[EM] Many candidates (Re: language/framing quibble)

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Mar 6 14:50:02 PST 2009

--- On Fri, 6/3/09, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-elmet at broadpark.no> wrote:

> Juho Laatu wrote:
> > Is the target here to have a method
> > that would allow and encourage having
> > multiple candidates? (to allow the
> > people of Owego to select the winner
> > themselves instead of others/parties
> > telling them what their choices are)
> The target here, I think, is to have a method that uses
> another method of discovery than that of having the
> candidates push that information onto the people. This is
> based on that the usual method favors the candidates who
> have greater strength of dissemination, which translates to
> expensive campaigning budgets, which translates into that
> the candidates that do appear viable are either very rich or
> have the backing of external forces that demand quite
> significant favors in return (be those forces the rest of
> the political party, or lobbyists).
> Or in short, the rationale for finding another method is
> that the current method favors those in power. Hence those
> in power gain more power, which is undesired positive
> feedback.

Yes. I see at least three different
needs here. 1) risks of money based
decisions, 2) a permanent political
elite, 3) limited set of options to
select from.

> > This can be taken as an independent
> > challenge. Which methods / systems
> > lead to having numerous candidates?
> > 
> > (I limit the scope of discussion to
> > single-winner elections, and exlude
> > primaries and other party internal
> > candidate selection and hierarchical
> > proxy based methods.)
> Fred's method could be used to select a single winner.
> Would you call it a hierarchical proxy?

My intention was that it would
be in this category (although
maybe a special member of this

> There is somewhat of
> a proxy thought in that the continuing candidates from each
> council "represent" the councils below, but it's not as
> thorough or direct as with say, delegable proxy, because the
> structure is fixed and one may argue that the lower councils
> select "good candidates" rather than "candidates that
> represent the council".
> > Plurality certainly is not the method.
> > It typically has only two candidates
> > with chances to win, and others are
> > easily spoilers.
> I think one could make Duverger's law more general. If the
> method limits the voter to ranking k candidates, then the
> system tends towards a k-party state. For plurality, k = 2,
> since if you vote for A and only A and B are relevant, then
> that in essence is A > B.
> However, the grip of that law is weaker as k increases.
> Consider a country like Canada, for instance. In it,
> different provinces have different strong parties (e.g. BQ).
> Local support keeps the system from degenerating into a
> two-party state. As k increases, the possibility that each
> local area will have different strong parties also
> increases: with k = 2, each local area can only have two
> strong parties, but with k = 3 they may have three, etc.

Yes. In Finland the proposed
electoral reform quite clearly
emerges from the problems of small
districts (and generalized
Duverger's law). The smallest 6
member districts appear to elect
from three major parties (+ a bit
more thanks to coalitions). There
are also many additional disturbing
factors but it seems that the
generalized Duverger's law should
point at 6 not to 6 parties but
to some smaller number of them.

> > Approval discourages nomination of
> > more than one candidate per party
> > or section.
> It also has the Bush-Gore-Nader problem (if Nader is
> relatively popular). Both of these problems disappear if
> voters use strategy and know the others' sincere votes, but
> I've mentioned before why I don't like Approval (let's not
> have the entire VNM debate again).
> Incidentally, Range supporters say that Range would be a
> method such as you're seeking. The idea is this: if the
> candidate is viable or really matters (McCain or Obama, for
> instance), then voters would max-min strategize, but if the
> candidate doesn't (Baldwin, McKinney, Barr), voters would
> vote honestly; thus third parties receive more support than
> one would expect if everyone voted honestly, since their
> significant competitors would be rated disproportionately
> low.

In competitive Range elections the
Approval strategies may work quite

> > IRV also carries some risk of early
> > elimination of potential winners if
> > one party has several candidates.
> > Also exhausted ballots may be a
> > problem if some section has numerous
> > candidates. IRV is however probably
> > better than the previous two.
> > 
> > Condorcet seems to work a bit better
> > than IRV.
> IRV has troublesome discontinuities. More significantly, it
> seems to lead to two-party domination (as in Australia).
> There are two possible explanations: either single-round
> single-winner elections in general increases the strength of
> the two most powerful parties, or IRV in particular distills
> the ballots badly enough to give a bias to the two major
> parties.

In addition to the Duverger effects
IRV does favour large parties, i.e.
is biased towards favouring few.
(but Duverger's law is the key

> Condorcet might produce an opinion monopoly if there is
> only one political axis. The winner would be a centrist
> every time, so everybody would try to become centrists, as
> close to the center as possible to capture as many votes as
> possible.

