[EM] One more obvious thing about Approval

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 16 16:21:51 PST 2005

Sorry to disregard my retirement so soon. But if I'm going to, of course it 
would be right away after saying I'm retiring.

Understandably someone could say they're quitting, and then realize that 
there's one more thing they want to say. Or a few things, for one posting.

This is really obvious, and I've heard others say it. But it's so obvious 
that I've probably never mentioned it as an Approval advantage:

Approval reports which candidate is alright with the most voters. Sure, a 
strategizer can opt out of that alright-count by refusing to vote for an 
alright candidate because he thinks he can do better. So the alright-count 
is voluntary, but I"m talking about a general tendency.

Anyway, that isn't true of any other method. Rankings, though they record 
the direction of all your preferences, record the importance of none of 
them. Approval, by recording only the imortant ones, measures their 

The simplest is also the best.

(That doesn't contradict what I've been saying about MDDA's advantages for 
the voters in our public elections, or RV's winnability and bad-judgement 

I recently discussed voting systems with a member of the public who turned 
out to be completely resistant to improvement. All discussions with members 
of the public are instructive, and so let me describe the discussion.

She expressed the 1p1v objection to Approval, but also to RV and any rank 
method that lets people vote more than one 1st choice! She won't accept any 
less than the need for favorite-burial.

She did mention two methods that she'd accept: Borda and Cumulative. I told 
her that Cumulative is essentially just Plurality, but she felt that it was 
important that everyone cast the same number of votes.

One interesting thing, though: She emphasized that media should be more open 
and democratically managed, so that voters could have better information. Is 
media reform going to be a lot easier to get than voting system reform?

About the 1p1v objection, I tried calling Approval "Set Voting", where 
everyone gets exactly one vote, for one set of candidates over another. But 
she said that it still amounts to voting for different numbers of 
candidates, since different people vote for different size sets.

I guess no matter how you define Set Voting, someone can always point out 
that voting for a largert set means that you're helping more candidates. Of 
course it could be pointed out that the voter in Set Voting isn't just 
voting _for_ a set of candidates: S/he's voting for a set and against a set. 
Though that person would say I use more power when I vote for a larger set, 
she'd have to admit that I'm using less power when I vote against a smaller 
set, as I'm doing at the same time. Who's to say that the power of your vote 
should be measured by the better of the two sets that you're voting between?

In fact I've heard that argument used for ordinarily-defined Approval: 
Everyone is casting the same number of votes. Positive votes and negative 
votes. Because even though not voting for someone,  usually considered a 
zero, makes it look as if you're voting _for_ someone is the only active 
vote, the fact is that there are two levels, and the unbiased symmetrical 
way to describe it is to say that you're casting positive and negative 

One thing that I pointed out to her was that Approval can be considered a 
method in which every voter is given the same number of votes: A number of 
votes equal to the number of candidates, the only rule being that one can 
only give one vote to a particular candidate.

You get the same number of votes I get. If you don't want to use your 
"power", don't blame me, and don't blame the method.

Use as much "power" as you want to. And, of course, what power do you gain 
by voting for two candidates instead of one? The power to help someone beat 
your favorite? Of course you do that  because you already lack power, with a 
favorite who isn't very winnable.

This retirement wasn't very neat, since I had a few more things I wanted to 
say. But this covers it.

Mike Ossipoff

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