[EM] reply to venzke - range "random skewing" effect is not a problem

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 14 09:40:25 PDT 2007

At 02:03 AM 3/14/2007, Juho wrote:
>On Mar 13, 2007, at 21:20 , Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>I really think this should be realized: I expect, at least
> > initially, major party supporters to vote under Approval exactly
> > the same as they currently vote under Plurality. Almost all will
> > bullet vote.
>This sounds to me like you are close to the third style of using /
>seeing the Range method (that I defined in my mail). => "3) accept
>the elections to turn into Approval like elections as a result of
>widespread Approval style voting". With two major parties Approval
>and bullet voting are about the same thing.

Yes. But that does not mean that the "election has been turned into 
Approval." Because in a two-party system, the parties tend to parity, 
more or less, making election swing on independent voters. Who would 
*not* vote simple Approval in Range elections.

If even one voter votes an intermediate vote, and it turns out that 
the election hinges on this vote, would you still claim that it was 
an Approval election? In fact, my guess is that many Range elections, 
if you analyzed them into Approval style votes and ballots containing 
intermediate votes, would turn on the intermediate votes, even if a 
large majority of voters voted Approval style.

So why would you even call this an "Approval-like election." It would 
be an election that includes Approval votes, and it could be said 
that Range is like Approval in many ways, but clearly the behavior 
would be different.

I think, however, that Approval and Range in single winner elections 
will *usually* pick the same winner. I'd bet that Warren's 
simulations show this, it would be interesting to see how true it is.

>One could thus use the Range method in different ways: 1) use it in
>non-competitive elections, 2) allow strategic/exaggerating/"sincerely
>strong opinion" voters to have more say and make their favourite win
>with improved likelihood, 3) accept the elections to turn into
>Approval like elections as a result of widespread Approval style voting.

Those are not different ways. The first is a different context, the 
others both apply in a Range election, except, of course, that I 
don't accept that a Range elections have been turned "into Approval 
like elections" merely because Approval style voting is "widespread." 
Only if it could be seen that non-Approval votes were almost always 
moot would I agree that the election has become "Approval-like."

And I have no problem if the electorate decides not to use the 
flexibility of Range. But Warren's little experiment with Range as an 
exit poll, while certainly not conclusive as to how voters would 
behave in real elections, shows an indication that most voters will 
use the Range flexibility. Yes, in a real election, with substantial 
attempts to "educate" voters undertaken by partisans, I'd expect many 
voters to retreat for that. But many voters, significant numbers of 
them, would not be so influenced.

If I think of how I'd have voted in 2000, were it Range, and I have 
strong opinions and am not shy about trying to turn them into 
reality, I come up with this:

Gore 100
Green 100
Libertarian 50
"Conservatives" 0
Bush 0

(I've used faction names rather than candidates because, for example, 
my opinion of Nader drastically dropped because of his intransigence 
in 2000, but if not for that -- and it would not have been a problem 
had the election been Range -- my rating would be higher. I'm 
generally "Progressive" -- but with a libertarian streak that is less 
trusting of big government solutions than most progressives might be.)

Had, say, a conservative like Barry Goldwater been on the ballot, I 
might have rated him higher than 0.

Ultimately, I support, strongly, libertarian principles, but do not 
judge society as being ready for them (if, indeed, it is ever ready). 
However, the proper field for libertarian action is *outside* of 
government, the whole FA/DP concept is rigorously libertarian.

> > I don't know how many times this nonsense has been repeated. "Range
> > becomes Approval." No, Range will *never* become Approval unless
> > you can somehow get all the voters to not express intermediate
> > ratings.
>This however confused me. In the beginning of the mail you assumed
>that almost all will bullet vote (which I interpreted to be in line
>with Approval).

What I expected, and stated, is that supporters of the major parties, 
which by definition covers a majority of voters, even a 
supermajority, will largely vote Approval style.

But that is not the whole election. Largely, more or less by design, 
these two factions cancel each other out, and elections hinge on 
"swing voters," and these voters will quite frequently vote 
intermediate votes, using the Range flexibility.

