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Maine Ranked Choice Voting Initiative Approved (ballotpedia.org)
499 points by coryfklein on Nov 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 316 comments



I'm very proud of my state. We also voted to legalize marijuana.

RCV was especially relevant to Maine because our Republican governor, Paul LePage, won his seat -- twice -- with around 35%-45% of the vote, primarily due to votes being split between the Democratic and Independent candidates (a.k.a The Spoiler Effect).

To me, LePage and his path to election and re-election closely mirrors Trump and his campaign. He ran on "telling it like it is", "being a businessman, not a politician", and "draining the swamp". He has said some really horrible things about minorities and his fellow politicians, he's vetoed a record number of bills, and he's held very controversial policy stances.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/30/us/controversial-gov-paul-...

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/10/06/samantha_bee_...

Edit: I never meant to imply blame of any candidate in creating the Spoiler Effect, and as such I modified my comment to reflect this.


The Democratic candidate came in 3rd place with only 19%. I believe that makes the Democrats the "spoiler" in that election. To not recognize it as such is to prop up the 2-party system.


While that may be true, either of the two could've been the actual winner if real ranked voting was used.

People usually flock to the candidate who has the best mix of "likely to win" and "shares my values". Preferably, only the latter should count.

It's also important to note that First-Past-The-Vote forces candidates to try to differentiate themselves as much as possible from each other, and that also includes popular 3rd parties. They will say more extreme things that they often don't really believe in. So that too would skew the results.

All in all, ranked voting will completely change how the whole process happens.


Yes, I fully believe the FPTP voting system is what has led to the incredibly toxic and extremely partisan political system in the US, to the detriment of all logic. It has created an extreme "us vs them" situation.

Studies also show a correlation (and possibly causation) between FPTP countries and income inequality. Whatever "benefits" FPTP may have, they pale in comparison to all the disadvantages.


> PTP voting system is what has led to the incredibly toxic and extremely partisan political system in the US

Perhaps, but Australia uses Instant-Runoff Voting [1], and we are also following the toxic partisan Us vs Them situation too.

I suspect there's more than one factor at play here.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting


While the Liberals (conversatives in Australia) have the lower house, they don't have the majority in the upper house, making it more of a house of review than a rubber stamp.

The PM is elected by the parliament, and often disposed of when they're seen as not doing the job. More turmoil, but avoids a lame duck at the top.


Perhaps, but I'm talking more about that voting methods are not necessarily to blame for the levels of partisanship in US politics.

There have been a lot of eerie similarities in Australian politics in terms of partisanship.

Turnbull was ousted from his first turn at Liberal Party leadership precisely because he was seen as 'cooperating' with the Labor government at the time, when he was willing to negotiate and compromise on certain positions.


By "either of the two" do you mean the Democrat and the independent? It looks to me like (assuming voters voted for the candidates that would have got their first preferences under RCV) the Democrat could not have won under RCV in 2010 and the independent could not have won under RCV in 2014.

RCV should be used for gubernatorial elections, to address vote splitting but in the last two such elections in Maine, the candidate placed third on first preferences could not have won under RCV.


I'm wondering why doesn't the US implement a system like "Two-round system" as a part of electoral reforms because as I see it the current system in place is not fair for the electorate or even the candidates themselves.


Washington kind of has this for federal offices (other than president) and state offices. The top two winners of the primary make it to the final election, regardless of party affiliation. We had one state race between a Democrat and a Libertarian, and my congressional district had a choice between two Democrats (though one was 'normal' and the other was a self-proclaimed socialist).


For basically all offices but POTUS that's what California effectively has. Except it is implemented badly as a "top-two primary" system. This virtually guarantees that most partisan elections will exclude anyone outside the two biggest parties. It is not very healthy.


Or outside the one biggest party. Jerry Brown recently vetoed an STV elections bill, calling it "too confusing for voters". Having met some actual voters, I'm growing more inclined to agree with him, but STV has worked very well in my university's elections for more than a decade.


I don't much like STV either; not because it isn't fair, but because it's almost impossible to do without using computers.

We need to keep computers out of elections.


STV has been around since the 19th century, and in use in Australia and Ireland since 1918 and 1921 respectively. At no point have computers been involved.

Although it is simple to perform manually, the iterative nature of counting the votes, eliminating the least popular candidate and distributing their preferences can add extra time to arrive at a result in a tight race. In general, though, the margin between candidates and preference flows are predictable enough that it's rarely significant.


Doesn't STV have the problem of nonmonotonicity, where gaining votes can make a candidate lose?


The algorithm to run an STV election is not that hard to implement. If the government is willing to release the ballot files, then there's no reason that you couldn't conduct your own count. But let's not pretend that we could do massive amounts of tallying without any kind of computer.


If anyone wants to try their hand at implementing the count for a multi-member electorate by PR-STV, the 'formal preferences' files for the Australian 2016 Federal Senate Elections are available here: http://results.aec.gov.au/20499/Website/SenateDownloadsMenu-... (scroll down to "Formal Preferences").

Single-member STV elections are considerably simpler to count.


There's no need to use computers to conduct an STV count. The single-winner variant (variously called "Instant Runoff Voting" "Majority-Preferential Voting", etc.) is especially easy to count by hand. Counting votes in a proportional election under STV is slightly complicated by the transferring of surplus votes, but it can still be done by hand.


Two-round system would be an improvement as well to the FPTP system. It would also fix the spoiler effect and the lack of majority support for winner problems. It's also simpler than RCV.

However, I don't think it reduces negative campaigns like RCV does (though it might improve on the "blue or red" campaigns that exist with FPTP). Another objective may be that the election "costs too much" (basically double or more), although I don't think this is a real objective. Democracy costs money. Deal with it. But I could see the objection gaining traction with some politicians, for the same reason the removal of voting polls gained traction in states with budget deficits.

I'd be content with either RCV or two-round system.


California actually now has a two round system for many legislative (state and federal) and other elections, with the "primary" being the open-field first round and the "general election" being the final vote between the top two.

I've seen lots of complaints that it "eliminates choice", because you have elections where the "general election" options are both Democrats (most notably, this year's U.S. Senate race.)


RCV is better than the Two-Round system, which is an expensive and time-consuming way of doing Supplementary Vote. Supplementary Vote is a system we use in the UK to elect mayors and Police & Crime Commissioners, and is a form of RCV in which voters are limited to only two preferences.


Not certain. http://scorevoting.net/Honest Runoff.html


The address should be http://scorevoting.net/HonestRunoff.html (without the space)

Perhaps not certain, and I do agree that there's far more to be gained by replacing plurality voting by either, but I think that page has some mistakes.

> IRV leads to stifling 2-party domination

I suspect that's because of poor voter information. You can't address every political problem effectively with a choice of voting system.

> with IRV, that one round is more complicated and it cannot be done on ordinary "dumb totalizing" voting machines ... > IRV is more complicated for both voters and talliers.

I find IRV simpler as a voter because of the reduced need for tactical voting in the first round.

IRV isn't complicated to count by hand. (In my country, vested interests said we couldn't afford the necessary voting machines, but we already conduct hand counts suitable for IRV.) You simply separate the ballot papers by candidate and count each candidate's vote, as we do under plurality voting. If no candidate has a majority, eliminate the last candidate, redistribute that candidate's votes to the highest ranked candidate (as marked on each ballot paper) still in the race, count only the redistributed votes and add them to the total from the previous round. Keep going until a candidate has a majority.

> we certainly cannot argue that one system is better than the other under all circumstances.

You have to choose an electoral system before you can know the exact circumstances of an election, but the he main thing is to avoid plurality voting.


A big part of the problem is that the people who are going to approve changing the election system are also often the people who are elected due to the flaws in this system, and would like to hang onto the power these positions give them.

It's as if if the power to accept patches on an OS belonged to people who were profiting from a bunch of zero-day exploits in it, and kept on DMCAing attempts to set up a new repo free of their influence.


But there also hasn't been (as far as I can tell) a significant popular outcry against plurality voting. It seems unfair to blame politicians for resisting a movement that doesn't exist.


There's a chicken-and-egg problem there -- most people don't know there could be any other way to vote.


Two-round systems are actually quite gameable in their naive form.

One version I rather like is a Condorcet election with an optional runoff inside the Smith set, if nontrivial


I agree about the current system, but not about the Two-Round system. It would be more efficient for voters to go to the polls once and choose a first and second preference. Voters could be allowed as many preferences as candidates, which is what RCV does.


As long as the same ballot will be used not just for the runoff but also for the initial election, people have an incentive not to write down their true preferences (this is implied by the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbard%E2%80%93Satterthwaite_... (approximately) which says that as long as there are >2 candidates, tactical voting is incentivized).

The advantage of actually going to the polls twice is that you eliminate tactical voting in the final runoff; people no longer have any incentive to lie about their preferences.


You get to honestly veto the candidate you dislike the most (or back the candidate you want if s/he actually makes the final ballot) in the runoff.

But if anything, the first vote becomes even more tactical potentially in bizarre ways such as aiming to ensure that a candidate sure to make the final ballot runs against the most odious fringe candidate on the final ballot.


Maybe, but I get the impression that overall the addition of a true runoff tends to make things better. For example, this guy compared a number of voting methods using his preferred metric, Bayesian regret; note that when a method and a variant with a runoff added to it are compared, the runoff tends to do slightly better: http://rangevoting.org/StratHonMix.html

In addition, I have no data for this but I expect that a runoff would increase the perception of legitimacy of an electoral result, because while the initial voting procedure that narrows the field to only 2 candidates will occasionally be impacted by counterintuitive results such as spoilers, at least the runoff can always be interpreted in a straightforward manner as "we were choosing between A and B, and most voters preferred A over B".


> Maybe, but I get the impression that overall the addition of a true runoff tends to make things better. For example, this guy compared a number of voting methods using his preferred metric, Bayesian regret; note that when a method and a variant with a runoff added to it are compared, the runoff tends to do slightly better

I suspect that result is caused by voters being misinformed about how IRV works. It would be interesting to see IRV compared to Exhaustive Ballot, which is like the Two-Round system, but with up to n-1 rounds for n candidates. The last-placed candidate is eliminated each round until there are a majority of votes for one candidate, just like IRV.


In practice it rather works the other way: the fact that your ballot will also be used for the final runoff reduces the incentive to tactically vote, because there's a greater chance your vote will backfire.


Sure, the Democrat was the spoiler there. But your characterization of kevlar1818's comment doesn't make sense.

Advocating RCV is the exact opposite of propping up the two party system. And the terminology itself is neutral -- it's only because the American democracy has suffered under (or, as some would now say, outright failed due to) the two party system that you associate "the spoiler effect" with a third party candidate.


No, my characterization did make sense because at the time I commented (kevlar1818 has since edited -- read the whole thread), kevlar1818 explicitly blamed an independent candidate for splitting the Democrats' votes, as if they owned them.


Once again, any blame was not intentional. I don't know why you are insisting that I'm an opponent of third parties in elections.


