[EM] Corrections to inaccurate FairVote historical perspective

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Mar 15 20:57:21 PDT 2013

At 11:51 AM 3/14/2013, Ralph Suter wrote:
>The historical perspective by Abd ul-Rahman 
>Lomax posted by Richard Fobes has a number of 
>inaccuracies. It is apparently a "top of the 
>head" summary based on memories of what others, 
>including myself, had written several years ago.

Yes. I just wrote it. I did not go back and review the e-mail from Mr. Suter.

>The organization now named FairVote began with a 
>two-day organizing meeting (not a conference) of 
>about 75 people held in Cincinnati in the spring 
>of 1992. Its initial name was Citizens [not 
>Center] for Proportional Representation, with an 
>exclamation point intentionally included with 
>its acronym (CPR!). The name was changed a year 
>or so later to Center for Voting and Democracy 
>(CVD), then 10 or so years after that to FairVote.

I don't recall seeing that name before, but maybe 
that's just my poor memory. It really doesn't 
matter. The essence of what I wrote is being 
confirmed, but Ralph provides some significant 
new information. My point here, by the way, was 
just to explore an example of how activists take 
over, it's in the nature of activism, as others 
were saying. It is, I believe, possible to avoid 
this hazard *without* sacrificing the energy of 
activists. But it takes a certain kind of initial 
organization, I suspect. And, generally, nobody knows how to do that.

>Virtually the entire focus of the 1992 meeting 
>was on advocacy of proportional representation. 
>Single winner voting was discussed very little.

Right. Single-winner elections guarantee, under 
the *best* of conditions, that up to 50% of the 
voters are not represented. It can easily be 
worse than that! (In San Francisco, RCV (IRV) 
candidates have won with less than 40% of the vote.)

>I attended the meeting after having learned 
>about it from two articles about the need for PR 
>in the US and an announcement/open invitation 
>published in In These Times magazine. As I 
>recall, they were written or co-written by 
>Matthew Cossolotto, the meeting's leading organizer.
>The decision to strongly promote Instant Runoff 
>Voting (a name that was chosen after a number of 
>other names were used or considered), was made 
>only several years after the organization was formed.

Yes. That history has been described elsewhere.

>The main reasons for promoting IRV rather than 
>other single winner methods were initially political.

As I wrote.

>The thinking was that it would be much easier to 
>sell, as a logical improvement to familiar, 
>widely-used runoff elections, than other methods.

And that logic was not widely debated and 
questioned. The decision was made by a small group, as a *political strategy.*

>And in any case, CVD's leaders regarded single 
>winner reforms as much less important than proportional representation.

Who were they? Further, there may be some set of 
"leaders" who thought that, but activists tend to 
become focused on specific goals, the near-term.

>IRV was seen as a kind of "foot-in-the-door" 
>reform that could pave the way to much more significant PR reforms.

Yes. It even made a kind of sense, *if* one 
assumes that that PR will use STV. The position 
also missed something important, certainly in the 
history of voting system reform. It missed that 
the *target* had become the most widely-used 
reformed voting method. Reading back over 
political science documents in the early part of 
the last century, runoff voting was considered a 
very important reform. Yes, it has one major 
problem, Center Squeeze, but IRV has the same problem.

>I don't think there has ever been much serious 
>discussion among the organization's leaders 
>about the pros and cons of IRV and other single 
>winner methods, though I think it's unfair to 
>suggest, as Abd seems to, that they have been 
>intentionally deceptive in their arguments favoring IRV.

Well, what I've suggested is not being 
"intentionally deceptive," but being "willfully 
negligent." There are various common arguments 
about IRV that are frequently advanced by 
FairVote, and some of them are highly misleading, 
and if Rob Richie, for one, doesn't know that, 
he's turning away from clear evidence, and we 
have seen that. He's an *activist*, and activists 
argue to win, not to tell the plain truth. His 
career depends on being perceived as successful, 
and it would probably take sophistication that he 
doesn't possess to see how to pursue the 
*original goals* of his organization without 
being deceptive at all. He only needs to be 
deceptive, to suppress what "would only confuse 
people," -- in other words, might risk a lowering 
of support for what he believes is good for ... 
the cause ... because he set a tactical goal that was poorly chosen.