Get it? Come on, it's not that difficult!

The Range voters are quite likely to turn the election. So how can 
you say that the election has reduced to Approval?

>  But here the interpretation is maybe that a
>considerable part of the voters will vote with intermediate ratings.
>For me majority voting in Approval style and some voting with
>intermediate rankings means "close to Approval".

But it is not. It is significantly different from Approval.

(Note, however, that all Range elections are, in some sense, "close 
to Approval." Approval is a Range method! -- and the only difference 
is that Approval has a Range of 0, 1, or the equivalent, and "Range" 
is generally used to apply to a wider range of choices.)

>Btw, note that also in Approval voters are allowed to cast weak
>votes, that is empty votes. Ratings based methods are just more fine

Yes. Weak votes are of two kinds in Approval, and when they are weak, 
they are maximally weak, i.e., moot. They are votes in the pairwise 
elections where both candidates are either approved or not approved.

(Likewise Plurality does something similar, except it extends the 
weakness of voting for more than one by applying it to all pairwise 
elections instead of just the ones between approved candidates. One 
more reason to consider tossing overvotes a totally silly practice....)

> >> The achieved results of
> >> Approval voting are not very bad in terms of achieved social utility.
> >> The worst scenarios are ones where some parties/groupings vote in
> >> Approval style while others do not. In these cases it seems obvious
> >> that the social utility would not be good.
> >
> > It is not obvious at all.
>I referred to cases like 35:D=100,R=90 65:R=100,D=90 where the social
>utility of R can be claimed to be higher than the utility of D. If
>strategic voting is used only by D supporters (35:D=100,R=0), then D
>wins and achieved utility is considerably worse than with sincere votes.

Worse for whom? Once again, we see an assumption that voters have 
some hidden "sincere vote" which they *with no understanding that 
utility will be harmed" do not vote, instead they vote some other 
ratings. Why? I'm claiming that it is a contradiction. They will vote 
"strategic" only if they believe that they benefit by it. And if they 
believe that they will benefit by it, *then it is sincere.*

If they believe that they will suffer if the election considers their 
"sincere" votes, those sincere votes must be artificially high, is my point.

It's like answering the question of "How much would you pay for this 
object," and I say, "$50."

"Okay, here is the object, you can have it for $50."

"No, that's too expensive, I can't afford it. I don't want it at that price."

What was insincere? I'd say that the bid was insincere. And in this 
case, this would be the supposedly sincere vote which is different 
from how the voter actually votes.

What is being said here is that, supposedly, the election of an 
option is worth $20 to a voter, compared to $100 for another option. 
If there are only two options, it's clear what a "strategic" vote 
would be, it would be $0 and $100.

I'm claiming that this is actually a sincere vote. The $20 would only 
be "sincere" if there is another pair in the election, considered not 
merely as a moot entry on the ballot, but a real possibility and the 
voter is willing to pay $20 for that option, compared to 0 for the 
third option.

"Sincere" Range votes are not fixed. Range is immune to *truly 
irrelevant candidates* but not to ones which are considered possible 
winners. Range technically satisfies the irrelevancy criteria, but 
probably not as voters will actually vote it. That is, if you 
eliminate a non-winner from a Range election, keeping the ballots the 
same, it will not change the election result. But *actually* remove 
some non-winners from an election, in a real election, so that they 
are not on the ballot, and the results might shift. And this is quite 
proper behavior.

Range ratings aren't absolute numbers, so that we can say that there 
is some number which is "sincere," and that does not change with 
context. They are relative ratings, and the context includes the 
*entire* context, including the assessment of how others will vote. 
In my opinion, truly "sincere" balloting, where the voter still 
considers the range of options on the ballot and rates candidates 
accordingly, without any consideration of how others will rate them, 
shouldn't be used to determine winners!

Consider the pizza election. Easily the pepperoni could win, even if 
the voters, knowing about the strong preference of that kosher voter, 
would change their votes. (But Range *would* give that kosher voter a 
better shot at being satisfied, so it is better even for 
deterministic elections.)

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