Fair enough, but I think you're kind of splitting hairs. You're referring to the 2010 election, I think. The 2014 election has the Democratic candidate take ~43% if I'm correct.


How is it splitting hairs to correct the (implicit, through use of the phrase "The Spoiler Effect") blaming of third party candidates when it wasn't a third party candidate who was at fault whatsoever? In fact that's the central point of this ballot proposition: so that we can vote for better candidates than the Democrats are willing to put up without fear of your blame if we don't reach enough to defeat the other side.

Even worse, your post is just factually wrong. By placing the fact that a 3rd party candidate split the vote once in a sentence where you mentioned the governor failed to reach a majority twice, you conflated the two in a manner that almost looks willful.

And yes, I was referring to the 2010 election because the plurality for LePage was much less convincing then.


I'm a co-founder of the Center for Election Science. This was the spoiler effect. It doesn't really matter which candidate was the spoiler. It matters that the wrong candidate won. We did some analysis on this election here.

http://scorevoting.net/Maine2014Exit.html


tanderson92's point was that by implying that the independent candidate was the spoiler, it is tacitly supporting the two-party system.


I don't think that was the implication. The original post just said that the democrats and independents split the vote (spoiler effect). There was no implication as to which was the spoiler.


It was the implication present in the original post before it was edited to remove that implication (after much of this discussion had occurred). See: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12951169, and the edit note in the edited-edited-original post.


You can't really say "spoiler effect" without implying it. A "spoiler" is a minor candidate that is substantially similar to one of the major candidates. Just because the Democratic candidate lost to the spoiler doesn't make the spoiler less of a spoiler; the Democratic candidate would have been more likely to win if they weren't there.

It's not a "spoiler effect"; maybe a split constituency is a better term. Spoiler implies that somebody has something, and someone else steps in and ruins it. These are all equal people running for the same office.


This IMO gets it completely wrong. An independent candidate who comes within 2% of a plurality and victory and performs >15% better than the Democrat does not deserve to be called a spoiler. Why does the Democrat deserve the win regardless of what voters evidently want?

If anyone is a spoiler, it must be the Democratic candidate.

Your reasoning may be well-intentioned, but it is yet more 3rd-party-blaming.


Of course it was the spoiler effect! I never claimed otherwise! I only said that if you are going to use that language then in 2010 it is clear that the Democrats were the spoilers and the independent deserves none of the blame assigned by kevlar1818 in the original wording of the post.


Look, I agree with you. I am thrilled that RCV was voted-for by the people of Maine. It's a step away from the two-party system, and that's great.

The Spoiler Effect happened one way or another. I was not intentionally trying to bash any of the candidates who were involved in the Spoiler Effect, and I think it's petty and inflammatory to assign blame either way. I'll update my post to be more clear in this regard.


You're reading a lot into Kevlar1818's posts that isn't necessarily there. It's possible to blame a phenomenon (the Spoiler Effect) without blaming its players (Democrats & third party candidates).


In his/her defense, I edited my comment to show I did not mean to blame anyone.



We can debate all day about whether voting 3rd party under simple majority voting is taking a stand or being irresponsible (by causing a split vote and letting the worst candidate win). I think there are legitimate arguments on both sides.

The only real way to stop propping up a 2-party system is to switch to something like ranked choice voting, so good on them for doing it.


Fine. Whatever. Spoiler effect is much less of an issue with ranked voting, so good to know that Maine will be going IND (likely) next cycle unless GOP steps up their game and caters to the middle. A win for lefties in either way.


Just an observation here, I dont think there was an implication that the independants were a spoiler. Parent implied that democrat and independent candidates were similar in ideology and therefore a spoiler effect was present.


Good news for Maine: preferential voting will really help with the two party system.


The two-party system doesn't need any help. Preferential voting will give people the opportunity to vote for the candidates they prefer in the order they prefer them, rather than participating in the (media-driven) Keynesian beauty contest that the institutional parties force us into.


Hey, thanks so much for passing this, Maine!

I'd love to start a group (or get involved with one if there is one) to bring this to my adopted state of Washington.

Though I often groan at the "laboratories of democracy" turn of phrase, it is kinda cool to see this stuff implemented somewhere. It means there's a model we can use to bring it to where we live.


Washington uses what they call Top Two. Only the top two in the primaries will be on the ballot in the general election for the congressional, state legislative and state executive offices. They can be from the same party, e.g. the two candidates for state treasurer in 2016 were both republicans.

(California does this as well and it has had interesting effects. California's 31st district voter registration favors the democratic party, but they ended up with only the choice between two republicans in the general election because there were four democratic candidates dividing up the vote in the primary.[1])

1. https://ballotpedia.org/California's_31st_Congressional_Dist...


A starker thing happened in WA already. In the primary, there were five candidates for Treasurer. Three Democrats, two Republicans. No one knew much about any of them, and the vote was roughly split between all five. So the two Republicans advanced, even though almost 60% of the votes went to Democrats. (One of the Republicans won - the Democrats were prohibited from participating as write-ins due to a "Sore Loser" rule.)

Regardless of your political leanings, this is a case where the vote was distorted, and where the winner was decided more by the voting system than the preferences of the electorate.


Yes the vote was distorted, but that is the fault of the democratic party for not organizing their candidates better. How can you make a law that prevents one political party from being disorganized? Isn't that kinda like trying to "fix stupid"? (I'm not trying to call the democratic party stupid here, it's just an example of something impossible to legislate against.)

I think the more rules and regulations that get put into place that try to "fix" problems, which are really just symptoms of poor performance, not a root cause, the harder it makes it for upstart political parties to get involved!

This is part of the reason we only have two viable parties, there are so many rules and regulations that make it so difficult and very expensive to participate, that the democratic and republican parties can strangle any competition out of the race.


The problem with that critique is that it can be applied towards any system that has messed up incentives. Regulations to prevent over-fishing is kinda like trying to fix stupid, too, but it's still necessary.


Pierce County tried it. They quickly undid it.

IRV confused the voters. The election administrators were dead set against it, so were only too happy to allow it to fail.

Aside, on the election integrity front, IRV is difficult to tabulate and necessitates digital tabulation. I initially supported IRV, so many years ago, but its inherit complexity finally turned me off.

I now support Approval Voting. More fair than IRV, trivial to tabulate, easy to explain.


In my mind, the problem with Approval Voting is that it's harder to decide how one should vote. What's the cut-off? Do I vote for everyone I really believe in? Or everyone I don't loathe? And it's exactly that sort of question which leads to tactical voting. With IRV it's easy. Just order them until you're indifferent to the rest of the candidates.



It seems to me that AV should lead to basically the same results regardless of people's individual cutoffs. I think it's more important to avoid the nonmonotonicity of IRV.


IRV scrutiny has been successfully done by hand-counting for many decades before computer-assisted counting was available.


As another Washingtonian who donated to and followed the Maine initiative closely, let me know if you find an organization to work with (or if you start one).

I'd be happy to volunteer, donate, etc.


fairvote.org is a national organization dedicated to voting reforms such as this. They were a big supporter of Maine initiative, and often have satellite state offices.


I'd sign & vote for that initiative.


People complain about the electoral college, that it gave the win to Trump, even though he had fewer votes. They're right, they should complain about it. However, they should also realize that in most state elections, governors across the country win elections with less than majority support, just like you mentioned. So this is not just a one time catastrophe. Far from it.

It's time to get rid of the FPTP voting system. It only serves to elect people with minority support. Heck, if the Republican party didn't use FPTP in its primary, it's likely Trump wouldn't have been the nominee. But they used it precisely because they wanted to make the primary less democratic, and they thought their main guy, Jeb Bush, would be the one winning with 40% of the Republicans' votes, while all the other candidates would split the vote. I bet they will reconsider that strategy now.

Even Clinton, which won the popular vote, only had support from 48% of the voters - less than the majority. So even if she won, in my book, it would still not be democratic, because perhaps in a two-round voting system or in an RCV system, Clinton would preserve the 48%, and Trump would get 52% if the Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and write-in voters would've all gone to Trump. We just don't know, and the only way to know that a candidate is indeed liked by at least 50%+1 of the voters, is to have a system that shows that. The FPTP voting system doesn't.


Trump won with fewer votes than his opponent; governors always win with more votes than their opponents. Whether the governor's vote total is a majority or plurality is a separate question.

Also of interest: Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections, going back a quarter century.


Isn't this exactly why the electoral college exists? To prevent incredibly dense populations with completely different priorities from deciding for the entire nation?

Note also, no states went to Trump where Clinton had the popular vote.


> I bet they will reconsider that strategy now.

That will be hard, given that it won them the White House, and produced the victory for the now-defacto leader of the Republican Party.

Party rules to amend it would be a slap in the face of Trump, much like if the Democrats tried to change things so that "an Obama" couldn't win while Obama was in office.


> Party rules to amend it would be a slap in the face of Trump

It's always going to be a slap in the face. Start the campaign now and try to get it in with the next term.


I'm also very proud of Maine.

We had record high turnout this year, when much of the country had low turnout. Perhaps because of the important ballot items such as this one. I also think Maine's splitting up our electoral votes helps, too. I say this as someone from the 2nd district who hates that Trump got our vote!


Didn't the democrat get less votes than the third party candidate and was losing in polls running up to the election as well?


Hey, I'm also from Maine! There's at least two of us here!

I voted against the initiative, mostly because as I understand it, it still doesn't necessarily create majority candidates and because there's a good chance it's in violation of the state constitution.

I don't mind that it passed though.


> it still doesn't necessarily create majority candidates

How could it not? Genuinely asking.


Not quite what you're asking, but will feel like it to people, here's a quote from the linked article (quoting somebody else):

"One problem of RCV is that especially with lots of candidates, a winner can be chosen with a relatively small number of first-place votes. This was exactly what happened in the city of Oakland, California, in 2010 when Jean Quan, who received only 24 percent of votes in the first round, ended up winning the election because she was the second and third choice of many voters. In Burlington, Vermont, after the leader in the first round did not win an election, RCV was repealed."

It might be a technical majority, but when so few people actually preferred the candidate that won, it makes sense that they repealed it.

The benefit of the simple plurality is that you've got to actually get people to want you.

Not sure what I think about RCV, personally.


I'm not sure why this is a flaw, to be honest - it seems like selecting a candidate who is at least acceptable to the greatest number of people is preferable to picking one who is preferred by a slight majority but possibly highly divisive.


The heart of the problem is that what people think they're getting probably isn't going to match up with what they actually get. I don't think RCV is really any worse or better than FPTP (well it's probably a little better), but it behaves in a way that is going to offer weird results for people that they didn't expect. That's why it's bad.

At the end of the day, no one cares how we decide our leaders so long as their candidate wins. And when their candidate loses, that's when there are suddenly massive flaws in the process.


I think it's not necessarily true that the elected candidate really is acceptable to most people under RCV. My #2 vote might simply be my "least-bad" choice, not my "second-best" choice. I might be pretty disgruntled if that #2 option is chosen.

