[EM] Article, with the added paragraph and some better wording.

Michael Ossipoff email9648742 at gmail.com
Sat Apr 21 12:41:58 PDT 2012

Adrian and EM:

Below is my article with the paragraph added, at the beginning of the
"Approval strategy" section.

Additionally, I've neatened up and improved some of the wording.

Our current voting system, of course, is the vote-for-1 method. Also  called
"Plurality", or the "single mark method".

In our Plurality elections, we often hear people saying that they're going
to vote for someone they don't really like, because he/she is the
"lesser-of-2-evils". Note that they're voting for someone they don't like,
and not voting for the people they really do like, because the people they
like are
perceived as unwinnable.  What do we get when we vote for people we don't
really like? We get something that we don't like. Everyone complains about
how all the viable politicians are corrupt and bought. Does it really make
sense to believe corrupt and un-liked candidates to be more "viable"?
How viable
would they be if everyone could feel free to support candidates whom they
actually like?

We'd be voting from hope, instead of just from fear and dismal, pessimistic
And the results would reflect that. Voting, and is results, would become

So how does this strange situation come about? What causes it? When you
compromise in Plurality, for a "lesser-evil", you're saying, with your
vote-support, that s/he is better than your favorite. Plurality can be
regarded as a point-rating system, but a funny one in which you're only
allowed to give a point to one candidate. You're required to give 0 points
to everyone else. Top rating to one,  bottom to everyone else. Those zeros
that you give to all but one are materially real, in the sense that you're
thereby voting for those candidates to lose.

Note that it isn't that Plurality only lets you rate one candidate. You're
rating them all. But you're required to rate all but one of them at_
bottom_, voted to lose. That's why I referred to Plurality as a _funny_
point-rating system. Someone at the forum said that Plurality doesn't count
enough information. But that isn't true. Plurality counts plenty of
information, but it's mostly false information. All those compulsory zero
ratings. When you say something because you have to, even if you don't feel
it, that's falsity. It's no exaggeration to say that Plurality forces

It should hardly be surprising that this results in a lot of
dissatisfaction with "the politicians", the “lesser-evils” whom we're
choosing with our compulsorily falsified ballots. Forced falsification has
no place in a democracy's voting.

We're told that in Plurality we vote for our favorite. But the millions
who have to "hold their nose" when they insincerely help someone they don't
like, over someone they do like, might not agree.

How to avoid this problem? Why not repeal the rule that makes Plurality so
funny?  Let people rate _every_ candidate with a 1 or a 0. Rate every
candidate as "Approved" or "Unapproved". The candidate with the most
"Approved" ratings wins. The result? Well, we'd be electing the most
approved candidate, wouldn't we.  Who can criticize that?

When everyone can support the candidate(s) they really like, instead of
just a "lesser-evil", that can only mean that we elect someone more liked.

That voting system, the minimal improvement on Plurality to fix its
ridiculous problem, is called "Approval voting", or just "Approval".

Occasionally we hear a claim that Approval violates “1-person-1-vote”

But Approval is a points rating system. Every voter has the equal power to
rate each candidate as approved or unapproved.

If you approve more candidates, does that give you more power? Hardly. Say
you approve all of the candidates. You thereby have zero influence on the
election. Say there are 20 candidates. You approve 19 of them.  I disagree
with you, and, in fact I believe oppositely to you. I like the one you
didn't approve, and not the ones you did approve. So I mark oppositely to
you, approving the one candidate you didn't approve. My ballot exactly and
completely cancels yours out.

Obviously any ballot can be cancelled out by an oppositely-marked ballot.
The ballot approving all but one candidate is can be cancelled out by a
ballot marking only the one that the first ballot didn’t mark.

Together, those two ballots give approvals to all of the candidates. You
approved 19 candidates, and I've approved only 1, but I've cancelled you
out.  People who approve more candidates don't have more voting power than
people who vote for fewer candidates.

Approval  is one of the few voting systems that meets the
Favorite-Betrayal-Criterion (FBC). In other words, Approval never gives
anyone incentive to vote someone over his/her favorite. With Approval, for
the first time, no one would have a reason to not fully support all of the
candidates they like, including their favorites. Condordet doesn’t meet
FBC. IRV quite flagrantly fails FBC. The public are so conditioned to
resignedly give it all away to a “lesser-evil”, that many will bury their
I’ve personally obsesrved this in a Condorcet straw-poll, suggesting to me
overcompromising favorite-burial would happen in actual public political
Condorcet elections.

Not only does everyone have absolutely no reason to do other than fully
their favorite(s), but, additionally, this is transparently obvious, in the
simple Approval voting system.

Approval is, as I said, the minimal change that gets rid of Plurality’s
ridiculous problem. When anything more complicated than Approval is
proposed , opponents, media pundits and commentators, magazine writers,
politicians, and some academic authorities will point out that it could
have unforeseen and undesired consequences. They’ll take advantage of the
fact that the public can’t predict all of the method’s consequences.
They’ll point out that the method could cause disaster, because we don’t
know what it would do. Now, we voting system reform advocates all agree
that Condorcet is better than Plurality. But the public won’t know that.
Authorities and pundits will say “It needs a lot more study”, and...

...it will never happen.

Approval has a unique optimization. All of the Approval strategies (which
I’ll get to in a minute) amount to approving all of the candidates who are
better than what you expect from the election. That means that the winner
will be the candidate who is better-than-expectation for the most voters.
That’s the candidate whose win will pleasantly surprise the most voters.

Anyway, it’s obvious that electing the candidate to whom the most people
have given approval is, itself, a valuable optimization.

Approval strategy:

Experience with the several interesting and instructive presidential
mock-elections that we've conducted at the election-methods mailing list
suggests to me that, in an Approval election, people will typiclly just
know whom
they want to approve. People will have an unmistakable intuitive feel for
whom they want to approve. The suggestions below are merely for times
when they don't.

First, you can just approve the candidate you’d vote for if it were
Plurality, and also for everyone whom you like better than
him/her (including your favorite).
That would be good enough.

But Approval has strategy instructions that aren’t available for Plurality,
because they’d be too complicated to fully describe, and much more
difficult to implement. So don’t let these suggestions make you think that
Approval is more complicated. Approval’s strategy is incomparably simpler
than that of Plurality.

If there are unacceptable candidates who could win, then approve all of the
acceptables, and none of the unacceptables.

If there are no unacceptable candidates who could win, and if you have no
predictive information or feel about winnability, then Approve all of the
above-mean (above average) candidates.

If neither of the above 2 paragraphs applies, then Approve all of the
candidates who are better than what you expect from the election. To  judge
that directly, ask yourself: “Would I rather appoint him/her to office than
hold the election?”  If so, then approve him/her.

Why does that maximize your expectation? Because, when (by approving
him or her) you improve the win-probability of someone who is better than
expectation, that will raise your expectation.

All_ of the Approval  strategy suggestions are special cases of the rule
just given.

For example, maybe you have a feel for who the top-two votegetters will be.
Then, of course, approve the better of those two, and everyone who is
better still.  But I hasten to emphasize that the candidates who you might
to be frontrunners in Plurality are very unlikely to be the frontrunners in
Approval. Never let anyone tell you who the frontrunners will be.
Mike Ossipoff
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