[EM] Why I prefer ranked-choice voting to approval voting

Michael Ossipoff email9648742 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 11 14:40:28 PDT 2016

(Replying farther down)

On Oct 11, 2016 5:54 AM, "Jeff O'Neill" <jeff.oneill at opavote.com> wrote:
> I recently wrote a blog post explaining why I prefer ranked-choice voting
(i.e., IRV or alternative vote)


"Ranked Choice Voting" is a seriously misleading name for IRV. If falsely
implies that IRV is the only ranking method.

(Replying farther down)

You continued:

...to approval voting.  It is a quite different kind of argument than most
of the posts here because it is a policy argument rather than a
mathematical one.  Nevertheless, I thought people here might find it
interesting.  I'd love to hear your comments and any counterarguments as
> I've copied the post below and you can also find it here:
> Why I prefer ranked-choice voting to approval voting...


The arguments below assume that the voter has to strategize to get the best
winner s/hw can get, based on predictive information. That's only an

For all or nearly all voters, there exists a set of candidates such that
electing from that set is more important than the matter of _which_ member
of that set wins... or which candidate outside that set wins, if that

I call that set your "operational top-set". For short, I just call it your
" top set".

I suggest that only the very best candidates should be in your top set.

Predictive information is unreliable, especially with our disinfomational
mass media, which consists of a propaganda apparatus.

But your optimal strategy is to fully support your top-set, to maximize the
probability (Pt) of electing from your top-set.

...which doesn't need predictive information.

In Approval, just approve (only) your top set.

Don't make voting more complicated & difficult than it is.

(Replying farther down)

You continued:

> Voting is not an easy task for a voter.  I don't mean taking time off
work, getting to the polls, and waiting in line, etc.  I mean, when you are
standing there in the ballot box, you have to decide what vote you want to
cast given the options presented to you.  For example, a Jill Stein
supporter may be torn between supporting her favorite candidate and voting
for a candidate who has a better chance of winning the election.


...but whom you don't like? No dilemma there, even if you insist on
unnecessarily strategically complicating your voting.

(Replying farther down)

I'll refer to this as the cognitive burden of expressing your vote.
> In this post, I'll address the cognitive burden of three different types
of voting:
> Plurality voting (i.e., selecting one candidate)
> Approval Voting
> Ranked-choice voting
> OpaVote supports all three of these voting methods if you want to try
them out yourself.
> Plurality Voting
> Plurality voting is very simple, a voter simply picks one candidate.
There is, however, a cognitive burden when there are more than two
candidates.  A voter presumably wants her vote to matter.  Accordingly, a
voter should not necessarily select her favorite candidate, but instead
select her favorite candidate who has a reasonable chance of being elected.
> Consider the current U.S. Presidential election.  I'm a big supporter of
the Green Party, but Jill Stein is not going to win the election.


You might be surprised by what would be possible in an honest, legitimate
election with verifiable vote-counting.

But, yes, without honest verifiable vote-counting, Jill can't "win", even
if everyone votes for her.

So demand verifiable vote-counting before worrying about the voting system.

Boycott our illegitimate election. Have big pro-democracy demonstrations,
all around the country, demanding verifiable vote-counting... legimate

You continue:

I'd like to vote for the Green Party, but instead I'll vote for Hillary.


Do you like her?

When you vote for a lesser evil, you don't get a good.

When you vote for the same, you'll never get anything different or better.

At least, with Approval, you can still top-vote Jill,  and not vote Hillary
over her.

The progressives differ from Hillary by being honest, uncorrupt, and in
offering what people (not Hillary's corporate owners) actually want.

It's a clear-cut yes/no question.  ...making it obvious who should be in
your top-set.

...not Hillary.

You continue:

because that is the best way for my vote to make a difference.

You call Hillary a "difference"?

Keep on electing corrupt Republocrats, & you'll never make a difference.

Others will vote for the Green Party out of principle.

...or  a preference for genuine

Better yet, boycott the illegitimate elections & demand verifiable

(Replying farther down)

> Where there are more viable candidates, the cognitive burden is much
higher.  The French 2012 elections for President had ten candidates in the
first round.  A voter thus needed to consider which candidates had a chance
of winning, and then select her favorite among those who had a chance of
> Approval Voting
> With approval voting, a voter has the option to approve as many
candidates as they like. The candidate with the most approvals is the
winner. For someone whose first choice is Jill, the voter may, for example,
approve of Jill and Hillary and not approve Donald and Gary.

...if the voter is an overcompromising lesser-evil voter.
> Approval voting, like plurality voting, is very simple in practice.  A
voter just selects one or more candidates.  But Approval voting suffers
from similar cognitive burdens as plurality voting.  How do you draw the
line between candidates you approve and candidates you don't approve?


