[EM] The path to election reform, was Re:

Kevin Venzke stepjak at yahoo.fr
Tue Dec 2 17:32:10 PST 2008


--- En date de : Dim 30.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > Hello,
> > 
> > --- En date de : Mar 25.11.08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
> <abd at lomaxdesign.com> a écrit :
> > > What Approval sincerely represents from a voter
> is a
> > > *decision* as to where to place an Approval
> cutoff.
> > 
> > But is it not true that what *all* methods sincerely
> represent from a
> > voter are the decisions related to voting under that
> method?
> > 
> > If a decision makes sense in a given context, then
> that is a sincere
> > decision. Is that not your stance?
> No. My stance, or my current point of view, is that
> sincerity is a red herring. Votes are generally actions, not
> sentiments or even statements of truth. They represent,
> ordinarily, decisions.

Ok, so sincerity doesn't matter. It's a red herring, it's something not
to be dwelled upon.

> Under many voting systems, a voter may vote a preference
> that is not the voter's true preference, specifically,
> that *reverses* preference. The most common form of this is,
> of course, voting for a frontrunner in Plurality when one
> would prefer a different candidate *if that option were
> considered possible.* In the U.S., where write-in votes are
> generally allowed, this means that *almost always,* voters
> are voting *insincerely*

But this is subject to a certain interpretation of what sincerity means
under Plurality.

I'll say I agree with you, that Plurality creates incentive to reverse
preferences, and that this destroys information, all things being equal.

> There is only one system which truly allows "fully
> sincere voting," 

> The best writing on this that I've found, it's
> related to the Dhillon-Mertens work, is that of voting on
> lotteries. Which would you prefer, x% chance of A or y%
> chance of B? If you choose the latter, does it mean that you
> "sincerely" prefer B to A. No. It means that you
> prefer -- choose to support -- the outcome that represents
> the highest expected return, i.e., absolute value of the
> outcome times probability of the outcome. We vary from this
> kind of behavior for various reasons, but not too far.

Ok, but you can interpret voters to be voting for lotteries no matter
what the method is or even if it isn't a method but some other framework
for a decision. If the action is consistent with what you prefer, then
it is sincere.

However, this is a completely different notion of "sincerity" from what
we mean when we say that FPP encourages insincere voting in the sense
of "order reversal" in the sense of "voting for a candidate who isn't
your favorite in the abstract sense."

> In real elections, the voter makes choices based on two
> factors: personal utilities, which create preferences of
> various strengths, and outcome probabilities.

By the way, by "abstract" I'm referring to the personal utilities you
mention, minus outcome probabilities. [Later we will call these "accurate"

> With ranked
> methods, an "insincere vote" has a clear meaning,

No, as you just showed, there is no necessity to say that there are any
insincere votes at all, depending on how you define what people are doing
when they vote.

> it is one which, on its face, supports one candidate over
> another while, in fact, the voter prefers a different
> candidate. Voters vote this way in order, we can assume, to
> the extent that they do, in order to improve the outcome; a
> good method will not require or reward this. However, there
> is a class of methods which do not provide any incentive to
> reverse preference.

But it is only your choice to say that preference reversal is the
definition of sincerity.

You can cite an Approval advocate and also James Green-Armytage as
evidence that this could be the definition of sincerity, but it really
isn't helpful, if I'm trying to understand why this is a good and
useful definition.

> But there still is an incentive to equate preferences when
> the voter actually does have a preference. This has been
> called "strategic voting," in the basic meaning,
> confusing the hell out of the field, because originally
> "strategic voting" was used with respect to
> preferential voting systems and meant preference reversal,
> and thus strategic voting implied insincere voting. But
> setting an approval cutoff and voting according to that
> isn't *insincere*. It simply does not disclose a
> preference that the voter considers less important than
> voting effectively.

Ok, so we go back to the other definition. True, there is no need to say
that any kind of vote is "insincere" as long as the vote is considered

> Much of the fluff about Approval Voting has been based on
> the concept that there is some absolute Approval cutoff,
> that it can be assumed that voters "approve" one
> set of candidates and not another set, and that if the voter
> votes differently, then the voter is voting
> "insincerely" and the method can encourage this,
> and that therefore "Approval is vulnerable to strategic
> voting." But there is no absolute; what outcomes we
> "approve" is not a quality of the outcomes alone,
> but of our assessment of the probabilities of each.

Right. Depending upon what definition of "sincerity" you are using with
Approval, this is a problem.

> However, if we accept that restriction, and likewise accept
> distortion through round-off error caused by practical
> limitations, only a Range ballot collects the information
> needed to determine an optimized outcome, given
> "accurate" ballots, what others have called
> "sincere" ones.

