[EM] IRV and Brown vs. Smallwood
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sat Jan 17 10:49:48 PST 2009
At 07:59 PM 1/15/2009, Markus Schulze wrote:
>in 1915, the Supreme Court of Minnesota declared
>the "preferential system" unconstitutional. The
>decision ("Brown vs. Smallwood") is here:
>The crucial sentence is (page 508):
> > We do right in upholding the right of the
> > citizen to cast a vote for the candidate of
> > his choice unimpaired by second or additional
> > choice votes by other voters.
>Now, a county judge had to decide whether
>Brown vs. Smallwood also applies to IRV.
>The judge came to the conclusion that
>Brown vs. Smallwood doesn't apply to IRV.
>The decision is here:
>In my opinion, the decision is very problematic.
>The judge judged the methods not by their
>properties, but by IRV's underlying heuristic.
It's complicated. This was, however, more or less the result I
feared, though I'm pretty sure it will be appealed. The problem is
that this court didn't read Brown v. Smallwood completely, nor did
they read it accurately. Brown v. Smallwood, very clearly, prohibited
all forms of preferential voting, but FairVote successfully diverted
the court's attention to one passage which reads like a concern for
Later No Harm.
We can see the classic smokescreen here. The Court begins with a
statement describing the quorum for a single-seat election, "the
majority of the voters." The description does correctly insert, in
one place, "for continuing candidates," but doesn't excplicitly take
note that the threshold is a shifting one, an incautious reader would
assume otherwise, since the description talks about continuing rounds
until a "candidate reaches the threshold number of votes."
However, IRV is, in my opinion, constitutional. But so was Bucklin.
What's unfortunately here is that the decision appears to uphold
Brown while also allowing IRV. That doesn't bode well for better
election reform in Minnesota.
IRV is a plurality method; it has a peculiar way of finding
plurality. That peculiarity isn't unconstitutional, and I would agree
that an IRV winner is usually better than a plurality winner, where
they differ. However, there are still problems, of course. It is
quite possible for a candidate to win under IRV, when more voters
voted against this candidate than for this candidate, and
specifically, that more voters voted for another candidate over this
candidate. The Court did not adequately address this, it directly
flies in the face of the "majority of the votes" concept. The
majority of the voters voted against the IRV winner, but because of
how they voted, their votes did not count.
IRV counts many more votes than the number of voters, there are a
whole series of ultimately preposterous statements made by the court.
It just doesn't count them *simultaneously*. Bucklin counted them
simultaneously, which ensured that all of them would be counted. But
a candidate still faces, with IRV, one candidate after another, from
a particular voter, instead of just one. The result is pretty much the same.
The plaintiffs did not pursue the mostly likely avenue of success.
Note that had the plaintiffs been successful, pretty much all voting
reform would have remained impossible in Minnesota, except for LNH
compatible methods, which is the worst of preferential voting methods.
I would have hoped that Friend of the Court briefs would have been
filed seeking overturning of Brown; I suppose that will be
appropriate when it gets to a higher court, if it does. The Brown
ruling was out of synch with the rest of the courts in the U.S.,
which didn't have a problem with Bucklin, nor with IRV.
More information about the Election-Methods