[EM] (Kevin Venzke) and Richard Fobes.

David L Wetzell wetzelld at gmail.com
Sat Feb 18 14:58:05 PST 2012

On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM, <
election-methods-request at lists.electorama.com> wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>   1. Re: STV vs Party-list PR, could context matter? (Richard Fobes)
>   2. Re: (Kevin Venzke) and James Gilmour. (Kevin Venzke)
>   3. Re: STV vs Party-list PR, could context matter? (Kevin Venzke)
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Richard Fobes <ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org>
> To: election-methods at electorama.com
> Cc:
> Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 12:47:31 -0800
> Subject: Re: [EM] STV vs Party-list PR, could context matter?
> On 2/17/2012 12:54 PM, David L Wetzell wrote:
> >     From: Richard Fobes <ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org>
> >     As for STV, going beyond two seats easily produces unfair results.
> >     And in the U.S. the results also would be quite unstable
> >     (i.e. not mesh well with the current two-party system).
> >
> > Can you elaborate?
> > I don't see why 3-5 seat STV with a droop quota wouldn't have results
> > like what you described that would maintain yet transform the US's
> > 2-party system.
> If STV is used with an odd number of seats (3 or 5) per district, in a
> (U.S.) state that feels well-represented by the Republican and Democratic
> parties, two problems arise.  The first is that it would give an undeserved
> advantage to a third party in every district (which is more obvious in the
> 3-seat case, but still applicable in the 5-seat case).

dlw: If it's only used for one branch and single-winner is used in the
other branches then you could say the undeserved advantage given 3rd
parties in the one is balanced b an undeserved advantage given to the major
parties in the other.  What's more, this might be what is needed to tie
ourselves to the mast to do better by our ethnic/economic/ideological
minorities than we have historically in the US.

> The second problem is that luck or (more likely) political manipulations,
> would determine which party wins the third (or fifth) seat, and that would
> increase the need for more party-based seats for the purpose of correcting
> the imbalance.

dlw: Only if we make a fetish out of nailing proportionality, like Germany
does.  The more popular major party will have an advantage due to their
greater likelihood in winning 2(or 3) seats and the greater likelihood that
successful 3rd parties will tend to favor them, assuming that the larger
3rd parties ccome from the same side of the ideological spectrum as the
larger major party.

It will tend to work according to majority rule, but even still, it may be
necessary to have that uncertainty to protect minority rights.  If the
bigger major party tends to control all branches it can leverage that to
dominate a state/country's politics.  If they cannot guarantee their
control of one of the 2 branches then they cannot leverage as much, and
there will tend to be a more even playing field between the two major

It's been observed that some randomness can be a good thing in an

> Another way to understand the second problem is to consider what would
> happen if 55% of the voters in a state favor the Republican Party, and the
> remaining 45% favor the Democratic Party, and there is an even distribution
> of these preferences throughout the state.  If STV uses 3 seats per
> district, the likely result would be that two thirds of the elected
> representatives would be Republicans, and only one third would be Democrats.

Which would be a lot better than 100% domination and that's just the worse
case scenario...   And since there'd be no limit on candidates per party,
there'd be room for intra-party rivalry that can be good too... The 2nd
republican won't be quite the same as the first, which is the point.

> If STV is used with 4 seats per district, in a (different) state that
> strongly favors a third party, the fourth seat would yield unpredictable
> results.  Here I'm assuming that the first three seats would be filled by
> one Republican, one Democrat, and one third-party politician.

dlw: Yes, and unpredictability is part of what gets folks interested in
political elections.  The odds are the bigger major party would win it,
especialy if the Droop quota is used.

