[EM] Burlington Vermont repeals IRV 52% to 48%

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Mar 5 17:01:17 PST 2010

At 08:13 PM 3/2/2010, robert bristow-johnson wrote:

>Well, that's sad.  Even with a sorta narrow victory the anti-IRVers
>will swagger down Church Street like they own the place. We will now
>all accept that God instituted the "traditional ballot" for use
>forever and that a 40% Plurality is a "winner".

Well, not quite. First of all, recognize that Burlington is a 
relatively rare jurisdiction. It has three major parties, and it is 
using runoff voting in partisan elections.

Had the Burlington voters not been fed a load of crap by FairVote, 
they might have made better choices in how to improve their system.

Further, they might change it back to some other reform, next time a 
Republican wins there, as Wright might have won. Will the 
Progressives and the Democrats start to cooperate there to prevent 
this? Don't hold your breath, because the Democrats, in particular, 
have other irons in the fire.

The opposition to IRV in Burlington seems to have been a coalition 
that had differing motives. I actually argued for these kinds of 
coaliions for looking for states to work on reform. If there is a 
state where vote-splitting is preferentially harming one of the major 
parties, it's a place where such a coalition becomes possible. 
Collectively, they may be in the majority. Vote splitting was harming 
two out of three parties in Burlington, and they may have cooperated 
to produce the narrow result. Or that narrow result was largely 
produced by preferential turnout for Republicans, won't be the first time.

That's how IRV was knocked out in Ann Arbor in the 1970s.

>It would have been optimum if IRV survived this vote by a narrow margin.

No, this is better. It will make other jurisdictions more cautious 
before they drink the FairVote Kool-Aid. As will study of the 2009 
results. And the Pierce County experience. And a lot of work making 
sure that places considering voting reform get the whole story about 
voting systems.

Don't spend a lot of money on a reform that doesn't really work, that 
is going to be so dissatisfactory to a highly motivated set of voters 
that they can take it out in a referendum.

>It's sad that when FairVote introduced and promoted the ranked ballot
>that, from square 1, they always coupled it to the IRV tabulation of

But, Robert, that tabulation method was their goal, not "preferential 
ballot." They want it for later proportional representation reform. 
They don't give a fig, really, about better single-winner elections, 
it's all political strategy. With a big dose of ignorance, I think 
they do believe some of their own propaganda.

>   When enough disasters (at least anomalies) happen like in
>Burlington or Aspen, some backlash, both ignorant and enlightened, is
>bound to happen.

Yes. We tried to tell FairVote. They really were arrogant, they had 
"momentum." In fact, the momentum itself was mostly hype. A few 
jurisdictions trying IRV. Glowing reports of how well it worked, 
based on shallow polls and shallow analysis of them. Continued denial 
of the well-known problems of IRV and pretense that political 
scientists were in favor of it.

I'll give two examples, since I'm on a rant. First, the American 
Political Science Assocation. Again and again, in FairVote 
propaganda, it's been said that these political scientists "use IRV 
to elect their national President."

Do they? Well, they have a bylaw that provides that if there are 
three candidates in an election by mail vote of the national 
president, they do indeed use single transferable vote. As far as 
I've been able to tell, the bylaw has been there since the founding 
of APSA around 1910. At that point, Bucklin wasn't widely known, and 
single transferable vote was probably the best method on the table.

But, as far as I can find, it's never been used. Why not? Well, 
FairVote is claiming, essentially, that political scientists would 
know what the best method is, and surely that's what they use! So 
what do they actually do to elect their President, if they've never 
had the situation that the bylaws prescribe it for? Maybe we should 
hold elections like that?

The sitting President appoints a nominating committee. The nominating 
committee, by majority vote, nominates a candidate. This candidate is 
presented to the national conference. Other candidates may be 
nominated from the floor. Apparently, it's been many years since 
there has even been such a nomination. Given the rarity of it, the 
likelihood of a three-way race is very low. Since it is completely 
moot for actual practice, there has been no attention paid, as far as 
I know, to this bylaw, for a hundred years. The existence of the 
bylaw says nothing about what political scientists presently think 
about IRV. At a point where very little was known about how IRV 
actually works, they put it in their bylaws.

They elect other offices, there are, for example, representatives to 
a council. STV could be good for that. They don't use it, I think 
they use plurality-at-large. Does that mean that political scientists 
think that plurality-at-large, if that's what they use, is a good 
voting system? Not necessarily! It means that they aren't really 
exercised to change it! Maybe it works well enough! (Plurality, 
vote-for-one, is a much better system than it's often given credit 
for being. It has some glaring defects, for sure. But *normally*, in 
many situations, these defects don't bite deeply. Think "non-partisan 
elections." In such elections, plurality and IRV appear to almost 
always produce the same results.)

The trend is also toward internet voting with large national 
organizations like this. With internet voting, holding repeated 
ballot elections is not a big deal.

And then there are the recommendations of Robert's Rules of Order, 
which FairVote routinely has lied about. But it's typical of Richie's 
slick campaign design: you can easily read Robert's Rules of Order 
and think that they claims are correct, if you don't look closely 
enough and especially if you don't know parliamentary procedure. I 
actually misread the section myself, and I've been an (amateur) 
parliamentarian. It was when I was rereading it that I discovered how 
they had lied. The Robert's Rules of Order version requires a true 
majority *or the election fails.*! And RRONR goes on to describe the 
serious defects of IRV, including the center squeeze pathology that 
afflicted the Burlington election. And they note that there are many 
other kinds of preferential voting, their criticism only applies to 
the sequential transferable vote method they describe.

And on and on. 

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