>In addition, a leading FairVote advocate of IRV 
>(though he first called it "majority 
>preferential voting") was John Anderson, the 
>1980 independent presidential candidate. 
>Anderson published a New York Times op-ed about 
>it in July 1992, shortly after the CPR! 
>organizing meeting (the url is 
>Soon after that he joined the CVD board of 
>directors and has been an active, influential 
>board member, serving for many years as its 
>chair (he's now listed as chair emeritus). 
>Although I have no information about the board's 
>internal deliberations, I suspect the 
>organization has been more influenced by 
>Anderson and other board members and less 
>dominated by long-time executive director Rob 
>Richie than some people have believed.

I've seen what happens in nonprofits. It is rare 
for a nonprofit board to restrain the Executive 
Director. I was on a nonprofit board where the ED 
was actually violating the law, risking a great 
deal, including the whole future of the 
organization. All in a good cause, mind you. (And 
I mean that, I'm not claiming that she was a bad 
person or something like that.) When I protested, 
as a Board member, I was considered a 
"trouble-maker" and encouraged to resign. I've 
seen this happen with other nonprofits, and few 
stay and fight. Often, the other board members 
are personal friends, and the whole experience can be excruciating.

My sense is that the strategy came from Richie, 
but certainly he may have consulted the board. 
Now, how did it happen that there were not 
effective and knowledgeable voting system experts 
on the board? Ralph, you tell the story....

>My own biggest disagreement with FairVote is 
>that it has never, itself, been a truly democratic organization.

When I became interested in voting systems, it 
was still CVD, and we used to make the joke all 
the time, that CVD was for democracy everywhere 
except in their own process. It's not uncommon, 
actually, among advocates for "democracy." They 
don't actually trust the people, the demos.

>At the 1992 founding meeting, I was under the 
>impression that it would be incorporated as a 
>member-controlled organization. In fact an 
>initial board of directors was elected at the 
>meeting using a PR procedure (STV as I recall).


>Only several years later did I learn that the 
>organization was incorporated as a conventional 
>nonprofit organization controlled by a 
>self-perpetuating board (i.e., the board chooses 
>all new board members). The initial board was 
>selected by Matthew Cossolotto and the other 
>incorporators and was not the board elected at the founding meeting.

Again, personal control. It's *very* limiting. 
Those founders could have worked with the 
original elected board, but .... it might have 
restrained them! If these were political 
activists, that's the last thing they wanted.

>As a result of how it was incorporated, the 
>organization has never been open to pressure 
>from members (since it doesn't have any) 
>regarding its positions on IRV and other issues. 
>I initially supported it with a couple of 
>donations, but I'm no longer a supporter and 
>have been dismayed by its positions on IRV and 
>some other issues and by its failure to become a 
>democratic membership organization.

What we found -- many of us attempted to 
cooperate with FairVote -- was that it was totally closed to *advice.*

It occurs to me to give an example of deceptive arguments.

>Upholding the principle of majority rule and 
>accommodating genuine voter choice are marks of 
>a well-functioning democracy. That's why we 
>encourage understanding, adoption and effective 
>implementation of instant runoff voting, a 
>ranked choice voting system used in a growing number of American elections.

"Majority rule." Great idea. The reality of IRV 
in actual elections is that when there are more 
than very few candidates, and in nonpartisan 
elections (and many of the implementations have 
been for nonpartisan elections), the system fails 
to find a majority of votes. It's essentially 
useless, the results almost always confirm 
first-preference. In real runoff elections, the 
runner-up wins about a third of the time. The 
equivalent (runner-up in first preference 
becoming the winner) only happens with 
nonpartisan IRV, sometimes, when the first round results are very close.

