[EM] On Naming and Advocacy

RLSuter at aol.com RLSuter at aol.com
Sun Jun 18 10:40:26 PDT 2006

Brian Olson wrote:

>Outside this list, I've been plugging "rankings and
>ratings ballots" as the generic label for the issue.
>I deliberately want to leave the back-end counting method
>vague due to the IRV - the world feud.

That's an important point. As voting methods as opposed
to counting methods, IRV and Condorcet are identical or
nearly so and will be seen that way by voters. They will
differ only if there are different ranking instructions,
such as "you must rank all candidates" or "you may rank
any two or more candidates equally." But assuming ranking
instructions are identical, the only differences in the
two are in how they interpret ballots after an election
to determine winners. Both take information from ranked
ballots and use it to simulate the results of voting
methods that are too complicated and time consuming
to be used in public elections. IRV simulates a series
of elections in which one candidate is eliminated after
each election, while Condorcet simulates an election
in which voters are presented with all possible pairs
of candidates and asked to choose the one in each pair
they prefer more.

>Virtual Round Robin vs. Instant Round Robin vs. Condorcet.
>IRR is too close to IRV and may lead to confusion. I
>suppose that's a desirable trait if you want to play on
>the credibility that IRV has in some places, but I don't
>want that. I haven't seen "IRR" in usage, but I may be
>missing a proper tour of the election methods canonical
>literature. Either way I think we should promote usage
>of a descriptive name over the dead-french-guy name.

You worry that the two methods will be confused if they
are similarly abbreviated, but abbreviations are introduced
only AFTER the phrases they represent are introduced. No
one but very careless readers will confuse them. IRV is no
more likely to be confused with IRR than NBA is likely to
be confused with NBC.

As for playing on the credibility IRV has in some places,
who is doing that? I'm not aware of anyone who is. The
point of using the word "instant" to describe both IRV
and Condorcet is to clearly show a fundamental similarity
of the two methods. As pointed out above, both take
information from basically identical ranked ballots and
use them to simulate the results of voting methods that
are too complicated and time consuming to be used in
public elections. As I argued before, IRV is no more
"instant" or any less "virtual" than Condorcet voting.
The same word should be used for both of them.

You also overlook the importance of using names that don't
unnecessarily favor one method more than another. But the
name you have chosen for Condorcet, "virtual round robin
tournament," disfavors it compared to IRV for two reasons.
First "instant" will sound much more favorable to most
people than "virtual." Instant brings to mind positive
qualities like streamlined and efficient, while virtual
brings to mind qualities like artificial and nerdy that
will seem negative to many people. Second, calling a method
a "tournament" brings to mind unserious qualities like
those people associate with games. It is arguably not
a good word to use to describe a serious voting method
unless your goal is to put it in an unfavorable light.

If you haven't seen "IRR" in usage, then you haven't been
paying much attention. It has been used on this list a
number of times. You also have apparently failed to check
it out with rudimentary search methods such as a quick
Google search. When I tried IRR and "voting method" I came
up with 110 hits. When I tried VRR and "voting method" I
came up with 7 hits, none of which appeared to refer to
Condorcet voting. When I tried "virtual round robin
tournament," I came up with three hits, two of which were
from your website. When I tried "virtual round robin
voting" I came up with zero hits.

As for the history of different names and abbreviations, I
doubt that anyone could give a very authoritative account
of them. I can tell you that I first heard IRR suggested as
a name about ten years ago by Steve Eppley on another list.
At the time, IRV had also not yet come into widespread
usage. People were calling instant runoff voting IRO or
other things. At the time, the Center for Voting and
Democracy had not settled on IRV as the best abbreviation
and only recently had become aware that advocating IRV
might be a good idea as a way of getting people to think
about proportional representation, which was a much bigger
issue with them at the time.

I agree that "we should promote usage of a descriptive name
over the dead-french-guy name," but the name you've chosen
for Condorcet voting and propose to permanently incorporate
into California law is not the one I believe we should
choose. I urge you to reconsider the wording you have
submitted, at least until you have gotten feedback from
enough Condorcet advocates to show that most are likely
to accept your proposed name.

-Ralph Suter

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