Imagine a system where each person gets 100 votes to allot as they wish. Say I give 97 votes to A, 2 to B, and 1 to C, while you give 35 votes to A, 33 to B, and 32 to C.

If we instead had an RCV system, we'd perhaps both express those votes as "A over B over C", even though under the vote-allotment system we were expressing pretty divergent opinions. I clearly find candidate B unacceptable, if barely more tolerable than C, where you appear to find all three of them more or less acceptable.


It's not a flaw. In two-party systems there's often a strong pushback on any system that would break the deadlock. Those arguments won't make any sense, but sadly they don't need to in order to convince people.


Isn't that the whole point of RCV? People can put their first choice as the 3rd party candidate that they prefer, but if they still don't have enough they can fall back onto a more established party for their 2nd/3rd choice.


"One problem of RCV is that especially with lots of candidates, a winner can be chosen with a relatively small number of first-place votes. This was exactly what happened in the city of Oakland, California, in 2010 when Jean Quan, who received only 24 percent of votes in the first round, ended up winning the election because she was the second and third choice of many voters. In Burlington, Vermont, after the leader in the first round did not win an election, RCV was repealed."

In Austriala the above happens all the time it is considered normal.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016/guide/mpor/

Here the Labor party candidate polled second highest (with 27%) and was elected thanks to Green Preferences. The Liberal candidate lost despite polling 42% of first preference votes.


Heaven forbid a compromise, eh?


I would claim this is true of FPTP too - just in FPTP, people vote for their 2nd, or 3rd favorite candidate. At least with RCV your preference is known, rather than hidden in some corner of your mind.


That's not a flaw. One reason I prefer Approval Voting is that it makes this clear. Approval Voting works the same as RCV but without ranking. Vote for all candidates you approve of.

The "bayesian regret" is almost as good as RCV, but it's much simpler and doesn't suffer from the misperception you highlighted.

https://electology.org/approval-voting


Approval Voting is problematic, especially in a multicultural electorate, for situations where there is not a concrete definition of the meaning of the approval threshould, because different people interpret "approve" differently (it's basically asking the to impose a binary threshold on a continuous-but-not-consistently-quantifiable value), so it suffers problems from inconsistency in input data. The impact of any individe all voter is small enough and hard enough to viscerally percieve that there is no strong feedback method to, over time, align understandings of "approval" so the meaning is consistent across ballots.

Approval Voting is not problematic for situations where you don't need ballot secrecy and approving is, e.g., a binding commitment to participate if the approved option is selected (or where non-approval is a binding opt-out), or where some other consistent concrete consequence of approval exists.

A similar problem exists with most numerical rating (as opposed to ordinal ranking) methods, and to other ranking methods with smiller number of rankings than alternatives, and, perhaps, to a much lesser extent, to ranking systems that allow (but don't require) equal rankings.

Because most analyses silently assume a consistent the mapping from an internal utility function to ballot marking, this is frequently overlooked.


The Bayesian Regret of Approval Voting is radically BETTER than with IRV.

http://scorevoting.net/BayRegsFig.html


Ranked voting could still produce a simple plurality, not a majority, if no candidate is ranked by more than 50% of the population.

E.g. in the extreme case, with three candidates, suppose everyone hated the other two options so much that they refused to even write in a #2 choice.

Of course, this seems like a completely silly argument, because it's much more likely to generate majorities than the single-choice system.


People just frequently complain when a candidate didn't get 50% of the popular vote in an election. I think it's silly, but it's common. Many people's argument in favor of this initiative is seeing that 50% number. If it doesn't actually produce that reliably, then it's not solving the problem people want solved.

Personally, I don't mind if someone wins with 43% of the popular vote. I don't even mind FPTP much, and yes, I mostly vote third party. But from other people in the state, that 50% number was a concern, and I don't think this addressed that adequately.


If you tend to vote third party, You should consider being against FPTP voting, because it almost always leads to a two-party system[1].

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law



There are some good comments critiquing ranked choice voting from people who seem much more informed / involved than I am. I suggest you just scroll through the comments a bit rather than get it from me (if you can't find them, I'm happy to dig some stuff up).


at least three of us here!


While may not agree on how an alternate voting system should work, I am glad that we can finally acknowledge the system we have in place desperately needs fixing.



Thankfully, the ridiculous, unenforceable gun control initiative that was funded by out-of-state interests was also rejected. I'm very proud of my home state.


>very controversial policy stances

That applies to all of us.


Good post. I'm proud of our state.


A number of places in the US have tried this over the last century. It's never caught on, and in most places it's been reversed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting_in_the_U...

IRV is not really a good voting system. It's better than plurality, but it still doesn't really allow viable third parties. If a third party ever catches on, they could steal first votes away from a major party, and cost both of them the election. Demonstration here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q7rzqJ0YS8

I would recommend a condorcet method, or approval voting. Condorcet methods in particular have a lot of nice mathematical properties and are close to optimal with honest voters. I think it's the most likely to allow third parties to actually get elected. You can see some results of simulated elections with different voting systems here: http://rangevoting.org/BR52002bw.png http://rangevoting.org/BayRegsFig.html

They claim that just approval voting is the same level of improvement from plurality voting, as plurality voting is from monarchy. Based on the massive voter satisfaction index improvement. It really is crazy that we still use plurality voting.


As a supporter of Gary Johnson, I grew frustrated with the fear of the "spoiler effect" of our current system and spent a day looking into alternative voting systems and their pros and cons.

I, too, came away with approval voting being my favored approach.

One question to ask yourself, though, is this: in an election where candidate A is loved by 55% of the population and hated by 40%, and candidate B is loved by no one, but tolerated by 80% of the population, who "should" win? It's more of a philosophical question, but depending how you answer it influences how you should choose a voting system.

If you think the 80% tolerated candidate should win, then approval voting is for you. If you think being loved by 55% of the population should be the winner, then IRV or another system may be better.

I personally prefer the boring, centrist 80% tolerated outcome, so I like approval.

Another thing I realized, is that a lot the research doesn't seem to take into account polls ahead of time and iterated preference making. Approval voting might be terrible if it's once-and-done, but if you have polls leading up to it, you can calibrate your "approval level" a little better.

E.g., if Hitler is running, you might say "I approve of everyone else". But if you see polls suggesting that no one is approving of Hitler, then you might raise your standards a bit and not approve of some more candidates.


I find that people tend to like the voting system that (they believe) will give their favorite party the best odds. So people that have radical political ideologies, tend to prefer systems that are more likely to allow radical candidates.

Note that in practice, people start to vote tactically to prevent radical candidates, so there really isn't any voting system that works great for that purpose anyway.

I think the centrist option is probably the best for a number of reasons. I think a particularly bad president can do much more harm, than an unusually good president can do good. E.g. start WW3, or destroy the economy. Not to mention dividing the country and polarizing our political system.

Second there is a phenomenon called wisdom of crowds. That if you take the middle of the estimates given by a large number of uninformed people, it usually comes out very close to the true answer. The same should apply to voting. The middle preference of a large number of uninformed voters, should be close to optimal.

Third there are studies that show that centrists and moderates tend to have much more accurate beliefs than others. As in, their predictions of future events were the most accurate. Ideological people were extremely biased and inaccurate. That's probably the closest we can get to scientifically measuring how good their policies would be.

Lastly, for values questions, where there is no "right answer", the middle should be chosen. It's the fairest choice.


I'm a radical leftist (seize the means of production!) and I actually favor Approval Voting. It allows for a democratic compromise on single-seat offices, and it can also be more-or-less automatically adapted to a multi-seat body with proportional representation. It allows a voice to small parties or factions without spoiler effects, while being dead simple to implement and making tactical voting relatively difficult.

>Lastly, for values questions, where there is no "right answer", the middle should be chosen. It's the fairest choice.

As a radical, my problem with this is that the "middle" is defined by the power struggle between the "extremes": it always tracks the formerly "extremist" positions of the winning side. For instance, until last week, nobody would ever have said that privatizing Medicare was anything but extremist far-right lunacy. Coming this year, we're going to hear that it's a mainstream, centrist position. That's not even being said as a statement of fact, since it's transparently false -- people love Social Security and Medicare! It's being said as an imposition of hegemony on the part of the electoral winners, as how "we create our own reality now".


The Australian Senate uses this method. One downside is since you only need a "quota" of the vote to get elected hundreds of single issue "micro-parties" contest the senate and you end up with the so called "tablecloth ballot paper". Eg. In this article you can see 394 names on the ballot paper.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw-state-election-201...


IRV mostly eliminates negative campaigning, so has a moderating effect.

I'd expect Approval Voting to have the same property.


If you want viable third parties, you want multimember legislative districts with some kind of proportional representation, even if it's just STV in small (3-5 member) multimember districts, and not something drastic like Party List Proportional or MMP.

Playing around with single winner election methods may be useful for some purposes, but it's not how you really get additional viable parties.


I approve of proportional representation. But I think a good single winner method should be sufficient to elect good representatives. That is, representatives that are the best possible compromise of all the different views of voters. Which should give roughly the same results as a proportional system.

And most positions are required to be single winner, like mayors, judges, sheriffs, governors, or the president. So it makes sense to focus on single winner systems first.


> I approve of proportional representation. But I think a good single winner method should be sufficient to elect good representatives.

Comparative empirical studies of modern democracies that I've seen (e.g., as detailed in Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy) suggest that this is simply not correct.

> And most positions are required to be single winner

What elected positions need to be single winner is a matter of choice, but, yes there are some, and for those better single-winner methods help. But they won't make additional larties viable the way that proportionality in the legislature would.


>Comparative empirical studies of modern democracies that I've seen (e.g., as detailed in Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy) suggest that this is simply not correct.

What do you mean? How many countries use approval voting or condorcet methods to select parliaments? Because that's what I'm referring to. These systems tend to select for "best compromise" or centrist candidates, which should represent the population pretty well.


> What do you mean?

Proportionality of representation in the legislature strongly predicts both number of sustainable parties and public satisfaction with government in modern democracies.

> These systems tend to select for "best compromise" or centrist candidates, which should represent the population pretty well.

Not really; it's not like views on political issues are clearly unimodally distributed such that a single compromise candidate does anything but make everyone in the electorate feel like they have no effective representation of their views in government. That's what proportionality avoids.


Well whether people feel like they are represented, is a very different goal. The ideal "compromise candidate" has the majority opinion on every individual issue, and so accurately represents their population.


> The ideal "compromise candidate" has the majority opinion on every individual issue

Even if they did, representing the majority opinion in each district in the legislature and taking the majority for those majorities as the policy is not the same as directly representing the diversity of views in the electorate in the legislature and taking the majority of that diversity as the policy.

An ideal single-winner system aims to approximate the former, an ideal proportional representation seeks to approximate the latter. Even an deal single-winner system doesn't approximate what PR is doing.

Proportionality, particularly, mitigates the difference in representation between geographically diffuse and geographically concentrated viewpoints that occurs in any, even ideal, single-member district system.


Maybe the solution would be to not elect these people directly and instead have the parliament/city council elect these? That way a coalition can form organically. It's working quite nicely in most European countries.


