[EM] Historic opportunity in Arizona for Approval Voting

Andy Jennings elections at jenningsstory.com
Mon Mar 18 09:12:42 PDT 2013


When applied to cities with partisan primaries, the bill is not even clear:

1) Does it mean that only two candidates advance (the two with the most
votes from any party even though the party primaries had different numbers
of voters)?

2) Does it mean the top two from each party advance to the general?

You could probably argue that it's up to the city to decide between those
systems.  Is either one a good system?  I don't know.

I would favor your amendment: use AV in all party primaries, top one from
each party goes to the general, if we also mandate AV in the general

BUT, we are only talking about one city here (who won't necessarily even
want approval) and we have much to lose by inserting this amendment.  If we
say anything about partisan elections, then we awaken all of the partisan
sensibilities in all of the legislators (and the governor).  I don't think
we want to risk it.

~ Andy

On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 9:52 AM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com>wrote:

> At 11:52 PM 3/17/2013, Andy Jennings wrote:
>> Abd,
>> Thanks for your support.
>> Municipalities in Arizona have great flexibility in choosing their own
>> voting systems.
>> I wouldn't say that municipalities have great flexibility in choosing
>> their own voting systems.  That's why we need this bill.
> Okay. Home rule municipalities may have some flexibility. And how much, I
> don't know. What I know is "some." Tucson demonstrated that.
>  In particular, Arizona statute says if there is one winner then the
>> ballot verbiage must say "Vote for no more than 1".  The way I see it, they
>> were just trying to standardize ballot language for the state and (since
>> all they knew was plurality) they inadvertently restricted us to either
>> single-shot plurality or plurality with a plurality primary.  Since the
>> constitution mandates a primary, that leaves us with either segregated
>> primaries or jungle primaries.
> Combine this with partisan/no-partisan ballots, i.e, party designation,
> then the two sane choices are segregated primaries (by party), or unified
> nonpartisan primaries. In any case, then, using Approval in the primaries
> is a major step foward.
> Approval in party primaries, though, could use Approval. Could a city, as
> well, hold, in addition to party primaries, hold an open primary for all
> candidates who choose not to affiliate with the party primaries?
> The problem I'm seeing is that HB2518 appears to mandate two candidates to
> go to the general election. That doesn't work with party primaries. A
> partisan primary should choose one candidate. The Bill calls the second
> election a "Runoff," as one alternate name. But it explicitly excludes any
> consideration of "majority."
> Now, from an election methods perspective, with an Approval election, this
> is actually spectacular. The design of the system, with the primary being
> held early, i.e., not held with the general election, and with, then, the
> final election being held as a general election, with generally higher
> turnout, addresses some objections to Approval Voting, i.e,. multiple
> approval majorities and therefore failure of some definitions of the
> majority criterion.
>  (The courts have ruled that cities, if they want, can implement a rule
>> that avoids the runoff if someone gets a majority in the jungle primary.)
> What I'd recommend is that cities begin with the process in the Bill, and
> study results. It is possible to extrapolate margins in the runoff from
> those in the primary, and this is especially true with nonpartisan
> elections. However, the cost of adding and canvassing an additional runoff
> election in the general election is relatively small. It's really just
> another question on the ballot.
> The big issue is turnout. However, turnout can cut both ways. It rewards
> motivation, which is probably a good thing.
> Classically, advanced voting systems cause candidate numbers to increase.
> That appears to have happened in San Francisco. It's particularly true with
> nonpartisan elections, if people can run at low cost.
> As to the problem of what the election law says -- I haven't read the
> entire code, just large chunks of it -- there is a *very* advanced system
> that vote-for-one works fine with, Asset. But we are focusing on Approval,
> one small step, Count All the Votes.
> And the next refinement would be to allow ranking on the ballot, which
> allows, then, a series of advanced canvassing techniques.
> By the way, if a city has an accumulated record, with the Approval
> two-ballot system, there is one majority condition which really could be
> with total safety used to determine the result from the primary: where the
> absolute approval number for the winner exceeds half of the high-normal
> turnout for the general election. That would kill the participation
> problem. My guess is that better than this could be done.
> But there is great value in that second election, there is media focus on
> two candidates, instead of what could be many. That's a reason why Robert's
> Rules of Order objects to IRV (and all deterministic preferential voting
> systems).
>  That's the only statute I know of in AZ law that prohibits approval
>> voting.  Though there may be others.  HB2518 expressly allows approval
>> voting, thus overriding any other inadvertent prohibitions.
> And says so.
>  5. The passage of this bill in the Arizona House is the best news I've
>> seen *ever* as to U.S. voting systems.
