[EM] Obvious Approval advantages. SODA. Approval-Runoff.

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sat Mar 10 06:30:20 PST 2012

While discussion of strategies whereby a 
political party might attempt to manipulate 
Bucklin/runoff is interesting, we should be 
careful not to treat these "hazards" as if they 
were facts, unless there are facts to back them.

The strategy mentioned, to clone a candidate, for 
a party to attempt to "pack" a runoff with 
clones, is highly suspect. Under reasonable 
rules, it would almost certainly fail.

Partisan election rules do not ordinarily allow a 
party to add candidates under the party flag. So, 
for starters, there would have to be an "official 
party candidate," then the clone.

At 11:25 PM 3/9/2012, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>De : Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com>
>À : Kevin Venzke <stepjak at yahoo.fr>; 
>election-methods <election-methods at electorama.com>
>Envoyé le : Vendredi 9 mars 2012 17h04
>Objet : Re: [EM] Obvious Approval advantages. SODA. Approval-Runoff.
>At 07:36 PM 3/8/2012, Kevin Venzke wrote:
> > Hi Mike,
> >
> > I don't think Approval-Runoff can get off the ground since it's too
> > apparent that a party could nominate two candidates (signaling that one
> > is just a pawn to aid the other) and try to win by grabbing both of the
> > finalist positions. If this happened regularly it would be just an
> > expensive version of FPP.
>Number one. This objection does not apply to nonpartisan elections.
>Not sure why it couldn't. You just wouldn't have 
>a party, as such, executing the strategy.

So, the situation here is that there are two 
natural clones. And they are both so popular that 
they both outperform all the other candidates on 
the initial ballot measure. These candidates 
would very likely win under any single-winner 
with a deterministic front end. It's a standard 
election problem, not some strategic manipulation.

In my view, runoff elections should always allow 
write-ins, so the electorate can fix a problem if 
it appears. More likely, though, if the situation 
is such that the clones make it into the runoff 
-- *which would be expected, i.e., if either one 
of them would make it into the runoff, would not 
both?* -- the electorate is not going to be 
exercised to mount a write-in campaign. The real 
harm here is an unnecessary runoff. If they are 
true clones, then one might withdraw to avoid 
that. But the whole concept of "clone" is flawed. 
People are not clones of each other, and we are 
electing people, not abstract collections of opinions.

What this means, if it's nonpartisan, is simply 
that two identical candidates, in every respect, 
including public perception of them, which is 
critical, will tie. If they tie in a winning 
position, then some process must distinguish between them.

This is *not* a major problem in real elections. 
Ties occur for other reasons, i.e., factions in 
the electorate are divided. It's the opposite of 
cloning. It's not a major problem because 
political forces don't favor it. True clones will 
have the same set of supporters, largely, and 
those supporters will select one of them. If the 
clones fight each other and don't cooperate, then 
they aren't clones, and the supporters will take 
one side or another. (And weaken the faction's 
power. This narrow selfishness has natural 
consequences.) The political forces favor 
complete cooperation, and it won't be done by 
fielding both candidates in the public election, 
when that choice can be made much more 
efficiently and effectively within the faction.

>Number two. The strongest factor in elections is 
>positive name recognition. That's become 
>obvious. By running two candidates, you are 
>diluting name recognition. If you have one, you 
>might win. With two, quite possibly not. Risky strategy.
>Possibly true.

So risky that it simply won't happen. The real 
problem is balanced factions. It deserves a systematic approach.

>Number three. The strategy assumes that there 
>will be no rivalry between the two candidates. 
>Even if they are in cahoots, their supporters may not be.
>You'd pick a second candidate who doesn't have supporters.

Who therefore doesn't have a prayer. Put them on 
the ballot, supporters will appear. The original 
candidate, through this silly strategy, has split 
his own party. Brilliant. Next case.

>Number four. Who gets the campaign funds?
>It's a single campaign, so it doesn't matter. 
>Presumably the serious nominee gets them.

Single campaign? No, there are two candidates. 
Sure, they could share ads. "I'm running for 
dogcatcher, but I'd also like to recommend my 
friend, here, Ralph. Ralph, would you like to say 
a few words about how we are equally qualified 
for the job, and would you like to ask the public to vote for both of us?"

As a voter, I'd think, these guys are nutty. If 
they are both equally qualified, why didn't they 
just decide which one of them should run. Toss a 
coin or something, and spare us the election process.

Remember, if both these guys make it into the 
runoff, they have wasted the city's money on a 
useless runoff election. Sorry, this strategy is 
a blatantly losing one. Political suicide, like a 
lot of theoretical methods of manipulating voting systems.

>Number five. Others can play the same game, if 
>it's a real strategy. I don't think it is.
>I was actually assuming everybody (at least 
>major candidates) would play the same game. The problem
>is that the second round doesn't play the role 
>it was supposed to if this happens.

