[EM] Legal brief vs. San Francisco limited IRV

Kathy Dopp kathy.dopp at gmail.com
Tue Mar 9 19:42:41 PST 2010

I agree with virtually everything you say here Abd ul.

On Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 9:42 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> At 11:21 PM 3/7/2010, Kathy Dopp wrote:
>> On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 9:08 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com>
>> wrote:
>> > At 12:39 AM 3/7/2010, Kathy Dopp wrote:
>> >>
>> >> I've posted the latest plaintiffs' legal brief here. Plaintiffs
>> >> Francisco rank only three version of IRV.
>> >>
>> >> http://kathydopp.com/wordpress/?cat=8
>> >
>> > It is actually brilliant. Yes; limited. My view is that IRV is generally
>> > constitutional. I.e., if top two runoff is constitutional, full-ranking
>> > IRV
>> > is constitutional.
>> Top-two allows *all* voters the opportunity to participate in the
>> final election of who will govern, so is IMO clearly more
>> constitutional than IRV which fails constitutionality in at least
>> three ways:
> First of all, there is no controversy over the constitutionality of TTR.
> There likewise is no controversy over the constitutionality of vote for one
> Plurality. And, except for some narrow exceptions, there is no finding that
> IRV is not constitutional anywhere, if full ranking is allowed. The instant
> case is over the constitutionality of IRV with only three explicit ranks
> allowed (and assumed bottom-ranking if the voter does not list the
> candidate).
>> 1. fails to allow all voters to participate in the final
>> decision-making process by excluding voters from the last round
> That's correct. But if full ranking is allowed, the "exclusion" is
> debatable. I agree it's a problem, and so does Robert's Rules of Order. But,
> notice, the issue might be decided on general public policy grounds, i.e.,
> does IRV make the situation worse for these possible excluded voters? If it
> doesn't, I can anticipate that the defendants might argue, and the court
> might agree, that the right of participation in the decision, over the
> situation with plurality, is enhanced,  not reduced. Courts will not always
> decide on narrow technicalities.
> IRV is definitely problematic in many ways, but whether or not those rise to
> a constitutional issue is not so obvious. I do agree that there is an issue
> here, with twenty candidates and three ranks. With that many candidates and
> only three ranks, there are quite likely real voters who have been prevented
> from both voting sincerely (as promised) and participating in the final
> decision. Note that if there is a majority required, as the initiative
> pretended, there would be no problem. There would be a runoff, and the voter
> would then not be deprived. So the real source of the problem is that the
> method pretended to find majorities, in order to gain approval, but doesn't.
> The ballot information pamphlet promised that the winner "would still be
> required to gain a majority of votes," but did anyone notice that the
> provisions themselves removed the requirement for a majority?
> Not enough attention was paid by the plaintiff attorneys to this blatant
> deception of the voters in the initiative that implemented IRV. Of course,
> if they had left in the requirement for a majority, as they pretended still
> existed, then it would have become quickly visible that IRV was not avoiding
> most runoffs, since whenever runoffs were required, it is rare that the
> additional ranking found a majority, and this is a well-known behavior of
> IRV in Australia, in the places where full ranking is not obligatory.
> Australian voting systems experts consider using IRV without allowing full
> ranking to be insane. And I think they might question the use of IRV in a
> 20-candidate situation in any case! IRV works, sort of, with partisan
> elections, much less well with nonpartisan ones.
>> 2. fails to treat all voters' ballots equally, counting the 2nd and
>> lower rank choices of some, but not all, voters
> I agree that this is a problem, but its speculative that it will fly.
> Bucklin, of course, has no such problem, and can use the same 3-rank ballot
> as RCV, and, if a true majority is required, there is no penalty for
> declining to rank more than one candidate. Either a majority will be found
> that differs from your opinion, or you get to choose again in a runoff. It
> is also possible to use a full-ranking Bucklin ballot, and it remains fairly