For assemblies, yes.

I prefer more direct democracy thru elected executives vs say prime ministers or presidents of the council. Which is the best use case for Approval Voting.

But I've never experienced parliamentary government, so take this with the usual caveats.


I've considered whether it would be a good system to give voters a certain number of votes greater than 1, say 10, which they can allocate to candidates as they see fit, say 7 for candidate A, 2 for B, 1 for C. Votes would be summed for each candidate and a weighted random selection of candidate would be made.


Approval Voting makes the most sense, seeing as this concerns the election of a single individual.

Basically, vote for ALL of the candidates of whom you approve.

Whoever gets the most approval (votes) wins.

Simple.

With a paper system such as we have in the UK, then if you don't like any of the candidates you can use a blank ballot paper to record your DISapproval, with the option that if the disapproval ballots exceed the winning total of approval votes then a new election should be called with a new slate.

Mathematically, for a single candidate election, it gets extremely close to the optimum Condorcet result.


Pitting "ranked choice" versus "approval" (versus "range") voting is not really the way to think about it. Consider a "relaxed" version of ranked choice where voters are allowed to give multiple candidates the same rank. (Sometimes voters really do have no preference between two candidates.)

Approval voting then is just a "restricted" subset of "relaxed ranked choice". That is, any preference expressed in an approval voting ballot can also be expressed in a relaxed ranked choice ballot. Similarly, relaxed ranked choice voting can be considered a restricted subset of range voting. And our traditional "single choice" voting can be considered a restricted subset of all of them.

And really you should separate the mechanism for expressing voter preference from the mechanism for picking a winner. Those are separate things that, in theory, can be mixed-and-matched to produce various voting systems.

So, clearly range voting is in some sense the best (or tied for the best) ballot, in the sense that it allows the voter to express a range of preferences that is a superset of the other systems.

But there is also the issue of ballot simplicity. Some people might prefer the simpler ballots of the approval system, or even the traditional single choice system. But since those ballots have corresponding "range voting" ballots, you can deploy a "range voting" election while allowing voters to use the kind of ballot they are comfortable with.

Indeed you can imagine the idea of a "progressive ballot" in which the voter starts of with a simple "single choice" ballot, and can optionally refine their preferences with an approval ballot, then a ranked choice ballot, then, ultimately a "range" ballot.

I've actually implemented such a thing [1].

[1] http://macd.tk/pollplace - Note, this is running on an underpowered test server not intended for public use, so be gentle.


> And really you should separate the mechanism for expressing voter preference from the mechanism for picking a winner.

Thank you for highlighting that. Too often the ballot and the aggregation method are conflated.

On https://modernballots.com/elections/zombies/vote/ I implemented 5-star ratings as the default. Everyone's familiar with this kind of rating and it allows indifference between two options.


> Pitting "ranked choice" versus "approval" (versus "range") voting is not really the way to think about it. Consider a "relaxed" version of ranked choice where voters are allowed to give multiple candidates the same rank. (Sometimes voters really do have no preference between two candidates.)

I think Ranked versus Approval/Score is a proper comparison.

Ranked voting requires that you order candidates. That additional complexity is undesirable to proponents of Approval or Score Voting, such as myself.

You've suggested removing the requirement to order candidates and called it "Relaxed Ranked Voting." Removing the ordering requirement makes "Relaxed Ranked Voting" approximately equivalent to Score Voting (sometimes known as "Range Voting") [1]. The difference is that the numbers are reversed. In Score Voting with a range of 0 to 100, the highest score—that is, 100—is given the the candidate(s) you like the most. In your "Relaxed Ranked Voting," I assume the best score would be a 1. This seems needlessly confusing to the voter. Just use a scoring system that everyone is familiar with from public high school, where 100 is the best.

Relaxed Ranked Voting seems additionally complicated by each elected office on a ballot having its own bounds (a three-candidate race would presumably permit scores of 1 to 3; a five candidate race would be 1 to 5; etc.) Meanwhile, Score Voting, once adopted, would use a consistent score range for all elected offices. For example, 100 is always best.

Am I missing something else about Relaxed Ranked Voting that makes you prefer it versus Score Voting?

I find it frustrating that IRV has more momentum than Approval and Score. I am worried that we will squander an opportunity to adopt a truly superior system such as Approval or Score voting [2] if we end up with IRV. I want to get rid of Plurality as much as anyone, but replacing it with IRV seems a half-success that will temporarily exhaust regular voters' tolerance of change.

As you point out, a reason so many of us on the Approval and Score Voting hype-train talk about Approval more than Score is that it's largely compatible with existing ballots. You just mark as many as you want. Super simple. In fact, I argue that Approval voting is simpler than plurality voting because it removes the "select only one" constraint.

[1] https://electology.org/score-voting

[2] https://electology.org/approval-voting-versus-irv


The point is that "approval" voting and "score" (aka "range", aka "rating") voting are not fundamentally different systems. Approval voting is just score voting where the voter is restricted to giving each candidate a score of either 0 or 1.

Similarly, "relaxed rank" voting is also just a restricted version of score voting. You might argue that a paper version of the "relaxed rank" voting ballot wouldn't be as clear or intuitive to the average voter as an approval or score ballot would be. And I wouldn't necessarily dispute that.

What I'm saying is that instead of forcing every voter to learn and embrace a new ballot, you can let them vote as they always have and, optionally, allow them to "refine" or "supplement" their ballot by additionally filling out an approval ballot along with their traditional one. (If the approval ballot contradicts the original one it is discarded/ignored.) If the voter has chosen to fill out an approval ballot, they can subsequently further refine their ballot by filling out a score ballot.

I'm just pointing this out because it may be an option that is more acceptable to more people. In fact, you could add these optional "refining" ballots to existing elections with the understanding that they will have no effect on the election, but allow people to see how the election would have turned out had the "refining" ballots been counted. (Like, maybe John Kasich would have been president or something.)

If you go to the link I posted, you can login anonymously and try out these "progressive ballots" for yourself. If you register (no personal info required or anything), you can create your own polls if you want to experiment further. (Note that this is not a real site or anything. Don't rely on it, and don't use it for anything serious. Not yet anyway.)


Just to clarify, when I say "relaxed rank voting is just a restricted version of score voting", I'm talking about the ballots, not the method for evaluating the winner. As I said, those two things should be separated. I agree that "instant runoff" is a rather sub-optimal choice as an evaluation method. But once "ranked choice" ballots are established in Maine (or wherever), they could later upgrade the evaluation method to, for example, use the Schulze method[1] instead, without changing the ballots.

The point is, whatever type of ballots you're using - traditional single choice, approval, ranked, relaxed ranked, or score/range - the ballots should all be converted to score/range ballots and evaluated by an optimal score/range evaluation method (probably Schulze or something like it).

This also means that the ballots don't even have to be all the same type. Each voter could choose the type of ballot they feel most comfortable with, knowing that whichever type of ballot they choose, their vote will count as much as any other voter.

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


I've seen the data (at least from the organizations that support approval voting), and it seems to deliver the most optimum results.

However, I have some concerns. The way I see the two voting systems is like this:

Advantages approval voting:

- much simpler

- eliminates spoiler effect

- may give third-party candidates better chances in most elections

- reduces negative campaigning, since the winner would have to be "approved" by like 70% of the country in typical elections.

Disadvantages AV:

- the winner may be someone who was #2 on 80% of the country's wishlist. So 51% of country won't love the candidate, as they may with RCV or two-round voting systems, but also the other 49% won't hate the candidate (perhaps only 20% will). So from that point of view, it would be "better". But it would be someone most are just content with.

- I believe even the organizations supporting it admit that it would lead to "centrist" leaders. Perhaps in most situations a centrist is preferable, but what if the country has gone in the wrong direction for 2 decades, and it needs a completely new direction? Would a centrist still be enough? Or would the approval voting system and people pick exactly the guy that is willing to go in a different direction this one time? I'm not sure what would happen in this scenario.

Advantages RCV:

- eliminates spoiler effect

- also reduces negative campaigning, because a candidate would need some of the opponent's voters, too, to rank them as #2 on their list.

- easier transition to multi-winner RCV system for state legislature and Congress - and this alone is much bigger than just using approval voting system. Proportional representation beats all single-winner voting systems, including approval voting

Disadvantages RCV:

- it may eliminate spoiler effect, but other than that, it won't do much else to help third-parties. The main two parties would likely still be elected for a long time, at least until population's thinking about at least one of the the two parties changes in a major way - a bit more complicated to understand how votes are counted by the average person, and a higher number of "lost" votes (I believe 5% or so, compared to about 1% or less for AV).

I believe both could also be used strategically - as in rank #1 the person you think is more likely to win with RCV, or only vote for the person that's more likely to win with AV, instead of multiple people.

So I would qualify the two as: AV would be a great improvement over FPTP, while RCV would be a moderate, but still well worth it and welcome improve, for the fact that it would eliminate spoiler effect alone. However, if single-winner RCV makes it much more likely that multi-winner RCV (STV) is also adopted for state legislature and Congress, then I would definitely choose RCV over AV, because the ultimate goal should be to adopt proportional representation in the US.

I think proportional representation coupled with a limit of $200 of individual donations and a ban on any other political donations would greatly improve democracy in the US, and these are the main changes Americans should fight for, if they want all of the other issues (as Lessig often says) to be solved as well. First fix democracy and change the system to a better one, so that the people that actually represent you get to pass laws in your favor for whatever issue you (the People) want.


> the winner may be someone who was #2 on 80% of the country's wishlist

That's an advantage, not a disadvantage.

IRV/RCV has one more critical flaw which makes the "lesser of two evils" problem worse: it completely ignores any later preferences on your ballot. If you list your preferred third-party candidate first, IRV/RCV ignores your preference for one first-party candidate over another. As long as your third-party candidate can't win, then your preference gets respected. However, when your third-party candidate reaches the tipping point, it's entirely plausible for your preferred first-party candidate to get eliminated first, followed by your preferred third-party candidate, letting your least preferred first-party candidate win.

That's quite plausible, because it's common for most voters for a particular third party to have the same preferred first-party, while first-party voters more commonly vote for only that party.

That creates an incentive for third-party voters to continue voting a first-party candidate at the top, because in IRV/RCV, only your top choice counts.

That said, hopefully it'll improve the ability to show third-party support, if not actually get third-party candidates elected.


No, IRV does not eliminate the spoiler effect.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=JtKAScORevQ

Score Voting and Approval Voting are simpler and better.

http://scorevoting.net/CFERlet.html http://www.electology.org/approval-voting-vs-irv


While I am a fan of Approval Voting, it doesn't eliminate the spoiler effect entirely:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Approval_voting#Strategic_voti...


"The spoiler effect" generally means that if you vote for your preferred candidate, it can backfire and give you the least-preferred. Approval can't do that. In approval voting, it never, ever hurts to vote for your favorite candidate.