What is the alternative? It
could be to elect the single
winner from different parties
/sectors proportionally in time
(= random ballot or something
milder). This is however another
philosophy. In most single-winner
elections (Condorcet and others)
a series of centrists is the
default result (except in
plurality based two-party
systems where the tradition
is to alternate between the two
parties). In multi-party
systems the set-up may often
be so complex that there
will be no single dominating
(centrist) party that would
always win. Extremists don't
typically have any chances.

> If there are more than one axis, there could still
> be competition, if on no other axis than "good centrist"
> (honest, fair, etc) versus "bad centrist" (corrupt,
> populist, etc).
> > All methods that expect the voters
> > to evaluate (rank or rate) large
> > number of the candidates will be
> > in trouble when the number of
> > candidates gets high. At some
> > point methods with shorter ballots
> > become useful.
> Most serious ranked and rated ballot systems would allow
> the voter to rank or rate only a subset of the candidates.
> The other candidates are either considered "below all
> ranked/rated" (Condorcet, plain Range, etc), or as if the
> voter didn't specify any information at all about them
> (Warren's average Range with quorum, but could also be used
> in Condorcet if so desired).

200 candidates but only 5 marked
in the ballots and no obvious
winners could mean problems.

> > One approach is to use a candidate
> > tree where the votes (to individual
> > candidates) are summed up in all
> > the branches to see which branch,
> > sub-branch and candidate wins.
> > This would allow very high number
> > of candidates.
> One could also have a series of runoffs. A possible way to
> do that would be to eliminate, after each stage, those
> candidates where one is sure the people don't want them (e.g
> a Condorcet loser where a majority specified a preference
> regarding this candidate)..

Sounds like non-instant and
also otherwise modified IRV.

> Another way would be to
> differentiate the runoffs based on different areas of the
> country: the council democracy concept is a bit like this,
> where "runoffs" merge in the later rounds. A council-like
> merging runoff system could work like this:
>     - first level, local elections of people
> in each district
>     - second level, regional elections with
> winners of the district elections as candidates.
>     - third level, national elections with
> winners of regional elections as candidates.

Yes, also primaries can be used
(although I skipped them).

> It would probably involve some sort of campaigning between
> each phase. It might also be weak in this respect, because
> if a very nationally well-known candidate would stand for
> first level election, he might make the first and second
> levels irrelevant by being easily elected in both
> instances.

There is also the risk of some
good national level compromise
candidate not getting enough
votes in any of the regions.

> > Discussion above covered only the
> > part of making nomination of
> > multiple candidates possible. In
> > addition to this the method should
> > also discourage nomination of only
> > few candidates (parties may have
> > some interest in doing so because
> > this way the "inner circle" may
> > better determine who will win
> > instead of leaving that to the
> > voters).
> It's not technically that hard to make such rules. For
> instance, demand that the president were a Senator or
> Representative before becoming president, then allocate
> Senate or House seats according to a rule that favors many
> candidates (that is, that exhibits teaming); or, for that
> matter, use a single-winner method that favors teaming,
> directly.

We might have also special rules
that allow also others to run (to
maximize the ability of the voters
to elect independently).

> However, doing so would lead to a situation where the
> parties would try to outcrowd the other, leading to
> immensely long lists of clones. Clones do no good, because
> they don't give the voters any additional variety. In Borda,
> for instance, the party with the largest slate wins (unless
> it's really unpopular). Therefore, using teaming directly is
> pointless.

There can be a rule that limits
the maximum number of candidates.
(In the parliamentary elections
in Finland there are such limits.
In practice there are 100+
candidates to choose from in each
region and parties are unable to
influence which candidates will
be elected in the open list
method. Fully independent
candidates do not have good

> One may argue that good ranked vote methods would encourage
> the nomination of multiple candidates, in particular if the
> party is unsure where the median voter is positioned.

Condorcet methods may be rather
neutral as long as the number
of candidates stays manageable
(and voters will rank many
enough of them).

> On the
> other hand, parties might benefit more from uniting behind a
> candidate (and throwing all support, campaigning, etc,
> towards that candidate) than they would by having multiple
> candidates run.

Yes, that is the case in many
methods, and that is against
the discussed target of
maximizing the number of
candidates / people that can
be elected.




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