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

Aaron Armitage eutychus_slept at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 25 11:39:42 PST 2008

 > I do not think you have to be anywhere near the zero
> first-preferences Condorcet winner scenario to be in the
> sphere of "politically
> unacceptable".  I am quite certain that the 5% FP CW
> would also be politically unacceptable, and that there would
> political chaos in
> the government in consequence.  The forces opposed to real
> reform of the voting system (big party politicians, big
> money, media
> moguls, to name a few) would ensure that there was chaos,
> and the electors would have an intuitive reaction against a
> weak Condorcet
> winner so they would go along with the demands to go back
> to "the good old ways".

That depends on how soon after the switch this election happens.
Getting "5% of the vote" is not a meaningful concept in a Condorcet
election; the meaningful concept is getting X% vs. a particular other
candidate. It's only by thinking in terms of plurality that this looks
like a problem, because in plurality you're "voting for" one candidate
rather than ranking them, a conception of voting that IRV retains despite
the fact that it allows multiple rankings.

> > The primary battle between Clinton and Obama here
> presents a strong 
> > argument for getting rid of Plurality elections -
> better for them both to 
> > go to the general election fighting against their
> shared foe, McCain. 
> This represents a VERY idealistic view of politics  -  at
> least, it would be so far as the UK is concerned.  NO major
> party is going
> into any single-office single-winner election with more
> than one party candidate, no matter what the voting system. 
> Having more
> than one candidate causes problems for the party and it
> certainly causes problems for the voters.  And there is
> another important
> intuitive reaction on the part of the electors  -  they
> don't like parties that appear to be divided.  They like
> the party to sort
> all that internally and to present one candidate with a
> common front in the public election for the office.  But
> maybe my views are
> somewhat coloured by my lack of enthusiasm for public
> primary elections.

In the United States there are sometimes special elections (i.e., by
elections) without primaries, and there are usually several candidates
from each party. It would be in each party's interest to limit itself to
one candidate, yet this does not happen because without the public
primary system they have no way of enforcing this. Also Louisiana uses
the top-two runoff system without party primaries, and it is not a
mutiparty system. When we dispense with the party primaries in the United
States, the general election is open to whoever wants to run. Which is a
disadvantage if your real interest is in breaking up the two-party
system, rather than in better electoral systems for their own sake,
because initially and possibly permanantly the available political space
will be filled by members of the major parties; but in this case, the
parties will no long be restricting the range of political debate, so the
major objection to them is gone.

The removal of party nomination is a major benefit. In the Hillery vs.
Obama match, there were two questions. 1) Who would be a better nominee
for the Democratic Party? 2) Who would be a better President of the
United States?

The first question, if it must be asked at all, is properly addressed to
Democrats only, but the second question is properly addressed to all
citizens, to citizens as citizens. The primary system conflates the two
in an incoherent way. An internal party question can be voted on by
anyone who cares to vote on it, whether he has ever had involvement in
the party before. Much worse, a public decision is made by a partisan
subset of the public. IRV avoids the institutional questions, but
continues to address public questions to factions of the public rather
than the public itself. By assuming that everything below the first
(remaining) preference is worthless (but becomes everything once the
higher preferences are gone), IRV will ordinarily ask only two questions:
Do you prefer the left or the right, and which candidate on your
preferred wing would you like? And the second question is not settled in
any reasonable way. More importantly, if an election is to be carried by
one wing, it still matters which one actually wins, and people on the
other side are entitled to a vote on that question by virtue of their
being citizens.


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