
in other places we allow a single person to have more than one vote. In 
multiple-seat elections, for example. If a double-marked ballot is "more 
than one vote per person", then why not multiple votes cast by a person in 
a multiple-seat election? (Yes, this is pretty silly. But the one person, 
one vote rule was actually given in a state supreme court decision in 
Minnesota, as quoted in the Facts and Issues Report referenced above. 
However, in the case involved, there were other aspects to the voting 
method being used in Duluth that made it more reasonable to call the 
situation one which allows some persons more votes than others.

Approval Voting amounts to nothing more than striking out the rule that 
spoils multiply-marked ballots. As has often been noted, it doesn't require 
any voting machine changes (except if machines automatically reject 
multiply-marked ballots, and since the machines have to be able to 
accomodate multiple-seat elections, they must be programmable not to do this).

What if we had IRV with Approval? What is that called?

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list