Now, many arguments can be raised on this issue. 
Supposedly runoff elections are a problem because 
of low turnout. However, history has shown that 
when the public is highly interested in a runoff, 
they turn out in droves. Low turnout in runoff 
elections indicates that the public mostly 
doesn't care about the choice. And so those who 
are more highly motivated vote. This, from 
Bayesian Regret theory, indicates that comeback 
elections probably improve overall public 
satisfaction with the result. Some political 
theorists simply, knee-jerk, think that low 
turnout is *bad.* Maybe. But isn't it fairly 
obvious that it means that the people who don't 
vote don't care about the choice being presented?

Real runoff voting allows dark horses to win. In 
nonpartisan elections, again, to win with IRV 
requires rising all the way up to top position in 
one fell swoop. With real runoff, they only need 
to get up to second position. In some improved 
runoff voting systems, they might manage to win 
by getting up to third position, but that gets 
complicated. The main effect is that by placing 
in the primary, then they get serious attention, 
and their supporters, who might have despaired of 
winning in the primary -- and some of whom 
therefore stayed home, perhaps -- turn out 
preferentially in the runoff, whereas the 
supporters of the frontrunner may have been only 
weak supporters. Some of them might change their 
vote, but, more likely, they don't care enough to turn out.

However, runoff voting could be improved, and 
that's what FairVote totally disregarded. Because 
their goal was the STV voting method, improving 
runoff voting was the *last* thing they wanted to 
do! Then they might lose their opportunity. But 
this set them up for a conflict of interest. They 
were advising municipalities on a single-winner 
system, but behind that was a different, not-disclosed motive.

My purpose here was actually to look at how 
FairVote presents information about Robert's 
Rules of Order and IRV. Looking only for recent statements, I found


>Instant runoff voting is a ranked choice voting 
>system that allows voters to rank candidates in 
>order of preference. Recommended by Robert's 
>Rules of Order and used in a rapidly growing 
>number of elections here and abroad, it 
>represents a major improvement over the usual 
>plurality-based and two-round systems of voting. 
>It protects majority rule, eliminates the need 
>for costly extra elections and all but 
>eradicates the potential chaos of "spoiler" 
>candidacies. But beyond its clearly established 
>benefits, we are seeing anecdotal evidence that 
>suggests that IRV has a positive effect on the 
>influence of big money on elections, and 
>mitigating the temptation for campaigns to "go negative."

The data on which I based my estimate of 
one-third of real runoffs being "comeback 
elections" was based on a FairVote study. Then I 
looked at San Francisco and other results. 
"Instant" comeback elections are rare, and 
majority failure is common. There are contrary 
opinions on the issue of negative campaigning; 
FairVote simply cites someone's impression. What, 
again, are the "established benefits"? Spoilers 
can afflict IRV, IRV only works with *minor party 
spoilers,* where a few percent of votes going to 
a hopeless candidate can then flip the election 
to the candidate whom those voters would prefer 
to the plurality winner. There are *plenty* of 
solutions to this problem. Runoff voting solves 
it, and where write-ins are allowed in runoffs 
it's actually possible to fix Center Squeeze, 
once the real positions of candidates are known.

But there are, quite simply, much better methods 
for addressing the problems. IRV looks good in 
one narrow circumstance: partisan minor-party 
spoilers, where there are predictable vote 
transfers, i.e., say, Green Party to the 
Democratic Party, as in Bush v. Gore v. Nader. In 
Burlington, where there are three parties at rough parity, IRV failed badly.


><http://www.robertsrules.com/>Robert's Rules of 
>Order (RRO) has been the basis for dozens of 
>major private associations and more than fifty 
>colleges and universities choosing to elect 
>officers with instant runoff voting . RRO 
>out the rules for an instant runoff elections, 
>to the point that association bylaws often 
>simply say "officers shall be elected by 
>preferential voting as detailed in Robert's Rules of Order."
>RRO recommends IRV (which it calls "preferential 
>voting," a term also used to describe IRV in 
>Australia) when association members aren't all 
>in the same place and able to engage in repeated balloting.

