[Election-Methods] hypothetical question re: Approval

rob brown rob at karmatics.com
Sun Dec 30 20:11:59 PST 2007

In the spirit of keeping things stirred up here, I have a question for those
who advocate Approval.  Well, I guess if you don't advocate it, you are
welcome to answer it as well.  But I think this would explain a lot to me
about the benefits and drawbacks of Approval, if I understood how others
respond to this hypothetical situation.

Basically it is a question about whether Approval voting benefits if the
voters have perfect -- or near perfect -- information about how others will

Imagine a situation where there is an important, contentious election, that
will be held over the internet.  Please ignore the real world issues that
may make internet voting problematic, and assume all voters have
approximately equal access to the internet.  Assume that a large number of
people are voting (at least in the thousands), and that they are
specifically instructed to try to vote strategically. They further have the
general strategy of approval voting is explained to them...i.e. it makes
sense to vote for everyone you prefer to the current leader, and for the
current leader if you prefer that candidate to the current runner up.

Now, the question at hand is, do you allow voters to see the current totals?

If that option is chosen, let's assume that the following is implemented to
try to keep people from gaming it:  1) people can change their vote at any
time, up to once every 5 minutes, but they are not allowed to actually
"reverse" a previous vote * 2) the election will run for at least a few
days, but it will close at a random time over the course of a week.  (assume
that the time is truly random and no one will know when it is), 3) people
can look at not only the current totals, but also can easily view the
averages over any time period of their choosing.

So...does allowing people to see the current results cause problems?

I would guess that a possible downside is that it could make it susceptible
to cycles (i.e. feedback loops), causing people to keep having to change
their vote if they want to be maximally strategic.

The upside is that it does not give an advantage to someone for having more
information about the preferences of others than other voters do, since all
have the same information.

Any thoughts?

*what I mean by "reverse a previous vote" is to, say change a vote where you
approve A and disapprove B, to one where you disapprove A and approve B. In
other words you can change your threshold for approval, but you can't change
the order of your preferences. I could elaborate on this if it is not clear.
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