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

Juho juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Mar 7 12:53:18 PST 2010

On Mar 6, 2010, at 3:01 AM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> 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.

The basic idea that politicians (and voters) may not really be after  
the best system is very true. Quite often there is a majority to which  
it makes sense to promote a method that gives this majority more than  
proportional power. And it is possible that for every party there is a  
method that is they consider best and that is worse than the one that  
"theorists" and "idealists" consider to be the fairest method and the  
best method for the society. There may thus always be a "politically  
better" method than the theoretically best method is.

The political culture and tradition of political argumentation is  
important here. In some societies the attitudes may be very "battle  
oriented" (or "court case" oriented) in the sense that people are  
expected to use arguments that overemphasize their own point of view.  
Since other people are expected to do the same from their point of  
view the end result may well lie something in between these extreme  
arguments and may in some cases even be a more balanced solution to  
the problem. On the other hand the outcome may often not be that  
balanced if there is a suitable majority that can force a decision  
that gives disproportional benefits to this majority of if the  
resulting compromise just happens to be no good.

It is not so that the politicians would all be rotten and would play  
this unwanted game and not listen to the general public / voters that  
want something better. If the voters want argumentation that takes  
into account the needs of the society as a whole (and not just me, our  
party or our majority) the that tendency will be reflected also in the  
argumentation and thinking of the politicians. They want the voters to  
vote for them, so they must reflect the attitudes of the voters (or at  
least act as if they did). If people want short term benefits for  
themselves they should vote for politicians that try to implement that  
for them (and campaign for their preferred solution). If they believe  
that a society might perform even better for all (also for them) if  
the decisions would aim more at making the society work better then  
they should vote for this kind of politicians. The political arena may  
well often be one step more corrupt than the political thoughts and  
ideals of the voters, but that should not be a sufficient reason to  
give up improving the society and the political environment as a  
whole. My point thus is that whatever the politics and politicians are  
like, they to some extent reflect what the voters are. (There is a  
saying that people get the kind of government that they deserve.)

In the area of election methods one may add to this the problem that  
politicians may be very unwilling to change the election method that  
elected them. That would be "suicidal". So there are multiple problems  
ahead when trying to improve the election methods of a society. In the  
example above I (idealistically) believe that it is a more efficient  
approach to try to explain to all how the system might work better for  
all than try to seek strategic paths to implement those changes that  
one wants to implement. One key reason is that there are also other  
paths, like in Burlington there was a path to kick IRV out, maybe  
partly because some people had other interests, maybe partly because  
many didn't even understand yet what was good and what was bad in IRV.  
(Another saying, truth doesn't burn in fire.)

So, was Burlington just one battle in an everlasting arm-wrestling  
game or did the society learn something when going through this cycle?


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