[EM] Approval-based replacement for jungle primary

Ted Stern dodecatheon at gmail.com
Mon Dec 3 23:11:21 PST 2018

Hi Rob,

What you're describing with your percent satisfaction sounds a lot like
Proportional Representation, though the context of a primary is quite

I come from the school of "challenge makes you stronger", so I would
welcome more contrasting voices into the general election.

I think that including the complementary opposition winners against your
"truly viable candidates" would be a way to do that.

You're more likely to get engagement and consequent turnout when more
people feel like their voices are being heard in the debate. A slate of
blandly similar center seekers would be a recipe for voter apathy.

If the viable candidates are A_1 (= Approval Winner), A_2 (Approval runner
up), etc., with complementary opponents B_1, B_2, etc., then I think it
would be appropriate to add them in (A_i, B_i) pairs until your desired
representation level is met.

Actually, I don't know if I would put the truly viable cutoff at 50%. In a
true jungle primary, you might end up with only 40% winners at the
highest.  I might go down to 33. 3% A_i candidates if that's what it takes
to get at least 66.6% voter representation.


On Mon, Dec 3, 2018, 17:51 Rob Lanphier <robla at robla.net wrote:

> Hi Ted,
> Thanks for helping refine the idea.  More inline:
> On Mon, Dec 3, 2018 at 12:57 PM Ted Stern <dodecatheon at gmail.com> wrote:
> > In that light, I'm getting toward being on board with your MAF idea.
> Cool!
> > However, I'm still unclear on how you set up the opposition candidate
> pool.
> So am I.  Before I respond to the rest of this, I'm going to lay out
> some goals that occurred to me as I started thinking through my reply.
> As I type these words, I have no idea whether or not your method
> complies with the goals I set out.
> Here's the main goal: an Approval-based system that advances truly
> viable candidates to the general election, creating a ballot approved
> by a large portion of the electorate (i.e. with a high ballot
> satisfaction score)
> Now to assign some arbitrary metrics to the subjective terms expressed
> or implied above:
> *  "viable candidate" - a candidate who receives greater than 25%
> approval in the primary
> *  "truly viable candidate" - a candidate who receives greater than
> 50% approval in the primary
> *  "marginally viable candidate" - a candidate who receives less than
> 50% approval, but greater than 25%
> *  "non-viable candidate" - a candidate who receives less than 25%
> approval in the primary
> *  "ballot satisfaction score" - percentage of primary election voters
> who approve of at least one candidate on a ballot containing a given
> subset of primary election candidates
> *  "high ballot satisfaction score" - Greater than 90% ballot satisfaction
> A rough outline for MAF version 3:
> *  Identify the approval winner, and advance that candidate
> *  Advance all truly viable candidates (>50% approval)
> *  Advance a small number of marginally viable candidates to create a
> ballot with a high ballot satisfaction score (>90% ballot
> satisfaction)
> That last step is one that I'm still trying to figure out.  There's a
> couple of testcases that I'm still trying to think though, and design
> MAF v3 around:
> Testcase A: Let's say that after we select all truly viable
> candidates, we only have a ballot satisfaction score of 85%.  Let's
> also say that among the marginally viable canidates we have candidate
> A1, who is the next highest rated candidate that has 49.9% approval,
> but only just barely brings the ballot satisfaction score to 90%.
> Let's say there's a different candidate (A2) who only receives 35%
> approval, but brings the ballot satisfaction score up to 99%.  I think
> my preference in that case is to have an algorithm that selects
> candidate A1.
> Testcase B: Once again, after all truly viable candidates (TVCs), we
> only have a 85% ballot satisfaction.  Let's say that B1 is next
> highest, with 45%, but only brings the ballot satisfaction to 86%.
> Next is B2, with 44%.  Adding B2 to the ballot also only gets us to
> 86% satisfaction, and adding both B1 and B2 only gets us to 87%
> (TVCs+B1+B2=87%).  Let's say we keep stepping through the marginally
> viable candidates, and we only get 1% at a time, such that
> TVCs+B1+B2+B3+B4+B5=90%.  However, let's also say there's a candidate
> B9 that only has 35% overall approval, but adding that candidate alone
> would improve the ballot satisfaction score to 99%.  I *think* I would
> prefer an algorithm that selects B9 rather than adding (B1, B2, B3,
> B4, B5).
> It could be very difficult to find an elegant algorithm that selects
> A1 for Testcase A, and B9 for Testcase B.  Now to see what your
> proposal does....
> > So I understand you have the Approval Winner (AW), plus, if AW's
> > approval is less than a threshold, all candidates with approval > 50%
> > and complementary approved candidates.  The question is, after you have
> > chosen the first complementary approved candidate, the candidate who is
> > approved on the most ballots that don't approve AW, how do you form the
> > complement for the other opposition candidates?
> That's what I'm still struggling with.
> > In my opinion, when you have a runner up highly approved candidate, the
> > complementary candidate should be the candidate with highest approval on
> > ballots that don't approve of the runner-up, not the AW.  And if that
> > complementary opposition candidate is already in the runoff, take the
> > next-highest approved on those ballots until you find a new candidate.
> I think we agree on the first point.  The complementary opposition
> candidate should be complementary to the candidate(s) that barely get
> greater than 50% approval, not to the Approval Winner (AW).  The best
> algorithm may involve starting with the truly viable candidate with
> the lowest approval rating (e.g. a candidate with 50.01% approval) and
> working our way up to the AW until we have an acceptable ballot
> satisfaction score.
> > For example, if the approval winner is A with approval less than the
> > dominance threshold, also include complementary opposition candidate B
> > (highest approved on ballots that don't approve A), plus highly approved
> > runner up C with approval > 50%, plus complementary opposition candidate
> > D (highest approved candidate who is not A or B, on ballots that don't
> > approve C).  If there is another highly approved runner up E with
> approval
> > > 50%, then include complementary candidate F, who is the highest
> approved
> > non-(A,B,C,D) candidate on ballots that don't approve of E.  And so on.
> I fear that this algorithm would bias toward selecting candidates A2
> and B9 in my test cases up above.  Both of those candidates are likely
> to be the most polarizing candidates, most inclined to rile up their
> base voters without aspiring to achieve 50% approval.
> An elegant algorithm that selects A1 and B9 might be hard to come by.
> My preference for B9 over (B1, B2, B3, B4, B5) is not very strong, and
> in fact, it may be that reducing the minimum ballot satisfaction score
> from 90% to 85% might be the right solution for that particular test
> case (thus not allowing B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 or B9).  "90%" and "85%"
> are arbitrary percentages, and in fact, maybe 75% is high enough.
> There would be a certain elegance to choosing the same percentage
> (75%) for both the "highly approved candidate pool" and the "high
> ballot satisfaction score".  That would be great motivation for
> candidates to try to get to 75% approval; by doing so, they could lock
> out marginally viable candidates from the general election ballot.
> But candidates getting greater than 75% approval would still have to
> face other highly viable candidates (candidates between 50% and 75%)
> in the general election.
> Rob
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