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

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Mon Dec 29 20:55:17 PST 2008

At 08:50 PM 12/29/2008, Terry Bouricius wrote:
>Kathy Dopp wrote:
>since "abstentions or blanks" are from those who have not voted.
>I believe my interpretation of Robert's Rules of Order is correct. In
>order for a ballot being reviewed by a teller to be "blank," and thus
>excluded from the majority threshold calculation, as directed by Robert's
>Rule of order, the voter must certainly have submitted a ballot paper.

Bouricius, you are totally off, stretching, trying desperately to 
find ways to interpret the words there to mean what you want them to mean.

A "blank" is a blank ballot with no mark on it. From p. 401: "All 
blanks must be ignored as scrap paper."

There is no way to know if this was actually cast by a voter, or if 
it was a piece of paper stuck to the underside of another ballot. It 
is a *blank*.

There is another possibility: the ballot has multiple questions on 
it. In this case, each section is treated as if it were a separate 
piece of paper. In this case, if an election is in a section, and 
there are no marks in the section, the ballot is considered, for that 
election, as if blank. In this case, we may consider that the voter 
has abstained.

But if the voter marks in the section, but the marks are ambiguous, 
or do not cast a vote for an eligible candidate, in this case the 
voter is considered to have voted, and is part of the basis for a majority.

Public election rules differ here. A voter must generally have cast a 
vote for an eligible candidate, and the vote must not be spoiled, if 
I'm correct, for it to count as part of the basis for a majority.

Robert's Rules of Order places particular emphasis on finding a 
majority, and if a vote is doubtful, it may have been the intention 
of the voter to participate, but not to vote for the otherwise-winner.

>RRONR is clearly not referring to hypothetical ballots from those members
>of an association who did not submit a ballot at all.

Not submitting a ballot at all -- or submitting an explicitly 
abstaining ballot -- is an abstention.

>  Those who do not
>submit a ballot clearly did not vote, but those who cast ballots may
>abstain or leave the ballot blank, and thus not have their ballots
>included when calculating the majority threshold.

Casting a blank ballot is equivalent to an abstention, except it 
isn't explicitly recorded as such, because the member pretended to 
vote. However, all the member has to do is write on the ballot NO! 
and it is a vote. Against all the candidates, effectively. (YES! 
would have the same effect!)

>  The only question is
>whether an exhausted ballot should be interpreted as abstaining on the
>question of which finalist should win, or if that ballot should be
>interpreted as an "illegal vote," which RRONR says should be included in
>calculating the majority threshold.

There is no question. Bouricius, THERE IS NO QUESTION. Not for any 
parliamentarian. Robert's Rules are quite clear, if you actually read 
the whole section on preferential voting, that majority failure may 
occur if voters don't fully rank candidates. This was utterly clear 
from precedent, and the interpretation that you are making up here 
does enormous violence to the very concept of majority vote.

Questions submitted to votes should be explicit. Voters don't 
definitively know who the finalists are, with IRV. They may have 
intended to vote for a finalist, but got it wrong as to who the 
finalists were. They may detest both finalists and are unwilling to 
support either. If a majority is required, truncation is a very 
legitimate strategy, it means, please, if it is not one of the 
candidates I have ranked, I want further process to determine a 
winner, I want the chance to reconsider and maybe even to write in a 
candidate on the runoff ballot. (*Which is allowed in many places.*)

>  One can think of the ranked ballot as
>a series of questions about pairwise contests...not unlike the way a
>Condorcet ballot is viewed...

You can. But that's not what's on the ballot.

>  one of the questions could be IF the race
>comes down to a final runoff between candidate C and candidate E, which
>should win?

Sure. Now, there are 23 candidates, as in San Francisco. There are 
three ranks on the ballot. Further, I don't even recognize most of 
the names. Maybe I know the frontrunners, but what if I don't? Should 
I vote for someone who I don't know? No, I vote for the candidate or 
candidates I know and trust. In a real runoff election, if no 
majority is found, I am then presented with, usually, two candidates, 
and I can pay particular attention to them. We see comeback elections 
with real runoffs that we don't see with IRV, for several reasons, 
all of which indicate that these comebacks improved results.

>  The difference between IRV and Condorcet is that IRV uses a
>sequential algorithm to determine  which candidates are finalists, while
>Condorcet does not reduce to "finalists" at all.

