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Old 11-06-2019, 08:21 AM
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Ranked choice voting approved (kinda) in New York


A New York ballot initiative to implement ranked-choice instant runoff voting passed with overwhelming support yesterday. I'm a proponent of ranked choice. There's no perfect voting system, but FPTP is a fundamentally broken way to do things that encourages extremist candidates and often saddles the electorate with winners that don't command a majority of votes.

The bad news: the new system will apply only to primaries and certain special elections, not general elections. It's a step in the right direction to be sure, but with FPTP still the deciding factor in the general, I'm not sure it will make a big difference.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:44 AM
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Agree with all of the above. I'd much rather see us follow Maine's lead.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:00 AM
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It's an idea whose time has come and voters recognize and understand this. The initiative passed by 45 points, for pete's sake. I like other systems better but this is a good start in a huge political jurisdiction. Down with first past the post!
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Old 11-06-2019, 03:40 PM
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I am a supporter of STV as well, but it does have one problem - there's no easy way to do it in a "paper ballot" election in a way that makes the ballots machine readable with any degree of certainty.

If there are, say, 10 candidates for a seat, you have to explain to the voters (and remember how much trouble a "butterfly ballot" caused in 2000) that they have to mark one candidate in the #1 column, a different candidate in the #2 column, another different candidate in the #3 column, and so on.

San Francisco uses this, but limits each voter to 3 choices.

Speaking of San Francisco, somebody needs to explain to whoever counts the votes there that they can stop counting when someone has a majority of the votes cast. The incumbent got something like 60% of the first-choice votes, but the city still went through multiple rounds of counting until only two candidates remained for some reason.
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Old 11-07-2019, 09:49 AM
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There are theoretical mathematical considerations for a voting system, and there are practical ones. In the theoretical mathematical sense, there are other systems which are unambiguously superior to IRV. But practically speaking, one essential feature of a voting system, perhaps even the most essential feature, is that the voters trust it. And that requires that they understand it. And you might be able to get a bunch of science fiction fans to understand and trust something like a Condorcet method, but you'll never pull it off with the general public.

Practically speaking, out of the myriad voting systems that are better than the one we have, I think that only IRV and approval voting would be understood by enough people to actually work.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
There are theoretical mathematical considerations for a voting system, and there are practical ones. In the theoretical mathematical sense, there are other systems which are unambiguously superior to IRV. But practically speaking, one essential feature of a voting system, perhaps even the most essential feature, is that the voters trust it. And that requires that they understand it. And you might be able to get a bunch of science fiction fans to understand and trust something like a Condorcet method, but you'll never pull it off with the general public.

Practically speaking, out of the myriad voting systems that are better than the one we have, I think that only IRV and approval voting would be understood by enough people to actually work.
And even then there can be unintended consequences. The only time it was tried hereabouts, one of the candidates for Assessor/Treasurer was a political gadfly (that's being polite) who had a burr under his saddle from some imagined slight in the past, and ran for something in every election on a platform that had nothing to do with the office. Since pretty much everyone knew his name, a lot of people put him down as #2 or #3 and the way things shook out, he won. He didn't make it past the primary the next time the office came up, but he left in his wake a thoroughly demoralized staff and millions of dollars in judgements for workplace harassment, wrongful termination, etc.

I know it works elsewhere, but it will be a cold day in Sheol before it's tried again here.
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Old 11-07-2019, 07:23 PM
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Just to clarify: in New York City. This wasn't, to the best of my knowledge, on the ballot anywhere else in New York State; certainly not around here.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:16 AM
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I am a supporter of STV as well, but it does have one problem - there's no easy way to do it in a "paper ballot" election in a way that makes the ballots machine readable with any degree of certainty.
How difficult can it be?
House of Representatives sample preference (STV) ballot
The US electoral system can't obtain machines that can read list of that nature?
And what's the issue with using pencil and paper and counting the ballots? Low tech solution that works faster, has a hardcopy audit trail and has worked without needing to invoke the SCOTUS nuclear equivalent for over a century..
We knows our onions on this stuff ... that's why your mob call it an Australian ballot.


Quote:
Speaking of San Francisco, somebody needs to explain to whoever counts the votes there that they can stop counting when someone has a majority of the votes cast. The incumbent got something like 60% of the first-choice votes, but the city still went through multiple rounds of counting until only two candidates remained for some reason.
Yes, it isn't (usually) necessary to do a full preference count to determine who won a division under STV. Winning 60% means an early declaration of the winner without the necessity of going to preferences but (on this side of the puddle) there is a full distribution of preferences in every division after every election to calculate the "two party preferred" vote.

This is because, in the cited case if a candidate gets 60% primary votes but only ends up with only 60% of the two party preferred you know that the 40% who don't like him really hate his guts and they are much more vulnerable than candidate who gets a more even share of the second preferences. Two party preferred is the true measure of an election result under STV.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:19 AM
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And even then there can be unintended consequences. The only time it was tried hereabouts, one of the candidates for Assessor/Treasurer was a political gadfly (that's being polite) who had a burr under his saddle from some imagined slight in the past, and ran for something in every election on a platform that had nothing to do with the office. Since pretty much everyone knew his name, a lot of people put him down as #2 or #3 and the way things shook out, he won. He didn't make it past the primary the next time the office came up, but he left in his wake a thoroughly demoralized staff and millions of dollars in judgements for workplace harassment, wrongful termination, etc.

