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

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sun Dec 28 13:20:04 PST 2008

At 04:44 AM 12/28/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>>  [it was written:] I am satisfied that there are perfectly 
>>> adequate "vote once"
>>>systems available for all public elections, both single-office 
>>>elections and assembly elections.

>>If they are good for public elections, why are they *never* used 
>>for smaller organizations where repeated ballot is easy? Wouldn't it save time?
>>Yes, advanced methods *can* save time, *if* a majority is still 
>>required. Otherwise the result can *easily* be one that a majority 
>>would reject. How often? Depends on the method, I'm sure, but my 
>>estimate is that it's about one in ten for IRV in nonpartisan 
>>elections in the U.S. It's pretty easy to show.
>Wouldn't that be because you can do RRO type iteration because of 
>the small size?

Of course. (i.e., nobody considers using advanced methods in such 
organizations when, for example, face-to-face meetings are possible 
and normal for election. There are exceptions, and, I'd say, they 
have been warped by outside political considerations; there is a 
sense among some student organizations, for example, that by 
implementing IRV, they are advancing a general progressive cause. 
They've been had.)

>  Consider the extreme, where there's just you and a few friends. 
> There would seem to be little point in voting when you can just all 
> discuss the options and reach a conclusion.

Absolutely. However, this kind of direct process indicates the 
foundations of democracy. There are problems of scale as the scale 
increases, but the *substance* does not intrinsically change, until 
not only the scale has become large, but the culture expects 
alienation and division. When the scale is small, people will take 
the time to resolve deep differences, ordinarily (if they care about 
the cooperation being negotiated). That cannot be done, directly, on 
a large scale. *However, it can be done through a system that creates 
networks of connection.* These networks are what we actually need, 
and not only is it unnecessary to change laws to get them, it 
actually would be a mistake to try to legislate it. If it's subject 
to law, it is subject to control and corruption. It would be like the 
State telling small groups how they should come to agreement!

>  Perhaps there would be if you just can't reach an agreement 
> ("okay, this has gone long enough, let's vote and get this over with").

Absolutely. And this happens all the time with direct democratic 
process. And those who have participated in it much usually don't 
take losing all that seriously, provided the rules have been 
followed. Under Robert's Rules, it takes a two-thirds majority to 
close debate and vote. Common respect usually allows all interested 
parties to speak before the question is called.

However, it takes a majority to decide a question, period, any 
question, not just an election. That's the bottom line for democracy. 
Taking less may *usually* work well enough, but it's risky. It can 
tear an organization apart, under some circumstances. That's why 
election by plurality is strongly discouraged in Robert's Rules.

(And why Robert's Rules description of "IRV" -- they don't call it 
that -- continues to require a majority, contrary to the implications 
in FairVote propaganda. Sequential elimination preferential voting, 
for them, is a means of more efficiently finding a majority, but they 
note that if voters don't rank all the candidates, there may be 
majority failure and the election "will have to be repeated." I've 
been asked, sometimes as a challenge, "Why don't they describe 
Bucklin or some other method?" The answer is pretty obvious: RRO is a 
manual of actual practice, not a manual of theory, leading the 
public, and, apparently, at the time the latest edition was being 
compiled, there weren't enough examples of other methods to allow 
inclusion. However, they did note, with substantial precision, that 
the specific form of preferential voting they describe -- having 
noted that there are many others -- suffers from possible failure to 
find a "compromise candidate." Given how little they write on the 
topic, this is remarkable.)

>In short, you'd have something like: for very small groups, the cost 
>of involving a voting method is too high compared to the benefits. 
>For intermediate groups, iteration works. For large groups, voting 
>is the right thing to do, because iteration is expensive and may in 
>any event lead to cycling because people can't just share the 
>nuances of their positions with a thousand others, hive-mind style.

Right. However, there is Range Voting, which simulates negotiation, 
actually. If there are stages in it, it more accurately simulates 
negotiation. There are hybrid methods which address most of the 
concerns that I've seen raised. However, having two possible ballots 
taken rather than one is a *huge* step toward simulation of direct 
process, so large that I'd be reluctant to replace TTR with Range, 
unless it becomes Range/runoff. Robert's Rules notes as another 
problem with the preferential method they describe that voters cannot 
base their votes in subsequent process on the results of the first election.

Now, with TTR, with a better primary method and a better runoff 
method and write-ins allowed, actually goes very far toward 
simulating direct group process, the compromise being made only in two ways:

(1) To encourage a clear choice, the runoff ballot has only two names 
on it, the best two possible winners, it would seem, from the primary 
round. "Best two" can be much better defined than it is with 
Plurality. But because write-ins are allowed, the freedom of RRO 
multiple ballot process is actually maintained, in theory, and, in 
fact, in practice as well, where the preference strength is adequate. 
It costs very little to keep that freedom; write-in votes are 
normally moot, often aren't even counted where moot, and with a good 
runoff method (such as, say, two-rank Bucklin would probably be good 
enough), safe.

(2) The runoff may complete with a plurality. Ordinarily, because of 
the ballot restrictions, runoffs, even where write-ins are allowed, 
complete with a majority. However, when there is a serious write-in 
campaign, it may be a plurality. Obviously, if the runoff is simple 
Plurality, this could be a problem, hence the need for some kind of 
preferential voting in a runoff. And there is obvious need in the 
primary, because of Center Squeeze.

With a good primary method, a majority will usually be found, unless 
conditions result in the nomination of scads of candidates, which, 
outside of Asset Voting, is probably dysfunctional. (Voters, quite 
simply, are not going to be able to rank scads of candidates with 
sufficient knowledge!)

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