[Election-Methods] Fwd: FYI - FairVote MN Responds to LawsuitAgainst IRV

Juho Laatu juho.laatu at gmail.com
Thu Dec 27 14:02:55 PST 2007

On Dec 27, 2007, at 17:33 , James Gilmour wrote:

> Juho Laatu  > Sent: 27 December 2007 07:36
>> Condorcet methods are not very widely used today.
> Juho
> Are Condorcet methods used for any public elections today?  Have  
> they ever been used for any public elections?  I ask only because I
> am not aware of any examples, for public elections, and it would be  
> very helpful to know if there were some.

I don't maintain any such lists. But I'm not aware of any political  
country level examples.

>> Another reason why Condorcet methods are not used in wide scale today
>> is that there are quite number of them and it is not quite obvious
>> which one to take into use.
> In terms of achieving practical reform it is a serious problem that  
> that there are several methods and that there is no consensus on
> which to use.  I would add, that all of the completion methods are  
> complicated and would be much more difficult to explain to
> ordinary electors than, for example, the basic Condorcet principle  
> of pair-wise comparisons.

Yes, the "internal confusion" is a big problem.

Many of the completion methods are complicated but there are also  
some simple methods and I have often reminded people of their  
existence. My basic reference point at the "simple end" is minmax 
(margins). Results can be calculated by simple addition and the  
method has a clear and easy to understand utility function (=least  
additional votes needed to win all others). If all Condorcet methods  
are considered to be good then this one has also some additional  
benefits coming from its clarity and naturalness.

>> But Condorcet methods have the
>> interesting property that in some situations A may be preferred to B,
>> B to C and C to A.
> The possibility of such cycles is a very real problem (despite the  
> plethora of completion methods available).  This possibility, no
> matter how rare in practice, is likely to be ceased on by  
> politicians and party activists who are opposed to any reform of FPTP
> (simple plurality).  One simple and practical solution might be to  
> revert to IRV to break the Condorcet cycle, but I suspect that
> suggestion would go down like a lead balloon among the proponents  
> of Condorcet (and the proponents of other non-IRV voting systems).

Yes, promoters of other methods (or status quo) are likely to use the  
Condorcet strategic voting examples for their advantage. Probably  
that is a much bigger problem to Condorcet than strategic votes in  
actual Condorcet elections :-).

Sincere cycles themselves are not really a problem. They are just a  
natural mathematical property of summed opinions that are collected  
from multiple voters. The problem is only the strategic voting  
scenarios that in Condorcet are typically related to the cycles  
(sincere or artificially generated).

The correct method to manage the public discussions around strategies  
is maybe to just collect some solid material describing the facts and  
probabilities and level of strategic opportunities. Similar analysis  
of other competing methods is needed too.

In typical large scale public elections with independent voter  
opinion formation the strategic opportunities are really quite slim  
in Condorcet based methods.

>> I listed some of the problems of Condorcet methods above, but in
>> general Condorcet methods are really good general purpose single
>> winner methods for typical political elections.
> One further practical problem that you didn't mention is the  
> "political acceptability" to the electors of a Condorcet winner who  
> has
> very little first preference support.

Yes, maybe also this should be mentioned in a complete list. I didn't  
include this in my reply to Kathy Dopp since I already explicitly  
asked her if this kind of scenario would be ok to her.

My thinking is that different elections have different requirements.  
But Condorcet utility function (that allows also consensus candidates  
to win) is a very good utility function for general use in politics.  
If some political systems explicitly want some other style (and  
explain why) that is ok too.

>   Where the three front-runners are fairly evenly matched, it is a  
> completely different
> situation and I think it would be possible to persuade the  
> electorate that the result was "better" when the third-placed  
> "everyone's
> second choice" Condorcet winner took the seat.  But I would doubt  
> very much if we could persuade UK electors that the result was
> "better" if that Condorcet winner had very little first preference  
> support.  I cannot speak for the likely response of electors
> elsewhere, but I have come to this view based on many years of  
> promoting practical electoral reforms to UK electors.

Especially 1) politicians (that typically want to defend status quo)  
that are used to 2) a two-party oriented system and 3) single party  
government and 4) system where many people/officials at top layers  
are changed when government changes as their starting/reference point  
may find it strange that it is in theory possible to elect a  
candidate that has no first place support. That candidate seems to be  
coming from nowhere (not a single member in the party structure  
supporting her). In typical multi party systems election of  
compromise candidates in leading positions is probably in many cases  
what people expect to happen. Of course in any system politicians may  
fear any changes in the election rules since that might increase the  
probability of changing the "incumbents" to new entrants.


> James
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