> As I see it, accommodating proportional results in any state (and in the
> United States overall) has to occur at a higher level than the district
> level.
> Instead of the 3, 4, or 5 seats per district that you recommend,
> if STV were used with just 2 seats per district, many districts would
> choose one Republican and one Democrat, some districts would choose one
> Republican and one third-party candidate, and yet other districts would
> choose one Democrat and one third-party candidate.  In that case,
> relatively few additional "proportional" seats are needed to accommodate
> either third parties or an imbalance between the Republicans and Democrats,
> or (more likely) both.

dlw: I'm sorry I don't follow the logic of why 2-seat STV is better than
3-5 seat STV.  If you can't get proportionality right then why bother

> You -- and many other fans of third political parties -- view third
> parties as the solution to the current problem of government not doing what
> voters want.

dlw: I believe the strategic use of PR is critical to handicap the
cut-throat competition between our two biggest parties that makes it so
hard for them to do anything together.   I believe PR is necessary to make
some elections more likely to be competitive.  I doubt that any
single-winner election rule will make a diff in a state-reps district
that's heavily skewed to favor a certain major party.  And I believe 3rd
parties are essential to check the influence of $peech on both major
parties and to enforce its regulation via CFR.

> In contrast, my view is that first we -- the voters -- need to reclaim
> control of the Republican and Democratic parties, and then we can decide
> whether we need one or more third parties.  (I expect that we will need
> small third parties, but that they will primarily serve as a way for voters
> to steer the two main parties in wiser directions.)

dlw: How do you expect to do that, in the absence of more competitive
elections and better exit threat into 3rd parties?
We don't need a level playing field across all parties to make things work
a lot better in our 2-party system.

> Remember that state legislatures and Congress use a voting method (for
> choosing which proposed laws to pass) that works reasonably well with just
> two main parties, but that voting method would break down into chaos if a
> legislature or Congress had to form coalitions (in order to get a majority
> of support for each proposed law).  Also remember that in Congress (and
> presumably in state legislatures) the chairmanship of each committee
> switches to a committee member who is from the majority party; there is no
> graceful way to choose which committees switch their chairmanships to which
> of three (or more) parties.

dlw:With the use of 3-5 seat STV with a droop quota it will still be hard
for 3rd parties to get into the US house of reps.  If they did gain enuf
seats to make the current voting method not reliable then I'm confident
they'd change their method.  It's that simple.

As for the state house of reps, I advocate the use of 3-seat LR Hare, but I
also advocate that at the beginning the parties choose their leadership and
then the reps all vote by plurality to put one party in power.  That party
would get some extra procedural controls so its leaders can get things done
in the absence of a majority.  But it'd be the 3rd party reps who would
decide which party is in power.  And the ease with which a small 3rd party
can win that 3rd seat is what would make it hard for the leadership of the
party-in-power to use their controls to keep themselves in power

> My main point is that any voting system used in the United States has to
> accommodate both times of transition and times of stability.
> You seem to be focused on accommodating a transition to a three-party
> system, without also accommodating a later transition back to a two-party
> system.
> Remember that a two-party system is not necessarily bad -- if voters
> control both parties.  The two-party situation we are in now is bad because
> special interests (not the voters) control both parties.

dlw: 3-5 seat quasi-PR for US house of reps and 3-seat PR for state reps
won't move us to a 3 party system.  I also advocate for the use of an
approval voting enhanced form of IRV that also tends to maintain a 2-party
dominated system due to its "center squeeze problem" so I see myself as
trying to make our 2-party system more robust and dynamic, and to prevent
the onset of a 1-party dominated system, not unlike what recently existed
in Egypt with its nearly exclusive use of single-winner elections.

> Election-method reform must (first and foremost) cut the puppet strings
> that currently connect politicians -- of both parties -- to the biggest
> campaign contributors ("special interests").  That alone will change the
> political landscape dramatically, and that change might result in a stable
> two-party system that all the voters like.  We have to allow for that
> possibility -- rather than to assume that voters will always be unhappy.
> In summary, any well-designed election method not only must accommodate a
> transition to fairer elections, but also must accommodate whatever stable
> situation follows the transition.
> I do favor having more than two parties, but I don't see how three (or
> more) strong parties can be accommodated until after Congress and state
> legislatures use voting methods that are compatible with more than two
> parties.
> I'll add that I don't see any other democracy, including the multi-party
> ones in Europe, that have cut the puppet string between politicians and
> special interests, so we have no successful models to follow.

dlw: We used 3-seat quasi-PR in IL from 1870-1980.  This forced the
puppeteers to hedge more and accept a relatively lower and more variable
return....  it also kept either party from dominating IL's politics, which
let other nearby states that were economically dependent on IL to have more
freedoms in their politics, which in turn spilled over to bring changes in
other states that were typically dominated by one party but feared change.

