[EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 1

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Dec 16 09:03:50 PST 2008

At 03:36 AM 12/15/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>At 02:29 PM 12/7/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>>>But your description confused me somewhat, regarding what's the 
>>>assembly and what's the electoral college.
>>The electoral college is simply a term for the collection of 
>>electors, who are public voters. It's similar to the U.S. electoral 
>>college, but these electors are chosen by voters directly, without 
>>contest. I presme that they would be required to register, they 
>>might get a number to be used by voters to specify them, there 
>>might e a pamphlet published with a list of registered 
>>"candidates," we might as well say "electors" because we may assume 
>>that they will all get at least one vote, should they vote for themselves.
>>In some systems there may be a minimum number of votes to actually 
>>qualify as an elector, but that is under "difficult conditions," I 
>>won't consider it here.
>Let me see if I got this right. If you were to elect a President 
>using Asset (I know, not a good way to use the method, but I'm 
>trying to keep it simple), it would go like this:

Well, it's not keeping it simple. Simple is: use Asset to create a 
proportional representation assembly. Handle officer elections there. 
That's the original design (by Lewis Carroll). (The method was STV, 
actually, and Asset was a tweak to handle exhausted ballots. But once 
you do that, you now have the possibility of single-vote asset, or of 
what I long ago proposed, FAAV, Fractional Approval Asset Voting. 
Most people would vote for one, but if you did vote for more than 
one, your vote was divided up. I.e., vote for three, each gets 1/3 
vote. Some people propose that for normal approval, but that's a 
terrible idea, because it makes those weak votes. Because no votes 
are wasted in Asset, fractional votes make sense from an Approval 
ballot. But bullet voting would be the norm, I'd expect. Why weaken 
your representative? But it should be up to the voters, and not 
tossing overvoted ballots is a benefit.)

Just for a single election, Asset may seem a tad cumbersome, but 
won't necessarily be in practice.

>- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.

That's right. Unrestricted; however, I'd require registration of 
candidates. This is in effect registering to become a public voter, 
an elector. If you get *any* votes, you have become that. Did you 
vote for yourself? That's fine, and it is secret ballot. Ah, did your 
wife vote for you? If you don't get two votes, is she in trouble. 
Some ask these questions, but the fact is that in places where direct 
democracy is practiced, this doesn't seem to come up as a big issue, 
and all votes (of certain kinds) in those places are public. There is 
a solution, but I won't clutter this up with it.

So there might be a booklet with all registrants who have chosen to 
pay a fee that covers printing costs. Cheap. I wouldn't prohibit 
voting for others, not in the booklet, but if you do, you might be 
wasting your vote. The problem with allowing unregistered votes is 
that they can be hard to identify, more than one person could have 
the same name, etc. So voting would be by candidate number, from the 
booklet. And one would vote for a candidate not in the book (didn't 
pay for it, or whatever), by the registration number that the 
candidate got when registering. Could be you, yourself.

>- Electors gather and deliberative body rules are used with a 
>threshold (to keep scaling problems from going out of hand).

What the electors do is up to them. It need not be a matter of law. 
However, whatever structure they set up isn't binding. What is 
binding is votes cast by electors in what might be a standing 
election for a time. Or it might be a series of ballots. These are 
public electors, the votes are public, so the security issues quiet 
down a lot. It could be a web site, electors are given an account 
there, and they vote there. They might be given a security code 
(password) with their registration; registration involved proof of 
identity. What would be legally binding would be the expressed intent 
of an elector at the time of an actual election, that is, the receipt 
of a quorum of votes for the office. For a single-winner election, 
the quota is over half of the electors.

(Yes, it could be an absolute majority. However, I'd make provision 
for nonparticipating electors, inactivity might result in temporary 
exclusion from the basis for majority.)

Okay, that's an election procedure. But how do the electors manage 
whom to vote for?

As I said, it's up to them. I've set up conditions for delegable 
proxy, one might note, and, as far as the legal system is concerned, 
it's possible that proxies could be assigned and use for voting. But 
I'm not sure this is actually a good idea. Rather, I'd give proxies 
no legal power, except to advise those who choose them.

So what does this accomplish? Isn't the problem of scale still there? 
Sure it is. Except that we have, in one step, reduced it. We may have 
reduced it very substantially, we just don't know how far it will go. 
The electors can choose to hold polls, they could even, in theory, 
assign their voting rights, as I mentioned, to a higher level Asset 
electoral college.

Or they can use, in the polls, whatever method they choose; in the 
end, the electors will vote as the choose, advised by whatever 
process they have set up. I would rather not tie their hands. They 
represent, collectively, all the voters, and if a majority of voters 
prefer to continue the damn process, let them. It's possible that 
status quo would continue unless a majority specifically decide 
otherwise. (Such as naming a caretaker President.) It could be that 
the electors would be required, if they don't find a decision by a 
deadline, to cast their votes in an STV election or other PR method 
election of a smaller college that would actually meet, but I dislike this.

>- When there's a majority, the President's elected. Otherwise the 
>process continues.

Yes. Full-on democratic deliberative process, with full 
representation of the electorate. Because the decision, here, is 
restricted, and because amalgamation of factions can take place 
independently (i.e., without floor debate), the problem of scale is 
different than with full direct democracy. But if in-person 
deliberation is required, then it's quite possible to put together an 
Asset Assembly that's small enough to function efficiently. That 
doesn't need to require unconditional transfer of votes, seats are 
created for deliberative purpose and direct voting could be maintained.

But the system might start with an irrevocable election of a 
traditional assembly for a term, it's just a more sophisticated form of STV.

>Something like that? Or is it
>- You vote for whoever you think would be a good elector.
>- Electors gather and discuss.
>- There's an STV vote (or some good single-winner method for 
>President) at the end and the winner wins.

I'd let them decide, actually. However, it could start with some 
default process in place. STV is fine, *but* a majority of those 
voting should be required. It's practical to hold large numbers of 
repeated elections, given the conditions, at minimal expense. That's 
what you sign up for when you register as an elector instead of 
simply voting for someone else. You gain participation, at the cost 
of participating. Single winner, actually, I'd use Approval Voting. 
Voters might start with tight approval cutoffs, bullet voting. But 
they would lower their cutoff gradually, watching as the numbers 
approach a majority. They would talk to the candidates, try to find 
other candidates they could approve, etc. The scale has been reduced, 
which makes all this more possible.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list