[Election-Methods] Simple two candidate election

Juho juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Dec 20 22:07:33 PST 2007

I think there is no single definition of democracy in the sense that  
it would determine which voting method is the best (for all  
elections). Majority, Condorcet and random ballot are good answers  
but maybe for different questions (in some special cases even Range  
could be a correct answer).

One basic example is electing a (giant) pizza for a group that often  
eats out together. The correct answer might be to use random ballot  
and eat 49% of the times pizza A and 51% of the times pizza B. But  
when electing a political leader (with a strong mandate) to a country  
random ballot may not be the correct answer. If the support is e.g.  
45% Bush, 45% Clinton, 10% Hitler it may be better to just use a  
method where one elects randomly either Bush or Clinton (instead of  
electing Hitler with 10% probability). Even when we have 55% Bush,  
45% Hitler it may be better to just pick the majority favourite.

There are also other possible criteria. In some elections we may want  
to elect the alternative that people like a lot. In other elections  
we may want to elect the alternative that people dislike as little as  
possible. In the leader example above I obviously wanted (roughly) to  
elect a compromise that is ok to most of the citizens and that is a  
compromise rather than an extremist.

Sometimes there is no method that would meet the (possibly very well  
defined) needs e.g. due to problems with strategic voting and one has  
to pick a method that is closest to what one wants.

In short, different methods for different needs. Some methods are  
good for many types of elections but not necessarily for all.


On Dec 20, 2007, at 22:37 , Jobst Heitzig wrote:

> Dear Rob!
> As you may expect, I am not at all of the opinion that majority  
> rule is
> perfect, no matter how few options there are. The reason is simple: no
> majoritarian method can ever be democratic because it allows 51% of  
> the
> electorate to consistently keep the other 49% of the electorate from
> having any power at all, whereas a democratic method required  
> everybody
> to have the same amount of power. In this sense, majority vote is far
> from being "fair".
> The simplest democratic method in the two-options case, as with more
> options, is random ballot. In those unfortunate situations in which it
> cannot be guaranteed that both options are constitutional, random  
> ballot
> should perhaps be modied in a way which ensures that only an option  
> with
> at least, say, 5% support may win. (With more than two options, random
> ballot is of course not optimal since it does not encourage voter
> cooperation to elect good compromise options but rather elects polar
> options. D2MAC solves this problem while still being democratic.)
> Yours, Jobst
> rob brown schrieb:
>> My understanding has been that in a simple two candidate election,
>> there isn't any need for alternative election methods, and all the
>> issues that condorcet/approval/range etc attempt to solve simply
>> disappear.  A plain old majority vote is "perfect", as long as there
>> really are only two candidates.  There is no conflict between  
>> strategy
>> vs. sincerity, and there is a single Nash equilibrium -- which is
>> simply that everyone picks the candidate they prefer.
>> Is this controversial?  For instance, could a two candidate election
>> be improved by, say, collecting information about how *much* each
>> voter likes or dislikes the candidates in question?  Assuming at  
>> least
>> some honest voters, this approach might be able to improve the
>> "maximum net tangible utility" ("tangible" meaning we are only
>> counting the happiness with the results themselves, and ignoring such
>> less-measurable utility such as "feeling of fairness" or "elimination
>> of resentment" or "long term satisfaction with the election process
>> itself").
>>  My own opinion has always been that the (perceived?) fairness of
>> "everyone's vote counts the same" outweighs any desire for "maximum
>> net tangible utility."  I'd even go so far as to say that this would
>> be true even if we knew all votes were honest (say we put everyone on
>> a perfectly accurate lie detector).
>> So, I am quite happy with plain old majority vote for a two candidate
>> election.  But I am encountering those who seem to disagree with  
>> this,
>> and who don't seem to have the same concept of "fairness" as I do.
>> I'm curious if people here see this as a legitimately controversial
>> issue.
>>  Thanks,
>>  -rob
>> ----
>> various voting related stuff at karmatics.com:
>>  http://karmatics.com/voting/movienite.html
>>  http://karmatics.com/voting/bargraphs.html
>>  http://karmatics.com/voting/bars-demo.html
>>  http://karmatics.com/voting/rank.html
>>  http://karmatics.com/docs/collective-self-interest-fallacy.html
>>  http://karmatics.com/docs/evolution-and-wisdom-of-crowds.html
>> ----
>> Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for  
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> ----
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