[Election-Methods] Simple two candidate election

Jan Kok jan.kok.5y at gmail.com
Sat Dec 22 20:04:59 PST 2007

On Dec 21, 2007 1:02 PM, rob brown <rob at karmatics.com> wrote:
> On Dec 21, 2007 7:41 AM, Jan Kok <jan.kok.5y at gmail.com> wrote:

> > Here's another, similar scenario. The choices are:
> > A. All people pay income tax in proportion to their income.
> > B. People whose last names begin with A through F pay twice as much as
> > they would in option A, and the rest pay $1 less than they would in
> > option A.
> > A simple majority vote would choose B.
> Well, again, I think representative democracy is the way we address such
> things, not direct voting on individual issues, which simply breaks down on
> things like that, Range voting or not.  If a candidate put such a thing on
> his platform, every single A - F voter would show up at the polls, and vote
> his ass out. And then they'd probably stop by his house on the way home and
> burn it to the ground.

:-) A good illustration of people having a "strong preference", eh? :-)

> G - [Z] voters wouldn't care as much, and would tend to concentrate on other
> issues on the candidates' platforms.

... vs. having a weak preference...

> Also, remember in such calculations of utility, the "tangible utility" is
> not the only factor.  For the winners, it might be.  For the losers, in
> addition to the financial hit of having to pay more taxes, they have the
> resentment of being treated unfairly. And this would not be matched by an
> equal positive utility on the part of the people who profited by this
> scheme.  Humans have a deep seated sense of fairness, that simplistic
> "tangible utility" calculations tend to ignore.
> (incidentally, even monkeys have this sense of fairness which goes beyond
> tangible utility: http://www.primates.com/monkeys/fairness.html )
> > Range Voting
> > with honest voters is more likely to choose A. But if the G-Z voters
> > strategically exaggerate their preference for B, then the result is
> > the same as majority vote - no worse.
> I have a hard time thinking that people who would vote for something that
> unfair, would then "de-weight" their preferences just to be nice (really,
> think about that).
> More likely, they'd think "plan B's f*cked up" (recognizing that it would
> cause a huge amount of anger and societal strife that doesn't make their $1
> savings worthwhile) and vote for A.
>  I understand what you are getting at, but whether you use your extreme
> example or a more realistic one, you have the same problem:
> you are assuming that people will be selfish in which they vote for, while
> at the same time altruistically de-weighting that vote.  That doesn't
> compute for me.

> Abd wrote:
>>    The candidates are, in this order, Pepperoni, Mushroom, Anchovy.
>>    The votes are:
>>    100, 90, 0
>>    100, 90, 0
>>    0, 100, 50
>>    The Condorcet winner is Pepperoni, and this is the first choice of a
>>    2/3 majority. However, Mushroom is the Range winner. Critics of Range
>>    assert this -- without giving a concrete example -- as a flaw in Range.
>>    However, let me put it this way. If this group chooses Pepperoni, it
>>    is quite probably going to have one less member.
> Of course in a small group there are much different dynamics.
> Reciprocity comes into play. People tend to be a lot more
> altrusitic towards their friends or people they are close to.
> I think these issues are quite a bit different in larger elections.

I think it's not exactly a matter of large vs. small elections.

I think it's a matter of how much empathy the voters have for the
minority. And certainly voters fall into a broad spectrum, from
extreme selfishness and shortsightedness (not recognizing that they
could be in the minority some other time) through great empathy and
generosity. (The cynical libertarian in me demands that I add "with
other taxpayers' money" to the previous sentence. :-)

Anyway... it seems we can tune these examples to appeal to more  or
less selfish voters. For example, what if I substituted "cancer" for
MS in my earlier MS-vs.-cold cure example? Then I think most people
would prefer to cure cancer. What if it was "breast cancer"? Then
maybe some misogynist men would prefer to cure colds.

And given that voters would be distributed on a spectrum from strongly
supporting one option to being undecided or not caring either way, to
strongly supporting the other option, I think it quite plausible that
some voters could choose to vote a weak preference, or not vote at all
(which happens all the time, of course).

> > Would voters vote "honestly" with intermediate values, thus
> > voluntarily "weakening" their vote under Range Voting?
> >
> > Warren D. Smith's 2004 exit poll study showed that a surprisingly high
> > fraction of the respondents (about 75% if I recall) voted with other
> > than max and min values.
> Sure, they might well do so in the first few elections.  Until their
> candidate loses, and they realize that some on the other side had more
> "voting power" because they voted with max values.  They would feel
> suckered.  Then they'll say "screw this being nice crap" and from then on be
> strategic voters.

Yes, some people might vote weak preferences in their first Range
Voting election, then "learn their lesson" when their preference lost
and they would vote strongly thereafter. But I sort of wonder about
the intelligence of people who would cast a *weak* vote for some
choice X, and then get upset when X lost. What were they thinking when
they voted?!? Unfortunately, those same people would probably blame
the loss on the voting method and lobby to go back to Plurality
voting. Sigh. Of course the same thing could happen with any voting

> I highly doubt Warren tested this long term effect.  Or even thought much
> about it.  In Warren's world, if you can't assign a hard number to it, it
> doesn't exist.
> The fact is, a system that expects people to vote with "less than full
> strength" is about as far from a Nash equilibrium as you can get.  Does he
> really think that, over time, it isn't going to gradually move toward that
> equilibrium?  That people will put up with being suckered time after time?
> He might want to talk with some of my friends who voted for Nader in 2000
> (they will say "Ok, no more 'voting my conscience'. Strategy from here on
> out").

I've been voting for third party candidates whenever possible since I
became politically active in 1988. I still haven't learned my lesson,
I guess. The fact that there are routinely a few percent of votes for
third party candidates even in high profile, two-party dominated
Plurality elections shows that there would likely be *some* use of
intermediate scores in Range Voting elections over a long period. Some
of those third party voters might be young and naive. But some of us
just don't see much difference in quality between the major party
candidates most of the time.

> > I personally have voted on bylaws or platform issues at political
> > conventions, where I wanted to cast a weak vote rather than a strong
> > yes or no vote. The reason was that I had only a weak opinion, and
> > would have preferred to let those with strong opinions have their way
> > - but if nearly everyone had only weak opinions, then I might as well
> > register my opinion and participate in the decision.
> >
> I can appreciate that, but i think people's likeliness to "de-weight" their
> vote decreases as the number of voters gets higher.  A single voters vote
> already has microscopic effect on the outcome.  Will people really want to
> reduce that further?

You're saying that in large elections people will act more selfishly
and try to maximize the effect of their vote? Perhaps... but as I
mentioned earlier, there will always be people who are undecided or
who have only weak preferences. Those are the people who would be most
likely to cast weak votes. Maybe they would give 0's to all the
candidates, just to say "You all suck!" That might be more satisfying
than just turning in a blank Plurality Voting ballot.

Would I cast a weak range vote in a presidential election with just
two candidates? Probably not. Usually I would vote max for the one I
slightly prefer and min for the other. But suppose both major parties
had conspired to eliminate all the other candidates from the ballot?
Then I might give 0's to both candidates (or a 1 to the one I slightly
preferred). And I'd write in the name of someone I liked, if write-ins
were allowed.

By the way, I'm not about to go on a crusade to implement Range Voting
for two-choice elections. I don't think the benefit of perhaps
slightly better outcomes would be worth the effort and cost. I'm just
responding to Rob's question: Yes, I think there could be _some_
benefit, sometimes, to using RV in binary-choice elections.

With 3-or-more choice elections, I think the benefits of Range Voting
would be HUGE. I AM on a crusade for that!

- Jan

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