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

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Dec 25 12:32:28 PST 2008

At 09:55 AM 12/25/2008, James Gilmour wrote:

>Abd, you are a great wriggler.

Thanks. I'm not a butterfly to be pinned to your specimen board.

>  My comments were not in the context of "small direct democratic 
> situations".  The discussion was
>about major public elections - city mayor, state governor, perhaps 
>even the ultimate goal of direct election of the President of the
>USA.  Nowhere was there any suggestion there would be or could a 
>"runoff", nor was there any suggestion of a "write-in".

Small democratic situations are the model for democracy. We know how 
to do it, it works, it's effective, and it produces healthy 
communities that are united. In such situations, unopposed 
candidacies are often more common than opposed ones. People know the 
candidates. When there are contests, it's almost always just two 
candidates, so Plurality works fine.

Small communities are also aware of preference strength. They see 
each other and know each other, and they talk. This, again, shifts 
results toward Range results, even if a method appears to be Plurality.

Now, take this and compare large public elections? In my view, the 
best voting systems imitate the process used in small communities, to 
the extent practical. No small community which understands the system 
will use IRV. (There have been trials, for sure, but they appear to 
mostly be motivated to make some political statement, they are not a 
natural choice when repeated ballot is possible, and they are 
strongly discouraged by parliamentary rulebooks when repeated ballot 
is possible.

"Write-ins" are a U.S. practice, if I'm correct, we are quite 
attached to them. And they are known to improve results on occasion. 
They fix problems with the ballot process and they can fix problems 
with the voting system used in the primary, if allowed in a runoff.

Don't want to discuss that, go away, don't read it. It will just 
irritate you, and you may end up looking like an idiot, which is 
certainly not my preferred outcome.

>Incidentally, my personal view is that there should be no provision 
>for "write-ins" at all in public elections.

Yes. You are English. Surprise! You are here, though, talking about 
American elections. Almost everywhere here it is required by law that 
write-ins must be allowed, we respect the sovereignty of the voter. 
There was a recent decision in California allowing San Francisco to 
prohibit write-ins in runoffs, based on the theory that it was part 
of the same election. Bad decision! Contradicts a lot of thinking and 
writing and parliamentary practice on successive election process.

Fixing stuff like this is what a sane Center for Voting and Democracy 
could have done. Too bad. So we need a new organization that *will* 
protect democracy.

>   If I am not
>prepared to declare myself as candidate and be nominated in the same 
>way as all the other candidates, I cannot see any reason why
>anyone should take me seriously.

You are thinking about yourself. What about the voters? What are 
their rights? Here, you are intending to deprive *voters* of their 
right to free choice. You and many others, by the way, dislike of 
free democracy is common among some voting systems theorists and activists.

>   If my "friends" think I would be the best person to do the job, 
> they should come and tell me and
>persuade me to stand, nominate me, and then campaign like fury to 
>get me elected.

However, what if you were all supporting a candidate, and after the 
deadline for registration, that candidate dies. Or there is some huge 
scandal and he becomes unelectable. Why shouldn't you and your 
friends be able to mount a last-minute write-in campaign.

Write-ins have been used to preserve the power of the voters against 
the power of legislatures or city councils to decide how voters should vote.

It's a shame to lose it.

> > How would this be "disastrous?"
>Leaving your alterative scenario aside as irrelevant to the actual 
>discussion, I cannot imagine the election of a President of the
>USA as the genuine Condorcet winner with zero (or very few) first 
>preferences as being anything other than disastrous.

The failure of your imagination isn't a reason to believe anything. 
The possibility of that is so preposterous that to then imagine that 
*everything else would be the same* is also preposterous. Under what 
conditions could such a victory happen? Look at those conditions, and 
you might see something different.

Asset Voting, in fact, can *easily* award a victory -- a seat or an 
office -- to someone who got *no* votes at all in the election. All 
that has to happen is that a quota of electors decide to vote, in 
their subsequent process, for that person. I would absolutely not 
prohibit this, to prohibit it would be to, again, impair the right of 
voters to assign their vote to someone they trust with it, and then 
for that person to make the best decision as they see it.

What would be wrong with this outcome? In the election that counts, 
the assignment of votes by the electors, a quota has been obtained (a 
majority if it's single-winner). Why would this be a disaster? It 
sounds to me like the electors, or a majority of them at least, 
decided that none of the candidates on the ballot (them!) were as 
good a winner as someone else.

Now, it's possible that winners would be limited to those who were 
registered as candidates. But the way I see Asset, most electors, 
eventually, would receive only a tiny fraction of a quota. These are 
their "direct constituents," people who can actually sit down and 
talk with them. So, again, we'd have a winner with a small vote in 
the Asset election, 5% (10% of the necessary vote) would actually be *large*.

James, open your mind.

>   If you
>cannot immediately see that, your experience of practical politics 
>must be very different from mine.  Although we live on different
>sides of "the pond", nothing I read about US politics makes me think 
>it would be significantly different on your side from how it is
>on mine.
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