[EM] Dave: Approval vs rank methods

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Wed Nov 9 19:13:32 PST 2005

On Tue, 08 Nov 2005 04:55:39 +0000 MIKE OSSIPOFF wrote:

> Dave--
> You wrote:
> Your subject implies a promise to compare among three methods.
> Your content goes into great detail as to Approval vs RV, but very 
> little as to rank.
> Seeing rank as far superior to either, I read looking to see why you 
> might disagree.
> I reply:
> Neither is superior in every way. Approval is superior in some ways. The 
> best rank methods have advantages that our public election voters 
> probably need (but only time will tell). I've said that though Approval 
> would be good in public elections, I, for practical reasons, would 
> rather have RV, and would especially rather have MDDA, MDDB, 
> MDD,ER-Buckllin(whole), or MAMPO.
> So we don't disagree on that: We'd both rather have a rank method rather 
> than Approval for public elections.
> I've compared Approval to a solid, reliable handtool, in previous 
> discussion with you on EM, probably last month. I've said that the 
> trouble with a handtool is that you have to do the work yourself, and so 
> you have to really know how to use it. Of course you have to know how to 
> use a machine too, but the machine does most of the work. With the 
> handtool you have to know how to do everything, because you don't have a 
> machine doing it for you.

Tools vary in their abilities:
      Plurality is excellent if approving of a single candidate is all I 
      Approval fills a gap - I can approve, equally, of one or more 
      Sometimes I want more than either of them is capable of, and desire 
a more capable tool.  Caring not where you divide tools between handtools 
and machines.

> Rank methods are majority-enforcing machines. A machine can be 
> well-designed and high-quality, or it can be a cheap and defective 
> machine like IRV.

While we can agree on wanting better than IRV, since we know better is 
available, does IRV deserve your nasty words?  Easy enough to describe a 
possible ugly failure, but how often might such happen in real elections?

> Of course any machine is a contrivance, a contraption. But the voters in 
> public elections probably need a good majority-enforcing contraption.
> If the voters are as incompetent as they seem to show that they are, 
> they're going to need a good majority-enforcing machine so that they 
> won't have to incompetently make the all-or-nothing strategic decisions 
> that the handtool Approval would require of them.

While we can debate how much the voters might bother to learn, when they 
have no opportunity to use such knowledge, should we assume that none 
would learn if and when it started to make a real difference?

Also, how can I learn to use Approval to rank candidates according the 
acceptable vs only-tolerable qualities they display.

> I claim that FBC is essential in public elections, as I've been saying, 
> which is why I say that the best majority-enforcing machines are MDDA, 
> MDDB, MDD,ER-Bucklin(whole) and MAMPO.
> I hope that better clarifies my position on Approval vs the best rank 
> methods.
> As you said, this probably isn' t the discussion in which to debate 
> which rank method is the best for the exisiting voting situation with 
> the existing electorate.
> You continued:
> Time for comment:
> Approval does not let competent voters vote their decisions full strength.
> I reply:
> Corrrect: Approval doesn't _let_ people vote pairwise preferences full 
> strength: It _forces_ them to.

Do you use this refusal to see what is written when you debate with 
Markus?  It only wastes everyone's time.

> Maybe you're referring to the fact that Approval doesn't let people vote 
> all their preferences. No, just their most important ones.
> But, unlike IRV, Approval reliably counts every pairwise preference that 
> you consider important enough to be one that you vote, when you can't 
> vote them all.
> Approval, which I also call Set Voting, lets you vote one candidate-set 
> over another. That lets you vote the pairwise preferences that really 
> matter. Anything more would be a frivolous luxury--except that, as I 
> said, our public election voters need that luxury.

It would be a luxury if the cost exceeded the expectable benefits.

Most of us seem agreed that rank falls on the affordable side of luxury.

> Is it better to let people vote all their pairwise preferences? If the 
> incompetent voters are going to botch their choice, in Approval, of 
> which pairwise preferences to vote, then yes, it would then be better to 
> let people vote all of their pairwise preferences. But of course that's 
> worthless if we don't count them all. IRV doesn't count them. It's 
> desirable for a rank method to have majority-enforcement criterion 
> compliances. It's also necessary, in our public elections, to never give 
> anyone incentive to bury their favorite. Choose a rank method accordingly.