> simple to count. If Bucklin is to be used as a plurality method, I'd say
> this would be required on the same principles as it is not being suggested
> that it's required for IRV. But I'd also allow equal ranking, it does no
> harm and reduces ballot spoilage, and is actually a more accurate vote if
> the voter has no significant preference between two candidates.
> (Equal ranking is already allowed, only it's restricted generally to bottom
> rank. The proposal is to allow it at all ranks. Classic Bucklin, Duluth
> variation, allowed equal ranking in third rank, the lowest approved rank. It
> required exclusive ranking in first and second rank, but I see no reason to
> require a voter who has no preference between two candidates to decide which
> one to support. If the voter is supporting one, it would clearly indicate
> that the voter also supports the other. And the analogy is to multiple
> conflicting ballot questions; the common rule is that, if both pass, the one
> with the most Yes votes prevails.)
>> 3. fails to provide voters with knowledge of the effect (positive or
>> negative) of their votes on the candidates they rank due to its
>> nonmonotonicity.
> Yes. With IRV, you can cause a candidate to lose if you vote for the
> candidate. For clarity, here is how it happens. Suppose there are three
> candidates, A, B, and C. Your favorite is A. Your vote for A could cause C
> to be dropped. So then it's between A and C. But the C voters prefer B, in
> their transfers, who beats A as a result. However, if you did not vote for A
> (and someone like you, or a coin toss does this), then B is dropped, and A
> wins over B.
> It gets complicated because not all voters will add additional votes. This
> is not the only problem, because of another effect, Center Squeeze, where a
> more strategic vote would be to skip over your favorite and vote first
> preference for the compromise candidate whom you prefer over the IRV winner.
> Voting sincerely in IRV seems safer, but can produce worse results, so bad
> that you'd have seen a better result if you stayed home and did not vote.
> And that appears to have actually happened in Burlington. If fewer
> Republicans had voted for Wright, and instead decided to support the
> compromise candidate that they clearly preferred from analysis of the ranked
> votes, they'd have produced that result.
>> Top-two runoff treats all voters equally, allows all voters to
>> participate, and allows all voters to cast a ballot with a positive
>> effect on a candidate's chances of winning, (I.e. voters know which
>> candidate they are helping to win each election.)
> Yes. The overall system still suffers from center squeeze, but it's possible
> to fix that. Use Bucklin in both rounds! And allow write-in votes in the
> runoff. Because of the use of Bucklin in the runoff, those preferring a
> compromise candidate can still make a choice between the primary winners.
> Theoretically optimal methods (in terms of decision quality) seek a majority
> and don't stop until they find one, but the only possibly practical method
> for public elections that could do this would be Asset Voting.
>> > They've hit on a technicality, the loss of equal
>> > treatment of voters if the voter can't rank enough candidates, but as
>> > they
>> > point out, the deprivation of equal treatment can be quite small and be
>> > unconstitutional.
> That's correct. But it must be very clear. I think they've shown it.
>> >
>> > And there is a quick fix, of course. Instant Runoff Approval Voting.
>> > Allow
>> > the voters to mark as many candidates as they choose in each of the
>> > three
>> > ranks. Then use Bucklin procedure. And make this a primary round, hold a
>> > runoff if there is no true majority found. What this will do is to
>> > eliminate
>> > *most* runoff elections. Not all. It's just a more efficient way of
>> > finding
>> > a majority in the primary. The same trick could be done with IRV, but,
>> > note
>> > this: IRV no longer would satisfy later-no-harm, and IRV does not count
>> > all
>> > the votes. Unless all the votes *are* counted, which would mean that one
>> > would count lower ranked votes against non-eliminated higher-ranked
>> > candidates. Bucklin does it much better and because there are no
>> > eliminations in the primary rounds, it finds a candidate who is
>> > supported by
>> > more voters than any other. Because of the runff, voters need not, in
>> > the
