robert bristow-johnson rbj at audioimagination.com
Tue Jan 31 13:29:37 PST 2012

On 1/31/12 3:23 PM, David L Wetzell wrote:
>     STV requires much more work on the part of the voter - ranking all
>     the way down to a candidate likely to be elected, instead of just
>     one.  That probably means a much larger ballot and/or an arbitrary
>     cutoff between ballot-candidates and write-in candidates.

this is *not* just STV.  it is ranked-choice voting (i would use the 
acronym RCV, but i think there were some places out west that they 
attached the label "RCV" to what we have been commonly calling IRV.  and 
i don't think it requires any more work on the part of the voter than 
that of deciding whom the voter would vote for in a runoff if their 1st 
choice was not in the runoff.  but it requires the voter to make up 
his/her mind about the candidates by Election Day, and i have never 
understood why that is such a burden (but the voting-reform opponents 
here in Burlington surely bitch about that).

the ballot meaning and rules are exactly the same, with one exception.  
for some ranked-choice methods, such as Condorcet, there is no 
restriction against equal ranking of any candidates.  for STV, equal 
ranking is a problem because we don't know how to promote (or 
"transfer") the pair of equally-ranked votes if some higher-ranked vote 
is eliminated.

>  In the FPTP case, it trims the ability of dissenters to move the de 
> facto center towards the true center.  In the IRV case, it does the 
> opposite, it penalizes the major parties when they do not move enough 
> towards the true center.
again, that was not the case in Burlington.  the center party was 
"squeezed" (as Jameson would say).  the candidate in the center received 
nearly all of the 2nd-choice votes from voters who ranked one of either 
the left or right wing candidates 1st.  it was relatively rare that the 
left-wing voter ranked the right-wing candidate as their 2nd choice and 
also vise versa.  but the center candidate did not benefit from that 
because IRV is opaque to your 2nd choice if your 1st choice has not been 
eliminated.  but, under Condorcet-compliant rules, the center candidate 
would have benefited greatly (and would be elected), so it can be said 
that Condorcet tends to favor the center candidate more (than either IRV 
or FPTP) whereas IRV tends to favor the largest subgroup (i.e. the 
Progs, in Burlington in 2009) of the majority group (liberals).  and, we 
know, that FPTP gives the minority candidate the best chance they have 
of winning (they need a 3rd-party or 3rd independent candidate to draw 
votes away from what would be their majority opponent if the spoiler was 
not there).

> Most rational choice models implicit here take as fixed the position 
> of candidates/parties on the spectrum, when in real life, this can be 
> changed somewhat.  This reduces the "badness" of strategic voting.  It 
> becomes less important thereby to devise an election rule that doesn't 
> give any incentive to anyone to vote strategically.

the reason why i have never agreed with that is because people *resent* 
being saddled with the burden of voting tactically and particularly 
resent finding out ex-post facto that their sincere vote served their 
political interests more poorly than the tactical vote (the most common 
tactic is "compromising").  that resentment has consequences, one of 
which is a cloud hanging over the elected candidate as not being 
entirely "legitimate", not being the "true" choice of the electorate.  
but the worse consequence is that of holding back what would otherwise 
be viable independent or 3rd party candidates, sometimes leaving the 
voters with a choice between Dumb and Dumber.  that is the *main* evil 
we're trying to avoid with voting system and ballot reform.

we are *now* experiencing some of these consequences in Burlington.  the 
Progs have decided not to run a candidate (the current mayor is or was a 
Prog and is not running for re-election).  it looked for a while that 
there would be only two (Dem and GOP), but recently an independent 
candidate emerged and her political appeal is a lot like a Prog 
candidate (the Progs are not ashamed of sticking up for the poor and 
powerless whereas, ever since Reagan, Democrats have modified their 
rhetoric to be for "the middle class" so as not to sound "socialistic" 
or too "liberal", both were bad words and continue to be used 
disparagingly in American politics).  so we are going to have an 
interesting test case for the election coming up March 6.  we might very 
well get an elected candidate with 41% of the vote.

now the Progressive party in Vermont is declining *rapidly*.  Burlington 
is the most populous town in the state (but Vermont has the the least 
populous largest city of all 50 states) with a population of about 
42000.  we have about 9000 voters in a mayoral election.  the Democratic 
caucus had over 1000 valid voters showing up.  the Prog caucus (which i 
attended as an observer, so also did another EM lister, who i just 
discovered has a Wikipedia page: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Bouricius but he was a voting 
attendee) easily had less than 2 dozen voting members.  2 of the 14 
Burlington city councilors are Prog.  *any* of the state legislators 
have been forced to identify themselves as dual affiliated, Dem/Prog, in 
order to get elected.

i truly fear the demise of what was once identified as the most 
successful third party in the United States.

i'll keep you guys informed.  we have an interesting real-world election 
laboratory here.


r b-j                  rbj at audioimagination.com

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

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