[EM] Three Stage Approval Election

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Wed Jun 7 22:57:39 PDT 2006

On Wed, 07 Jun 2006 12:32:55 -0400 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> At 02:37 AM 6/7/2006, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>> Is this trip necessary?
> Yes. At least as necessary as any discussion of ideal election methods, 
> actual election methods, and possible intermediary steps.
>> I claim not, for it is not up to competing with Condorcet - or even IRV,
>> which usually gets the right victor.
> First of all, "usually" means that there are exceptions. Those 
> exceptions can be devastating. IRV, in particular, could fail to elect 
> the best compromise candidate, and when compromise doesn't take place in 
> an election process, it can take years of civil war to bring people to 
> the table and to peace.

Agreed IRV deserves rejection - not clear whether it is more deserving 
than the method proposed here.

> Secondly, Condorcet and IRV are far more complex than approval. Approval 
> is probably the absolute simplest election method after plurality. It is 
> clearly an improvement over plurality. It takes only a rule change to 
> allow it; it actually would be allowed and implemented if there were not 
> rules discarding overvoted ballots, rules that are clearly undemocratic.

Your words show there are TWO views of complexity:
      Ranked choice (IRV and Condorcet) have ballots that are messy to 
count by hand - but we can program computers to do the work and not get 
annoyed at the repetitiveness.
      As to complexity that the voter sees, Condorcet makes it easy:
           Plurality desires can be voted easily - just vote for one.
           Approval desires are also doable, provided the rules permit - 
just vote for all approved at the  same level.
           Even taking full advantage of Condorcet is simple - order as 
many as seem worth it in desire order and vote accordingly.
      Coming back to being offered Approval by itself, the voter can only 
accept vs reject - a difficult decision when the voter WANTS to show first 
vs second choices.

> We should all be behind Approval, I'd suggest, even if it is not 
> perfect. It is a great step in the right direction, greatly reducing the 
> spoiler effect.
> While the staged election process proposed in this thread is certainly 
> not as simple as basic Approval, and therefore probably less practical, 
> it is, in my view, a brilliant solution to one of the basic problems 
> with Approval: good Approval strategy relies on a reasonably good 
> judgement on the part of voters as to the likely winners, if the voter 
> does not vote. An Approval voter, *just like a plurality voter under 
> present conditions*, needs to know who the frontrunners are, to minimize 
> the chance that the voter's vote will be wasted.
> Now, I think there are better solutions, myself, Asset Voting, and, in 
> particular, FAAV, my simplified version of Asset Voting, being one of 
> the best. But that does not make the discussion of lesser methods 
> useless. Among other things, it brings out the issues underlying 
> disagreements about election methods. We have discussed this before, and 
> have heard the argument presented by Mr. Ketchum before, but, obviously, 
> we need to continue that discussion.
>> Approval still has a basic weakness.  Easy enough for Approval to be told
>> acceptable vs unacceptable, but Approval has no way, even in this
>> variation, for me to say acceptable, unacceptable, and between - those I
>> would settle for IF AND ONLY IF all the candidates I consider 
>> acceptable lose.
> That is correct. Approval forces the voter to make a black and white 
> decision: Approve or Not.
> However, this is what I think Mr. Ketchum misses. The underlying problem 
> here is Single Winner. For a Single Winner election to represent a 
> desirable outcome, I suggest, the compromise involved in selecting that 
> single winner, given all the various preferences of the electorate, must 
> be approved, to some degree, by the electorate. Or else what we really 
> have is minority rule, which, historically, has been a major disaster. 
> The spoiler effect is a very serious one, and, among others, can be 
> credited with the election of Adolf Hitler, etc.
> Condorcet methods ostensibly solve this problem, but there is also a 
> limitation to Condorcet methods. While the voter ranks candidates in a 
> Condorcet compliant method, the gap between ranks is not expressed. As a 
> result, a minor but common gap can cause a true compromise winner to be 
> passed over in favor of one who is merely the favorite of a sufficiently 
> large faction. Condorcet methods do not require voters to make the 
> judgement of "How acceptable is this compromise?" Approval does.

Agreed Condorcet asks only whether A is greater than B, but supports no 
attempt at saying how much - BTW how does a voter express how much AND BE 
UNDERSTOOD in a method that permits such.

Back to Approval - it does provide ONE gap between acceptable and 
unacceptable - but NO WAY to have any other gap or to express how big a 
gap the voter sees between those accepted and those rejected.

> Approval allows voters to make a compromise judgement. With a more 
> sophisticated method, that judgement could be more refined. Approval is 
> a Range method, with restricted range, essentially binary. Increasing 
> the Range increases the level of judgement possible. The method which I 
> called A+/PW (Approval Plus, counted Pairwise) is a Condorcet-compliant 
> method which adds a single rank, Preferred, in addition to the normal 
> Approval ranks of Approved and Not Approved. (Basic Approval Plus has 
> this rank, but does not use it to determine the winner, only for 
> statistical and campaign finance and similar considerations.)
> *Any election must find a compromise winner. To be an ideal 
> single-winner method, it must find the ideal compromise. What does 
> "ideal compromise" mean? Condorcet methods with more than two or three 
> ranks don't really address this question, unless they have a method of 
> expressing what could be called "ranking distance." I think some 
> Condorcet methods attempt to infer this from vote patterns.
> But with Approval, the judgement of how to compromise is made by the 
> voters, and the election outcome hangs on how the voters make that 
> determination, collectively.
> So, yes, this is a limitation of Approval, but it is also a strength, 
> potentially. It depends on the relative harm and benefit of the two effects.
>> BUT, assuming Approval is the best we can do:
>> "randomly chosen" is tricky - even done truly, voters will wonder if
>> selection was biased for a purpose.