Right. But Bucklin was also called "American 
Preferential Voting," and, in fact, the term 
refers to any ranked ballot, and it could be 
extended easily to Range Voting, where preference 
*strength* can be expressed. Does RRO claim that 
the rules they give are superior to other forms of PV? No.

I've been told that RRO is not a theoretical 
manual, it's a manual of actual practice, and the 
form in wide enough use for them to be able to 
refer to it is STV. They are simply describing 
what is done. And, from the commentary, you can 
tell that they don't like it. We'll get to that.

>All the organizational bylaws FairVote has 
>examined with IRV rules follow the model we 
>recommend them for public elections, with one 
>round of voting, and the winner being the 
>candidate who has a majority of votes in the final round of counting.

Right. Now, it's *implied, by context and 
presentation,* that this is what RRO recommends, 
remember, so many organizations just refer to 
RRO's method. They don't mention the difference 
between what RRO actually describes and what 
these organizations allegedly do. (In at least 
one major case, the organization doesn't actually 
do what FairVote claims, I'll get to that.)

RRO points out that election officials should 
instruct voters of the risk of majority failure 
if voters fail to rank all the candidates, 
because, then, *the election will have to be 
repeated.* Parliamentarians *never* recommend 
restricting elections, unconditionally, to a 
single ballot, and they never allow candidate 
elimination, either. Rather, a repeated election 
generally requires new nominations. They 
recommend preferential voting, and educating 
voters to rank fully, precisely to avoid 
unnecessary runoffs. Parliamentary rules never 
allow *any* decision to be made without a majority approving it.

The phrase "majority of votes in the final round 
of counting," is a cute phrase that lots of 
people don't understand. They think it simply 
means "majority of votes." No, PV in Robert's 
Rules of Order is seeking a true majority, not a 
"majority of last-round ballots," from which 
*many votes have been eliminated.* Robert's Rules 
requires an *actual majority of votes.* IRV 
doesn't consider all the people who just voted 
against both of the top two in the last round. In 
a real runoff, no write-ins allowed, they could 
then decide if they wanted to vote or not, and 
they might well be better informed. If write-ins 
are allowed, they can actually, if the numbers 
and community consideration warrant it, to run a 
write-in campaign. It's been done, and it worked.

But there is a far better method than IRV, that 
is more efficient at finding true majorities, and 
that's been used in the U.S., more extensively 
than IRV ever was, here. Bucklin. Unlike IRV, 
it's a "count all the votes" method, i.e, a form 
of Approval Voting, but it is also preferential 
voting, using a ranked ballot. IRV can fail to 
find a majority because it can eliminate the true 
majority preference, before all the votes are 
counted. (Bucklin can do this, technically, but 
it's rare and involves multiple majorities.)

The simple reform recommended first by the Center 
for Election Science is Approval Voting, simply 
Count All the Votes. But most people, I think, 
prefer to be able to rank candidates, and making 
the Approval cutoff decision can be difficult; 
Bucklin makes it much simpler. And even better reforms are possible.

FairVote took over the voting systems field, 
dominating it, and very possibly, by *succeeding* 
in getting IRV passed in some places, making 
future reforms more difficult. After you've been 
connned once, you may well be suspicious of 
people promoting another "new" system. Bucklin 
isn't new though, so ... maybe. FairVote has put 
a fair amount of energy into attacking Bucklin....

>Associations electing top officers with IRV 
>(some of which have very hotly contested 
>elections) [...]  American Political Science 
>Association (the leading professional 
>organization for the study of political science, 
>with more than 15,000 members in over 80 countries)....