It's true that voting for other candidates you approve of could take the election away from your favorite, but that's not what people usually mean with spoiler effect. As long as you do approve of the winning candidate, your vote isn't spoiled. In Approval Voting, there's no context where any form of voting, strategic or honest, will have you worrying that your vote helps someone you don't approve of.


> easier transition to multi-winner RCV system for state legislature and Congress - and this alone is much bigger than just using approval voting system. Proportional representation beats all single-winner voting systems, including approval voting

Proportional representation is not an improvement. The effect is that you end up voting for a party instead of a candidate and you end up with all the hard party line behavior seen in Europe.

But it's also not true that you can't do multi-winner voting with approval voting. It's completely trivial -- you have fifteen candidates and five seats and the five candidates with the highest approval get seats.

The problem is, that has the same issue as using RCV with multi-winner elections -- it disenfranchises people. To have multiple winners you have to combine districts. Then all the candidates get chosen by what 51% of the voters in the combined district want when before 20% of the seats could have gone to a different party because those voters had majorities in their old smaller districts. Now they get nothing and have no voice at all.

> or only vote for the person that's more likely to win with AV, instead of multiple people.

That doesn't actually help you with AV. Not approving of the candidate you most want to win buys you nothing.

The failure mode of AV, such as it is, is that it requires you to choose between approving of your second-most favorite candidate or not, when doing that could both cause that candidate to win against your favored candidate and cause them to win against your least favored candidate, and you don't know which one without knowing how everyone else voted. But that's because Arrow's Impossibility Theorem is a bear.


> Proportional representation is not an improvement. The effect is that you end up voting for a party instead of a candidate and you end up with all the hard party line behavior seen in Europe.

You're describing party-list proportional representation, but the parent post was about PR-STV, under which voters rank candidates and don't vote for parties.

> But it's also not true that you can't do multi-winner voting with approval voting. It's completely trivial -- you have fifteen candidates and five seats and the five candidates with the highest approval get seats.

> The problem is, that has the same issue as using RCV with multi-winner elections -- it disenfranchises people. To have multiple winners you have to combine districts. Then all the candidates get chosen by what 51% of the voters in the combined district want when before 20% of the seats could have gone to a different party because those voters had majorities in their old smaller districts. Now they get nothing and have no voice at all.

Proportional representation (with or without party lists) would prevent minority rule and provide minority representation. I'm not sure your suggestion of multi-winner approval had either of these benefits.


> You're describing party-list proportional representation, but the parent post was about PR-STV, under which voters rank candidates and don't vote for parties.

Party lists make the problem much worse because it's de jure but any multi-winner system devolves into de facto voting for parties. More choices means that party branding plays a bigger role in voter choice, and even if a voter has a preferred candidate, they have to support that candidate's other party members in order for them to be effective once elected. Which makes it easier for parties to enforce party loyalty.

> Proportional representation (with or without party lists) would prevent minority rule and provide minority representation.

I don't think I'm adequately explaining what I mean by disenfranchise.

Suppose a factory is polluting the lake, or the old County Bridge needs to be repaired, or the the local police are corrupt.

If a party needs to resolve those issues to win the district then that's what they'll do. But if you put those voters in a big pot with a million other people who vote for parties based on things like abortion and taxes, nobody in the legislature is going to care anything about the local problems. So those people get disenfranchised -- nobody cares about them because no individual legislator is going to keep or lose their seat based on how people in only that one district vote.

> I'm not sure your suggestion of multi-winner approval had either of these benefits.

The point is that all multi-winner systems are bad. Legislators need to be elected by their own district or they won't actually care about those people.


> even if a voter has a preferred candidate, they have to support that candidate's other party members in order for them to be effective once elected. Which makes it easier for parties to enforce party loyalty.

If that's true, it isn't consistent with another supposed disadvantage of PR-STV: that under it competition between candidates of the same party undermines party unity. Either way, if you approve of democracy, why not majority rule and increased voter choice?

> Suppose a factory is polluting the lake, or the old County Bridge needs to be repaired, or the the local police are corrupt.

> If a party needs to resolve those issues to win the district then that's what they'll do. But if you put those voters in a big pot with a million other people who vote for parties based on things like abortion and taxes, nobody in the legislature is going to care anything about the local problems. So those people get disenfranchised -- nobody cares about them because no individual legislator is going to keep or lose their seat based on how people in only that one district vote.

What you want can be achieved with proportional representation. Effective local government (itself elected proportionally) with appropriate powers should address local issues.

> Legislators need to be elected by their own district or they won't actually care about those people.

Under FPTP, too many legislators are elected without a majority of votes cast in their electoral districts, thwarting democracy even at that level. The problem typically accumulates over a whole chamber; if you need a third of votes in an electoral district to win it, you only need a sixth of votes nationally to control the whole chamber.


> If that's true, it isn't consistent with another supposed disadvantage of PR-STV: that under it competition between candidates of the same party undermines party unity.

Unfortunately it's possible to do both at the same time. The fact that the party can kick people out for not sticking to the party line doesn't mean there won't be friction when two members of the same party are campaigning against each other for a seat.

> Either way, if you approve of democracy, why not majority rule and increased voter choice?

"Majority rule" is the problem representative democracy exists to solve. With direct democracy (or anything that sufficiently approximates it) you get bad choices because if you put something on the ballot that will give +1 to 51% of people and -10 to 49% of people then it passes.

> What you want can be achieved with proportional representation. Effective local government (itself elected proportionally) with appropriate powers should address local issues.

The only way that could work is if each level of government was only in charge of things that affect each of its constituents uniformly, which is not possible. For example The Feds have to regulate pollution because pollution generated in West Virginia can affect New York, but that also means that the interests of people in West Virginia are different than the interests of people in New York and so they each need their own representatives.

And it goes all the way down the stack. Zoning regulations affect the whole city but affect different neighborhoods differently, so each neighborhood should have its own representative on the city council.

> Under FPTP, too many legislators are elected without a majority of votes cast in their electoral districts, thwarting democracy even at that level. The problem typically accumulates over a whole chamber; if you need a third of votes in an electoral district to win it, you only need a sixth of votes nationally to control the whole chamber.

I don't think anybody is arguing that FPTP is not terrible. Approval voting or range voting fixes it without having to combine districts.


> Unfortunately it's possible to do both at the same time. The fact that the party can kick people out for not sticking to the party line doesn't mean there won't be friction when two members of the same party are campaigning against each other for a seat.

Parties' candidates already work with each other under STV, so party disunity isn't an unacceptable problem.

Expelling politicians should only affect candidates' chances of getting elected if voters want it to. There is no vote-splitting under STV. STV doesn't discriminate against independents. Expelled politicians might take their votes with them if voters choose to follow them.

I don't mean to suggest that the problem of party disunity isn't real, only that it's outweighed by STV's advantages. However, I don't consider excessive party control under STV at all significant; the voters can decide whether to back rebellious candidates.

> "Majority rule" is the problem representative democracy exists to solve. With direct democracy (or anything that sufficiently approximates it) you get bad choices because if you put something on the ballot that will give +1 to 51% of people and -10 to 49% of people then it passes.

I don't consider government democratic if it isn't proportional, but I agree about the advantage of representative democracy over direct democracy. We need representative government to deliberate on our behalf and we need proportional representation to make it democratic. The voting system can do little more than choose between majority and minority; it can't protect against tyranny of the majority, but it can replace it with tyranny of the minority.

We need many civil society protections against the tyranny of the majority. One is subsidiarity.

>> What you want can be achieved with proportional representation. Effective local government (itself elected proportionally) with appropriate powers should address local issues.

> The only way that could work is if each level of government was only in charge of things that affect each of its constituents uniformly, which is not possible.

There's a difference between optimal and perfect. Unfortunately the best we can do is still imperfect.

> And it goes all the way down the stack. Zoning regulations affect the whole city but affect different neighborhoods differently, so each neighborhood should have its own representative on the city council.

Part of the problem is geographically dispersed interest groups. It's not only political parties; under any single winner system, ethnic groups, professions, LGBT people, the disabled, the poor, etc. are vulnerable to under-representation (or a clean-sweep, if they are numerous enough and distributed in a particular way).

> I don't think anybody is arguing that FPTP is not terrible. Approval voting or range voting fixes it without having to combine districts.

I agree that single-winner cardinal voting systems such as approval voting and range voting would be an enormous improvement over FPTP. I think Reweighted Range Voting (the proportional variant of range voting) would be an enormous improvement even over single-winner range voting. The reason I'm not calling for RRV is that I don't know a single example of its use to elect a government. Without that I don't see how RRV can be implemented in countries such as the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.


The biggest disadvantage is it creates horse-trading and "how to vote" cards.

The largest two parties will do deals with all the minor parties to try to gather their second preferences on their "How to vote for us" cards and mail-out advertising.

And then independent candidates don't just have to be #1, they have to beat the major parties PLUS all the other independents who traded their second preference advice to the main parties...

That ends up being why the "two-party preferred" polls (which of the two main parties are you going to rank highest) end up being far more important than the primary vote (who will you pick as your #1 preference) in Australian opinion polling.

So it is a nice idea, and I do like that Australia has it, but for single-winner elections (rather than the Aussie senate where six candidates get elected from each state-wide vote), it perhaps makes it harder not easier for independents to win.


This form of preference-dealing is highly overemphasised. HTV cards only matter if you can get them into the hands of a reasonable proportion of voters, and the reality is that only the major parties (in Australia, to some extent this includes the Greens) have the base of election volunteers available to widely staff polling booths handing out HTVs.

The preferences of minor party voters tend to scatter pretty randomly.


> multi-winner RCV system

Woo hoo, represent Cambridge, Mass.

... our City Council and the Parks and Rec department of Minneapolis are the only two governmental bodies in the US that use Single Transferable Vote to elect a multi-body chamber.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_and_use_of_the_single_...


Whereas in an untruthful system like first-past-the-post - the winner could be someone who was #2 on 100% of the country's wishlist. But they voted for them because they were told their #1 had no chance.


Approval Voting also has a simple multiwinner proportional aggregation procedure:

* Each ballot is given an initial "weight" of 1.

* The votes on the ballots are summed for each candidate, thus obtaining that candidate's total score.

* The candidate with the highest total score (who has not already won) is declared a winner. (Note that the first winner is the same as the winner of an ordinary single-winner Approval Voting election using the same ballots.)

* When a voter "gets her way" in the sense that a candidate she approved of wins, her ballot weight should be reduced so that she has less influence on later choices of winners. To accomplish that, each ballot is given a new weight = 1/(1+SUM), where SUM is the sum of the scores that that ballot gives to the winners-so-far.

* Repeat until the desired number of winners has been chosen.

(paraphrased from http://rangevoting.org/RRV.html )


> Approval Voting makes the most sense, seeing as this concerns the election of a single individual

No, Approval Voting only makes any sense when approval has concrete meaning, as in a case wherected you are voting on a group activity, and voting "approve" on an alternative is also a binding commitment to participate if that option is chosen (or, conversely, voting not to approve is a binding waiver of participation.)


> Approval Voting makes the most sense, seeing as this concerns the election of a single individual.

