[EM] Trees and single-winner methods

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 15 08:18:58 PDT 2007

At 01:45 AM 3/15/2007, Juho wrote:
>I see candidate withdrawal related problems to be quite different
>from what I see in the proposed three based method. The biggest
>problem I see in candidate withdrawal is that if the person/group
>that makes the decision on withdrawal already knows the given votes,
>then it is possible to decide the winner in a small group, partially
>bypassing the opinions that the voters expressed in the ballots. This
>also opens the door to horse trading or even blackmailing. The
>proposed method at least is based on giving full information to the
>voters already before the election and letting the voters decide.

One person's horse trade is another's sensible compromise.

Suppose that an election is held and there are three candidates. 
Let's suppose that the rules are approval and/or rull ranked, perhaps 
Condorcet, but, as alleged by some could happen, everyone bullet 
votes. And the three candidates have equal support. What would you do 
with this election? Elect the candidate with the most votes, even 
though that would mean electing a candidate who was only approved by 
one-third of the voters? Or if there was an exact tie, choose the 
winner by lot, which still has the same result -- a minority-approved 
winner. And it could be a lot worse if there were more than three 
roughly equal candidates!

Now, suppose that a candidate can reassign his or her votes to 
another. If any two of these candidates can agree on who should win, 
we'd have a winner who, for two-thirds of the voters, it is true that 
they either chose the winner or the winner was chosen by someone who 
they preferred as the winner. That seems to me to be *far* better 
than choosing without such a reassignment.

And it could get even better if the candidates holding 
redistributable votes are not limited to candidates who were in the 
original election. That is, two of the original candidates could 
possibly agree on a *different* candidate who, had this candidate 
been in the election, would actually have gained a majority. Or at 
least the two think that this is a good compromise.

Now, with Asset Voting, all this could be possible. I expect that 
there would be *many* candidates and others perhaps holding write-in 
votes; Asset Voting essentially creates an ad hoc electoral college, 
without the inequities and other problems of the existing electoral 
college. With many holders of vote assets, we essentially have a new 
election process, but it can be fully deliberative. (I generally 
consider bargaining to be an aspect of deliberation, but some 
political scientists classify it as a third process, along with 
aggregation and deliberation.)

Of course, you could do as some jurisdictions do: prohibit truncating 
ballots, using a ranked ballot, and likewise prohibit equating 
candidates (for equating in last place is equivalent to truncating, I 
think). In other words, force them to choose. I find this highly 
undesirable, actually offensive. It creates the *illusion* of a 
majority winner. If we are going to create a minority winner, at 
least we should be honest about it!

Now, suppose you don't like the possibility of secret deals. Aside 
from making private communication illegal -- a cut off their arms to 
prevent them from being broken solution -- secret deals can't be 
avoided entirely. After all, a candidate can withdraw *before* the 
election, based on some "secret deal." But consider an election 
process that is Asset, *but* whatever result comes must be ratified 
by the voters, if no majority winner emerged from the intial vote.

This would be somewhat similar to top-two, but without the 
inflexibility of top-two (which can pass over a centrist candidate). 
We have proposed that Range elections might have a ratification 
stage, or possibly a runoff between the Range winner and a Condorcet 
winner, if they differ. In this proposal with Asset, a runoff could 
be between a winner agreed upon by a majority of recast votes under 
Asset, and, say, a Range or Condorcet winner from the original 
election. (I have not thought about how Range could be integrated 
with this, I just mention it because it might be interesting.)

I disagree with those who refuse to consider deliberative process as 
election methods. To me, an "election method" is a like a black box. 
If we neglect the nomination process -- really we shouldn't --  we 
have as inputs to the black box markings on a ballot from voters, and 
the output is a choice between options open to selection. What 
happens in between defines the election method. And deliberation could be used.

I've noted before that standard deliberative process actually 
combines, if the participants want it, Range and Condorcet. The basic 
process of someone moves that so-and-so be elected, the motion is 
seconded, and then it is open to debate and amendment -- including 
amendment to name a different candidate -- should, followed by awake 
participants who can talk with each other -- select a Condorcet 
winner even if all the votes are Yes/No. This is because the 
participants can literally run every necessary pairwise election. 
(Most of those elections wouldn't be necessary, so it would be much 
more efficient than actually running every potential pairwise election.)

And it would satisfy Range with the provision that a majority could, 
as we have often suggested, reject the Range winner if they were not 
satisfied that the compromise involved was beneficial to the society involved.

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