They always mention the APSA since, supposedly, 
political scientists would use the best system, 
right? Well, the APA has apparently *never* held 
a PV election. The rules are designed to avoid 
elections entirely. A nominating committee -- 
selected by the President -- is tasked with 
coming up with a single nominee, who is then 
presented to the annual convention, and is 
normally elected by acclamation there. Floor 
nominations are possible, though, and if there 
are three candidates or more, they would use PV 
by mail ballot. The bylaw seems to go back a 
century, when PV was the latest and greatest.

Now, there are also committees elected, N-winner. 
Hey, great application for STV! But ... no, as I 
recall, it's majority-at-large. Vote for N. The 
candidates with the most votes win. (So a 
majority faction, if one existed, can simply elect all the committee members.)

And then they go directly to RRO, but first, they 
need to frame it for you. I did not have a copy 
of RRONR, the more recent edition that describes 
PV, so I depended, for some time, on the FairVote 
description, and simply accepted what they were 
saying, with the framing. That's how powerful 
framing facts can be. When one reads the facts, 
one easily reads *into them* what has been said. 
And I was reasonably well informed! So when I 
read the RRO excerpt, I thought, yes, that's IRV 
all right! (And I was puzzled that parliamentarians would do this!)


>Robert's Rules of Order on Instant Runoff Voting
>Robert's Rules of Order (RRO), the well-known 
>guide to fair procedures, makes the point that 
>an election by a mere plurality may produce an 
>unrepresentative result. It recommends voting 
>methods that can determine a majority winner when electing single-seat offices.

"Can determine?" Yes, if all voters rank all 
candidates, IRV will determine a majority winner. 
Not necessarily the best one, it could be far 
from that, but it will be mathematically a majority of all votes.

>  At conventions of private organizations, etc., 
> where the electors can cast repeated ballots, 
> RRO prefers a system that allows open ended 
> repeat balloting with no runoff eliminations to 
> finally elect a majority winner.

Yes, they are telling the truth here. In fact, 
they don't allow anything else unless a bylaw ordains it.

Organizations, in fact, make their own rules, 
Robert's Rules only has authority of the 
organization implements the rules through a 
bylaw. RRO dislikes election by plurality, the 
parliamentarians consider that very unwise. It 
doesn't particularly like mail ballot, but it is 
recognized that some organizations consider a 
mail ballot as possibly more representative. So 
they then suggest *if you must* conduct a mail 
election, you can use preferential voting, and then they describe one method.

>Such a system may be time consuming but can 
>allow a compromise candidate to emerge after a number of ballots.

A sane preferential voting system can do that 
*usually* with one ballot. Unless you coerce 
voters, demanding that they rank all candidates, 
no voting system can guarantee a true majority. 
But real organizations do, in deliberative 
process, settle. What voting systems experts know 
-- and parliamentarians are not voting systems 
experts, generally, but they *talk with them* -- 
is that advanced voting systems can speed up the process.

A parliamentarian, however, will *never* 
recommend that an organization use plurality 
voting, and this is the tragedy: with nonpartisan 
elections, preferential voting, with no genuine 
majority requirement, using the candidate 
elimination system of single-winner STV -- i.e, 
IRV -- almost never produces different results 
from plurality voting. So all those organizations 
actually using IRV, for what are almost always 
nonpartisan elections, are simply running a fancy 
form of plurality voting. Of course, when there 
are not a lot of candidates, which is what 
usually happens, someone may get a majority, and 
IRV blesses this, and if voters have ranked 
enough candidates, again, there is the appearance 
of a majority, and it might be real.

>However, in elections where open-ended re-voting 
>is not practical, such as in elections by mail 
>(or governmental elections), instant runoff 
>voting (called "preferential voting" in RRO) is the recommended procedure.

Notice that 2-round elections are completely 
glossed over. And the procedure *actually 
recommended* still *requires* a majority of votes 
cast (and, by the way, the basis for majority 
includes spoiled ballots, with *any writing on them at all.*)

>In the section detailing the procedure for 
>conducting an instant runoff election RRO states 
>that "It makes possible a more representative 
>result than under a rule that a plurality shall 
>elect..... This type of preferential ballot is 
>preferable to an election by plurality."