>> > primary, support someone who is the "least evil." They can vote
>> > sincerely.
>> > They can bullet vote if they want. They can add alternate preferences if
>> > they'd prefer these to a runoff (or if they'd want to see them get into
>> > a
>> > runoff). They choose.
>> I agree with you and find no objection to Bucklin method or most other
>> alternative voting methods that treat all voters' equally and is thus
>> precinct-summable, but don't have time to thoroughly study it now.
>> Interesting that this idea allows putting as many candidates as
>> desired into a limited number of slots. I like that on first glance.
> Right. And if it is used with a majority requirement, it is simply a more
> efficient method of finding a majority than plurality. It allows voters to
> decide how much they care, would they rather make a compromise now, and
> possibly avoid a runoff, or would they prefer to see a runoff between the
> top two? Let the voters decide! Count All the Votes!
>> The Condorcet method would still be easy to count in that case too
>> since an n x n matrix (where n = # candidates) would still work just
>> fine.
> Well, easy compared to what? Compared to IRV, yes. Compared to Plurality or
> Bucklin, no.
> Condorcet methods suffer from the same problem as afflicts many complex
> voting systems: it requires voters to have much more knowledge than is
> necessary to express a Favorite vote. That's the strength of Plurality, and
> is why plurality, but with a majority requirement, is standard in direct
> democracies. Top-two runoff works much better, because of the new, separate
> focus on a limited set. (There are top-three runoff methods in use, by the
> way, for example the Vermont gubernatorial election. The "runoff" is before
> the legislature.)
> The big problem with TTR is that it can miss a compromise winner. Using a
> preferential ballot with good rules there might be able to avoid this. The
> sign that a compromise winner is being missed is majority failure! With good
> rules, two-round runoff would hardly ever fail to find a majority, and could
> only do better than the status quo, or it would default to it. That's why
> Bucklin being inexpensive, easy to understand and vote, and quite good in
> performance (by theoretical analysis and actual history of application) is
> considered so important to me.
> I'd prefer Asset, which can be as simple as vote-for-one, though there are
> obvious interpretations that would allow counting and using overvotes. Your
> vote gets split between the candidates supported. (That's a bad idea with
> Approval Voting, single-ballot, but Asset doesn't waste any votes.)
>> > From my analysis, IRV, however, would not find a majority in most of the
>> > elections that went to instant runoff in San Francisco, and Bucklin
>> > would
>> > find it it in maybe half. But Bucklin is far less expensive to count,
>> > it's
>> > precinct summable, just count all the votes in each rank (typically
>> > three
>> > ranks were used) and report them separately. They can then be added
>> > together.
>> >
>> > Bucklin was used in a lot of places in the U.S., at one time, pushing
>> > 100.
>> > The actual method was only found unconstitutional in one place,
>> > Minnesota,
>> > is a decision that was aware it was idiosyncratic. It was popular, the
>> > Minnesotata Supreme Court decision was quite unpopular, the court notes
>> > that
>> > in its reconsideration. My guess is that political forces were
>> > operating.
>> > Some people did not want a good voting system, it's more difficult to
>> > manipulate.
>> >
>> I like Bucklin. Too bad the MN Supremes shot it down. MN Supremes seem
>> to make consistently poor decisions re. voting systems thus far,
>> although perhaps with an "as-applied" case they'd do better.
> The MN decision was not replicated anywhere, and, as it was written, it did
> also prohibit IRV. The decision was bad, and I wrote, years ago, that voting
> systems activists should support the reversal of Brown v. Smallwood, which,
> as written, prohibited all forms of preferential ballot. FairVote clouded
> that over, pretending that the decision was only based on the Later-No-Harm
> failure of Bucklin. If a majority is required, any preferential ballot
> system, including IRV, will fail later-no-harm....


Kathy Dopp
Town of Colonie, NY 12304
"One of the best ways to keep any conversation civil is to support the
discussion with true facts."

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