[EM] Burlington VT reconsidering IRV 10 years after IRV failed to elect the Condorcet Winner

Greg Dennis greg.dennis at voterchoicema.org
Thu Dec 5 18:50:43 PST 2019


It seems like a bit of revisionist history to portray the cause of the
repeal to be the failure to elect the Condorcet candidate. As has been
noted, the repeal effort was led by the Republican Wright and his allies
who felt that he should have won because he had the most first choices.
Among the three leading candidates Wright was the Condorcet _loser_; his
supporters wanted a plurality result, a result even further removed from
any sense of majority. By electing Kiss, at least IRV chose a candidate in
the smallest mutual majority set.

Wright supporters didn't like the idea of a winner who in their mind "came
in second," and you wouldn't have placated them by electing someone who
(again, in their mind) "came in third." If anything, you probably would
have been in a more precarious political situation.

Let's also remember that there was _not_ widespread displeasure with the
result in the immediate aftermath of the election. The Republicans were not
happy, sure, but it was only after Kiss' Burlington Telecom scandal that
the broader public turned against him. Burlington lacked a mayoral recall
process, and Wright and his supporters were able to successfully make the
IRV repeal effort into a referendum on the mayor. It was an insincere but
savvy political hit job at a time where IRV was still perceived as new and
exotic to many.

For what it's worth, there have been about 250 IRV elections in the US
since San Francisco started using it in 2004, many of which were highly
contested between three or more candidates, and that Burlington 2009 race
remains the one and only one where the Condorcet candidate was not elected.
It seems to me that if you care about the Condorcet candidate winning, IRV
is a big step forward to that end.


On Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 8:21 PM C.Benham <cbenham at adam.com.au> wrote:

> I think that making sure that the voters can strictly rank from the top
> however many candidates they wish is more important
> than making sure the method elects the voted Condorcet winner.
> I think that IRV/RCV  (with one-at-a-time elimination) that meets that
> requirement  has the most merit relative to its traction and
> comprehensibility.
> But if we do want to insist on compliance with the Condorcet criterion,
> necessarily at the expense of making the making the method vulnerable to
> Burying
> strategy and losing compliance with the (popular with IRV supporters)
> Later-no-Harm criterion, then I don't like Bottom-Two Runoff.
> It would be much better to check before each normal IRV-style
> elimination that the candidate you are considering eliminating doesn't
> pairwise-beat all the
> remaining candidates. If it does the process should stop and that
> candidate should win.
> That would be a quite good Condorcet method.
> Chris Benham
> On 4/12/2019 9:26 am, robert bristow-johnson wrote:
> >
> >> On December 3, 2019 5:13 PM Juho Laatu <juho.laatu at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >> My simple thoughts on this:
> >>
> >> - You ask: Do you agree that in problematic situations, like what
> happened in 2009, the result should be different?
> >> - They answer: Yes.
> >> - You say: This is a problem that is fortunately quite easily to fix.
> The most straight forward way to enhance the method is to use the
> Bottom-Two Runoff. The losing candidate one of the two candidates with
> least votes will be eliminated.
> >> - They say: Ok, let's see if that would be our ideal solution.
> >> - You say: Ok, let's start from there.
> >>
> > Juho, this is **exactly** my strategy.  But there is a little bit of an
> issue about "let's start from there".  Here is the latest news regarding
> yesterday's Council meeting and RCV:
> >
> >
> https://vtdigger.org/2019/12/03/burlington-considers-instant-runoff-voting-for-most-city-races/
> >
> > What has happened is that the Progs have "succeeded" in fending off an
> amendment to take more time and investigate alternatives to the IRV method
> of RCV.  They want, really badly, to get this on the ballot for this coming
> Town Meeting Day in March 2020.  The latest that the Council can decide to
> include this on the ballot is in 13 days.  And in 6 days is when the
> Charter Change Committee will consider this proposed ballot item, fix any
> language, and recommend it to the Council on Dec 16.
> >
> > I am afraid that putting this on the ballot "half-baked", with
> effectively no change from what we had in 2009 and acknowledging no error
> from the 2009 election, will result in March in rejection by the majority
> of voters and will, again, set back voting reform for another decade.  So I
> want to make a good effort at changing the language from regular-old IRV to
> BTR-STV.  And hopefully get that change adopted by the Charter Change
> Committee and sent up to the Council to consider for inclusion on the
> ballot.  Then we can tell voters that this IRV is different from the 2009
> IRV and would have corrected the failure of IRV we had in 2009.
> >
> > I believe that Schulze is technically the best RCV, but since Schulze
> and Ranked-Pairs will elect the same candidate when the Smith set is 3
> candidates or fewer, my favorite would be RP using margins for a
> governmental election because its method is easier to understand and encode
> into legal language that laypersons can read and understand.  Also, we
> would be able to say to the IRV haters that this RP RCV is not IRV at all.
> >
> > However, we can't say that about BTR-STV because, after all, it *is* a
> form of Instant Runoff Voting, but and IRV method that *will* elect the
> Pairwise Champion (the term that I will use to denote the Condorcet
> Winner).  But, given the circumstances (that an IRV proposal is in the
> works right now), I think this is the best action I can hope to take.  I
> would have to admit that this Condorcet-compliant IRV is still IRV.  The
> Progs won't mind and other naive RCV supporters won't mind, but the IRV
> haters, particularly those who hated the IRV winner in 2009 will always
> hate IRV or any RCV, but I would still rather be promoting an RCV that is
> *not* IRV (no runoff rounds).
> >
> > I am taking Kristofer's language suggestions and possibly modifying.  I
> would like to see language suggestions from others.  Either way, I will
> post what language I finally will submit to the Charter Change Committee.
> They will probably reject my submission, but I will tell them plainly that
> if they are offering RCV that is no different from the IRV that resulted in
> the 2009 failure and was repealed by voters the following year, that their
> proposed charter change will be rejected by the majority of voters on Town
> Meeting Day.  And this will likely set back voting reform by another decade.
> >
> >> BR, Juho
> > and also to you, Juho.  i am appreciative of any help or language or
> analysis suggestions from you or anyone.
> >
> >
> > --
> >
> > r b-j                  rbj at audioimagination.com
> >
> > "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
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