[EM] APR: (5) Steve's 5th dialogue with Toby

Toby Pereira tdp201b at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Nov 14 18:14:02 PST 2014

Here's my latest reply. I'll try to be clearer this time and keep it concise. But I also think some context and understanding gets lost when you reply line by line rather than, for example, to each paragraph.

S: I am open to suggestions regarding such restrictions and qualifications.  Currently, I think the British requirement that candidates must first deposit a >certain standard amount of money with the relevant electoral association would be a good idea.  They would lose this deposit if they do not receive more >than a certain percentage of the first preference votes.  Equally or alternatively, applicant candidates could be accepted provided they had collected at >least a set number of signatures supporting their candidacy.

S:  Any additional special qualifications or restrictions would have to be openly declared on each organization’s application to become an ‘association’.  >For example, some organizations might want to require that their candidates would have previously been an officer of the organization or that they had >received a university degree.  Other associations might not add any additional qualification knowing that not many would want to risk losing their >deposits or not be able to collect enough signatures.  Any lost deposits could also be a source of income for the association to help it cover its own >additional election administration costs.

Candidates have to deposit 500GBP in UK elections, which they get back if they get 5% of the vote in their consituency, so you are correct about that. Anyway, I'm not sure what would happen in practice with organisations being able to specifiy conditions for standing in their association. They could simply shut out anyone who isn't a member of the organisation to remove the competition from the ballot paper, or do you think that would turn the electorate against them?

S: In any case, I doubt if any independent citizens would find it overly “complicated” to writ-in the relevant codes of the independent or other candidates in >Section B of the Ballot who they want to rank outside of the association in which they had become an official general election elector.
>But if you're arguing that, you're arguing against what I understood to be one of the main reasons for having associations - that it simplifies the election >for voters. Is that not what associations are for?
>T: Under the system I described, each MP would be equal with just one vote once elected. The election would be a proportional election using a version >of STV or a proportional version of approval/score voting depending on the exact balloting system. So it >wouldn't be party list PR if that's what you >mean.

>>S: Do you accept that such a system would be less proportional than APR, as well as being less able to guarantee to each citizen >that their vote will >continue to count in the legislature through the rep they directly or indirectly most trust?

>T: I don't think it would be significantly less proportional. 

S:  Why have any less proportionality?

The only difference in proportionality would be the result of allowing/not allowing candidates to have differing amounts of power in office. That's an issue that needs to be addressed itself.
>T: If we use a PAL type system, then the candidate you vote for would still have a ranking of the other candidates, so your vote is still likely to count.

S:  Perhaps, but why prefer PAL when APR would seem to achieve what you want more efficiently and completely? e.g. APR gives complete >proportionality and allows you to guarantee that your vote will count, not just “likely” to count.

Actually, I don't see why your vote would be guaranteed to count in APR. If you don't rank all the candidates, then your vote might be eliminated. However, if you optionally allow your vote to then go to the first choice of your top candidate and so on, it's no different from PAL. In PAL, candidates have their own ranking list of the other candidates too, so your vote will find its way transferred to an electable candidate just as it would in APR.

>T: I don't think the difference in complexity between the two systems is huge or indeed the most relevant issue. 

S:  What is “the most relevant issue” for you?

The only real relevant difference in the counting process between PAL and APR is that under APR, elected candidates have different amounts of power. Small differences in complexity pale into insignificance when compared to this, and would not be a reason why someone would pick one of these methods over the other.
>T: For example, you could probably modify any version of STV for the job. In the recent discussion on EM about ranked-ballot >party-list PR, I suggested >that you could take any STV method and each party would effectively split into clone candidates. So if >there are five candidates to be elected and my >party preference is A>B>C, this would translate into A1...A5>B1...B5>C1...C5.

S:  Does not the fact that we are talking about elections with hundreds of candidates, each of which could receive rankings from any number of the >millions of citizens to elect 650 MPs, with each MP perhaps having a different weighted vote, remove any practical relevance of the above >considerations?  This seem especially true with APR because it allows each citizen to guarantee that his vote will be added to the weighted vote of the >MP he most trusts (within the 10% limit)?

Why are you replying to this again? I merely mentioned a few replies ago that there might be other counting systems but then said at the end that they might be too complex and probably wouldn't end up in too different results. Maybe you're not paying attention, or maybe this is a result of your line-by-line reply approach that loses the context.
>>S: Please explain why you still don't think APR solves the above problems more simply.