The debates over rank method details sometimes get a bit deep, depending on 
plotters knowing unknowable details and having unbelievable control:

      How would voters vote with no interference.
      Plot to get some votes changed.
      Assume that that will not cause other plotters to get other voters 
to retaliate.

Again, IRV counts most, and its backers claim it counts enough.

> You continued:
> Easy enough to vote for A and against B.  Then there is no way in 
> Approval to say for C that C is preferred over B BUT that this 
> preference must not interfere with voting full-strength preference for A 
> over C.
> I reply:
> Exactly. And the incompetents that I've referred to don't do a good job 
> of choosing which of those pairwise preferences to vote. That's why I 
> want them to be able to vote all their pairwise prefences, and have them 
> all counted, by a method with majority-enforcing criterion compliances.

I was not talking of voter incompetence, for Approval restricts their 
possible actions.  Still, I would not claim Approval incompetence, 
assuming it behaves as promised.  What is left is designer incompetence, 
for not letting voters express their affordable thoughts.

> Is I was saying before in this message, and in previous messages last 
> month: We don't disagree on that!!!
> You continued:
> RV permits fine grained expression of such differences but, after giving 
> voters headaches as to how to express them in more detail than rank permits
> I reply:
> Yes, sincere rating is more work. But no one forces you to do that work. 
> You can just give maximum points to the candidates you'd vote for in 
> Approval, and give minumum points to the others. That's your best 
> strategy. And another reason to use that Approval strategy is that 
> Approval is easier to vote.

If this is your recommendation as to how voters should act with RV, why 
should it bother to exist?

> You continued:
> , gives the counters headaches trying to decipher exactly what the 
> voters meant.
> I reply.
> I disagree there: RV doesn't give any problem to counters. They merely 
> have to add up each candidate's points, and declare as winner the one 
> with the most points.

Ok, so the counters do not try to guess, leaving the whole communications 
headache on the voters' weak shoulders.

> You continued:
> For all of which reasons I prefer rank, especially for public elections:
> I reply:
> I too prefer the best rank methods for public elections.
> You continued:
> Voters can indicate order of their preferences.
> I reply:
> A necessity for our incompetent voters. Otherwise a frivolous luxury. As 
> I said, Set Voting  (That's Approval) lets you vote one candidate-set 
> over another. Those are the important pairwise preferences,  and that 
> should be enough.

Proper topic is whether capable voters are allowed to express their 
important thoughts, not whether some voters may be incapable of better 
thinking - for which more adequate education may be practical.

> You continued:
> Counters can read these preferences in the same language as the voters 
> used for writing.
> I reply:
> That's true with Approval and RV too. And I remind you that Approval and 
> RV receive information that rank methods don't receive: Preference 
> strength. In that regard, Approval and RV are more expressive than rank 
> methods.

You lose me here.  You have suggested above ZERO ability to express 
preference strength with Approval - only two sets with zero preference 
within a set, and uncontrollable maximum strength between sets.

Agreed you say voters can express strength in RV and that counters have no 
responsibility for understanding there - leaving how voters determine what 
to say a puzzle.

> You think that Approval doesn't allow you to express as much because it 
> doesn't let you indicate the direction of all your pairwise preferences. 
> But Approval lets you express their strength: You vote a preference if 
> it's important enough to you. Rank methods let you express the direction 
> of all your preferences, but that's all. They don't let you express the 
> strength of your preferences.
> No one denies that the best rank methods do the best job of enforcing 
> majority rule. But who says that's all that matters?

Agreed there are so many possibilities, and some offer so little value for 
what they offer as to deserve "luxury" as a descriptor, and some are so 
weak as to voters being able to express their thoughts as to be useless, 
that we need more careful thought.

> Mike Ossipoff

  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
  Dave Ketchum   108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708   607-687-5026
            Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
                  If you want peace, work for justice.

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