June 23, 2017

Alternative voting systems and cultism

The title is deliberately chosen, and deliberately chosen because it's provocative.

If you don't like it, especially because you're one of those devotees of approval voting whom I, in my second blog post, and first with some depth, about alternative voting around a decade ago, thought were semi-cultic in their attachment, then that's your problem. (I also indicated that worry to some degree in my third post about it.) And your fault. Comments on and about my recent post about ranked choice, the Green Party, and Maine 2018 have only increased that stance.

Also, yes, IRV had a "Condorcet stumble" in Maine; other systems will too, if they're used as often or more. Period.

Per the above, I'm not a pilgrim to the discussion of alternatives to first past the post plurality voting in single-member electoral districts. I'm also not, despite what some may think, a cultist for instant-runoff voting. Or necessarily attached to IRV. See point three immediately below for that.

I am attached to an honest consideration of the benefits and faults of ALL alternatives to FPTP, and "consideration" means more than lip service.

First, per Wikipedia, in its article on ranked voting systemscardinal voting systems, and tactical voting, a few stipulations.
1. All FPTP alternatives are subject to tactical voting.
2. No alternative to FPTP (other than some unwieldy ones, not suitable for elections otherwise, that Wiki did not list in its statement about this) can guarantee a majoritarian winner. (Just recently, Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen at the NY Review of Books weigh in on this.)
3. "There is no consensus among academics or public servants as to the best electoral system." (From the ranked voting piece.)
4. On cardinal systems, they may not be subject to Arrow's theorem, but that's not necessarily a good point.

Point 1 is the second-biggest issue. On tactical voting concerns, Wiki notes they can vary, in severity and specific effects, from system to system. They can also vary by how much voters know alternatives, and how much information they have about other voters.

In local and regional elections, especially in non-presidential years, major parties could work on informing better-knowledged voters how to vote most strategically. Per Wiki's link, range voting, which some approval voting touters like even more but think it would be too complicated, is according to some research, the system most vulnerable to tactical voting, for example.

Since we're not likely to often hit areas of Point One concern, and also, for this blog post, Point 3, with Points 1 and 4 in support, is the biggie. See below for more.

A few other deck-clearing points.

1. If you're going to point out that, yes, there are systems that will guarantee majoritarian winners, before noting that, yes, they're otherwise unusable, and not note that Wiki was specifically talking about the commonly discussed ones — and apparently didn't check that — you're straining at a bit of gnats.

2. If you're going to offer up a utilitarian defense of approval voting, or even of range voting, note that what utilitarian benefits are best, or most desirable, are in the eye of the beholder. This beholder's eye has already said he doesn't like approval voting precisely because it tends to elect more moderate candidates. In my recent post about IRV, Maine 2018 and the Green Party, I noted that I liked ConservaGreens (or AccommoGreens, if you want another mash-up word) no more than ConservaDems.

Neither Clay on that post, nor Aaron in a Facebook group about such issues, refuted that fact of approval voting.

Beyond that, no alternative to FPTP seems to have an advantage over others on third-party visibility. ANY alternative will increase the possibility of third-party wins, and thus increase third party enthusiasm as well as viability, thus addressing the visibility issue.

3. Bayesian probabilities, and related Bayesian ideas, are a real deal. But, as I've noted repeatedly with Bayesian probabilities as used by leading Jesus mythicist Mark Carrier, most notably at this blog post, followed by this one where Carrier admits to Bayesian book-cooking, and as noted in comments on my previous blog post about IRV about Bayesian regret, Bayesianism in general can be used pretty subjectively. That's not necessarily the case, using "necessarily" both empirically and logically, but it is indeed the case at times.

Indeed:

"When I hear the word 'Bayesian,' I loosen the safety catch on my Browning." — Hanns Johst, falsely attributed to Hermann Göring.

So, yeah, if you're going to make Bayesian regret a prime argument for approval voting, and try to claim its either logically or empirically rigorous, I'm going to pretty much kick you in the nads. Again, deal with it.

My final worry is that cultists or semi-cultists, for 2020 or possibly already for 2018, will work to get the national Green Party to take an official stance supporting approval voting out of the various FPTP systems. That's despite what I said, quoting Wiki, re Point 3 near the top. IF something like that happened, it would probably be yet more reason for me to, in line with the thought of a Mark Lause, look for alternative parties of the left.

Indeed, I suspect people like this are behind the idea that the GP needed to stand against IRV that sprang up immediately after election day this year.

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