Ok, we will really need to stick to these terms "sincere" and "accurate."
I will use "sincere" and "strategic" interchangeably because there is
really no difference. We must also have the concept of "strategically

> However, voters won't vote accurate ballots, for a
> number of reasons. I'd contend that we don't even
> know how to do it. Rather, we are *instinctively* programmed
> to consider probabilities. It's relatively easy for me
> to determine, of A and B, that I prefer one to the other.
> But then, introduce C. If A and B remain the favorite and
> least-favored, where do I rate C? When we try to think of
> Range Voting as involving "sincere ratings," then,
> we see the purported difficult of Range. There is no
> specific meaning to those intermediate ratings.

Ok. So Range ballots could permit the collection of information needed
to provide an "optimized outcome," if the voters are accurate, which
they won't be, because there is no specific meaning to the ratings they
can give.

> But when we simply think about Range Votes as fractional
> votes in an Approval election, that they are weights we are
> tossing in baskets, and the heaviest basket will win, we are
> instinctively able to do this kind of analysis. We do it all
> the time with any goal-seeking behavior. We don't
> necessarily put our efforts toward the ideal outcome, when
> we don't think it reasonably possible; rather, we devote
> our limited resources to an outcome that is an optimal
> combination of desirability and probability of success.

But that doesn't help us vote accurately, it only helps us vote sincerely/

> Because we can conceive of Approval Voting very simply, as
> representing a decision to support a set of candidates, all
> of whom are preferred over all non-supported candidates, and
> because Approval never rewards insincerity in this (i.e.,

Well, it never rewards *inaccuracy* in that respect, no. When you define
"sincerity" in contrast to "accuracy" then "insincerity" is actually
never rewarded in any context (unless the actor is mistaken in his

> including a candidate in the Approved set, when there is
> another candidate preferred to that one who is left in the
> unapproved set, or vice-versa), Approval is strategy-free,
> in the old sense, and this is why Brams introduced it as
> such.

In this discussion we probably should not use the term "strategy-free"
except in cases where there are no meaningful decisions.

> The voter sets the Approval cutoff at will, based on
> election probabilities, presumably, or just on pure personal
> preference (reasons other than affecting the outcome), and
> then will vote, we may assume, sincerely with respect to
> this.

Again, "accurately."

> This created chaos in the voting systems world; it offended
> many authors because there was a family of sincere votes,
> not just one. Suddenly there was no way to take a preference
> profile and determine from it, alone, a "sincere
> vote." One needed to make some other assumptions.
> Messy. But real.

Well, none of this matters much as long as we use consistent terms
when having a discussion.

> Range Voting creates "problems," because it
> allows the expression of critical information, preference
> strength. 

This is actually a problematic claim. It's trivially true, that Range
allows this expression. But so does a typewriter or a microphone. To
simply allow something, is not very valuable.

> If voters choose not to express this, they may,
> under realistic conditions, find some advantage. But what is
> the alternative? The alternative is much worse: don't
> allow that expression.
> Range, when voted
> "strategically," "degrades" to Approval.

And actually we can substitute the word "sincerely" with no problem.

> Which when voted "strategically,"
> "degrades" to Plurality

I don't agree with that. I've rarely heard that claimed. You can as
easily say that it degrades to Antiplurality.

> And Plurality is actually a much better method than
> we've given it credit for, 

I agree with this statement without even the qualifications that follow.

> when it is used within a
> generally functional political system.

> In any case, isn't it suspicious that voting for the
> favorite is considered "sincere" with Plurality,
> and not with Approval?

Maybe. As I tried to argue in a previous post, it requires assumptions
to say that a vote or specific manner of making a decision can be
"accurate" in some sense in the first place.

> What critics of Range would have us do is to continue to
> forbid the expression of preference strength, on the
> argument that some of us won't do it
> "sincerely," and thereby gain some advantage.
> Simulations show that, as I'd expect, Range continues to
> perform well with various levels of "incomplete
> expression," or "strategic voting."
> Because we can't be sure that all voters will vote
> "sincerely," something which is never,
> conveniently, defined, we should prevent all voters from
> voting accurately?

The answer probably depends on which critics you're talking about.

> Because some voters may "get what they want" by
> voting with full strength -- I thought that seeking to get
> what they want is what voters are supposed to do! --

Yes, if they're being sincere/strategic they are supposed to do that.

> we
> should require all voters to accept results that are,
> overall, inferior to Range Voting?

Well, you argued earlier that voters will only vote sincerely, and don't
know how to vote accurately. You stated that the various ratings don't
have inherent meaning. That's why accuracy is a red herring, surely.
This makes it confusing that you want voters to be allowed to do something
that they 1) cannot do and 2) ought not to do if I take literally your
last comment that voters are supposed to be trying to vote effectively.

> (1) Start counting all the votes, and the candidate with
> the most votes wins. I have yet to see anyone knowledgeable
> about voting systems who thinks that this would be a step
> backwards!

While I don't think it is a step backwards, I can imagine some arguments
against it. I think of the reasons why FPP isn't as bad as it ought to
be in theory, and consider which of those reasons might not apply under

Kevin Venzke


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