And they really haven't considered all the 
issues. It *could be better,* yes, but ... how 
much better? The parliamentarians who have put 
together RRO have not actually studied the real 
performance of IRV. Obviously, *on occasion* it 
can be better. But Approval, very simple, is 
better than IRV, that's what the evidence shows. 
If someone objects that IRV allows more than one 
vote to be active at a time, there is a way to 
count Approval that only considers one vote at a 
time. You basically count it like IRV, but 
pairwise. (And for the pair, if the voter 
approved both candidates, you *don't count the 
vote* -- so you are never counting more than one 
vote at a time from a voter.) I won't give the 
method, but it shows that the objection is purely 
formal. In the end, the only votes which actually 
count are those for a winner, you could eliminate 
all other votes and the winner would not change.

Having told you the meaning of the text, they then give you the text.

>The full text is below. (Again, note that the 
>term "preferential voting" is another one for 
>instant runoff voting). It is from:
>Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
>In Chapter XIII §45. 10th edition, 2000, pp. 411-414
>(Used with permission from The Robert's Rules 
>Association, <http://www.robertsrules.com/>www.robertsrules.com)
>Preferential Voting: The term preferential 
>voting refers to any of a number of voting 
>methods by which, on a single ballot when there 
>are more than two possible choices, the second 
>or less-preferred choices of voters can be taken 
>into account if no candidate or proposition 
>attains a majority. While it is more complicated 
>than other methods of voting in common use and 
>is not a substitute for the normal procedure of 
>repeated balloting until a majority is obtained, 
>preferential voting is especially useful and 
>fair in an election by mail if it is impractical 
>to take more than one ballot. In such cases it 
>makes possible a more representative result than 
>under a rule that a plurality shall elect. It 
>can be used only if expressly authorized in the bylaws.

Notice that in this section, RRO is not referring 
to the specific method called STV. So they have 
*not* stated that the PV method they detail is 
better than plurality. But having been prepared 
by the introduction, it's easy to miss this.

>Preferential voting has many variations. One 
>method is described here by way of illustration.

>On the preferential ballot­for each office to be 
>filled or multiple-choice question to be 
>decided­the voter is asked to indicate the order 
>in which he prefers all the candidates or 
>propositions, placing the numeral 1 beside his 
>first preference, the numeral 2 beside his 
>second preference, and so on for every possible 
>choice. In counting the votes for a given office 
>or question, the ballots are arranged in piles 
>according to the indicated first preferences­one 
>pile for each candidate or proposition. The 
>number of ballots in each pile is then recorded 
>for the tellers’ report. These piles remain 
>identified with the names of the same candidates 
>or propositions throughout the counting 
>procedure until all but one are eliminated as 
>described below. If more than half of the 
>ballots show one candidate or proposition 
>indicated as first choice, that choice has a 
>majority in the ordinary sense and the candidate 
>is elected or the proposition is decided upon. 
>But if there is no such majority, candidates or 
>propositions are eliminated one by one, 
>beginning with the least popular, until one 
>prevails, as follows: The ballots in the 
>thinnest pile­that is, those containing the name 
>designated as first choice by the fewest number 
>of voters­are redistributed into the other piles 
>according to the names marked as second choice 
>on these ballots. The number of ballots in each 
>remaining pile after this distribution is again 
>recorded. If more than half of the ballots are 
>now in one pile, that candidate or proposition 
>is elected or decided upon. If not, the next 
>least popular candidate or proposition is 
>similarly eliminated, by taking the thinnest 
>remaining pile and redistributing its ballots 
>according to their second choices into the other 
>piles, except that, if the name eliminated in 
>the last distribution is indicated as second 
>choice on a ballot, that ballot is placed 
>according to its third choice. Again the number 
>of ballots in each existing pile is recorded, 
>and, if necessary, the process is repeated­by 
>redistributing each time the ballots in the 
>thinnest remaining pile, according to the marked 
>second choice or most-preferred choice among 
>those not yet eliminated­until one pile contains 
>more than half of the ballots, the result being 
>thereby determined. The tellers’ report consists 
>of a table listing all candidates or 
>propositions, with the number of ballots that 
>were in each pile after each successive distribution.
>If a ballot having one or more names not marked 
>with any numeral comes up for placement at any 
>stage of the counting and all of its marked 
>names have been eliminated, it should not be 
>placed in any pile, but should be set aside. If 
>at any point two or more candidates or 
>propositions are tied for the least popular 
>position, the ballots in their piles are 
>redistributed in a single step, all of the tied 
>names being treated as eliminated. In the event 
>of a tie in the winning position­which would 
>imply that the elimination process is continued 
>until the ballots are reduced to two or more 
>equal piles­the election should be resolved in 
>favor of the candidate or proposition that was 
>strongest in terms of first choices (by 
>referring to the record of the first distribution).

