[EM] IRV / RCv advances

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sun Jul 15 11:08:24 PDT 2018

On 7/14/2018 10:08 AM, Richard Lung wrote:

> [...] Agree completely about score voting. I can't help but feel 
> approval voting is essentially a rebranding of cumulative voting. In 
> about 1867, John Stuart Mill knew it was only a trifling improvement 
> on plurality counting but at least opened peoples minds to alternatives.
I'd question that simply counting all the votes would be a "trifling 
improvement." It would have flipped the US presidential election in 
2000, almost certainly, and is a no-cost improvement, simple to 
implement and easy to understand. In a two-round system, it can provide 
substantial flexibility, perhaps even allowing runoffs to have a third 
candidate. Counting all the votes would be, again, an improvement over 
IRV, allowing voters to equal-rank. But the IRV method, by discarding 
votes, is intrinsically flawed, and Bucklin actually worked when used. 
The arguments that it didn't work were based on the fact that it wasn't 
magic pixie dust. The only system that fixes about everything is Asset, 
which hardly gets any consideration at all. My suggestion has been for 
EM reformers to suggest Asset for NGOS, since it's really simple, as 
well, and creates a deliberative structure, which is far more flexible 
-- and functionally democratic -- than pure amalgamation. To be 
fail-safe, it could be used in a nomination process, to be actually 
ratified for a final result.

Approval -- and most methods -- are plurality methods unless a true 
majority of the votes is required for a result. In Australia, in some 
places they accomplish that by making it illegal to not completely rank. 
In other words, to make a result more "democratic," coerce the voters. 
Ah, the things people do to preserve the way things are!
> Re 3.
> Weighted Condorcet pairing arguably offers a back-door that partly 
> gets round the Laplace criticism of Condorcet pairing, that it does 
> not establish the relative importance of higher and lower preferences, 
> in the over-all election count.
> I see Condorcet pairing primarily as a research tool for 
> cross-referencing the results of an at-large election with the results 
> from sub-elections of one-to-one contests or less minimal partitions. 
> Ideally, we would have an election system that does not have to watch 
> its back for a Condorcet paradox.
A condorcet paradox is an indication of an incomplete process. Depending 
on preference strength, which some Condorcet methods attempt to 
estimate, it might be meaningless. But to truly analyse election returns 
requires preference strength information. Borda, again, estimates it 
with an assumption of full ranking, such that with many candidates, the 
"rank distance" would approximate a measure of preference strength.

But the only ballot that actually allows the voters to directly express 
preference strength is a score ballot. And then some advocates of other 
systems point out Condoret failure, as if that matters when preference 
strength is obviously low. It doesn't. And then it is pointed out that 
voters may vote "strategically," as if that is dishonest or bad. In a 
Score system, there is never any incentive to reverse preference. Voters 
decide what preferences matter to them, and will vote accordingly, and a 
good overall system will detect situations where is ambiguity, perhaps 
due to inaccurate perception of probable results, and will then set up a 

Instead of working together to create a system that will actually 
improve and foster full democracy, we don't, it seems, trust the people 
and want them to conform to our own ideas. In other words, same old same 
old. The problem with democracy is the damn people!

But democracy is still government by consent, and whenever that fails, 
oppression is inevitable. It's only a question of how bad it gets. The 
logic that captured me, so many decades ago, is that we need 
representation by consent and choice, not by "winners" and "losers." And 
that appears to be doable. But who cares enough to try it?

Some. Not yet enough, but it's possible any day. It might only take one 
person to make a proposal and carry it through, in one place.

> Even an admittedly crude election like IRV (Alternative Vote), 
> according to this group, has only come-up with the Burlington case. 
> That may have been politically unfortunate. But, if about 150? 
> elections have not suffered the paradox, that incidence is not 
> statistically significant.

It is possible to show that about one-third of IRV results were not 
optimal. This is done by comparing IRV results with top-two runoff 
results. If a full-information ballot were used with IRV (it could be 
done! Easily!) we would then know. However, actually collecting the data 
to determine, definitively, if a voting system is actually working is 
not a part of any reform proposal I have seen. The collecting of 
information is confused with and considered less important than creating 
a result, and I can easily see the counter-argument: what if this causes 
the result of an election to be called into question? Won't this damage 
our trust in government? I think I have actually seen that argument.

If our trust in government is based in ignorance, it's worse than a bit 
of trouble. A simple, coarse-score ballot, with explicit approval 
cutoff, would be cheap and easy, and how the actual result is determined 
could be explicity declared on the ballot. Providing the additonal 
information would be optional. One could vote the ballot, if one 
chooses, as vote-for-one. It would all generate useful information, and 
could guide future election method decisions.
> The real comparison is how many "Bush beats Gore minus Nader" contests 
> are there?

In a two-party system. Duverger's law and party attempts to corner the 
electorate create many of them. Look at any close election and at the 
participation of minor parties in it. There may be hundreds of these a 
year. As well, the existing system tends to suppress minor party 
participation. New York has Fusion voting, a step in a direction of 
improved democracy. It was proposed for Massachusetts and lost. Who 
opposed it?

The "Democratic" party, of course! It lost. So why did people vote 
against it? Well, perhaps they trusted their party. After all, isn't our 
party the Good Guys? If it's bad for them, surely we don't want it! It 
all makes sense until and unless one starts to look more closely, which 
most people don't do. And realizing that, Dodgson proposed Asset, which 
actually creates, very simply, representative government, with the good 
stuff associated with that, while allowing low-level decisions, by 
ordinary people who don't want their lives to be about politics, to be 
useful and effective.

> And how many simple plurality elections make voters act as their own 
> returning officers in an implicit ranked choice election, where the 
> voter excludes his first preference for Nader, and counts it for 
> second preference Gore?
My sense is that many would vote for a third party candidate if they did 
not know it would be a wasted vote. It could be trivial to fix that 
problem. But we obviously care about something else more. about what?

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