[EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 2

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Sat Dec 20 11:19:02 PST 2008

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax   > Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:42 AM
> LNH, has, I think, been pretty widely misunderstood. I don't consider 
> it desirable *at all*. That is, it interferes with the very desirable 
> process of compromise that public elections should simulate.

I don't have time to read any of the extended essays that now feature on this list, but these two remarks in a recent post caught my
eye and I could not let them pass.

LNH may well be pretty widely misunderstood, but Abd's view that it is not desirable at all conflicts with my experience of the
reaction of ordinary electors.  When preferential voting systems are first introduced to them, it is a common reaction for them to
say "I'll vote only for my first preference because any later preference would count against my most preferred candidate".  It is
only when it is explained to them that under the counting rules that will actually be used, a second or later preference can never
harm their first preference, that they begin to see the merit in marking all the preferences they really have.  So Later-No-Harm
does seem to be important to ordinary electors, at least here in the UK.

There are two very different situations in which to consider Abd's assertion that purpose of public elections should be to simulate
a process of compromise.

Taking the general first, where an assembly of some kind is being elected (e.g. city council, state legislature, House of
Representative, Federal Senate), the fundamental requirement in a representative democracy is for such an assembly to be
representative of all significant viewpoints among those who vote (as expressed by their votes for the candidates who offer
themselves for election).  So the purpose of such an election should be to reflect that diversity.  It should not be the purpose of
the election to manufacture some consensus in the determination of the candidates who are to be elected.

Reflecting the diversity of voters' views is, of course, impossible when a single winner is required in a single-office election
(e.g. city mayor, state governor).  In this situation there MAY be a case for suggesting that one of the purposes of the public
election should be to simulate compromise.  However, even then, most of our voters would expect the winner to be the candidate who
has a majority of the first preferences even if some other candidate had greater overall "compromise" support, i.e. they would
expect LNH to apply and operate.  When there is no majority winner they may well be prepared to take a compromising view, but there
are some very real difficulties in putting that into effect for public elections.

James Gilmour

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