[Election-Methods] Bucklin

Jan Kok jan.kok.5y at gmail.com
Sun Dec 9 01:30:41 PST 2007

On Dec 7, 2007 7:54 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> The case in Brown v. Smallwood was one where the result
> overturned by the court was clearly just, and the reversal -- a long
> time after the election -- was very poor public policy. Problem is
> that the voters counted on the system, thus very likely did not first
> rank with standard plurality strategy.

Sorry, I haven't studied this case. Would you show the vote results,
and also explain what you mean by "the voters counted on the system,
thus very likely did not first rank with standard plurality strategy"?

> There was also a dissenting opinion in the decision,
> pointing out that there had been no legal opinion that Bucklin ...
> violated the one-voter, one-vote principle, and the FairVote claim
> that this was the basis of the decision is, shall we say,
> oversimplified.

Do you have any information about where this "one-voter, one-vote
principle" came from and what it really means?

I have previously done a couple of extensive Google searches for "one
person, one vote" and "one man, one vote." What I found was that this
referred to 1960s legislation requiring state house and senate
districts to have as nearly equal populations as possible. I.e. people
should have equal representation. Not have one district with 10,000
white people and another with 30,000 black people, each district with
one representative - a common situation at that time.

I just glanced at the Google results for "one voter, one vote
principle" and it seems to mean the same as 1p1v.

As far as I can tell, "one person, one vote" is about all people
having EQUAL REPRESENTATION. (And, ironically, the principle is
violated in the makeup of the US Senate and the Electoral College, not
to mention the original Constitution where slaves were counted as 3/5
of a person!) It has NOTHING TO DO with the form of the ballots (how
voters are allowed to indicate their preferences) and how the ballots
are counted to select winners. When 1p1v enters voting methods
discussions, it is usually a big, fat, red herring. However, 1p1v
would seem to _support_ proportional representation. So the federal
legislation prohibiting PR (for choosing US Reps?) is also ironic.

> A number of attorneys in positions of public trust have issued opinions that
> Brown v. Smallwood applies to Instant Runoff Voting, and we will
> probably see, soon, court challenge of the Minnesota implementation of IRV.

The phrase "poetic justice" comes to mind, as applied to FairVote.
Unfortunately, we, the people, would all lose if BvS is used to block
all departures from Plurality voting.

> There is no substantial
> legal opinion -- outside of interpretations of Brown v. Smallwooed --
> that Approval violates one person, one vote, since, in the end, only
> one vote counts, the one cast for a winner, or, alternatively, *no*
> vote on that ballot counts, i.e., affects the result. The necessary
> argumentation was already presented in Brown v. Smallwood by the
> dissenting justice.

Your argument effectively addresses the common (mis)interpretation of
1p1v. I think it is even more effective to point out that 1p1v is
really about equal representation, and not about voting methods
(ballot format, counting rules).

> No, voters in Duluth loved Bucklin, unless those appealing the
> decision were essentially lying. I'd love to find some newspaper
> articles on it.

Search for Brown NEAR Smallwood :-)

> Bucklin was working. No election method can magically
> create a majority  winner, unless voters are coerced into voting for
> a candidate that they might detest. Forcing voters to rank all
> candidates can be exactly this. "You *will* cast a vote for Adolf
> Hitler or Genghis Khan. But, hey, you are the voter, sovereign. You
> can choose." No, thank you.

Well, given the choices GW Bush, A. Hitler, and None of the Above
(NOTA), i would rank NOTA 1st and Bush 2nd. I would NOT truncate
before Bush, because if NOTA doesn't win, I still want to choose the
lesser evil!

I think NOTA would rarely, if ever, win in general elections. Many
people seem to think that the sun will fail to rise and life will
become impossible if every government office is not filled.

However, there is a situation where NOTA may win: the Libertarian
National Convention (and many state parties) includes NOTA on every
ballot. If it appears that Ron Paul (who was the 1988 Libertarian
candidate for US President, and is now running for President as a
Republican) will be chosen as the Republican nominee, the 2008
Libertarian National Convention may well choose NOTA for the
presidential candidate, in order to avoid taking votes away from Paul.

