[EM] Voting by selecting a published ordering

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Mon Apr 17 19:42:04 PDT 2006

At 08:44 PM 4/17/2006, Paul Kislanko wrote:
>No, that is another mischaracterization of the original suggestion.

Mr. Kislanko: your message is easily misunderstood, if by "original 
suggestion" you are not referring to what began this thread. It is 
easy for us to make that assumption. However, on reviewing the 
history, it seems that you are referring to *your* original 
suggestion, which is a voting method, i.e., a method of counting 
ranked ballots, which was, of course, a total change of subject. The 
true "original suggestion was very simple, I'll quote Mr. Eppley from 
the first post in this thread:

>     1. Before election day, each candidate publishes a top-to-bottom
>        ordering of the candidates.
>     2. On election day, each voter votes by selecting a candidate.
>        (What could be simpler?)
>     3. To tally the election, each vote is treated as if it's the ordering
>        published by its selected candidate.  These orderings are tallied by
>        a good voting method, such as Maximize Affirmed Majorities (MAM).

Note that the mention of a voting method, and other ideas added by 
Mr. Eppley, were dicta, not really about this proposal, which is 
quite generic, it would work with any ranked method.

Some suggested allowing voters to override the published rankings, 
make exceptions, or having *many* lists, published by various 
organizations. Your own first post in this thread was a bit 
mysterious to me, and I certainly did misread it, due to a certain 
typographical error in it.

> > Here's a suggestion for an easy-to-understand alternative to MAM 
> that would be adequate in this context:
>I am looking at this without looking at MAM.

Now, I'll confess that I did not understand your proposal on first 
reading, and, I still don't understand it on rereading. I could 
probably parse it, but with a headache.... Let's just say that it 
appeared from your post that you were thinking out loud, rather than 
making a completely considered proposal.

However, you then made what appeared to be a criticism of the 
original proposal, which we can call Candidate-List, and in your 
criticism you seemed to assume something much more complex than 
Candidate-List, for you asked

>Starts out looking good but, how many lists might there be with half a
>dozen candidates?

Now, since you are claiming that you were misunderstood, I'm looking 
much more carefully at this. "Starts out looking good" could be a 
criticism, not of the original proposal, but of your own proposed 
counting method.

Be aware that it is terribly easy to misunderstand written 
communications, as they are devoid of many of the cues that enable us 
to understand speakers.

I answered your question with reference to Candidate-List, not with 
reference to your proposal. Here is the interchange that ensued:

> > >Starts out looking good but, how many lists might there be
> > with half a
> > >dozen candidates?
> >
> > Half a dozen.
>No no no no no no! In that case, it's just proxy.
>The pre-published lists can be sponsored by candidates, or by
>issues-oriented interest groups, or by an arbitrary voter.

This is, of course, your proposal, not the proposal that began the thread.

Given that Candidate-List is perhaps one of the best suggestions to 
appear on the EM list since I began reading it, I did not want it to 
be misunderstood, and, especially, I did not want the discussion to 
be confused by proposing, at least at first, what could be severe 
complications of it. A multiplicity of lists is, quite simply, a bad 
idea politically and practically, even though in some utopian 
environment it might be possible.

But Candidate-List is not "just proxy." It isn't proxy voting at all, 
actually, though it does resemble it in a way. In proxy voting, the 
original voter, assigning a proxy, has no legal control over the 
subsequent actions of the proxy, unless there is some binding 
agreement. In my subsequent response, I noted that in Asset Voting, 
vote reassignments by candidates were effectively proxy votes. But in 
this case, voters are voting, not for a proxy, but for a list that 
happens to have a candidate name attached to it. The candidate can't 
change that list -- unless we complicate the system by allowing 
candidates to renegotiate their votes. If they could do the latter, 
it would be proxy voting.

>The whole EM list idea is now not worth my trouble, since everybody seems to
>misinterpret everything anybody says and nobody wants to have a common

Now, the post to which you so replied was from Mr. Duff, and it was 
in response to a post from Mr. Ketchum. Neither of these posts quoted 
you, as far as I could see. Mr. Ketchum had commented that "Actually, 
this debate is becoming complex beyond any hope of value," and Mr. 
Duff agreed, and then proceeded to discuss Candidate-List, not the 

I've looked back over your posts in this thread, and you have only 
made and commented on a suggestion that was actually a change of 
subject. Don't be surprised if ambiguous comments you make are 
interpreted as having to do with the subject of the thread!

Yes, the thread header reads "Voting by selecting a published 
ordering," and you talked about hundreds of orderings. But the 
original *post* with that subject made it clear that the published 
orderings were provided by candidates, one per candidate. This is the 
simple proposal that we were defending, so to speak, and that you 
were appearing to criticize as being difficult to count with:

>OK, I have a system with 293 alternatives and a few thousand voters. If you
>think it is simple to cont the 42,778 pairwise comparisons without a
>computer send me your snail-mail address and I'll kill a tree to print out
>all the ballots and send 'em to you.

Now, where I come from, we have a common lexicon, in which 
"everybody," "anybody," and "nobody" have clear meanings. Yes, there 
is another context, an informal one, the context of emotion, where we 
use these words when they don't actually refer to everybody, anybody, 
or nobody.

However, it was not true that nobody understood you. Rather, it seems 
to me, I understood what you were saying as true, but beside the 
point, not relevant to the *original* proposal, and I still think 
that I was correct about that. And this list has many readers who do 
not write. Can you be really sure that none of them understood you? 
As to common lexicon, I have not noticed that you proposed 
terminology or definitions. If you want terms to be clearly defined, 
you might have to define them! "Published ordering," you seem to have 
*assumed* to mean "any published ordering from any source." This is 
not what was proposed. Candidate-List is what I'm tentatively 
proposing for the method, in the absence of better.

As to whether or not this list is worth the trouble, I suppose that 
depends. It has accomplished a great deal for me; I have learned a 
great deal about election methods from reading what is written here, 
and I have seen some of my own ideas accepted and am now even seeing 
them extended. I have become known in the EM community, for better or 
for worse.

What I write about, from my point of view, is only rarely completely 
understood. People get this or that, but I can tell from responses 
that part is missing. Is this my fault or theirs? My training is that 
it is best to treat it as my fault. Sure, some of the 
misunderstanding comes from habits and preconceptions that people 
have, but this is how people are; if I want to communicate with them, 
I'd better speak to them as they are, rather than as I might wish 
them to be. In fact, if I want to wish, I'll wish that they already 
understand all this, and, like Nasruddin, I can go home.

I'll paraphrase a response I often saw in self-help groups when 
someone complained about a meeting that there was "no recovery 
there." An old-timer was sure to say, "Why don't you bring some?"

If there is no clarity here, why not bring some?

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