[EM] A solution for incomplete preference orders

mrouse1 at mrouse.com mrouse1 at mrouse.com
Sat Jan 6 11:23:16 PST 2007

James Gilmour wrote:
>> mrouse1 at mrouse.com> Sent: 06 January 2007 16:39
>> One partial solution is to require all candidates for an office give a
>> complete preference order before the election, which will also be
>> indicated on the ballot itself. This ranking would be used to
>> complete all ballots without a full preference order.
> This is essentially what already happens with "above the line voting" in
> Australian STV elections.  This is OK if you are happy to give this
> power to the parties (the real power behind the candidates).  But the
> main attraction of STV-PR for me is that it has the potential to shift
> the balance of power  -  reducing the power of the parties and
> increasing the power of the voters.  To me the Australian "above the
> line voting" is a travesty  -  they have turned STV-PR into a
> closed-list party-list PR system with a little bit of STV tagged on.
> James Gilmour

I just read a bit about "above the line voting," and I did see a few
problems with that particular method. The main one is, you either vote for
a single party above the line, or rank everyone (and there can be dozens)
below the line. There are some reforms mentioned, like ranking the parties
above the line and "only" having to rank fifteen people below the line if
you want to go that route, but apparently they are not universally used,
and would still be a major pain for voters.

Another problem is that most areas allow parties to have multiple tickets
-- you could have Greens designate 66% of the second place vote to one
group, and 33% to another. This could make figuring out where your vote
was going freakishly Byzantine -- again, annoying voters.

I was thinking more along the lines of the current U.S. system, which has
single-member districts -- you only have to worry about one Democrat, one
Republican, one Green, one Libertarian, one Joe Lieberman (heh), and so
on, rather than multiple members of a party, all of whom might be elected.
With the method I mentioned, you could pick one person, rank several
people, or rank everyone, and only those preferences you ignored would
reflect the opinion of your top choice. I could put my favorite candidate
in the top place, the most hated candidate in the bottom position, and
have all the other spots filled automatically if I wished. I would also
make it so a candidate must have a single preference -- he or she could
still order his opponents strategically, but at least the voters would
have more of a chance to figure out what preferences they needed to put on
the ballot.

(BTW, I'm aware of some of the advantages party list methods have over
single-winner districts, but I'm looking more toward proxy-type voting,
where one representative could have several times the political power of
another. This would do more to seriously weaken political parties than any
other method short of outlawing them, since surplus votes for a candidate
would never be wasted. You don't need a dozen Greens of varying ability
when you can have one Green of exceptional ability and 12 times the
political power.)

Thanks again for directing me to the Australian method, since the
arguments for and against it are interesting.

Michael Rouse

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