> But, of course, Bucklin is also worthy of the name "Instant Runoff
> Voting." It proceeds in rounds, just like IRV. If there is no
> majority winner in the first round, then there is a virtual runoff,
> an Approval election. The claim that Approval hasn't been used in the
> U.S. is bosh. Bucklin "runoffs" were Approval elections.
> On the one hand, FairVote wants to make us think that Approval is an
> untried method, never mind many centuries of use (like 500 years?) in
> Venice, never mind elections of the Pope for centuries, and, of
> course, never mind Bucklin.

Rob Richie himself said that Bucklin is a form of Approval voting, in
his presentation to the Colorado Voter Choice Task Force.

Of course, he also said that Bucklin had "failed" because most voters
would not specify a second choice. ("Only" about 12 or 13%, in one

> On the other hand, when it suits some of them, it is claimed that
> early U.S. presidential elections were a form of Approval. If so,
> it's nothing like any form of Approval I've seen. The essence of
> Approval is that one may vote for or against all candidates; in the
> simplest implementation, a blank is considered a No vote. In the
> early elections, in the electoral college, electors had two votes to
> cast, and there would be two winners. That's not Approval, that is
> multiwinner Plurality (actually, majority, a majority was required),
> with two votes for two winners. Routine, actually. FairVote has
> promoted the article written by Nagel on the so-called Burr Dilemma,
> which is an invented and imaginary dilemma that supposedly would face
> electors in that situation. In fact, both candidates won, with no
> sign of defection. The problem is that the electors voted as
> promised, in the party system that had developed, so both candidates
> were tied, both with a majority, throwing the election into the
> House, where the rules were different, in order to choose which one
> would be President. Not Approval at all, but Nagel simply states over
> and over that it is. Makes one wonder about "peer-reviewed"
> publications.... by political scientists. (The scientists aren't at
> fault, really, it's the *process*, a familiar theme of mine.)
> (Nagel argues that the dilemma does exist in Approval elections that
> are pure approval, and Warren Smith seems to have bought this
> argument. But if one looks, as I did above, at the scenarios where
> such a supposed conflict would exist, it doesn't make sense. Smith
> also seems to think that Approval is vulnerable to the Burr dilemma,
> but Range is not. He seems to forget that strategic voters in Range
> will typically vote approval-style; Range gets its performance
> improvement over Approval from, actually, very few voters voting
> intermediate votes. In fact, from my own study, it appears that *one
> voter* may bring substantial improvement from a certain point of
> view. Thus if the Burr Dilemma actually applied in any significant
> way to Approval Voting, it would also apply to Range. But it does not.)
> I find Bucklin interesting because it solves the spoiler effect
> through an Approval-type mechanism, but it begins, in the first
> round, as a standard majority-required election, as it was originally
> implemented, and, even if multiple votes are *allowed* in the first
> rank, voters don't have to use that option, allowing flexibility if
> it *does* happen that there are three front-runners.

I have no objection to Bucklin, if multiple first choices are allowed.

As someone who frequently votes for third party candidates, I do
object (somewhat) to the single-first-choice version of Bucklin,
because it fails the Favorite Betrayal Criterion. Suppose the
candidates and 1st and 2nd round expected vote results are:

 2%, 10% My Favorite
49%, 55% Good
49%, 56% Awful

It's really a race between Good and Awful. My Favorite has no
realistic chance of winning. I would rather have Good than Awful. So I
am pressured to "betray" My Favorite and vote Good as my first choice,
hoping to push Good over 50% in the first round.

One might argue that there is no good reason for the Good and Awful
voters to vote for the other frontrunner as their second choice. But
even if that was true, real voters are not perfectly rational! Many
voters will just see the horserace aspect of the election and do
whatever they can to help their preferred frontrunner. "Whatever they
can" = vote for their preferred frontrunner as their first choice.

> Bucklin, because it satisfies the Majority Criterion, may be more
> palatable than pure Approval.

I think there are several versions of "the" Majority Criterion. Which
one are you using?

Well, I consider almost any form of Bucklin more palatable than IRV,
and of course it is better than Plurality.

- Jan

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