Depends on the details of the rules. Almost any 
voting system becomes clogged if there are many, 
many candidates. If write-ins are allowed in a 
runoff, it's conceivable that there can be 
majority failure in the runoff, but there still 
is a choice made. Almost always it will be by a 
majority. That's the function of repeated 
elections, to seek a majority for a winner. It's 
not possible to guarantee this with two ballots. 
In theory, it's not possible to *ever* guarantee 
it, but, well the cows do eventually come home, 
that's real-world experience. People want to get the job done.

A method like Bucklin/Runoff will almost always 
find a majority, if not in a primary, then in a 
runoff. Perfect? No. But with good rules, close. 
Multiple candidates who are almost identical 
creates a problem, not just for any voting 
system, but for the voters as well. What the 
hell? Who are all these people? What happened to 
our nomination process? Why aren't these people cooperating to preselect?

In small towns, it's very common to have only one 
candidate on the ballot for a position. There is 
nothing wrong with this! If people don't like 
that candidate, they can write in someone else, 
they could even write in "So-and-so is a jerk." 
They can express their disapproval. It's 
embarassing to be the only candidate on a ballot 
can get a lot of write-in votes for someone else. 
Ignore the problem and next election there just 
might be another candidate on the ballot.

We need to remember that elections don't take 
place in a vacuum. They are merely one part of a much larger process.

Asset addresses far more of the overall process.

>Number six. If this is a partisan election, who 
>gets the party slot? The strategy could badly 
>backfire, as supporters of the non-party 
>candidate decide not to support the official 
>party candidate, after all, the party made a bad 
>choice. No, the tradition is strong, and there 
>are strong reasons for it, that a party unites 
>on a candidate. It's more powerful.
>This seems to be the same as number three.

A clone, eh? No, this issue of party slot is 
important here. It means that a party can't put 
true clones on the ballot, becausa only one of 
them will have the obvious party nomination. Lots 
of voters don't pay much attention until they see 
the ballot! Then they vote based on party 
affiliation and name recognition. The former is 
powerful in partisan elections, the latter in nonpartisan ones.

>Number seven. If both candidates make it into 
>the runoff, very good chance one of them would 
>win anyway. This means that they are top two, 
>really. If this is nonpartisan, very difficult to reverse that.
>The intention of the first round is to pick two 
>finalists who are likely to be the best winner.

The intention of the first round is to find a 
winner if possible from the original ballot. In 
theory, we'd simply repeat the process until the 
electorate gets tired of dithering and is ready 
to make a choice. Practically, speaking, this 
means one of two things. It means lowering 
approval cutoff, if nothing else changes. But it 
also means that the public becomes more informed, 
through the process. "Two finalists" is not 
intrinsic to the method. It's possible to simply 
repeat the election. With write-ins, *there is no 
elimination*, there is merely a recommendation made through the first ballot.

With a good method, it could be three candidates 
on the ballot, under some conditions. A good 
method will use the ballot data to detect all 
reasonably possible winners. It should detect a 
Condorcet winner. It should detect a utility 
maximizer. It is highly unlikely that even a 
clone would tie on both of these measures.

We are talking, though, about simply tacking 
Count All the Votes into a top two runoff system. 
It's obviously flawed, but the question is 
whether or not this is an improvement, or, at 
worst, would cause little to no harm.

I haven't seen a realistic election scenario 
where it causes actual damage to social utility. 
Rather, we are seeing a common knee-jerk 
response. Strategy is "bad." Strategy, in fact, 
indicates strong voter preferences. The common 
assertion that Approval Voting is insincere is probably just made up.

>  So if one finalist
>gets both positions by running a weak clone, his 
>odds of being the one who would have won "anyway" are
>probably better than half, yes. The criticism is 
>that the second round serves little purpose if that's what is
>Number eight. You might be able to figure out a 
>scenario where this makes some sense.
>Now, compare that scenario with the real and known hazard of center squeeze.
>And where should that lead me? You know that 
>nobody is backed into a corner where they have to
>advocate either an approval runoff or nothing.

In the situation under consideration we have Top 
Two Runoff, which is vulnerable to Center 
Squeeze. Now, do we Count All the Votes?

I think it is a no-brainer. Of course we do. So 
we then have Approval/Runoff. Perfect? No. Better? Yes.

Costly? No. Free.

>Besides, once we are Counting All the Votes, a 
>ranked version of approval becomes far better.
>My simulations do often find that specific 
>rank/approval hybrids are the best wrt minimizing insincerity and
>electing sincere CWs and utility maximizers. It 
>depends on the scenario, but JGA's Approval-Weighted
>Pairwise is often the best Condorcet method and 
>my various "Single Contest" methods are usually the
>best non-Condorcet ones (especially wrt sincerity).
>"Single Contest" methods are actually like an 
>instant approval runoff, except the finalists are the two
>candidates who together minimize the number of 
>voters who approved neither of them.


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