>> Thanks.  Maybe I'm just downplaying the accomplishment here, but the way
>> I understand it there are already hundreds (thousands) of home rule cities
>> around the US that could enact approval voting with an ordinance.  We're
>> just trying to catch AZ up to where these "home rule" cities already are.
> Right. But it's much more than that, as you go on to state.
>  But it is movement, hopefully it would be momentum to go to cities and
>> say, "The legislature just allowed this.  You can try it."
> Right. Note that IRV is also prohibited by that language.
> The language was overspecified in the first place. It was defined by the
> number of winners rather than by the necessities of avoiding ballot
> spoilage. "Where a vote for more than one candidate, under the canvassing
> rules, will cause the ballot to be spoiled for that race, the ballot shall
> contain the language, "vote for no more than one."
> As an example, for an IRV ballot, the language would say, "for each rank,
> vote for no more than one."
> But if the method allows voting for more than the number of winners (which
> is the real concern, because with two winners, is the ballot spoiled by
> voting for three?), then there is no spoilage and no need for the warning.
> And the reverse might be needed, so that voters don't assume they can only
> vote for one.
> (FairVote has made a lot of noise about Bucklin being rejected because of
> several reasons, and one was the one-person, one-vote argument. The
> Minnesota Court did make an argument like that, but it was directed at the
> bare possibility of voters who voted for more than one candidate having
> some sort of advantage over voters who chose to bullet vote. It would have
> applied to IRV, as the argument was actually made. FairVote has pointed to
> an argument the court did not make, but, if you believe the argument, it's
> possible to read over the court argument and think they were making it....
> that's what partisan thinking does, it curdles the capacity of the brain to
> make clear distinctions.....)
> (What actually happened in Minnesota was almost certainly political, not
> legal. The court majority -- there was diessent -- was killing an advanced
> voting system *that worked*, and clearly frustrated the expressed
> preferences of the voters, and, instead of allowing the election result to
> stand but enjoining further use of the system, which would have been
> possible in the context, they reversed the election and rewarded it to the
> plurality winner in the first round. They did not void the election,
> another possibility. No, this was dirty politics.)
> If the one-person, one-vote argument comes up, there is an argument that
> Approval Voting satisfies one-person, one-vote, not only on the basic
> equity argument (which is the real meaning of that phrase, because,
> obviously, more than one vote is indeed allowed *when it is equitable and
> treats all voters identically), and that relies on a principle: if there
> are multiple ways of canvassing the votes, of counting them, that produce
> the same result, always, and one of these ways clearly only counts one vote
> at a time from each voter, then the ballot method satisfies one-person,
> one-vote. An IRV ballot obviously allows more than one vote on the ballot,
> so it violates a naive application of the principle. However, IRV
> selectively ignores extra votes, so it only counts one vote *at a time*
> from each voter.
> The simple way to handle the matter with Approval does count multiple
> votes at the beginning, but then recanvasses in a way that only counts one
> vote, or none, from each voter. That way is to pick the top two from
> counting *all the votes*, and then recount only that pair, eliminating
> ballots with no vote (now considered as No on the election of either), and
> those who voted for both, call that total BA, for Both Approved). The
> remaining votes are compared, and the candidate with the most votes is the
> winner. In this determination, only one vote from each voter is considered.
> Then, if it is necessary to determine if the candidate has a majority, the
> total number of set-aside ballots with a vote for the winner, BA, is added
> in.
> In determining the winner, only one vote from each voter is considered, or
> none. Again, in determining if the winner has a majority, only one vote
> from each voter is considered, and it is either Yes or No. (Under Robert's
> Rules, a blank ballot is not counted in the basis for majority, but a
> ballot with *any mark* is considered valid, even if unintelligible. So
> under Robert's Rules, for example, you can write "None of the Above" on the
> ballot and that is counted as a vote against all candidates.)
> There is a more complicated algorithm which doesn't even use the shortcut
> of first counting all the votes. The basic point here is that, with
> Approval, in the end, the only vote that counts as a Yes for the candidate
> is a mark for the winner, and all other votes could be *eliminated* without
> changing the result. All other votes are preliminary. It's like the
> first-preference votes. The IRV system *does* count more than one vote from
> each voter, it merely does it sequentially. A similar sequence can be used
> to count Approval. It's just a bit stupid, because it will produce the same
> result as simply Counting All the Votes and awaring the win to the
> candidate with the most votes.
> Again, another argument is the multiple ballot question issue. Normally,
> ballot questions are presented one at a time, on an issue. But,
> occasionally, multiple conflicting questions are presented. The rules are
