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

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Thu Dec 25 15:54:42 PST 2008

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax   > Sent: Thursday, December 25, 2008 8:32 PM
> > 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.

Abd, I don't want to pin you or anyone else to a specimen board.  I just don't think it advances a discussion about major public
elections to bring in arguments that MAY have some validity in a totally different context.  And small direct democratic situations,
run-offs and write-ins are all completely different contexts from that in which the discussion about the political acceptability of
strong and weak Condorcet winners was set.

> No small community which understands the system 
> will use IRV.

Then we in the UK must have a lot of small communities that do not understand IRV, because, as I said in reply to one of your
earlier comments, lots of our smaller communities use it for their internal elections.

> "Write-ins" are a U.S. practice, if I'm correct, we are quite 
> attached to them.

Yes, I know the first and I understand the second.  I don't think there is any need for them in public elections, but they are part
of the scene in the USA and so must be accommodated in any proposal for practical reform if it is to gain political acceptance.

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

NO, I am not English.  I was born in the UK and I am a subject of Her Majesty The Queen (there are no citizens in the UK), but I am
not English.

> 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. 

Yes, I know it's US law, so roll with it  -  until you have a voting system that makes it irrelevant.  (In the UK, the nomination
process for all public elections requires written confirmation of the candidate's consent to his or her nomination, as do many
organisations for their internal elections.)

> >   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.

Of course, I am think about you.  You might have many good reasons why you did not wish to be elected to public office, either at
that particular time or ever.  What right have I and some other voters to make you the winner without even consulting you and
letting others know about our views and of your consent by nominating you along with all the other candidates?  Even if we accept
that voters should have "free choice", with that voters' right to free choice goes responsibility, firstly to the write-in target
(who is not a "candidate" as he or she has not been nominated) and secondly to all the other electors.

> You and many others, by the way, dislike of 
> free democracy is common among some voting systems theorists 
> and activists.

You have jumped to several unjustified conclusions here.  However, my voting reform campaigning has been within a system of
representative democracy, and the discussion to which I was contributing was also in the context of representative democracy.  So
alternative systems of democracy, whatever their merits, were hardly relevant.  We have managed to make some significant
improvements to the voting systems we use in our representative democracy in the UK and I am hopeful of seeing some more.  But the
replacement of our system of representative democracy with some other system of democracy will not be achieved in my lifetime, no
matter who campaigns for it.  I therefore prefer to concentrate my remaining energies on achievable goals.

> >  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.

UK election law has provisions that cover that eventuality. For local government councils, the election is cancelled and a new
election must be held within 35 days of the date of the original election.  (I haven't checked the rules for Parliamentary
elections, but they'll be similar.)

> 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.

In the UK, no candidate may withdraw after the close of nominations, so this is a theoretical possibility.  I don't know off-hand
how frequent such post-nomination problems have been in the UK.  We certainly have had situations where a nominated candidate has
withdrawn and been replaced, but again, I couldn't give numbers.  Most of our problems seems to get sorted out (or exposed) before
we get to the nomination stage.

> 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.

Making sure that the legislatures and city councils are properly representative of the voters will give better and more effective
projection to the voters than any provision for write-ins.


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