>T: Well, I didn't say that. In fact I explicitly said after discussing other possible methods that they might be more complex and not give particularly different results in practice.

But you left this bit in showing why there is no need to discuss it any further!!!

>T: I think the main question of your method, as has been said before, is whether people would like the whole differing power thing. 

>>S: What people? Would not each citizen want their favourite MP to have proportionately more voting power in the Commons?

>T: What people?  The citizens.  And for your second question - not necessarily, because it also means that other people's favourite MPs might end up >with a lot of power. So in advance of any given election, I wouldn't necessarily see this as an advantage as it could work against as well as for me. Also, >as has been said, it's likely to be "celebrity" MPs that gain this extra power, so it might end up being style over substance. So I can imagine a lot of >people not being in favour of this.

S: It seems to me that the fundamental question is, do you want an electoral system that treats each citizen equally or not?  In the above, you seem to >want one that happens to give you some advantage over others, that allows your vote mathematically to have more decision-making power than another >citizen’s vote with whom you disagree.  How would you justify that?

You've missed the point here. You phrased your own question in terms of voters' wanting to have their own candidate to have lots of power - i.e. a selfish advantage for them. But when they think that the flipside is that their less favoured candidates could also have extra power (possibly too much in their eyes), the system isn't necessarily a net gain for them.
>T: 10% is a lot. in a house of 650 MPs, it's equivalent to one MP having 65 seats to himself.

S: Yes, but is not this only fair given that at least 10% more of all your fellow citizens trust that MP most to represent them?

But by your logic, why limit it even to 10%? Why have any limit?
S:  From a democrat’s point of view, it would be “good” because it fully respects the voting equality of each citizen.  At the same time, this respect and >equally helps to provide the social and political conditions which would maximize the possibility that the sovereign laws will accord with the tentative >conclusions of the widest possible evidence based rational deliberations of a people. 

>T: But while it would clearly be more expressive than FPTP, I don't think that's saying much and it's not a system anyone on here would argue for.

S:  By “here” do you mean all the contributors to EM?  In any case, I trust you will eventually make your reasons for such a view clear.

Yes, and I'm unclear why you brought up FPTP. We were debating APR and some similar systems such as PAL, and then you argued that your system would be better than FPTP. So what? So would PAL, and so would many other systems. It doesn't help the case as to why APR would be the best of these systems. It's a straw man.
>T: But the point I was making is that if party members rank other members of the same party in the top ranks (which is likely since it would be public), ….

S: No. All citizens’ votes during the general election are entirely secret.

I understood that if you cast a single vote to a candidate rather than rank, then that candidate's own ranking of the candidates comes into play. Is that ranking not public?

>T: …. or if party voters don't delegate but rank party members themselves, then the proportion of the power taken by a particular party wouldn't be >affected to any great extent by who in my favoured party I vote for.

S: No, because each of us only has one vote.  Consequently, your vote will have only the weight it should have as it is added to the weighted vote of the >party candidate (and effectively to the party) you most trust to represent your scale of values.

So yes then, not no. I'm saying that if I vote for any candidate standing for party X, then it won't affect the total power held by party X, but just the distribution among the candidates. It will only affect it if my favourite candidate isn't elected and either a) my second choice isn't from that party, or b) I don't give a second choice but leave the delegation to my favourite candidate and they inexplicably have someone outside their own party as their top candidate.
>T: But since the more famous party members will get more top votes from the electorate, there will be a power shift to the better known politicians within >a given party.

S:  Quite possibly, and what would be wrong with that?  Perhaps these top candidates being more known has given their electors more evidence based >reasons for trusting them.  Consequently, their electors have the positive satisfaction of having made a contribution to the political process themselves.  >If these MPs betray this trust, APR gives these citizens and easy and efficient means to punish them during the next election.

Popularity is in large part down to media exposure, and celebrity status of politicians. I think your system will make this harder to shift. Obviously if a famous politician does something really bad, they might get voted out, but generally famous politicians will do well out of this.
>>S: Currently, what is your prime value which would presumably guide your definition of a 'good thing'. For me, its maximizing democracy by ensuring >that every citizens' vote can be positive, that no vote need be wasted.

>T: I'd say something along similar lines. I know you'd argue that allowing differing power causes less wastage, but it also does a lot more besides.

