[EM] Democracy Chronicles, introductions
adriantawfik at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 28 09:38:11 PDT 2012
As long as everyone is somewhat comfortable with keeping the "mathematically equivalent"
wording, I think we can move forward with the article. I put together the more complete
text of the article with the interview included and some additions to the intro to remind
readers of the group and the series of articles. I am hoping we can finish discussion of
the article and publish this week. Please make any suggestions for changes before
mid-week and I will go ahead and publish. Don't worry about formatting because I will
clean the article up for publication.
If you have any images from Votefair I can use on the article or any other images, please
let me know. I have been reliant of Flickr and Wikipedia for the entire website. Thanks.
The Fobes article:
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Election Reformer Speaks With Democracy Chronicles!
Author and Activist Richard Fobes Discusses His Ideas For Election Reform in the US
Over the course of a series of articles Democracy Chronicles is
presenting the results of the fascinating interviews we have conducted with
prominent signers of the group that published the 'Declaration of Election-Method
Reform Advocates'. The interviews will cover the opinions of a diverse group of
election experts from around the world. These interviews could not have been
accomplished without the determined help of author and election reform advocate
Richard Fobes. In a small token of our appreciation for his efforts, we are
publishing his interview here as the first of the series of interviews
exclusively on Democracy Chronicles.
Richard Fobes, who has a degree in physics, became involved with
election-method reform when he
realized, while writing his book titled "The Creative Problem Solver's
Toolbox" [link], that most of the world's problems can be solved, but
the current voting methods used throughout the world are so primitive
that citizens are unable to elect the problem-solving leaders they want.
That insight motivated him to spend time over the last two decades
developing and writing open-source software for a system of
voting methods that he calls "VoteFair ranking." The core of the system
is VoteFair popularity ranking, which is mathematically equivalent to
the Condorcet-Kemeny method, one of the methods supported by
the "Declaration of Election-Method Reform Advocates." At his VoteFair.org [link] website, Fobes offers a free service of
calculating VoteFair ranking results, and a number of organizations have
used the service to elect their officers.
At that site Fobes also hosts an American Idol poll that allows fans of
the TV show to rank the show's singers according to who is their
favorite, who is their second favorite, and so on down to who they like
the least, and the calculations reveal the overall ranking. Based on the
results, Fobes writes commentaries that anticipate and explain so-called
"surprise" results in terms of important voting concepts, especially
vote splitting, vote concentration, and strategic voting.
Below, Mr. Fobes answers the questions of Democracy Chronicles' Adrian
Tawfik who recently conducted the interview online:
Democracy Chronicles: Briefly explain what characteristics you
think are most important for a voting method to have?
Richard Fobes: To produce fair results, a voting method should look
deeply into the voter preferences. The
current approach of voters only being allowed to mark a single choice, and then
using an overly simplistic counting method (plurality), is a huge failure to
look beneath the surface of voter preferences. In contrast, I think a voter should be allowed to rank all the
candidates from most preferred to least preferred, and the counting method
should fully rank all the choices from most popular and second-most popular
down to least popular. If a method
correctly identifies the least-popular choice, then voters can better trust
that the method also correctly identifies who deserves to win.
Democracy Chronicles: What do you think is the most important
election reform needed where you live (either locally or nationally)? Why is
this reform important?
Richard Fobes: I believe that the election reform that is most needed in
the United States is to ban the use of single-mark ballots in
Congressional elections, including primary elections. This ban would allow us, the majority of
voters, to fill Congress with problem-solving leaders instead of
special-interest puppets. This reform is
more important than reforming Presidential elections because the job of the
President is to enforce the laws that Congress writes, and because it would
dramatically weaken Congressional lobbyists (who have far more power than
Democracy Chronicles: What is your opinion on other aspects of
election reform such as reforming money's role in politics or redistricting (particularly
in the US but very interested as well concerning election reforms internationally)?
Richard Fobes: Banning single-mark ballots in Congressional elections
would eliminate vote splitting, which is a weakness of plurality counting that
the biggest campaign contributors have learned to exploit in ways that involve
money. Using better ballots and better
counting methods would enable a problem-solving leader to more easily win a
Congressional (primary or general) election running against a money-backed
incumbent, even if the money-backed incumbent greatly outspent the
I believe that the solution to the redistricting problem
in the United States (and similarly in each state) is to slightly more than
double the size of Congressional districts, and then fill each district's
second seat with the candidate who is most popular among the voters who are not
well-represented by the winner of the first seat, which is what "VoteFair
representation ranking" deeply calculates. In a typical such district, one Republican and one Democrat would win
that district's two seats, regardless of where the district boundaries are
Additionally a few "proportional" seats would
be filled based on the voters' party-preference information, with the candidate
being selected by "VoteFair partial-proportional ranking." This adjustment would compensate for any round
off errors that occur in filling the district-based seats, and would ensure
that the majority of each state's Congressional representatives are from the same
political party as the state's majority of voters. To the extent that the Republican Party and
the Democratic Party continue to be excessively influenced by money instead of
votes, third-party candidates would win the proportional seats, and that outcome
would force the two main parties to adopt at least some of the reforms promoted
by the most popular third parties.
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