[EM] IRV with approval

Abd ulRahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed May 18 08:04:48 PDT 2005

At 09:51 AM 5/18/2005, Sean Harris wrote:
>Has anyone ever combined IRV with approval voting in order to eliminate
>some of the problems associated with traditional IRV?
>I have been searching but I haven't found anything quite like it yet.

There are methods described on the electorama site, I believe, but I'll 
leave it to others more familiar with the landscape than I to describe and 
point to them. My concern here is for one thing:

>If a candidate receives an absolute majority of first choice votes
>in the first round of counting, they are declared the winner.

This feature reproduces, with only slight amelioration, the basic problem 
with plurality elections. To point this out, I'll use an imaginary example 
based loosely on a tragic history. In other words, I don't know the details 
of the history, I'm imagining them, but the round outlines might be more or 
less accurate.

Elections are being held in a country we'll call Ruanda. The majority of 
people are Hutu, and a minority are Tutsi. There is a Hutu nationalist 
movement and party, and a Tutsi party. The Hutu nationalist party is able 
to obtain a simple majority in an election; by the proposed method (and by 
most non-Approval methods, I think), they elect the President. The minority 
Tutsi party is so shut out by this that a revolution is started.

Suppose there had been a Hutu who was widely trusted, including by many 
Tutsis. In an Approval election, this Hutu would win. But in an election 
method that awards victory to a candidate who is the first choice of a 
majority, he or she would lose.

The consequences of using an election method that fails to maximize 
consensus could be -- and have been, historically -- serious indeed. Wars 
are started, revolutions take place, and, in fact, worse.

This alone is a strong argument for Approval voting. But, as I have 
expressed many times, and will probably continue expressing, the whole 
political process, which includes how candidates get on a ballot, and how 
the electorate becomes informed, is critical. As they say, the devil is in 
the details.

Condorcet voting has a clear intellectual appeal. I'd say that where 
Condorcet and Approval voting produce the same winner, you've got a real 
winner, one who will unite the people and whose government will elicit 
maximum citizen participation and satisfaction. Where they don't, it gets 
complicated, but, in my view, this is a sign that the political process has 
not been allowed to move to completion, it has been interrupted by the 
artificial constraints of scheduled elections and a process that only 
periodically consults the public, that must make a decision NOW when there 
is insufficient information. A situation to be avoid if at all possible.

The probability is that if the political process is correct, even plurality 
voting will be sufficient. However, transitionally, advanced election 
methods could be very helpful.

And we badly need an open organization to make tactical and strategic 
decisions regarding election reform. To my knowledge, it does not exist 
yet. Any interest? (A mailing list is not an organization, though it could 
be a means whereby an organization meets....)

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