Approval voting is probably the only system that's worse than FPTP. Under approval voting, the candidate who is the least-objectionable wins, regardless of whether voters actually prefer them to other candidates.

So, you could very easily end up with a single-issue candidate being "approved" by the vast majority and winning, even though absolutely nobody would choose them over any of the other candidates.

> Mathematically, for a single candidate election, it gets extremely close to the optimum Condorcet result.

It's misleading to refer to a Condorcet winner as the "optimum" result - the Condorcet criterion is one criterion that an election method can satisfy, but it does not guarantee the "optimum" result by any other criterion.

It's also doubly-misleading to refer to the Condorcet winner right after advocating approval voting, which does the exact opposite.


> So, you could very easily end up with a single-issue candidate being "approved" by the vast majority and winning, even though absolutely nobody would choose them over any of the other candidates.

This is true, but not necessarily a bad thing at all. Democracy is a proxy for violence to prevent violence. Someone that everyone thinks is merely okay sounds better to me than one that is liked by a third and hated and despised by a third.


No, it isn't true. If literally no voters would choose them over any other candidate, they're probably not going to get many votes.

All voting systems have pathological cases. The question is how serious they are and how likely they are. There's a tendency for people to look at one of these cases and think that it is disqualifying, but that's not the right approach. One should look at the whole picture.

Approval voting is a special case of range voting where there are only two values. For small numbers of voters, adding more values to choose from will help prevent the pathologies. For large numbers of voters, that's not necessary -- the statistics make it extremely likely that you get the right result.

Every AV voter has to decide where their approval threshold is. For a candidate that they're iffy on, are they going to vote for or against them? If everybody has exactly the same threshold, then yes, pathologies become more likely. But in reality the thresholds will have some distribution, such that a candidate that everybody is iffy on will tend to get voted for by about half the people. If no other candidate tops that, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that AV returned the wrong result.


I agree it's unlikely. I was just saying that when it does happen, it's actually a reasonable result.


> So, you could very easily end up with a single-issue candidate being "approved" by the vast majority and winning, even though absolutely nobody would choose them over any of the other candidates.

You're asking us to imagine a scenario in which there is a single issue on which one candidate's position is very popular, but despite that, no other candidate who takes that position on that issue is acceptable to as many voters. In the kind of multi-candidate race that AV is intended to encourage, that seems unlikely to me, at least if the race is one of any importance. And don't you think the other candidates are going to point out that the single-issue candidate is exactly that?

Single-issue voting is certainly a problem -- one we have already -- but I don't see that AV makes it worse; in fact I think it would help, a lot!, by allowing races in which both centrists and more extreme candidates run.

BTW I agree with you that the Condorcet criterion is overemphasized.


> Approval voting is probably the only system that's worse than FPTP. Under approval voting, the candidate who is the least-objectionable wins, regardless of whether voters actually prefer them to other candidates.

Approval Voting performs exceptionally well as measured by Bayesian Regret.

http://scorevoting.net/BayRegsFig.html

There's also a theorem that it elects beats all winners given plausible models of voter strategy.

http://scorevoting.net/AppCW.html

Clay Shentrup Cofounder, The Center for Election Science


> So, you could very easily end up with a single-issue candidate being "approved" by the vast majority and winning, even though absolutely nobody would choose them over any of the other candidates.

If voters disagree about who the "other candidates" are, I don't see that as a problem.


I don't know how true that would be in the real world, but I know it would probably be the main objection to AV. That your second (or third, or fourth) preferred candidate got to win, instead of your first. Where, you, I guess is the majority here. As I'm sure the winner in any system likely isn't anywhere close to the favorite of those who lost.

For RCV, the main objection is probably that it's more complicated. Then again, Americans use stuff like electoral college, and superdelegates, and caucuses, and coin flips, to decide elections, and in comparison to all of that, the RCV system seems easy (just rank candidates in order of preference). So RCV probably has the "easy" objection between the two.


Wikipedia has a really comprehensive article [1] on this type of voting, but for most purposes of discussion this is the relevant paragraph:

"Proponents of IRV note that by reducing the spoiler effect, IRV makes it safe to vote honestly for marginal parties, and so discourages tactical voting: under a plurality system, voters who sympathize most strongly with a marginal candidate are strongly encouraged to instead vote for a more popular candidate who shares some of the same principles, since that candidate has a much greater chance of being elected and a vote for the marginal candidate will not result the marginal candidate's election."

It's generally viewed as a means of gradually stepping away from some of the problems of a two party system.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting



This is really exciting electoral reform. I don't think our current system captures the diversity of political opinion now, and we could really use a couple more parties. Like a democratic party that is anti establishment or a republican party which is not particularly religious but more libertarian.

And maybe if we had more parties, voters wouldn't be so tribal. There's a deep sense of "us vs them" now in America. It's good guys vs bad guys, and whatever their side says, our side cannot believe. It leads to complete nonsense like climate change denial. But if there were many parties, your 25% couldn't be against the other 75%. You'd have to recognize your perspective is just one of several and you have to look for common ground.


I found this video of CGP Grey to be a nice explanation of the Ranked Choice / Instant Runoff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE


Also, this video by Exploratorium has great examples of paradoxes in Ranked Choice / Instant Runoff voting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJag3vuG834


I found this extremely insightful, specifically Arrow's impossibility theorem [1]

It really seems like this should get more attention: Every voting system is flawed. You cannot design a voting system that will, in every possible case, be "fair."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theore...


But that doesn't at all mean that every possible voting system is equally not fair.


You have to look very closely at what the definition of "flawed" is. The dictator rule in Arrow's thm is not what it is commonly portrayed to be. All it says is that there should be no voter whose preferences are the same as those produced by the choice function. That doesn't really sound all that objectionable. Often people word the dictator rule as "one person decides the outcome" but that is not what it is at all.

And like the other response said, the fact that no scheme is "perfect" doesn't mean all schemes are equally flawed.


I'm pretty sure your characterization of the non-dictatorship rule is wrong. According to wikipedia, the rule states that there should be no voter whose preferences are always the same as those produced by the choice function:

> There is no individual, i whose strict preferences always prevail. That is, there is no i ∈ {1, …, N} such that ∀ (R1, …, RN) ∈ L(A)N, a ranked strictly higher than b by Ri implies a ranked strictly higher than b by F(R1, R2, …, RN), for all a and b.


It does not mean always as in "the same voter every time." What it means is that if more than two voters have a preference ranking which is digested by a social choice function, the outcome should not be exactly the same as any individual voter. I argue that doesn't make any sense, because there are plenty of situations where the best choice of ranking might coincide with the preferences of a particular voter, completely by coincidence.


Canada is currently consulting on alternatives to FPTP and videos like this really make me weary of Ranked Ballots/IRV over some Proportional Representation method. It seems to me that in situations like Canada, where you have multiple parties, IRV ramps up the complexity, and encourages voters to do strategic actions which may actually hurt their favoured candidate.


I use to live in Australia where they had preference with runoff and NZ has MMP (which CGP Grey also covers in the same series).

The American system is pretty terrible. Keep in mind it was never meant to be democratic. It was always symbolic. That's why we have the electoral college...just in case the government wanted to throw out the peasants suggestions. On 22 occasions in US history, electors have ignored their pledge and voted against their state's decision.

America was setup for rich property owners to vote. It wasn't until the last century minorities and women were added.


Arrow's impossibility theorem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theore... is often trotted out in the discussion of RCV and similar systems. It seems to me that the problem with mentioning that theorem is that if you admit that every system for judging among more than 3 choices has some flaw, and that flaw makes the system anti-democratic because it allows tactical voting, then why not admit that the status quo is worse, under the same framework, and therefore admit that something else other than plurality voting should be used?


I can't completely follow the argument, but I think Arrow's is mostly used to counter the "utopians" (roughly; people who argue that one system is Inherently Unfair(tm) and the alternative is Inherently Fair(tm)).

You're replacing one flawed system with another flawed system, so you should not argue in terms of the presence or absence of flaws, but rather argue why one is better than the other.

RCV can still have outcomes that a majority will disagree with, but it should be less common than FPTP, and also make third parties competitive in practise. That may be better than the old system (and it also may not be), but it's not going to resolve the fundamental tensions of representative democracy.


Instant runoff matches four of the postulates, including all three that FPTP matches. It is a superset of the fairness of the other, they are not "equally unfair in different ways" or anything like that.


Edit time threshold passed so I'll have to reply to myself.

I've just read up on Arrow, and this theory only has four postulates not five: I'm pretty sure I've either misremembered or am talking about a different theory. Apologies, anyway.


Can someone shed some light on why we should care about the non-dictatorship requirement in Arrow's theorem? Reading the non-dictatorship section on the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy makes it sound like it's a meaningless assumption. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arrows-theorem/#NonDic If someone's preferences always aligning with society's preferences results in them being a "dictator", so what?


Exactly. This is why Arrow's theorem has no applicability to practical use of voting systems in the real world. The dictatorship property is often misinterpreted.


I wish they also enacted multi-winner ranked choice voting (also called Single Transferable Vote) for legislature. Fair representation beats winner-takes-all systems every time, because it guarantees more than just two parties get to be in charge, much like in parliamentary systems (which also use some kind of fair/proportional representation voting system). But it's still a good start, and maybe other states will take a look at both, and choose a better system next time.

By the way, this is exactly the sort of thing Sam Altman should be fighting for, along with joining Wolf-Pac, Represent.Us, and others to get money out of politics. Not try to use GOTV tactics to get people to vote for his preferred candidate. That is, if Altman still cares about this, and the "improve democracy thing" he pushed for earlier wasn't just a one time ruse to get people to vote for Clinton.

If Altman is serious about improving democracy, these right here are by far the best ways to do it - way better than just trying to "increase turnout" in an election. Because for one, fair representation voting systems increase turnouts by default, because people feel better represented and have more reasons to go out and vote, and second, STV also eliminates gerrymandering, which would also greatly improve democracy by making seats less safe.

http://www.wolf-pac.com/

https://represent.us/

STV by CGP Grey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI

Droop method for STV is probably preferable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRc630BSTIg

Also preferred by FairVote:

http://www.fairvote.org/fair_representation#what_is_fair_vot...


Ireland currently uses a PR-STV system, and if you ask any Irish person about their politicians, you will probably get an ear-full.

STV pushes majors parties to sit on the political middle, where they might not collect as many '1's', but will collect a lot of 2s,3s,4s, etc, as more divisive parties/candidates will be ranked highly by a segment of the population but very lowly by the rest.


I'm not really stuck on STV, per se. Whatever proportional voting system the US chooses is fine by me. However, I think that if RCV is adopted, STV would be a natural extension to that. Plus, something like STV (or Dion's P3, which I actually like a bit more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyLeClCrfgQ) is more likely to be adopted in the US, than say something like list-based voting, because Americans like to directly elect candidates from their districts.