How about by the matter of whether they're a any good?

Honest. Not bought or corrupt.

Can you really say that you approve of Hillary?

> Consider a voter whose true preferences are:
> Jill Stein
> Hillary Clinton
> Gary Johnson
> Donald Trump
> Clearly, this voter will approve Jill and will not approve Donald, but
what should she do with the other two candidates?  Should she also approve

See above.

You continued:

Giving Hillary an approval may help Hillary beat Jill, but she would
certainly prefer Hillary to Gary or Donald.  Similarly, this voter may not
like Gary, but she may dislike Donald so much that it is worthwhile to
approve Gary to minimize the chance that Donald is elected.


Forgot your strategy-dilemma, and approve (only) those who are any good.

> Phew... that is a lot of thinking to do.  It would be even harder if Jill
and Gary had better chances of being elected.

But yes, a good ranking method could be psychologically helpful, for

You advocate IRV. It's better than Plurality, because it meets Mutual
Majority, & has no chicken-dilemma.

But it doesn't allow adequate protection for the Condorcet winner (CW),
the  candidate publicly preferred to all the others.

That's why IRV was repealed in Burlington. Did FairVote convince you that
the Burlington debacle doesn't matter? Wrong.

Other than Plurality, _any_ voting system would be better than IRV.
Approval would be much better.

I suggest this merit-ranking:

1. 3-Slot ICT
2. Approval
3. Score
4. Plain MMPO
5.  Bucklin
(....in the versions that allow equal top ranking)

If rankings are psychologically necessary, as they may well be, then that
leaves MMPO & Bucklin.

IRV is fine for you, as an individual, if you're majority-favored (MF).

A voter is MF if a majority prefer at least some of hir top-set to everyone

If you aren't MF, then IRV is the worst there is , except for Plurality.

Conclusion of reply.

Michael Ossipoff

> In sum, approving any candidates other than your favorite can hurt your
favorite. Not approving candidates can help your least favorite get
elected.  Approval voting thus creates a significant cognitive burden for
> Ranked-Choice Voting
> With ranked-choice voting, a voter ranks the candidates in order of
preference, similar to the picture above.  In my view, this has the least
cognitive burden among the three methods discussed here.  It is easy for a
voter to pick her favorite candidate, pick her second favorite, and so on.
This kind of ballot has low cognitive burden because a voter doesn't have
to consider which candidates are viable.
> But, you may ask, "Doesn't a voter have to think about whether their
second and later preferences might hurt their first preference? For
example, should a Jill Stein supporter not rank Hillary second because it
might help Hillary beat Jill?"
> The great think about ranked-choice voting is that the answer to this
question is a clear and resoundingNO!!! Your second and later choices
cannot harm your first choice! Your second preference is only ever
considered at all if your first preference has definitively lost. Voting
geeks cause this the later-no-harm criterion.
> Voters thus need to be educated that later choices do not hurt earlier
choices so that voters are encouraged to rank as many candidates as
possible.  The more candidates a voter ranks, the greater influence the
voter has in the outcome of the election.
> Accordingly, ranked-choice voting has the lowest cognitive burden.  A
voter simply needs to select their first choice, second choice, and so
forth.  The voter does not need to consider which candidates are viable.
> (For voting geeks who are leaping out of their seats to make points about
other voting systems criteria, please keep reading.)
> Other Stuff...
> In my view, it is extremely important to make it as easy as possible for
voters to vote, and, for the reasons described above, ranked-choice voting
does this better than both plurality and approval voting.
> I want to briefly address another form of ranked voting called Condorcet
voting.  Condorcet voting also uses a ranked ballot, but the votes are
counted in a different way.  Condorcet voting doesn't satisfy the
later-no-harm criterion mentioned above, so it is possible that your second
and later choices could hurt your first choices.  The possibility, however,
that your second and later choices hurt your first choice is so small that,
for practical purposes, a voter to cannot take this into account, and thus
Condorcet voting has the same cognitive burden as ranked-choice voting.
While Condorcet voting is a great voting method, I still prefer
ranked-choice voting for public elections, and I'll address that in a
future blog post.
> Another point to mention is that detractors of ranked-choice voting
complain that ranked-choice voting does not satisfy other voting systems
criteria, such as the monotonicity criterion.  While this is certainly
true, for practical purposes, a voter cannot take the monotonicity
criterion into account when casting a vote.  It is just far too complicated
and you would need to know how everyone else is going to vote.  The
non-monotonicity of ranked-choice voting thus doesn't create a cognitive
> Please let me know what you think, especially if you disagree.  I am
happy to post any well-reasoned dissent as comments or even give you the
opportunity to write your own blog post in rebuttal.
> ----
> Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
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