[EM] Sortition and the Delegable Proxy system

Bryan Mills bmills at alumni.cmu.edu
Wed Feb 1 21:26:41 PST 2012

On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 9:41 AM, <
election-methods-request at lists.electorama.com> wrote:

> On 01/31/2012 07:05 AM, Bryan Mills wrote:
> > On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm
> > <km_elmet at lavabit.com>  wrote:
> >> I think it is strategy-proof, but I wonder if people would irrationally
> >> reason something like this:
> >>
> >> "My chance of winning is very low, so I shouldn't keep my hopes up.
> Instead,
> >> I should delegate my vote so that I can feel I expressed myself if
> [popular
> >> candidate] wins."
> >>
> >> Now, that makes no sense, but if people were game-theoretically
> rational,
> >> turnout would be very low (and it isn't). So I'm wondering if the people
> >> would irrationally be more mass-like than you'd want of a
> sortition-based
> >> system.
> >
> > Moderate clustering of votes is desirable, and leads to lower-variance
> outcomes
> > (because the count proceeds further on average before hitting the
> > max-seats limit).
> >
> > That's among several reasons why you would want a large number of
> > seats; probably on the order of 400-500 for a practical legislature.
> > Voters could hopefully find a fairly close match among the
> > several-hundred front-runners -- much closer than would be possible
> > in a single-winner or even a typical STV election, especially since
> > they wouldn't have to spend time figuring out a rank-ordering of
> > less-preferred candidates.
> Alright, I misunderstood a bit what you were trying to do. I thought
> that you wanted sortition with its essential features (representative
> sample of the population, incorruptability) but with a fix to keep those
> who themselves did not want to serve from being unrepresented. I
> envisioned that voters who did not want to serve would (ideally) name a
> friend or relative or something like that, so any given candidate would
> have less than ten votes.
> By what you're saying, since you mention Droop quotas and analogies to
> STV, as well as "representative sample of preferences for
> representation", it seems you're coming at it from an election method
> angle - i.e. you want something like STV but without the hassle of
> filling in a 400-candidate ballot, and with no incentive for strategy
> whatsoever.
> Is that right?

Pretty much.  Ideally I'd like a legislature that produces the same results
as an enlightened direct democracy.  But we don't all have time to research
every issue, so we delegate to representatives -- ideally knowledgeable
ones who share most of our views.  And we don't have the infrastructure to
re-delegate for every bill, so we need a standing legislature (unless we
want to build the infrastructure).

I see STV and Sortition as two extremes of the possible solutions for
legislatures: sortition is strategy-free and maximally-representative,
while STV is solidly deterministic but still fairly proportional and with
fairly minimal party influences.  I started out by trying to figure out an
STV method that would produce results closer to direct democracy, and
decided that meant scaling it way up (to make it easier for minorities to
collect a Droop quota).  So I looked at various schemes for pre-filtering
the candidates without distorting proportionality too much, and stumbled
across Delegated Sortition as a possible filtering system.

When I looked at DS in more depth I realized that it has some really
interesting properties as a stand-alone system, including solving the
ballot-size problem quite handily.  (I'm still not sure whether DS+STV is
worth pursuing; I got kind of sidetracked.  For what it's worth, I'm now
deeply skeptical of the general concept of filtering+STV -- it's very
difficult to filter down to a fixed number of candidates without
introducing some really nefarious strategies )

> In general, I don't think one can solve the "elected candidates
> > ignore their constituency" problem completely with any long-period
> > election system. If you want to solve that problem you'd need voters
> > to be able to change their delegations midway through a term, and
> > while I think that's a very interesting line of investigation it
> > doesn't satisfy my initial objective of "conventional
> > infrastructure". (That is, any system that completely solves the
> > ignored-constituency problem presents more substantial technical
> > barriers to adoption than does DS.)
> You could mitigate it by having staggered elections. You could have an
> election for 1/kth of the assembly 1/kth of the term, kind of like the
> interleaving of US executive and legislative elections. Beyond that,
> you're probably right.
> > It may be fairly unlikely that your vote would "pull the candidate
> > in your direction", but that's kind of the point of using a
> > proportional system instead of a single-winner district system.
> > Rather than attempting to move the position of a consensus
> > candidate, voters can instead seek a candidate whose views are
> > already suitably close to their own.
> You could move the position of your candidate, I think. In, say, STV, if
> you're a socialist and prefer the socialist party, you may still prefer
> the leftmost SP candidate - and if the other SP candidates know that,
> they may move further to the left. The feedback is not as strong,
> granted, but I think that's an advantage STV (and other multiwinner
> party-neutral methods) have over party list.

Absolutely agreed.  But I think you'd have about as much pull under DS as
you would under STV: if the candidate likes their job, they'll care much
more about your vote if they think their odds of re-election are marginal.
 At least with DS they have the added incentive that if they keep your vote
and get re-elected they'll have a bit more voting-power to wield -- so
they'll only ignore you completely if they think they're certain to lose.
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