We have a successful model.  It is the USA.  The use of PR in "more local"
elections has an important trickle up effect that makes single-winner
elections in "less local" elections more meaningful.  The UK is now doing
something like this and it led to their serious consideration of the use of
IRV.  The point being that there is pressure to replace FPTP once 3rd
parties can gain sway via the use of quasi-PR or better in "more local"

> ------ Forwarded message ----------
> From: Kevin Venzke <stepjak at yahoo.fr>
> To: election-methods <election-methods at electorama.com>
> Cc:
> Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 21:30:50 +0000 (GMT)
> Subject: Re: [EM] (Kevin Venzke) and James Gilmour.
> Hi David,
>   ------------------------------
> *De :* David L Wetzell <wetzelld at gmail.com>
>  *À :* election-methods at lists.electorama.com
> *Envoyé le :* Samedi 18 février 2012 14h10
>  *Objet :* Re: [EM] (Kevin Venzke) and James Gilmour.
>  You are supposed to get the EM list to agree first, before writing Soros
> directly.
> If there were such a pot at the end of the rainbow then maybe the EM list
> would have an incentive to agree.
> I like to think we don't agree because we think other people are mistaken.
> But if there were incentive to compromise I could see writing more posts on
> the subject of
> reaching one.

I tend to take a more psychological view of the matter.  We project our
tastes/preferences onto voters and design election rules that fit these
tastes/preferences.  Or we get a vested interest in defending such a rule
and selectively value those characteristics that it has over others.  It
doesn't have to be super-strong, but in the absence of any real money or
organizational imperatives, it's easy for those things to loom.

> But in the context of a 2-party dominated system, there aren't as many
> serious candidates
> That doesn't make much sense to me. The election method is a part of the
> system and it has an obvious effect on how
> many candidates could run.
> dlw: It depends on the size of the effect of the election method.  There
> still are cost-benefit rationales that would keep the number of serious
> candidates down, depending of course on the size and importance of the
> election.  Ceteris paribus, to have a party institution behind you will
> make a difference regardless of what election method gets used.
> Well, in SODA's case, I think the size of the effect is probably massive.
> It reminds me of the open party list in Brazil.

dlw: Aye, but that's multi-winner.  Multi-winner vs single-winner is a
major effect.  We were talking amongst single-winner election rules.

>  and so what relative advantages there are of SODA over IRV will be less,
> which then makes the first-mover marketing problem more significant,
> especially if IRV can be souped up with the seemingly slight modification
> of the use of a limited form of approval voting in the first stage.
> dlw
> If I remember correctly your idea is to use approval to pick finalists. I
> don't think this is a good idea because it breaks
> clone independence, which is an IRV selling point.
> But does it break it strongly?  Let there be A, B, and C.  Let BB be a B
> clone.
> The field is split 30.1-40-29.9.  Normally B wins.  If BB enters then
> either B or BB gets eliminated in the first round but then their votes
> transfer to whoever remains and so the outcome wouldn't change.  You'd need
> to have a crowded field so that an original finalist and their clone would
> both get eliminated.  If either the original winner and clone(s) got
> eliminated, which would be harder, in all likelihood, or you might change
> the order of elimination in the 2nd round so that there'd be a different
> winner.
> I don't think you get the concern. It's not clone-winner, it's
> clone-loser. Suppose the original winner was 3rd place on approval. Then
> clone one of the other two candidates to
> shut out the original winner.