The discussion below misses the point.  WE KNOW from recent horror stories 
that anything uncheckable from results, such as selecting a group of 
voters, should be avoided in designing methods (could take more seriously 
validating implementation of methods - but that seems far in the future).

> Yes, it's tricky. But we don't have to solve that problem here. If the 
> method is a good one, presuming that this problem could be solved, then 
> that particular problem could be addressed. Since I think it is soluble, 
> I wouldn't make this the reason to avoid the method.
> You know, there has been a lottery system in the U.S. at various times 
> for the draft. I know a lot of people who hated or resisted the draft, 
> but I don't recall any allegations that the lottery was specifically 
> biased, except in open ways: that is, you could get deferments for 
> various reasons, or could otherwise avoid the draft. Remember a certain 
> son of a prominent politician who was able to get a fairly cushy 
> assignment to the Air National Guard? And then to get leave from that to 
> help a certain congressman in his election campaign, etc., etc. This was 
> not a problem with the lottery.
> Lotteries could be conducted quite openly, and locally. A locality would 
> have a quota, a number of voters for the first ballot, and those voters 
> might be chosen literally out of a box, by a person broadly trusted in 
> the community, with the box contents verifiable before and after the 
> drawing.
> It could be done. That's the point.
> With any election method, we can find some theoretical objection. If we 
> don't like the method for other reasons, we may describe this objection 
> as if it were an insoluble problem. It's a red herring. If the 
> staged-election method is a good method, the problem of random selection 
> of voters is soluble.
> And it would make a good circus. That is, it would raise public 
> interest, I expect, in the election process. It would be exciting, like 
> a race. Frankly, it might be quite interesting to have more stages. 
> "Smith was in the lead by 2%, but Jones has nosed past him by 0.1%. This 
> is a real race, folks!"
> In a close race, I expect that total election turnout would be greater. 
> Most people think that's good. Absent something like Delegable Proxy, I 
> agree.
>> Voters will puzzle over whether the complications make sense.
> They will puzzle over any election method change.
>> Messes up campaigning, for candidates need to try to have today's voters
>> aware of them today.

Just restating:  Preparing for ONE election day means one campaign and one 
load on the media.  For multiple days this gets multiplied.  Even the 
mailing is tricky - takes extra work on addressing and smaller mailings 
sometimes mean extra cost per item.

> A plus for the method, in my opinion. It may even be desirable for the 
> sample voters to be in a publicly known set. As a random sample, the 
> content of the campaign material wouldn't be different, but mailings 
> just to those voters would be less expensive, so that kind of 
> campaigning would get less expensive. The media would rebroadcast that 
> as news without requiring candidates to pay for advertising. I don't 
> have a crystal ball, but, my point is, this could be an improvement.
> As with many of these issues, we won't really know for sure until it is 
> tried. This method could be tried in a fairly small jurisdiction. It 
> might take legislation to enable that, but I don't see any 
> constitutional issues, except perhaps with Presidential elections, I'm 
> not sure about that.
>> Voters will have problems remembering when to vote.

True, there should be a card as to where to vote.  As to when, with ONE 
election day the when gets publicized.  With multiple, family members may 
vote on different days.

> Scraping the bottom of the barrel, there. A voter who has trouble 
> remembering when to vote, having received a voting card or ticket, this 
> is the person I least want to be voting. It would be all over the news....
> The first poll might be quite a bit less than 10%. 1% might be quite 
> enough, if the sample is truly random. (In this case, more stages would 
> be used, almost certainly.)
>> On a normal election day multiple races are attended to at each precinct,
>> with a dozen races in perhaps 4 different districts - how does this scheme
>> fit in?

Needs more thought:
      Keeping ballots the same means later voters will have lots of 
opportunity for useless votes.
      Changing them complicates getting absentee ballots out when wanted.

> Well, they would be included in the stages. I see no reason why not. 
> That is, the ballot would stay the same for all stages. There is no 
> extra cost for this, as far as I can anticipate. Because of the 
> possibility that a margin would be great enough that statistically it is 
> nearly certain -- or even impossible -- for the outcome to change 
> through the last stage, indeed, costs might be lowered by eliminating 
> that stage and replacing it with a mail-in ballot that would be used for 
> other purposes, such as campaign finance. But this wouldn't happen, I 
> think, with many-candidate ballots. Still, it could save voter time, 
> perhaps.
> But, to my mind, the value of a good election outcome is much greater 
> than the costs for any of the election methods I've seen. Cost arguments 
> are, again, a red herring. Election costs are trivial compared to the 
> sums that will be handled and allocated by the victors; the most 
> significant election cost, which is often neglected, is voter time at 
> the voting booth and waiting to get there. This cost is enormous, it 
> dwarfs, in fact, in value, what is normally spent on campaigning.

And the voting gets complicated by each voter needing to get to the polls 
ON THE DAY THAT voter is to vote.
  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.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list