But I do think STV is still far preferable to winner-take-all FPTP, where the winner may only represent 35-40% of the voters in a given district, or even RCV, where the winner may represent 50%+1 to ~55% of the voters in a district, which is obviously better, but it's still less preferable to being 3-5 winners in a larger district and from 3-5 parties, whereas RCV would still mostly allow the two main parties to rule, with some exceptions in a few districts.


Are you saying that's a bad thing? The system should be designed to push the major parties to the middle - that's where they belong.


One desirable property of FPTP is that if you want to maximize the chances of your candidate being elected, you should vote for your candidate first before all other candidates. In IRV, sometimes you should not vote for your candidate first before all other candidates. Is that okay?

Here are some interesting diagrams of the results of applying various voting algorithms including IRV: http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/


Those diagrams aren't very intuitive to me. Do the different shaded regions represent turnout? What is the coordinate of the candidate, position on a 2-axis political scale?


A point on the 2d plane represents a preference (if we imagine that there are only 2 real-valued issues in the world). The regions shaded in a particular color are the regions where a normal distribution of popular preferences centered there will elect the corresponding candidate.

I assume that individual simulated voters just rank candidates from least to greatest by cartesian distance, or do that and then use a random cutoff for approval voting.


There is no reason to put your candidate as lower than 1 in IRV. The more votes they get as the first preference the less likely they are to be eliminated and the more likely they are to get preferences from already eliminated candidates.


Voting for someone other than your favorite first can change the order in which candidates other than your favorite are eliminated. This can cause your favorite to win instead of losing.

http://www.rangevoting.org/ClayIrv2.html


Really cool. The link only looks at single-candidate elections, though. It's unclear to me that this is superior to party-based systems.

Particularly Congress could use some proportional representation.

EDIT: Wow, would never have guessed that IRV gave such strange results...


Any voting system that doesn't satisfy the Condorcet criterion gives what appear to be strange results.


I'm really not sure people realize how chaotic and unpredictable ranked choice voting can be, and how easily it can be gamed.

For example, there are scenarios where it's better to put your favorite candidate in #3. You pick #1 to help an undervoted candidate and therefore, causing one candidate to drop off. Same for #2. By the time the choice comes to #3, your minority candidate has suddenly managed to eliminate stronger opposition just by playing numbers.

We've seen this scenario happen repeatedly in all countries and counties that have tried this approach.

There's a reason ranked choice voting is hardly ever used anywhere: it's really not such a good idea.


As opposed to FPTP, which is almost always demonstrably worse and forces gaming the system by its nature. You can very seldom vote for who you actually want.

So maybe STV/IRV are bad, but they can't be worse than what we have now...unless you favor predictability over representation.


This scenario does not actually play out in practice, because in order vote tactically in this way you need to be able to predict in which order the candidates will finish. If you're wrong - say, by too many people voting in the same way as you - you can could easily find your the candidate you ranked #2 defeating the candidate you ranked #3 (that you really preferred) with the help of your vote.

So yes, there are times when after the election you can see that you could have voted tactically for someone other than your most preferred candidate in order to assist them, but you can't easily or perfectly predict this beforehand.


I don't follow your scenario. Can you give a real example? If you put your favorite candidate in the #3 spot, it would make them more likely to be the one that drops in round 1 or 2, no?


Here's a couple of examples of how RCV might have played out if it was in effect for the 2016 election:

Scenario 1: Clinton, Sanders, and Trump are all running. Clinton and Sanders supporters assume Trump will lose. Clinton and Sanders spend most of their time attacking each other. Since supporters of Clinton and Sanders don't bother making a second pick (since they don't want to support their opponent, and assume Trump is going to lose anyway). Clinton and Sanders each get 32%, and Trump wins with 36%.

Scenario 2: Imagine a scenario where there are lots of candidates running. Something like the GOP and Democratic primaries this year, but everyone running in the general. Like this year, there are 5 candidates running on the left and 17 running on the right. Most voters aren't going to bother ranking all 22 candidates, and only rank 1-3. This causes the left to win simply because they have fewer candidates.

The thing is, many comments seem to assume that people would rationally rank all of their choices. But people don't really act like that. Some will, some will just pick their favorite, some will rank only the people they're familiar with, etc. The current system (with the primary acting as a run-off vote) allows people to reflect on new information (these are the top two candidates and this is what they believe) before making a choice. RCV seems to just kind of hope that people think about these things ahead of time (and people usually don't).


Both of those outcomes are because the hypothetical voters made stupid decisions, not because the system is flawed. If they choose to not take advantage of writing out all their preferences it's their own fault when they don't get what they want.

I don't see how FPTP would be better in either example, you'd just get the same or worse outcome.


There are many scenarios (e.g. Cruz or Rubio might have stayed in), but I'm curious about one where it would be rational to rank your preferred candidate as #2 or #3 or beyond to help them win.


Here is a real world situation that happened in 2010 in Oakland:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/us/politics/12bcvoting.htm...


That looks like an example of RCV working as intended. The candidate with a lot of support didn't win because a lot of people also strongly opposed him. I don't see how he would have won if his supporters made him their #2 or #3 choice instead of #1.


Surely to vote based on that is to bet on other like-minded voters not doing the same, while tactical voting under FPTP/plurality voting involves betting that like-minded people will do the same.


Would someone explain the counterpoint that this will, "further disenfranchise voters by using the recounted ballots of the loser to determine the winner"? I can't understand how counting voter's second and third choices until a majority agree on a candidate could be seen as disenfranchisement.


Have a look at how the UK's 2011 referendum was fought. The No campaign frequently made the charge that people who voted for marginal parties (their example was usually the far right BNP) have votes which "count twice" because the votes must be recounted/resorted. (We still use paper ballots).

The referendum was roundly rejected.


Don't first-preference votes count twice as well, since they're counted in the first round, and also in the second round?


That is why the argument made me so angry at the time- unfortunately, while the UK has law making it criminal to lie about your opponent in an election[1], there is no equivalent for slandering a concept (or institution like the EU) in a referendum.

[1] slander raised to a criminal offence, punished by forced resignation from the office you won by deceit, and prohibition of standing again for some years.


Any vote that makes it to another round of counting is 'counted twice', yes?


Yes, you're correct.


The party which can afford a larger number of candidates will be at an advantage, because if they don't catch the primary vote they (almost certainly) get the secondary, the tertiary, the quaternary, etc.


I'm not sure it can be explained. To borrow a phrase from economics, moving to instant runoff has always seemed Pareto efficient to me. Which would mean that there are no possible counterpoints.


It's definitely not Pareto efficient.

If you're a member of the party establishment in one of the big two parties of a system, you stand to lose a lot by moving to an instant runoff and nothing to gain.

Unfortunately, most of the power to change the voting system is in the hands of these kinds of people, so it's going to be pretty hard to change it. Kind of a Catch-22.


Why are we considering the preferences of the parties? We're talking about the most efficient way to allow the electorate to express its representational preferences.

I understand that things get a bit muddled because the individual representatives are also members of the electorate, and thus they may have warped incentives relative to the vast majority. But they are such a small fraction of the overall electorate that we should be able to ignore them in any kind of efficiency discussion.


> Why are we considering the preferences of the parties?

I mentioned it because you said something about Pareto efficiency, and moving to instant runoff would not be Pareto efficient because some people (the parties are made up of people, remember) would be worse off.

Declaring something Pareto efficient has a specific meaning, and it applies to all people, not all the people that stanleydrew thinks are important. Though it's a comparatively small number of people, it's not some weird edge case that can be discounted. Rather, these are precisely the best people to convince to get the law changed. Note well that even this story in Maine, the measure was passed by ballot initiative, not by a legislature vote.


I wrote this in a sibling reply, but I'll post it here too. Perhaps we are talking about two different things?

I am talking about the efficiency of the voting system itself, and its ability to express the preferences of the electorate.

Note that I'm not talking about changes related to the election outcomes that such a shift in voting systems would potentially cause.

Put another way, it would seem to be efficient to move to any voting system that would allow a voter to express more preferences than just one, since then we're getting strictly more information.


"Pareto efficiency" is a very strong claim, and it's invalidated by any single individual doing worse.


You seem to be missing the point. Or perhaps we are talking about two different things?

I am talking about the efficiency of the voting system itself, and its ability to express the preferences of the electorate.

Note that I'm not talking about changes related to the election outcomes that such a shift in voting systems would potentially cause.


The same reason we care about the rights of multinational corporations when it comes to voting on things that concern them - they have lots of entrenched power and/or money so ignoring them is unwise and unrealistic.


Arrow's theorem[1] demonstrates that no voting system can be "efficient" in the normal sense of the word. That is, no voting system can guarantee:

1. If every voter prefers A over B, the electorate prefers A over B

2. If no voter changes preference between A and B, the electorate's preference of A and B is unchanged

3. No single voter can always change the electorate's preference

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theore...


That's a different issue from what the parent comment is talking about. He's not saying that IRV will be fully efficient, but that the switch itself will be Pareto efficient (which means that each entity is better off, or the same).

This actually isn't true, because major party candidates will be worse off, but I think he meant something like Hicks-Kaldor efficient, or positive sum.


Yes, I wasn't claiming that there is a perfect voting system. Just that IRV seems strictly better for pretty much all voters than FPTP.

I am also seeing several comments that try to take into account the preferences of the candidates themselves, or their parties. Why? Aren't we talking about efficiency from the perspective of the electorate? To the extent that the candidates are themselves members of the electorate, and can vote for themselves, shouldn't we ignore them in this analysis because their preferences are inherently biased?


> I am also seeing several comments that try to take into account the preferences of the candidates themselves, or their parties. Why? Aren't we talking about efficiency from the perspective of the electorate? To the extent that the candidates are themselves members of the electorate, and can vote for themselves, shouldn't we ignore them in this analysis because their preferences are inherently biased?

I fully agree with you. I was just being precise in my usage of Pareto efficiency, which includes all agents in a situation. Especially because it's used so often when Hicks-Kaldor improvement is meant (which means that there's the possibility for Pareto improvement after redistribution of gains).


You missed a criterion: All voters' preferences are expressed through a ranking.

As an impractical example, if you could get every voter to tell you exactly how many utils a particular candidate is worth to them (maybe through complex incentives), as a quantity and not as a ranking, you would end up with a perfect voting system.

As a more practical example, approval and range voting don't fall victim to Arrow's theorem.


> As an impractical example, if you could get every voter to tell you exactly how many utils a particular candidate is worth to them (maybe through complex incentives), as a quantity and not as a ranking, you would end up with a perfect voting system.

Would end up with a perfect system, or could end up with a perfect system? I assume that latter, because I can easily design a system that uses that extra data and is far from perfect.

Assuming could, not would, my question then is that known? Or is it just known that Arrow's theorem does not apply to such systems, and so we cannot rule out that such a system could be perfect?


As mentioned in the article, Arrow's theorem only applies to rank-order voting systems (including FPTP and IRV). There are other types of voting systems (e.g. approval voting) that do not require the voter to be strategic in expressing her preference.


That's a bad argument to make, though, because nothing about Arrow's theorem says how much the criteria will be broken, only that they can't be fully satisfied. Moreover, it doesn't apply to "range voting" methods (cardinal information-based voting systems).