[sarcasm]That sounds realistic.[/sarcasm]  You realize that the "approval
votes" are just the number of (up to 3) rankings a candidate receives?  How
often do you think you can clone one of the other 2 and thereby shutout the
winner?  I'd love to see an example of that.  If the winner is preferred to
the top-2 ranked-vote getters then if they were cloned, it'd not be the
eventual winner who'd lose out on approval votes.

> They don't even need to know whether 3rd place was going to win, it should
> just be the standard nomination strategy. If you nominate three, you
> could even win the entire race just on approval. There's some risk to this
> strategy (voters may not agree to approve everyone their party wants), but
> if a party so much as tries
> to use this strategy the method will look dumb. You should be really clear
> on what you're trying to do if you want to tell people to use a mechanic
> that looks manipulable.

If you can give me a robust example of this, ie one that's not on a knife
edge, I will abandon the idea.
JQ tried to do this a while back for a slightly different matter and it was
very hard to do and he eventually agreed that it "worked", except for how
it tended to reenforce the 2-party domination thing that he believes (along
with others) is the bane of democracy.

> For me, I think there are real world safeguards against clones in politics
> and so to be 100% clone independence is not important.
> I kind of agree with that, but only for cloning winners.

I'm not worried about cloning non-winners.

> If your goal is to e.g. not elect Condorcet winners who place third,
> I don't think my goal is not to elect CW's who get 3rd amount of
> top-rankings among the three finalists.   I think the goal is to reduce the
> distance between the de facto center and the true center,
> while allowing that we don't know the true changing center and don't want
> to chase it too easily.
> That's a pretty unusual goal that I still don't quite get. (Why do you
> pick the terms "de facto" and "true"? Wouldn't it be "anticipated" vs.
> "actual" or something? If the "true
> changing" center is the actual location of the median voter, how on earth
> does "de facto" contrast with this?)

dlw: de facto is based on the positioning of parties and determines what
issues are on the docket.  True is what would be the case if every vote was
taken seriously by the system as a whole, but this in real life is really
dynamic and there could be some unintended consequences behind voting
methods that successfully always nailed the true political center.
 Typically, it takes time to enact serious policy changes, hence the need
for a 2-party dominated system to provide the leadership required for
serious changes.

>  I think you should use the Approval-IRV hybrid that eliminates the least
> approved candidate until there is a majority
> favorite. I call it AER... I think Woodall called it Approval AV.
>  dlw: IRV+ is easy to tabulate at the precinct level.  One could get the
> 3 finalists on election night.
> The next day the votes can be sorted into 10 categories, once again at the
> precinct level, and the results used to find the winner.
> This is  more important than clone independence, cuz the true winner(for
> normal irv) would be more immune to the existence of clones than other
> finalists.
> I wish I understood what you feel makes IRV good and how you are trying to
> improve it.

My arg has been that what is crucial is to change the mix of single-winner
and multi-winner elections and that in our system the diffs in quality
among single-winner rules is of 2nd order import.  As such, it's best to go
with a tweaked version of the first-mover alternative to FPTP that's been
endorsed by the president of the USA and John McCain and many others, as
shown in Rob Richie's NYTIME article.

> I'm pretty sure that if those were nailed down, you could find something
> easier and
> better. Using approval you are already discarding the LNHarm guarantee.

dlw: But not very much.  The use of IRV for the last 3 keeps most of the

>  Why stick to something relatively difficult to tabulate?

It's not hard to tabulate how many times a candidate gets ranked, so long
as you catch the cases where voters rank the same candidate twice or
what-not.  That's easy to do.

> I don't think you can ride IRV's coattails if you
> won't keep the (demonstrable) properties of it. And picking finalists
> using raw approval... That is just a basic thing not to do, like
> plurality-at-large for multiple seats.

It's not raw for a first stage of single-winner election.  Plurality
at-large for multiple seats is not unlike single-winner elections, but
that's the point, it's a single-winner election rule.
thanks for the good comments.

> Kevin
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