S:  What is this “a lot more besides” that you fear?

I think it would entrench the power of the famous celebrity politicians for one thing.
>T: But it's difficult to put in a nutshell exactly what I want from an electoral system.

S:  If at some point you discover that you can put in a nutshell, I think that would greatly clarify our dialogue.

I suppose I might say that the goal is to maximise societal utility. I would generally argue for proportional systems because I think they would help to do that. I think they would help to create a more dynamic political landscape for one thing, but I think APR might hinder it in that the celebrity politicans might become hard to shift and hog the power.

>T: But as I also said in my short follow-up e-mail, while I may vote for my favourite candidate, I don't necessarily want them to have more than 1/650 of >the power.

S:  Why not if you trust him or her most?

I don't necessarily know that much about them, just that they have policies that I like. It's difficult to know how trustworthy they are. But there may also be several others with similar policies and in that case I'd be happy to spread my trust across them all.

>T: Taken to its logial conclusions, it means everyone who votes for one candidate wants a dictatorship. 

S: No, not those who respect others, or who (like myself) acknowledge their own fallibility, and believe that the best laws will most probably be made in the >context of the widest possible evidence based and rational debates between initial opponents.

Well, I suppose what I mean is that if everyone happened to vote the same one candidate (and in general the more people that agree with me the happier I am with that), then we should all be happy that this person has 100% of the power because it follows from our voting patterns. But I wouldn't be. 
>T: If my favoured candidate has more than 1/650 of the vote, I might be quite happy for it to be transferred to my second favourite, or my candidate's own >next choice.

S:  Consequently, tell me if you would be interested in receiving a draft revision of the article you already have.  This draft would allow each citizen who >has help to give more than the 10% limit to their most favoured MP, instead to have their vote transferred to their next low preference candidate.  >Perhaps you would want to re-draft this option to apply to any votes extra to one 650th.

I think that would be a reasonable addition to it. You can send me any latest versions.
>T: Ultimately it's legislation itself rather than the people who pass it that is important. And it's safer to have a set of views in the hands of several people >rather than one.

S: We agree on this principle but MPs are a necessary means to this end.  At the same time, APR would seem to be the most efficient electoral system for >guaranteeing that the resulting MPs will pass “good” laws in the eyes of most citizens.

I'm still not 100% convinced. The other point is that while MPs can only have up to 10% of the power, a particular movement might get less than 10% representation, so it would be possible for one MP to get all the power for that movement. People might vote for just the biggest name in that movement and so they get all the votes. It doesn't necessarily mean they trust them the most. Also, it might benefit them in parliament to have allies to help them in debates. I think Juho asked whether MPs with more voting power would have more speaking power. I think that's a good question. But even if so, I don't think it would solve all the problems. A lone MP on a particular issue would welcome the support from a colleague. Or generally, a smaller number of MPs would in many cases welcome the support of a larger group even if it means their total power is the same and each individual MP's power is less.

By the way, when you first suggested APR, I wasn't dead against the differing power thing, and I still don't necessarily think it's a completely ridiculous idea. But I am leaning towards being against it, and my above paragraph does make me go even further against it.
>T: I think it is a problem that by picking an organisation I will lose some secrecy in order to get a particular association ballot. You argue that it doesn't >matter anyway because even using a geographical ballot, I can still rank whoever I like. However, it is clear that this is more complicated for a voter. 

S:  What “complication” do you have in mind? – Section B of the Ballot? Or APR’s Primary and its resulting “associations”?

Section B of the ballot is what I was referring to there.
S: Yes, ranking any candidate codes in Section B of the ballot is slightly more difficult than simply ranking one or several of the candidates listed in >Section A.  Still the continuation of the vote of each citizen who can’t, or does not want, to use Section B will still be guaranteed by APR.  Also, any >citizen who does not participate in the Primary because he thinks it is too complex or for any other reason will still be able to vote in the general election.  