Notice that eliminated ballots are put in a pile. 
FairVote activists have claim that then excludes 
them from the "majority" referred to above. They 
made that up, and that becomes obvious later. 
They are put in a separate pile because they need 
not be examined any more in this poll. The 
criterion being used for election is established 
at the beginning, and it is "more than half of 
the ballots." Notice that this includes *all 
ballots.* that have any mark on them. (That's 
detailed in other sections covering ballot 
spoilage. Blank ballots are "so much scrap 
paper," but a ballot with any mark is assumed to 
have been intended as a vote, even if it's 
unintelligible. They also treat ballots violating 
rules, like overvoting, the same way. The ballot 
is simply considered to be a vote against all the candidates!)

>If more than one person is to be elected to the 
>same type of office­for example, if three 
>members of a board are to be chosen­the voters 
>can indicate their order of preference among the 
>names in a single fist of candidates, just as if 
>only one was to be elected. The counting 
>procedure is the same as described above, except 
>that it is continued until all but the necessary 
>number of candidates have been eliminated (that 
>is, in the example, all but three).

Notice that this simplified STV system does not 
require any quota for election. "Majority" is not 
used. Really poor method, I have no idea why RRO 
does it this way. Okay, I know why. A real PR-STV 
system is too complicated, I suspect. This method 
is only a slight improvement over Plurality at 
large, because a majority faction can easily 
elect all the seats. (They are comfortable with that.)

>When this or any other system of preferential 
>voting is to be used, the voting and counting 
>procedure must be precisely established in 
>advance and should be prescribed in detail in the bylaws of the organization.

In other words, the statement above, "association 
bylaws often simply say "officers shall be 
elected by preferential voting as detailed in 
Robert's Rules of Order" violates RRO.

>The members must be thoroughly instructed as to 
>how to mark the ballot, and should have 
>sufficient understanding of the counting process 
>to enable them to have confidence in the method. 
>Sometimes, for instance, voters decline to 
>indicate a second or other choice, mistakenly 
>believing that such a course increases the 
>chances of their first choice. In fact, it may 
>prevent any candidate from receiving a majority 
>and require the voting to be repeated. The 
>persons selected as tellers must perform their work with particular care.

They don't mention the problem that a single 
miscount can require a total recount, but they emphasize "particular care."

Notice that they *assume* that the election must 
be repeated if there is no majority. They could 
not be referring to the "last round majority" 
that FairVote IRV is seeking, because it is 
mathematically guaranteed. Very simple, setting 
aside ties, if you eliminate all ballots not 
containing a vote for the top two, one of them 
has a majority. Same as Plurality with two 
candidates! I've suggested that if they simply 
went more step, they'd have *unanimity.* Wouldn't 
that be better than a mere majority?

>The system of preferential voting just described 
>should not be used in cases where it is possible 
>to follow the normal procedure of repeated 
>balloting until one candidate or proposition attains a majority.