Condorcet could be conceptualized that way. In fact, so can 
Plurality. Imagine an IRV ballot, only nobody adds additional ranks. 
(Bucklin elections saw additional ranking of 11% in an Alabama 
primary series, and my expectation is that IRV elections in the same 
environment would probably have about the same truncation level. -- 
but this isn't the point here). Run the eliminations.

Presto! Majority vote, using Plurality voting. What has happened is 
that all the ballots that do not contain votes for the top two are 
not counted. It's totally arbitrary, actually, we could claim 
Unanimity, just carry the rounds one more step with this Plurality 
counting or with IRV.

Imagine the campaign! GUARANTEE UNANIMITY!

Of course it would be immediately seen as ridiculous. You don't get 
unanimity by disregarding all disagreement, and you don't get a 
majority by a similar approach.

>  However, if a voter has
>indicated no ranking for either C or E, that voter has effectively
>abstained from that particular question.

Sure. That particular question. But not the election.

Why is Bouricius torturing this point? Because, obviously, the claim 
of "finds majority winners" is very important to the FairVote talking 
points, it's been central for a long time, it is found in ballot 
arguments, articles, all over the place. He's trying to find a way to 
justify it.

Retroactively. Quite simply, those words did not mean what he is 
claiming they *might* mean, to the people they were dumped on. 
People, quite simply, didn't think carefully about the implications 
of truncation. A lot of people have in mind Gore v. Bush, and 
immediately think that those votes for Nader might have flipped that 
election. They look at the numbers and think that this would have 
given Gore a win. Maybe. There were also other minor party candidates 
involved, and many of them would not have added preferences. Quite 
simply, we don't know if the election outcome would have changed, and 
we don't know if preferential voting would have found a majority.

But "majority" sounds like a very good goal, and communities which 
have majority-required top two runoff clearly have valued it. "Find 
majorities without expensive and inconvenient runoff elections" plays 
well. I'm sure much of this occurred immediately to Richie when 
"instant runoff voting" was suggested to him in the mid 1990s.

Quite simply, it doesn't happen. IRV, with nonpartisan elections, is 
not electing anyone other than the plurality winner (first 
preference), and when a majority is not found in the first round, it 
usually isn't found after that.

"A majority of votes will continued to be required" is what the 
voters of San Francisco were promised. The IRV "majority" is not a 
requirement, it is a mathematical certainty, if it refers to 
last-round majority, created by disregarding all those inconvenient 
ballots with legal, sincere votes for the wrong candidates. Did they 
notice that the IRV proposition actually struck the majority 
requirement from the law? If it was still required, why was it being 
struck? I could blame the voters, for sure, but I could also blame 
the members of the committee that put together the "impartial 
summary," the promoters of IRV who clearly encouraged that 
misunderstanding, and the opponents who quite clearly didn't do their 
own homework.

>  Since the voter who voluntarily
>truncates is de facto abstaining from deciding which finalist should be
>elected, if the voter has indicated no preference between them, I think it
>is reasonable to treat this abstention as an abstention as directed by

That is pure deception, turning Robert's Rules of Order on its head, 
producing a result clearly contrary to the result that they 
explicitly say will occur. A voter who has voted in an election has 
not abstained, no matter how you slice it. The voter may have 
abstained from a pairwise election, for sure, but that is a specific 
abstention, ot an abstention from the election, and, in addition, may 
not be voluntary, as Bouricius slips in. 3 ranks on the ballot. 23 candidates.

>While I agree that it may not be completely UNresonable to take the view
>that Abd and Kathy Dopp favor, I think it is contrary to the most usual
>interpretation of RRONR.

And now the kicker: we have explained -- and I could cite word for 
word, and have in many places -- the explicit language of Robert's 
Rules of Order on this. Bouricius has just said the exact opposite of 
the truth. What he is proposing as the meaning of "abstention," and 
the basis for majority, is totally contrary to the plain language of 
RRONR, not to mention the "usual interpretation."

Usual interpretation by whom? By FairVote activists and those duped by them?

I'm saddened, to tell you the truth. This is the absolute worst 
argument I've ever seen from Bouricius, it's word manipulation to try 
to take a text and make it say the exact opposite of what it plainly says.

I'd thought that he was above that, but, apparently not.

The public will *not* be fooled when the issues are made plain and clear.

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