S:  However, I doubt very much that there are very many citizens incapable of using Section B.  Section B guarantees that each capable citizen will be >able to maximize the efficiency of their vote.  This is to say that APR enables both the capable and the less capable to take full advantage of the benefits >offered by APR, limited only by their respective strengths and weakness.  At the same time, I think every independent voter would have little difficulty in >making a list of the codes of the independent candidates he wishes to rank in Section B of his ballot on election day. 
But I think given what you've said here (that independent voters will have little difficulty with section B), I wonder if there is any real point in separate association ballots. Because that does add complexity to the entire electoral system. It seems on one hand you want to argue that associations are really good because it enables voters to have a ballot that makes it easy for them, but on the other hand you want to argue that it would actually be easy anyway for people who don't participate in the primary.
S:  In any case, is APR’s above slight extra complication more or less than the extra complications of your preferred system?

At the moment, I don't have one system that I'm completely in favour of. But if we talk about PAL, I don't think it's more complicated than APR.

>T: However, it is clear that [using a geographical ballot] is more complicated for a voter. If not, there would not be any point in associations and everyone >could just vote how they wanted with a geographical ballot.  So I do need to give up secrecy for this simplicity.

S: Am I correct in reading your above “if not” to be calling into question the presumed extra benefits offered by APR’s Primary and  its resulting >‘associational’ element.? In fact, your next phrase seems to deny that any such benefits exist:  “I'm not in favour of the association method.”

I was questioning it on the basis that you yourself have dismissed the suggestion that those who don't take part in the primary would create any problems for themselves.
S:  If so, let me explain that in my view, APR without its Primary and its resulting association would only be a second best APR option. APR’s Primary and >associations allow all citizens to give a proportionate extra recognition, standing and political function to the most popular organizations of civil society.  >Citizens know these organizations through their work, profession, and/or daily lives and activities throughout the year.  As a consequence, these >organizations (associations) have some communication and mobilization resources that are independent of the richest sections of society, celebrity, and >the mass media.  These living connections help people better to know how to vote and how otherwise to participate politically in accord with their own >valued life experiences. These relations would enable many citizens to choose the sufficiently popular organizations that would become the official >electoral associations as a result of APR’s
 Primary.  Each such citizen would rank highest the organization that accords best with his own values and >interests.  

But they can still vote for candidates standing for their favourite organisation simply enough using the geographical ballot, as you yourself have argued!
S:  At the same time, the recognition of such associations would encourage more attractive candidates to seek to represent them and to be ranked by >their respective electors.

This is possible, but would it be to the detriment of organisations that were too small and failed to reach the votes to make an association? Maybe it would widen the gap between the big and the small organisations.

S:  Thus, in addition to all the political parties and all the geographical areas, many interest groups could apply (professional, business, labour, >environmental, ethnic, religious, etc.).  The recognition of these associations would provide an additional democratic channel for more enthusiastic >participation in the political process by citizens. 

Possibly, but with any reasonable system of proportional representation, there are likely to be many parties/groups anyway that have a realistic chance of winning seats, and this also will provide an additional democratic channel.
S:  Also, I see both the time and function separation between the Primary and the general election as more conducive to thoughtful political participation >on the part of citizens.  Each citizen while choosing their voting membership during the Primary is prompted to clarify their own scale of values and to >decide on which organization is most efficient in promoting and defending this scale.  

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that.
>T: So I do need to give up secrecy for this simplicity. So to ensure a more level playing field, I'm not in favour of the association method.

S: Please explain why you still think there is an unavoidable conflict between “secrecy” and “simplicity” in APR.  Also, please clarify why you see APR as >offering less than a fully “level playing field”.

I may be wrong, but I understood that the main reason for associations was to give citizens a ballot that already had on it candidates that they are likely to want to vote for, thus simplifying the voting process for them. I know you've made those additional arguments above, but I thought that they were secondary. So, if I don't want anyone to have any information about my voting behaviour, I would have to use a geographical ballot. This would presumably make it harder for me to rank my favourite candidates. But again, if it wouldn't, it eliminates what I thought was the main reason for having associations.
>T: There is also the point I made that if I am voting for independents then they are likely to be in different associations, so I don't really gain much (or >any) simplicity by giving up secrecy.

S:  I’m perplexed.  Given that APR offers complete secrecy when voting for candidates, you seem also to want the option of being a secret elector in an >electoral association.  Of course, this should not be offered by any system.  Even if you remain an elector within your currently defined geographical >association, the fact that you are a registered voter in that constituency will be in the public domain.

