[EM] basic fairness question

Owen Dalby owen.dalby at gmail.com
Thu Apr 14 13:33:48 PDT 2011


I apologize if I am asking a dumb question, but would appreciate any honest and practical advice from this list. I am conducting an election among a group of colleagues who are all graduates of a fellowship program. 45 people will vote on perhaps 30 candidates for roughly 15 seats. 

The 45 are members of different classes from their fellowship. Group A (14 people) was in the fellowship for 18 months. Group B (12 people) overlapped with group A for a year, but all told were in the fellowship for 24 months. Group D (13 people) overlapped with Group B for a year, and were also in the fellowship 24 months. Group C (6 people) started as members of Group B, and were asked to stay on for an extra year, finishing out with Group D, for a total of 36 months in the fellowship.  

The problem I am facing is a difference in name recognition between Groups A and D. Group C has the distinction of having overlapped with everybody, and having spanned as much time in the fellowship as both Groups B and D. So candidates from Group C are known best, and Group B is known by everyone, too. Group A would seem to be at the worst disadvantage, since members of their group may have formed opinions of group D simply by virtue of having paid attention to the fellowship after their own graduation, and this is implausible in the reverse.

I could do an STV election for 15 seats. OR, I had been thinking of an electoral model for this group where we didn't specify the number of seats available, and instead had voters rank their peers on a given set of criteria. Set a threshold for election on this scale (say, 3.5 on a 5-point scale), and the candidates whose average scores fall above that threshold are given a seat. In this case the candidates with lesser name recognition, and therefore probably fewer "votes," would have an average score that is less precise than those with greater name recognition, but it would still be a snapshot of how some number of voters feel about them. Obviously there would have to be some minimum number of votes (or maybe evaluations is a better term) on a candidate for it be considered a valid portrait of their fitness for election. 

My question is, is this inherently unfair towards anyone from a statistical/electoral point of view? In this particular situation, picking the number of seats beforehand is somewhat arbitrary--it is not a given that it would have to be 15, though that is the number of candidates that would fall above an "electable" threshold in my estimation.

Any advice, or fundamental concepts misunderstood by me? 

Thanks very much.

Owen Dalby

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