[EM] (Kevin Venzke) and Richard Fobes.

Richard Fobes ElectionMethods at VoteFair.org
Sat Feb 18 21:04:42 PST 2012

David Wetzell, your reply reveals that we view the U.S. political system 
very differently.

Here is a link to a "map" of the U.S. political system as I see it:


"If the Republican party and the Democratic party are at opposite ends 
of a pencil, most of the voters are way above the pencil.  Both parties 
are pulled down away from the voters by the money coming from the 
biggest campaign contributors."

Please see the illustration on that page for details.  (Of course it is 

The main point is that the gap between the voters and the politicians is 
bigger than the smaller gap between the two main political parties.

Richard Fobes

On 2/18/2012 2:58 PM, David L Wetzell wrote:
> On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM,
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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
>     <mailto: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 parties.
> It's been observed that some randomness can be a good thing in an
> organization.
>     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
> trying?
>     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 indefinitely.
>     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" elections.
>     ------ Forwarded message ----------
>     From: Kevin Venzke <stepjak at yahoo.fr <mailto:stepjak at yahoo.fr>>
>     To: election-methods <election-methods at electorama.com
>     <mailto: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 <mailto:wetzelld at gmail.com>>
>     *À :* election-methods at lists.electorama.com
>     <mailto: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
> LNH.
>     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.
> dlw
>     Kevin
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