By remaining in my geographical constituency, while that fact itself might not be secret, it gives nothing away about my political opinions, so they are still secret. But anyway, the point I made that you quoted there was not that I should be able to be a secret elector in an association, but that if my preferred candidates are independents, the whole association system is likely to be of no benefit to me.
S:  Perhaps instead you only want to be a registered voter within an association that gives other people no idea of your own ideological leanings.  If so, in >addition to simply remaining a voter within your constituency, you would also have the option of leading or help others to form a countrywide organization >of independents which you would rank during APR’s Primary.

OK. Given that geographical associations exist by default (without anyone having to vote for them), I wonder if it might be an improvement to your system to automatically include an independent association without requiring people to vote for it. If that happened, it might cause to me to reconsider the utility of these associations.

>T: And if I'm a party voter, I can simply pick my favoured member of a party anyway, and go with their delegations (which will be within the party so not >greatly different from if I rank them myself). So the simplicity gained by the associations is not enough to make up for the added complexity of an extra >election and the loss of secrecy in my voting.

S:  Sorry, I have not yet understood either your concern here or its presumed remedy.  Please explain again, e.g.  what do you mean by “delegations”?

What I mean is that if we purely had geographical associations, I could simply vote for the candidate standing for my favourite party and rank no-one else (or write in my single favourite candidate from that party nationally with their code). Then if they aren't elected, my vote would go to their top rank (I referred to it as a delegation). If I'm a party voter, I might be quite happy to vote that way because my vote would only be transferred to someone in the same party. And if I'm voting for a candidate I trust, I should trust their ranking!

>>S: At the same time, do you not want to allow other citizens to express their own values in one of the more efficient and complete ways offered by >APR?

>T: They might feel pressured into it. The thinking might be "I don't want to give up secrecy, but I want to participate properly in the main election. What do >I do?"

S:  I’m still confused.  Where is this “pressure” coming from?  What “secrecy” do you imagine has to be “given up” in order to “participate properly”?

I don't mean pressure from any person or organisation. I just mean an internal dilemma between their wish for their voting behaviour to be secret and for their task on election day to be simple.

>T: I wouldn't want people to be put in that position, especially considering as I explained above, the gain in simplicity probably wouldn't be that much.

S: What “gain in simplicity” are you thinking of?

Again, it's simpler to have a ballot that has candidates you want to vote for rather than a geographical one. As I said, I thought that was the main reason for associations. But if not, then not.

>T: So my conclusion is that nothing is really gained by allowing some MPs to have more power than others.
S:  Again, I’m perplexed.  Perhaps I’ve missed how you arrived at this conclusion that wasting or misdirecting peoples’ votes is not important.

OK, "nothing is really gained" might be a bit simplistic. There are pros and cons, and at the moment my thinking is that the cons outweight the pros. So I'd argue that there is no net gain.
>T: Candidates would still stand on the popular policies anyway, ….

S:  Don’t you believe that an electoral system should also allow candidates to “stand on … policies” that are initially not popular?

Of course they should be able to. Have I said otherwise?

>T: .… and it would be safer for this platform to be in the hands of several MPs rather than one MP who could "go rogue".

S:  How is it “safer … in the hands of several MPs” who could less exactly represent their electors than if this several could also be composed, at least >partly, of some very popular MPs with weighted votes within the 10% limit?  Given the 10% limit, theoretically the minimum number of MPs who could >together control a majority of the weighted votes in the Commons would be 6, i.e. the 6 most trusted by a majority of citizens.

As I say, it's likely that people will vote for the better known candidates that represent their views rather than simply the ones that do so best. And see above for my general concerns.
>T: People vote for individual politicians only as a proxy for their own views, so there's no real loss to democracy to have these spread out over several >MPs rather than in my one favourite politician.

S: I accept that some citizens would not care if their vote was shared between several MPs.  However, I do not yet understand why any of these same >citizens would mind all or more of their first preference votes increasing the weighted vote of their most trusted MP.  Do you? 
People vote for politicians whose policies they agree with, but it doesn't necessarily mean they particularly trust them. I'd feel safer placing my trust in more than one. And as I said above, it would be helpful for politicians to have more allies in power.
S: At the same time, some other citizens (like me) would object to any dilution of their vote by a system that could needlessly give their votes to MPs other >than their most trusted ones.  If so, this would amount to a ”real loss to democracy”.

There's pros and cons as I say, but taking your system and your arguments to its logical conclusions there should be no 10% limit. Why do you even have this limit? Because whatever argument you give, someone could use all your own arguments back at you.

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