[EM] One pager about what happened in Vermont

Rob Lanphier robla at robla.net
Sat Mar 6 13:18:37 PST 2010

Hi all,

I've been following the discussion about Vermont.  I think it's a pretty big
setback electoral reform generally, because as other people have pointed
out, we've made more people generally skeptical of futzing with the system.
 So, those of us who saw it coming find little comfort in being able to say
"I told you so".

I once had a debate with someone closely affiliated with FairVote who is a
fair amount older than I am.  In our conversation, she was very skeptical of
Condorcet methods, because of the ability for the general population to
understand how they work.  She capped her retort with "I want a reform that
I'll be able to see in my lifetime".  Unfortunately, thanks to the overeager
promotion of IRV, I'm not so sure we'll see much real reform in *my*

That said, I think this is a good teaching moment.  I was having some
trouble visualizing what went down in Vermont, so I played around with the
results, trying to come up with a view that gave me some insight.  After
much futzing with the raw data, I think I've got a one-pager that really
clearly shows what went down in the 2009 mayoral election.  I've attached a
PDF of the file, and the source svg is available on via the link below.

The key insight I had was to break the electorate up by their first
preference, and then do Schulze-wv tallies on each subset of ballots.  That
yielded a reasonably realistic way to lay out the candidates in a 2D spatial
representation.   As you can see, there wasn't anything terribly scientific
about the layout...in fact, it was the result of moving post-it notes around
on a sheet of paper until I had something that I felt I could more or less
defend as the proximities.  Once I started editing the graphic, I kept
playing around trying to emphasize the key insights while still including
enough supporting data to connect the graphics back to the original result.

Everything discussed above is available from this page:

I'm planning to do some additional work on this.  Many things on my to-do
list as a result of this exercise:
*  Further graphics to illustrate the Schulze-wv result
*  Fix a bug in Electowidget that prevents IRV results from showing up
*  Break up the graphics into more of a slide format for use in a
presentation and/or blog post
*  Blog post on blog.robla.net walking people through the graphics

Anyway, let me know what you all think of it.

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