[Election-Methods] RE : Re: IRV ballot is at least as fair as FPTPballot

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Thu Dec 27 04:14:56 PST 2007

Kevin Venzke  > Sent: 27 December 2007 02:16
> --- James Gilmour <jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk> a écrit :
> > As I have said
> > before, and in other EM threads, the preferences recorded on an IRV 
> > ballot are CONTINGENCY choices.  It would be a great help to all these 
> > discussions if both proponents and opponents of IRV would recognise 
> > this historical fact.
> It doesn't seem to me that one would need to understand the 
> mentality or history behind an election method in order to 
> judge it against other methods. It isn't really "the thought 
> that counts" with election methods.

OK, but that was not the criticism that was being made of IRV.  I am very happy to agree that in some circumstances a Condorcet
voting system may give a "better" result than IRV, but Condorcet is a different voting system from IRV and the preferences on
Condorcet ballots would be marked by the voters who were aware that the votes would be counted by Condorcet rules.  One crucial
feature of IRV is that the Returning Officer can give each and every voter an absolute guarantee that under no circumstances will a
later preference ever count against an earlier preference.  (This does seem to be important to UK electors  -  I cannot speak for
electors elsewhere.)  When the Condorcet winner and the IRV winner are different, it is at least debatable that in the Condorcet
count a voter's later preference has counted against that voter's earlier preference.  In system like Borda, where all the
preference information is used simultaneously, that criterion goes right out window.
> Maybe pointing out IRV's strategy advantages (i.e. lower 
> preferences are "contingency choices") would paint a broader 
> picture about IRV, but the fact that e.g. Dave Ketchum 
> doesn't value these advantages, doesn't in my mind undermine 
> his criticisms.

Dave's criticism was that IRV did not use all the preference information on the ballots in the way that Condorcet and some other
voting systems do.  That is not a valid criticism.  IRV "does exactly what is says on the tin".  In IRV, the preferences on the
ballots are contingency choices  -  no other interpretation is possible in IRV because that is the way IRV works.  So it is not
valid to say that IRV fails to make use of "all" the information on the IRV ballots when that voting system was not intended or
designed to do that.  And crucially, the voters would know that when marking their preferences on the IRV ballots.

It is, of course, perfectly valid to say that there are better ways than IRV of deciding the winner in a single-winner election.
And some of the alternatives will require the voters to mark preferences on the ballot papers which will then be counted in some way
differently from how the preferences on IRV ballots are counted.  But that is a totally different comparison of two (or more)
different voting systems.


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