See here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/badeconomics/comments/5a9a1b/arrows...


San Francisco, Oakland and 1-2 other Bay Area cities have had this for a while. I think it works well, and the electorate and politicians are getting used to it.

The implementation, at least here in Oakland, is a bit clunky. When there are only two candidates, they still let you pick your first, second and third choice...

Having it at state level opens things up to a whole different level. Now a popular and/or centrist third party candidate can realistically get elected as US senator, and that's real power.


That implementation is a feature, not a bug! Write-in candidates are an important part (as documented up-thread) of our electoral process.


I haven't seen a way to write in candidates on these ballots. They're scanned by a machine that detects where you drew a line, so I that would have to be detected manually.

TBH, I haven't looked hard for a way to write in people, and it's possible it exists.


Are they? How many write in candidates have been elected?


Why does it cost nearly a million dollars to print new ballots and update the firmware in existing ballot machines?

Specifically regarding the ballot machine update, if the installers are charging ridiculous prices when I'd bet others would be willing to start an open source project that met security needs


It's actually quite concerning to see the media attention that IRV has received as a result of Maine passing the RCV measure. A much better voting system (across many different metrics for what a "better" voting system means) is range voting. For a comparison of the differences between the two, see here[1].

[1]: http://rangevoting.org/IrvExec.html


Why is it concerning? As I understand it, Range Voting supporters object that IRV performs poorly (in terms of Bayesian regret) because voters don't understand how it works. Maybe the attention will help to educate voters and improve its performance. Also, isn't it enough to improve on the status quo?


This is amazing news. I'm now wondering how voter training will work?

I feel like a lot of people might get it backwards and mark the third party as their second or third choice. Also the mainstream candidates with the most money would have an incentive to spread misinformation.


Here in Australia, volunteers for the political parties hand out 'how to vote cards' at polling places: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How-to-vote_card . It's not a perfect system,[1] but it should be enough to prevent most people from completely messing up their vote. (Especially in the US, where voluntary voting presumably means that those who turn up are motivated to make their vote count.)

[1] The most obvious risk is misinformation -- e.g. someone claiming to be from Party A, handing out Party A branded leaflets that actually direct people to vote for Party B -- but in practice that doesn't seem to be a significant problem. I'm sure it happens at small scales online, but in person it's hard to get away with, so at least the information seen immediately before voting is accurate. (Though admittedly I have heard of one or two borderline cases, e.g. cards with colour themes chosen to misleadingly hint that they're associated with a particular party.) What is prevalent is 'preference trading' between political parties, as a significant number of voters do seem to more or less blindly follow their party's suggested ordering. This is arguably a problem, but it doesn't usually get too crazy, as preference deals between ideological enemies both look bad and can easily backfire.


And the people handing out voting cards, who tend to be the "extremists" on either side get to spend a pleasant day with the other side. As nasty and divisive as things get at the top, that doesn't seem to transfer to the ground.


As long as there's an example on the ballot, it should avoid confusion. Ex:

"Rank candidates in order of preference. E.g., #1 - most preferred, #2 - second-most preferred..."

The counting system (to me) is more complicated than the voting process.


The counting system is as for a multi-round system that keeps eliminating the candidate with fewest votes until one candidate has more votes than the others combined, with the added benefit that the voters only have to go to the polls once.


If anyone is interested in using Single Transferable Vote for unofficial uses, I recently wrote an implementation in Elixir and wrapped it in a small JSON API. It is a toy in its current state (it uses cookies to see if people have voted and the link to close an election can be somewhat easily found even if you are not the creator of the election) but we use it around or office for a few things and I would be interested in continuing work on it if anybody would like to jump in. I have an instance of this running on my site; ping me if you'd like to try it.

STV Algorithm: https://github.com/carrigan/elixir-stv Phoenix API: https://github.com/carrigan/vote-service


Nice to hear some good political news out of Maine, home to one of the worst governors in the country. Maine is a great place that deserves better.


I refer to this as the "LePage Law".


Ha! I wasn't aware of the context because I don't closely follow Maine politics, but some of the other comments here cleared it up for me.


Maine's governor's "winning" coalition may have something to do with this ballot proposition having passed, since he never won a majority of the vote (an impossibility with ranked choice voting). The 2010 election where he won with 38% was particularly egregious.


On the other hand, there are a lot of people in Maine that love LePage. They deserved a lot better than eight years under Baldacci before him.


Something to consider: Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections. Another way of saying it: They lost a nationwide vote once in the last quarter century.

Generally I support the electoral college, but those are undemocratic results.

Also: In the 2014 House of Representatives elections, Republicans won 51.2% of the vote (per Wikipedia) yet held the largest majority in the House since WWII (IIRC).

EDIT: In the 2012 House of Representatives elections, Democrats won more votes (48.8 - 47.6%) but fewer seats (201-234).


You're making the mistake of assuming that voting patterns would remain the same without the electoral college. I'm sure there are large numbers of republicans in blue states that don't bother voting currently.


An interesting hypothesis regarding presidential elections but ...

1) It doesn't affect House elections

2) Any such second-order effects could also favor Democrats

3) There is no evidence; we're just wildly speculating


If I were to change the system, I would have ballots ask 10 or 20 or so questions based on issues, and each party gives their own response to each question.

The voters then choose their answers they favor for each question, and they can choose multiple answers they agree with, and a point goes to the party for each answer.

The party that gets the most total points among all voters wins, they then decide the people to run that position.

We really have to focus on issues politics, instead of people politics.


I think this is a mistake, but probably not for the reason you think.

We need to stop thinking about politics so statically. Positions on issues can and should change as new information becomes available. Your current preferred position on an issue is really just a rather poor proxy for your preferred method of problem-solving or thought process that reached the conclusion of your preferred position.

You want to elect the person that "thinks and learns in your preferred manner", so that when they are asked to reach a conclusion on a totally unexpected issue, they reach the "correct" conclusion.

I'd almost rather just have all candidates take an IQ test or something and then elect the top scorers.


Then instead of asking questions about positions directly, take a page from the Elder Scrolls games and ask questions whose answer imply a certain thinking process.


That seems like it would reward strategic dishonesty and be ripe for abuse. For example, right now if a candidate says they're in favor of passing Generic Placeholder Policy, but I believe they're lying about it, I can vote against them. But if that's part of their official platform and "Do you approve of GPP?" is an official question on the ballot, how do I respond?


In this situation, you're voting for party based on platform policy for each position, not people. The actual officeholders are decided later by the party.

It's hard for a committee to be dishonest.


OK, replace "candidate" with "party" in my objection, I don't think that changes anything.

If you think parties have a hard time being dishonest... would you like to buy a bridge?


The answers are basically party platform. Party activists would temper dishonesty, because they want their party to achieve their publicly stated goals. Why would you join an anti-abortion party if you believe in abortion?

People think politicians don't keep their promise, but they actually keep their promise far more than they don't: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-kee...


This sort of thing is very vulnerable to the exact phrasing of the questions, though.

This sort of thing already happens to some extent with ballot initiatives in the US, and they are rife with misleading verbiage to trick people into voting a certain way when they would have voted differently if the proposal were honestly presented.

Put another way, there are various party platform bits where I may agree with what they _say_ but not what they _mean_. And vice versa.


I think the bigger problem with that proposal is that politicians can and do lie, both about the positions they hold, and about the likelihood of them being able to implement their proposals.


Character matters, though. Some might argue it matters more than a checklist of policy positions.

On the other hand: a label like "democrat" or "republican" in many ways accomplishes what you suggest. Many people just vote the party line knowing what the party typically stands for.


I'd approve of some other systems even more, but this is better than the usual.

Maine has also had voluntary public campaign financing since 1996, strengthened a bit in 2015 http://www.maine.gov/ethics/mcea/ ... I'd be really curious to read an up-to-date analysis of its impact, and prospects in combination with RCV.


There's a simulated comparison of the practical perfomance of several different voting systems at http://zesty.ca/voting/sim. It looks like approval and ranked voting fare the best, with approval being more likely to get voters to express their true preferences (IIRC).


RCV seems like an okay idea, but the root of many complaints about elections seems to be with voters not feeling represented as opposed to the actual election mechanics.

My proposal is to increase the number of representatives in the House so that there is a much more reasonable chance for voters to be represented. Something like 1 rep per 50k or 100k seems like it would be a better system.

Any thoughts on this from HN?


Ireland has at least one representative per 30K people [0] and that works reasonably well. At least you can usually meet and speak in person with your representative in the run up to an election.

Of course the flip side is you probably get a lot more 'parish-pump politics'. Candidates looking after their one tiny constituency to the detriment of the country as a whole.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A1il_%C3%89ireann#Number_...


Ireland has a population of ~6.5 million. At 30k/representative, that gives ~216 representatives. In practice, not all the people in Ireland vote (e.g. some are children), so you get 150-160 representatives per your citation.

The US has ~200 million registered voters [1] and the number actually eligible to vote is somewhat higher than that. But if we go with the 200 million number, at 100k/representative you get 2000 representatives. That's a lot more unwieldy than 150-160 in terms of actually getting anything done. Yes, you can meet with your representative and all, but that representative may have no effect on pretty much anything in practice.

I'm not saying "435" is some sort of magic number that is obviously the right number of representatives, of course. But it's not obvious to me that 2000 is better.

[1] http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/how-many-registered-vo...


Good points -

A debate on whether or not being represented should be sacrificed for the sake of expediency and getting things done is an important one to have. From my perspective, getting less done could be a feature of such a system rather than a bug.

Perhaps the federal government would focus on large problems in need of a countrywide consensus with smaller things bouncing back to the states?


Getting less done is a feature of the US system as initially set up, sure.

I feel that there are less pleasant failure modes of a too-big legislature than just gridlock leading to _less_ getting done:

1) "Everyone always votes the party line" as opposed to "nothing gets done", because there are too many things being introduced and no time to think about any of them. This already happens to some extent, but in general this seems like a problem that should get worse as the legislature gets bigger.

2) Confusion and chaos in the legislature leading to it having no power and the executive grabbing all the power for itself instead.

Yes, I realize those are somewhat mutually exclusive.


The original intent of the US political representative system was pretty much in line with what you suggest. Over time, the costs of running such a system with a hugely increasing population and senators/etc who enjoy wielding more and more power stopped any serious moves to keep the ratio constant.

Also, those who buy influence in congress would of course prefer there to be fewer people to bribe(lobby, whatever) for their laws, so they'll always be anti any suggestion like this.


Is this for Presidential contests or only ones up to the state level?


This initiated bill provides ranked-choice voting for the offices of United States Senator, United States Representative to Congress, Governor, State Senator and State Representative for elections held on or after January 1, 2018.

https://votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measure/2128/an-act-t...


From the initiative text:

"This initiated bill provides ranked-choice voting for the offices of United States Senator, United States Representative to Congress, Governor, State Senator and State Representative for elections held on or after January 1, 2018"


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