[EM] Why the concept of "sincere" votes in Range is flawed.

Paul Kislanko kislanko at airmail.net
Mon Dec 1 16:19:49 PST 2008

Jonathan Lundell wrote:

On Nov 27, 2008, at 11:47 AM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:

> Jonathan Lundell wrote:
>> It's a reason that "(in)sincere" isn't very good terminology for  
>> everyday use; likewise "manipulation". They're fine terms when well- 
>> defined and used in the context of social choice theory, but they  
>> carry a lot of baggage. A voter is, in my view, completely  
>> justified in ignoring the name of the election method ("approval",  
>> for instance) and the instructions (vote in order of preference)  
>> and casting their vote strictly on the basis of how the ballot will  
>> be counted.
>> (Which is why I'm partial to ordinal systems; it seems to me that I  
>> as a voter can pretty easily order candidates without considering  
>> strategy, whereas the decision of where to draw the line for  
>> Approval, or how to assign cardinal values to candidates,  
>> explicitly brings strategy into the picture.)
> For ordinal systems, it's pretty easy to consider what a honest  
> ballot would be, assuming a transitive individual preference. "If A  
> is better than B, A should be higher ranked than B". It's not so  
> obvious for cardinal systems. What do the points in a cardinal  
> system mean? We can get some measure of a honest ballot by  
> transporting an ordinal ballot into a cardinal ballot: if you prefer  
> A to B, A should have a higher score than B. But other than that,  
> what can we do? This seems to be a problem of cardinal systems in  
> general, not just a particular implementation like Range (or  
> Approval, if you consider Approval Range-1).
> Thinking further, it would seem that cardinal systems can solve it  
> in two ways. Either the points are in reference to something  
> external ("how much would I like that X wins in comparison to that  
> nothing changes from status quo"), or it refers to a subjectively  
> defined unit ("how much do I 'like' X" for an individual definition  
> of "like"). I think ratings, as commonly (and intuitively) used, are  
> of the second part, but that leads to problems with the aggregation  
> of the points. If one voter likes many things and another likes only  
> a few, how do you compare the two preferences? Ranking gets around  
> that since it only asks about relative information (though one could  
> argue there's a very weak form of this problem with equal-ranking;  
> how different does your opinion have to be of two candidates before  
> you no longer equal-rank them?).

I don't really see a need for equal-ranking in a single-winner  
election. As a voter, I'm answering the question "if you were  
dictator, of this set of candidates, who would you choose?". I don't  
really need the option of naming two candidates to the same office; if  
I really have no preference between them, I can flip a coin, or choose  
the tallest, or ugliest, or whatever.

I agree with almost all of what Jonathan says except that "as a voter" (and
that's my main perspective) I _CAN_ see a need for equal rankings in a
method that requests my ordinal list of alternatives.


fairly precisely expresses what I was thinking when I voted. "Of the
lower-alphabet alternatives I prefer A, but if A doesn't win I prefer any of
the other top-alphabet alternatives to all of the lower-alphabet
alternatives, of which I prefer V to any of the others that I find equally

One can (and folks on this list often do) describe the > between one set of
=s and another as an "approval cutoff", but that is unnecessay if you have
fully ranked ballots with equal ranks allowed. From such collection
mechanisms one can count ballots by pretty much any method, which is why "as
a voter" I prefer a vote-COLLECTION method that allows ranked ballots with
equal ranks and truncation allowed, regardless of how votes are COUNTED.

(truncation actually is like A>B>C=D=...=M>(any not listed) which gives me
(the voter) the option of not having to think about which of the
alternatives I disapprove of I have to rank least-least desirable.)

PS. This is what I don't like about approval. In my generalized
voter-friendly ballot, Approval requires me to vote A=B=C=D... when I really
like A a lot better than the others. But that method doesn't have any way
for me (the voter) to tell it that I do. So no matter how an approval count
turns out, I'm likely to believe my vote didn't matter.

On the other hand, I think Approval is PERFECT for party primary elections,
since in addition to the voter's first preference with respect to the
candidates' positions on the issues, the voter has to think about how likely
her party is to win the general election. If she can vote her favorite and
the other candidates she "could live with" the party would be likely to
present better (non-polarizing?) alternatives for the general election.

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