Now, remember, FairVote is working mostly for 
public elections. Almost all organizations can, 
if it's considered important, run at least two 
rounds, and a decent preferential voting system 
-- like Bucklin -- could easily make a second 
round relatively rare. A full-ranking Bucklin, in 
fact, could *guarantee* a majority result. 
(Standard Bucklin was really ranked Approval, so 
all votes on the ballot were Approvals. But 
Bucklin can be extended from that, plus it can by 
hybridized in various ways, to make for an 
extremely sophisticated system that, for example, 
will seek and find Condorcet winners, but this is 
not the place for that full system. FairVote 
turned away, deliberately, from election science, 
and went for a narrow political expediency. IRV 
was known as a poor system in the *19th century.*

(multiwinner STV is *far* better than single-winner IRV.)

And then RRO describes why they don't like the method:

>Although this type of preferential ballot is 
>preferable to an election by plurality, it 
>affords less freedom of choice than repeated 
>balloting, because it denies voters the 
>opportunity of basing their second or lesser 
>choices on the results of earlier ballots, and 
>because the candidate or proposition in last 
>place is automatically eliminated and may thus 
>be prevented from becoming a compromise choice.

It's very clear that, if needed, RRO would 
consider two rounds better than one, and it's 
very possible to set up a system that 
discriminates quite well if the electorate is 
ready to make a decision with a first ballot or 
not. Two-round runoff, with vote-for-one, and 
elimination of all but the top two, is a very 
primitive system, but it can already be argued 
that it's better than one-poll IRV.

Like IRV, Bucklin was sold as a runoff 
eliminator. It worked, by the way, until later, 
in the last standing Bucklin implementations, 
into the 1940s (the heyday of Bucklin was around 
1920), it was used for party primary elections, 
and voters tended to bullet vote, and majority 
failure was common. While there was an obvious 
fix: hold a runoff if there is majority failure, 
instead the jurisdictions went to .... top two 
runoff. And so they created Center Squeeze, which 
isn't so bad in party primaries.

In selling IRV, FairVote constantly repeats the 
theme of "find majorities without expensive 
runoff elections." In the San Franscisco 
Proposition that implemented IRV, the ballot 
information pamphlet explicitly explained that 
the winner would still be required to gain a 
majority of votes. That phrase has well-established meaning.

In Australia, in some states, they require all 
voters to rank all candidates on the ballot. The 
rules then specify the quota to win: an absolute 
majority of votes. In some states, though, they 
have "optional preferential voting," where the 
ballots are not spoiled if not completely ranked. 
And then the rules state the winning standard 
differently: a majority of all votes containing a 
vote for an uneliminated candidate, or similar 
language. (And they do, in fact, see frequent majority failure.)

The ballot information pamphlet stated the 
majority requirement, but if one read the actual 
change in the law, the second of the code 
requiring a majority was *removed*. Did voters 
know what they were voting for? I think it's not 
likely at all. People simply believed the propaganda.

The ballot information pamphlet was written by a 
independent commission, but ... a dollar to a 
donut that the language was supplied by FairVote. 
Or they simply believed FairVote and did not 
think of the effect of eliminated ballots. That's what's common.

In some races in San Francisco, there are well 
over twenty candidates for one Supervisor seat. 
In those races, ballot exhaustion is *common*, 
particularly because the ballot only allows three ranks.

I'll say it again: fancy and expensive and 
complicated form of plurality. SF elections 
demonstrate that. There are much better *and simpler* systems.

But, of course, they won't get FairVote their 
stepping stone to STV-PR. Unfortunately, IRV 
breakdowns may be postponing the day, not hastening it.

In fact, however, STV-PR is only one PR method. 
There are other methods that are theoretically 
superior. And, of course, there is Asset, which, 
if we want true, accurate proportional 
representation, blows all other methods out of 
the water. Invented in about 1883 by Charles 
Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) as a tweak on STV, 
allowing voters to vote for one and not see their ballot be therefore useless. 

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