> generally quite explicit. A majority Yes is required to pass a ballot
> question. If no question passes, all the votes are effectively moot. If one
> gains a majority and the other does not, that a voter may have voted for
> more than one is moot. And if both pass, there are obviously voters who
> have voted for more than one.
> The question with the most Yes votes prevails.
> Approval Voting is the exact equivalent of multiple ballot questions,
> except for ballot form. It could be arranged to have the ballot form match,
> either way. I.e., the election could be presented as a single question with
> multiple possible answers or a series of ballot questions, Yes/No. However,
> there needs to be a way to distinguish a No from an abstention, so these
> would be linked as a single overall question, if you vote Yes to any of the
> options, you are considered to have voted No on all the others. (It's only
> important to know the Nos if a majority is needed. Plurality Approval
> doesn't need to know that, it only needs to look at Yes votes. So HB2518 is
> 2-winner plurality approval, unrestricted voting).
> A multiple ballot question could be presented on the ballot as
> Vote for one or more:
> [ ] Option A
> [ ] Option B
> [ ] No to both A and B.
> The No vote is necessary because a majority is required, or the initiative
> or referendum is killed. Back to the process to create a new one, though
> that often doesn't happen for a long time.
> The vote is voided if marked both for an option -- or two, because the
> intention is not clear. Under Roberts' Rules, though, it would still be
> considered in the basis for a majority, so it would effectively be a No.
> Under public election rules I've seen, it would be as if not cast. This is
> because Robert's Rules *always* wants a true majority of those voting to
> clearly approve the winner, or it wants the election to be repeated.
> FairVote has glossed over this, pretending that Robert's Rules is
> approving of their method of canvassing the votes, when it *never*
> recommends electing with a mere plurality of valid ballots, and the only
> invalid ballots are blank ones.
> This is the problem with including IRV in the options for this bill. You
> have to specify what that means. There are many, many details, and the
> complexity can be great. However, a measure could generally specifiy, not
> IRV, but preferential voting, giving only general charactteristics and
> allowing towns the flexibility. That could then allow Bucklin, IRV,
> Condorcet, and even Range voting. (Range Voting can be presented as
> preferential voting, with a set of ranks, and equal ranking and skipped
> ranks allowed. Range is then a way of canvassing a preferential ballot. And
> there are very sophisticated hygrid ways.)
> The state, then, could write a section of the election law that covers
> Preferential ballot, but that is a very complex thing. IRV, out of the box
> as presented by FairVote, is a poor method, that is practically useless in
> nonpartisan elections, that is fairly easy to show. It's an expensive
> plurality in that context. (It's different in partisan elections, the vote
> transfer patterns are different.)
> What is a very simple bill, because Approval is really as simple as Count
> All the Votes, would need to become very complex.
> However, promising political support to allow towns to choose other
> advanced voting systems, that can certainly be done. As well, allowing
> preferential voting without specifying the details would be fine.
> And, of course, there is Bucklin. It is possible that there is a history
> of Bucklin in Arizona, I seem to recall Tucson, but I'm not looking now.
> Bucklin is instant runoff Approval. It was actually called American
> Preferential Voting, to contrast it with the original STV preferential
> voting schemes.
> I highly recommend, do *not* make this simple Bill into a great
> complication. Allowing Approval is not disallowing preferential voting,
> this is not "anti-IRV." It is possible for IRV to be presented to satisfy
> that wording of the ballot provisions, and it is also possible for this
> measure to revise that ballot provision language, I mention how, above.
> That would then allow Tucson, in particular, to use IRV for the party
> primaries.
> An *interesting* possibility would be IRV without the no-overvoting
> provision, used two-winner in the primary, as this measure describes. It is
> then merely a different algorithm for determining the winner. Votes can
> vote as FairVote proclaims they want to, i.e., to protect their favorite
> from a lower preference vote for someone else, *or* they can multiply
> approve at a rank. The *voters* can, if they learn how, protect IRV from
> major pathologies. However, two-winner IRV does not cover the needs of
> party primaries.
> So ... here is what could be done. HB2518 could be amended to allow
> single-winner party primaries. Essentially, this provision should be
> negotiated with the Democratic Party, for obvious reasons. It could allow
> the method of the primary to be determined by the municipality; the
> municipality could punt and allow the party to determine its own method, as
> long as it was cheap, or if the Party comes up with the extra costs. (But
> that part would not need to be mentioned in the Bill. It's all covered by
> the municipality choice.) It could be Approval, single-winner. It could be
> IRV. Or it could be a better method (or worse, that's the problem with
> freedom, it includes the freedom to make mistakes.)
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