[EM] Answers regarding claim about Approval's enact-ability

robert bristow-johnson rbj at audioimagination.com
Mon Apr 16 12:50:25 PDT 2012

hey Richard, how did you get "ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org" for the 
Reply-to header?".  i had to change it to get this to post.

On 4/16/12 12:42 PM, Richard Fobes wrote:
> Mike seems to be in a hurry for an explanation for my earlier statement.
> As I recall the issue is that I stated in a previous message that
> Approval voting was very unlikely to be adopted for use in U.S.
> Presidential _general_ elections.  Here are some reasons:
> 1: Making that change requires adopting a Constitutional Amendment.

not precisely.  there is a going state compact movement that will 
essentially make the Electoral College a figurehead.  it will exist, but 
it will be powerless.  and it doesn't need a Constitutional amendment, 
because the Constitution says that the state legislatures have the 
exclusive authority in defining how the presidential electors are 
chosen.  that's why Nebraska split their vote (4 McCain, 1 Obama) 
because that was decided by the Nebraska assembly.  (it's an interesting 
aside about Nebraska, theirs is the only US state legislature that is 
unicameral, so a single group of people made that decision, no other 
check or balance to it.)  Maine is the only other state that potentially 
splits their electoral vote, but hasn't done it yet.

but the point is, there is a possibility to change the method of 
electing the President that only requires enough states to agree that 
their electoral votes comprise a majority.  i mean, if Americans 
suddenly became fully enlightened: no more ugly American, no more 
presumptuous tourist that thinks every foreign person they bump into, 
especially in Quebec, should speak english, no more kneejerk siding with 
Israel (this can be controversial, but it is odd that the US is 
sometimes Israel's only ally vote in the UN),...

no more Citizen's United,

no more Buckley v. Valeo,

even elect the President using a Condorcet-compliant alg applied to the 
popular vote.  (one problem is that the electorial minority states would 
not have to adopt a ranked-choice ballot, if they didn't want to, but 
the compact could put language in that counts those as a single, 
first-ranked vote.  once they figure that out, some of the states that 
voted against adopting the compact will vote to adopt a ranked ballot 
since their own citizens would be perceived as disadvantaged without it.)

it's a weird way to change how we, as a nation, vote for the president, 
but you can do it with a state compact that is sufficiently widely 
(majority of electors) adopted.  to be that widely adopted would require 
a much different US political sentiment than that exists now.  but there 
appears to *possibly* be enough americans to eventually pass an elect 
"the presidential slate with the largest national popular vote total" 
(and the chief election officer of each state has to make that decision 

> 2: By the time Congress is ready to consider writing such an
> amendment, various kinds of advanced voting methods will have been
> tried, which means that voters will be familiar with various kinds of
> better ballots, which means they will not be intimidated by marking
> ranked ballots or score ballots.

one can hope.  we don't practice human sacrifice explicitly (well, we 
*could* consider that we sacrifice our children to the 2nd amendment, 
but that's another political enlightenment issue).  our forms of slavery 
currently are a little less ostentatious than they were in the 19th 
century.  our child labor laws took some effort to get everybody on 
board.  maybe even someday we'll have some system of Universal Health 
Care in the US.

>   This situation undermines the biggest advantage of Approval voting,
> which is that it is simple, and the easiest to understand (in terms of
> both ballot marking and ballot counting) for someone who is only
> familiar with plurality voting.

but i think that people understand how the "best" Olympic figure skater 
is identified, and that is by adding up the points awarded by judges. 
so i'll even agree that both Approval and Score voting are simpler than, 
say, Condorcet.  but Borda is even simpler than Score but none are good 
methods for governmental elections.  Score voting requires too much 
information from the voter who really just knows who he/she would vote 
for, but likely has feelings about the other candidates.  if he/she 
thought about it, they would likely know who their 2nd choice would be, 
if they had to go to runoff and his/her favorite will not be in the 
runoff.  one reason that Republicans and unenlightened Democrats are 
against IRV and, by association, ranked-choice voting of any form, is 
that they think that their major party will be in the runoff, and then 
they can get their licks in at the runoff.  but that wasn't the case in 
Burlington 2009.  the Dems didn't get their candidate into the runoffs, 
but at least 587 more persons would have wanted that candidate for 
office than any other candidate.  Democrats in Burlington really did 
themselves a disservice when so many of them voted against IRV rather 
than call for reforming it.  i really regret that the repeal election 
became such a two-"party" thing:  "Yer either fer IRV or yer agin' it. 
And I'm agin' it."  too few were interested in a 3rd alternative that 
would have satisfied the complaints of many of the anti-IRV Dems.

> 3: The majority of voters do not understand mathematics (and even most
> judges would not be comfortable with mathematics)
but they can consider different situations.  they can imagine if only 
two of the candidates were running, who they would vote for.  they can 
understand that if more voters want Candidate A than those who want 
Candidate B elected, that at least we don't elect Candidate B, if we can 
at all help it.  why should B be elected if more of us want A?  any 
voter who is informed enough to decide who they like and why, can 
understand why we wouldn't want to elect Candidate B when more of us 
wanted A.

ya know, we all pay taxes and get permits and navigate all sorts of 
interactions with the government that are *far*, *far* more complicated 
than ranked-choice voting or even electing the pairwise champion.  we, 
as a society, can grow in election reform, but we get setback when 
anomalies happen, and i think *any* IRV election that fails to elect the 
pairwise champion is anomalous.

but it doesn't seem so anomalous to fail to elect the pairwise champion 
with the mark-only-one ballot, because you don't know until there is and 
obviously spoiled election when some wing candidate clearly drew many 
more votes from the candidate who barely lost than they drew from the 
plurality candidate.  so you need more information from voters to know 
*how* they would have voted if the spoiler wasn't in the race.  and 
Condorcet most directly adapts the data collected from voters to salient 
binary choice election to an outcome that is consistent with all of the 
contingency races.  in fact, the Burlington 2009 election had a defeat 
matrix (i still think it should be a triangle of pairs of numbers) that 
was perfectly self-consistent.  (the Dem and CW defeats every other 
candidate.  with that candidate removed, the Prog and IRV winner defeats 
every other candidate.  with that candidate also removed, the GOP and 
FPTP winner defeated all remaining candidates.  finally, a credible 
Independent came in a strong 4th place, and the 5th-place candidate had 
only a handful of votes.  i think this will be more likely the case than 
one without a consistent pairwise-champion, where you need more rules 
than only picking the pairwise champion.)

ya know, a long time ago we were thinking of a better name for 
Condorcet, and i think "Instant Round-Robin" (even though a lot of 
people dunno what a round-robin tournament is, but some right-wing 
yahoos that are into wrestling or even tennis or table-tennis would 
know) and a better name for the Condorcet Winner is the "Pairwise 
Champion".  are they sufficiently descriptive?

instead of having to be either for or against Instant Runoff Voting 
(which also needs a *little* explanation about the transferred votes, 
what i like to call a "kabuki dance of transferred votes"), one can say 
they are for Instant Round Robin and electing the Pairwise Champion.  is 
that too complicated for the majority of voters do not understand 
mathematics and most judges that would be uncomfortable with mathematics?

> so they would think that being able to mark more than one candidate
> would violate the "one person, one vote" rule.

and that slogan was used, even put on signs in 2010 by the anti-IRV folk 
in Burlington, but it wasn't the main slogan, which was "Keep Voting 

but i still think reform happens and people can learn.


r b-j                  rbj at audioimagination.com

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

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