[EM] "we only get one shot" (Re: RCV Challenge)

Rob Lanphier roblan at gmail.com
Thu Dec 30 17:51:26 PST 2021

Hi Forest (and everyone else),

I'm going to change the subject, in part because I've only been skimming
this thread (so I want to start a new thread to talk about the tidbit I'm
latching onto), and because I saw some praise from Forest, and I fear he
buried the lede.  YES, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!!!!!!   :-D

More inline below...

On Tue, Dec 28, 2021 at 6:55 PM Forest Simmons <forest.simmons21 at gmail.com>
> I agree with Kristofer .... as he said, "... we only get one shot ..."
> So why take any unnecessary chances?

Here's the subject that i'm here to address: I think we get more than one
shot (mildly objecting to Forest and Kristofer here).  HOWEVER, as Robert
Bristow-Johnson pointed out in his excellent paper summarizing the lessons
learned from Burlington's mayoral elections since adopting
RCV/IRV/HareRCV/whatever, the old "Texas sharpshooter"[1] fallacy comes
into play whenever FairVote celebrates their successes with RCV.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_sharpshooter_fallacy

> And truly the risk is unnecessary, because there are many perfectly good
manipulation resistant methods that are uniformly better and much simpler
than the 2nd rate kluges that, out of ignorance, are routinely proposed.

I agree.  I think we do need to respect and appreciate the need for
end-to-end simplicity in voting methods.  As I recall (and I could be
wrong), the problems that Pierce County (in Washington state) had back in
2005 through 2009 when they implemented IRV was that certifiable voting
machines that implement ranked ballots were difficult to come by, and

California is STILL having that problem.  Moreover, I can tell you (having
lived in San Francisco for over a decade now) that all of this "choice"
that RCV offers comes at a cost.  No one knows how to do proper polling for
it, and it takes days (or even weeks) for us to know the results in a close
election.  We have to trust that the centrally-tabulated paper ballots have
been counted correctly, and that there isn't a whiff of corruption in the
department of the San Francisco government.  While we love to talk about
how small San Francisco is (geographically speaking), the city's revenues
appear to have grown to over $12 billion (USD) per year:

A government managing that much money is inevitably going to get a little
sloppy about a few things, and grifters will take advantage of some of that

> We need to educate the teachable, while advocating only for the best
possible methods.
> Let the reactionary pooh-bahs defend their pet recycled 2nd rate methods
... leave to them the opportunity to reveal their own ignorance and
arrogant disregard for what we has been learned in the last 25 years
(thanks to Rob Lanphier's cultivation of nitty-gritty election science) ...
about election methods in general and Condorcet methods in particular.

I truly appreciate the praise.  Thank you.  I'm glad I've been able to
provide a space for people with ideas that stand up to academic scrutiny.
I've never been an "academic" myself, and was eager to get out of Idaho
with my bachelors degree, but I've always appreciated learning from people
who understand things better than I do.  And almost all y'all who regularly
post to this mailing list understand the mathematics of voting systems
better than I do.  I may understand the politics of them better than some
of you, but Forest, you and Kristofer and Kevi Venzke and Steve Eppley and
Mike Ossipoff all understand the math better.  I trust Robert
Bristow-Johnson to understand the politics of Burlington, Vermont better
than I do (since he's lived there a little while), but I'm going to guess
we both have political advice to offer each other.  (Robert: you and I
should work on a YouTube video associated with your paper; let me know if
you'd like to try that).

Regardless, you're absolutely correct about one thing, Forest: we need to
"educate the teachable".  I think one thing that the participants of this
mailing list from the academic sector sometimes forget is that we don't get
to say "listen carefully; this will be on the test."

I think a New Year's Resolution for all of us to consider is to hone our
respective elevator pitches for electoral reform.  I'm going to refer folks
to the "elevator pitch" Wikipedia article:

In particular, it says it should be in "the time span of an elevator ride,
or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes".  I would like to add that
we need to make sure that the recipient doesn't feel trapped on the
elevator with us as we berate them for two minutes without allowing for
questions, but instead make eye contact, and gauge receptiveness by being
ready to answer questions (and make them feel like their questions are
smart questions, rather than questions we've had to answer five million
times, even though.... they probably are asking questions that we've had to
answer five million times by now).  We should have our 30-second answers
for five to ten frequently asked questions memorized, and hone them so that
we don't bore the recipient to tears getting around to the point we feel we
need to make.

That'll certainly be my New Year's resolution.  The whole point of the
"elevator pitch" metaphor is that sometimes, you only get one shot to be
standing alone in an elevator with a key investor, and you only have
30-seconds to convince them that your loopy idea for a company is worth
investing in.  My explanations for electoral reform have never been crisp
enough, and I think I'd like to change that.  I hope all y'all can help me
out with that.


> El mar., 28 de dic. de 2021 1:55 a. m., Kristofer Munsterhjelm <
km_elmet at t-online.de> escribió:
>> On 28.12.2021 06:56, Forest Simmons wrote:
>> > Robert,
>> >
>> > You wrote ...
>> >
>> > "I'm just a Condorcet guy.  How cycles get resolved is less motivating
>> > to me than insuring that the Condorcet winner is always elected"
>> >
>> > But "how cycles get resolved" has a big influence on whether or not
>> > come into existence.  And when these cycles are created, the sincere
>> > Condorcet Winner goes out the window ... no longer showing up as a
>> > "beats-all" candidate on the ballot set. Can the cycle resolution
>> > reconstruct the lost CW? All bets are off.
>> >
>> > The easier it is to game the cycle resolution method, the more
>> > for the gamers to create the cycles.
>> >
>> > It seems that most Condorcet cycles are artificially created.
>> >
>> > For example, one way to create a cycle is by an insincere rank reversal
>> > technique called "burial".
>> >

>> > If the cycle resolution method has no built in disincentive/negative
>> > feedback for this (or any other) kind of cycle creation, over time the
>> > gamers find out that they can manipulate elections to their advantage
>> > with impunity, so that artificially created cycles become more and more
>> > common, giving the false impression that cycles are a normal fact of
>> There's still a question of just how much coordinated strategy will
>> happen. If the voters are mostly honest, then insisting on strategic
>> resistance will only be giving up honest performance for nothing
>> important in return. On the other hand, something like Borda obviously
>> collapses because it can't handle *any* kind of strategy.
>> I suspect that the initial amount of strategy depends on the voters -
>> that some voters are more inclined to strategize than others. Probably
>> voters who are used to FPTP would be more strategically inclined,
>> although I don't have any proof of this (it just seems intuitive). But
>> Debian used Schulze however many years without having any trouble with
>> burial (that they could detect, at least), and most places that use STV
>> nowadays don't seem to have much of a problem with vote management even
>> though it was pretty common in New York and some Canadian elections that
>> used to use STV.
>> In the face of this uncertainty, it's reasonable to want to have a
>> method that resists strategy well so that it doesn't get repealed after
>> a disastrous result. But that doesn't mean that it's strictly necessary
>> - only that we can't tell if it is, and we only get one shot.
>> -km
> ----
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