I know it works elsewhere, but it will be a cold day in Sheol before it's tried again here.
Bolding mine - also worked out pretty well for your current President under FPTP...
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:14 AM
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The US electoral system can't obtain machines that can read list of that nature?
I've never heard of ballot-scanning machines that read handwriting. As far as I know, every jurisdiction in the USA that uses IRV uses a bubble grid for its paper ballots, which can be pretty confusing to people who aren't expecting it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
And what's the issue with using pencil and paper and counting the ballots? Low tech solution that works faster, has a hardcopy audit trail and has worked without needing to invoke the SCOTUS nuclear equivalent for over a century..
I really think we just have too many elections to do hand-counting.

My local election office had 97 separate races to count this week, and this was a low-stakes, low-turnout, off-year election. They struggle to get people to staff the polls for one day, so I have no idea how they'd get people to sit around shuffling ballots for weeks/months.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 11-08-2019 at 05:17 AM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:22 AM
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Speaking of San Francisco, somebody needs to explain to whoever counts the votes there that they can stop counting when someone has a majority of the votes cast. The incumbent got something like 60% of the first-choice votes, but the city still went through multiple rounds of counting until only two candidates remained for some reason.
Are there actually "rounds of counting", as there would be with a hand count, or is there just one count that's then handled by a computer? It wouldn't actually be any more work to do a full count that way.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 11-08-2019 at 05:25 AM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:16 PM
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I've seen handwriting where I had a hard time telling a 1 from a 7, or telling a 4 from a 9. Usually, I'm able to resolve it by looking for numbers elsewhere on the page, and if I still can't tell, I can give the benefit of the doubt that they got the right answer.

I absolutely do not want poll workers giving voters the benefit of the doubt and assuming they got the right answer.
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:26 PM
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And even then there can be unintended consequences. The only time it was tried hereabouts, one of the candidates for Assessor/Treasurer was a political gadfly (that's being polite) who had a burr under his saddle from some imagined slight in the past, and ran for something in every election on a platform that had nothing to do with the office. Since pretty much everyone knew his name, a lot of people put him down as #2 or #3 and the way things shook out, he won. He didn't make it past the primary the next time the office came up, but he left in his wake a thoroughly demoralized staff and millions of dollars in judgements for workplace harassment, wrongful termination, etc.

I know it works elsewhere, but it will be a cold day in Sheol before it's tried again here.
Do you have a link? I'd be curious to see how that played out, since it's hard to win just getting a lot #2 and #3 votes without getting a good amount of #1.
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:27 PM
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I absolutely do not want poll workers giving voters the benefit of the doubt and assuming they got the right answer.

And yet curiously that’s what works over here.
Do Australians inherently have neater handwriting?
If the US only has the informed and engaged attending the ballot, wouldn’t the boxes be more likely to be filled in correctly than in Oz when we compell the entire unwashed electorate to vote?

Or does simply having scrutineers from each party overseeing the count resolve the issue?

Last edited by penultima thule; 11-08-2019 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Quote added for context
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:33 PM
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Looks like votes are counted by hand in Australia, as opposed to by machine:
https://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/counting/index.htm
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:45 PM
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For the House of Reps, yes. They usually feature 4-8 candidates and the process is manageable in the time frame.
For the much more complicated Senate ballot, the ballots are scanned.
And the “table cloth” sized Senate ballots can be rather unwieldy beasts being over a metre wide with over 100 candidates.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:21 PM
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Are there actually "rounds of counting", as there would be with a hand count, or is there just one count that's then handled by a computer? It wouldn't actually be any more work to do a full count that way.
Pretty sure it's computer. For, say, the mayor's race, there are three columns - a "first choice," a "second choice," and a "third choice." Each column has a space for each candidate. I don't think you have to vote for different candidates in each column - for that matter, you don't have to vote in all three columns - but voting for the same candidate in the second column as in the first would be wasting that second column vote as the second column isn't even considered unless the candidate chosen in the first column has already been eliminated.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:04 PM
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And even then there can be unintended consequences. The only time it was tried hereabouts, one of the candidates for Assessor/Treasurer was a political gadfly (that's being polite) who had a burr under his saddle from some imagined slight in the past, and ran for something in every election on a platform that had nothing to do with the office. Since pretty much everyone knew his name, a lot of people put him down as #2 or #3 and the way things shook out, he won. He didn't make it past the primary the next time the office came up, but he left in his wake a thoroughly demoralized staff and millions of dollars in judgements for workplace harassment, wrongful termination, etc.

I know it works elsewhere, but it will be a cold day in Sheol before it's tried again here.
It's possible to get a similar problem even with FPTP.

Some years ago, we had a county coroner's race in which, after it was too late to get anyone else on the formal ballot, people suddenly realized that the candidate running unopposed had been convicted of theft. So about six different people mounted write in campaigns; one of whom actually had significant medical training. (Yeah, I know. The whole thing about elected coroners in New York State is weird.) But while the person genuinely qualified led the results among the write-in candidates, and the total for the write-in candidates was well above the total for the convicted thief, the write-ins split the results among them to such an extent that the thief squeaked in with the greatest number of votes and got elected.

Quote:
Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
If the US only has the informed and engaged attending the ballot
Oh, I wish.

Sure, there's no requirement here to vote, so the totally disengaged often don't show up. (Nor, unfortunately IMO, do many of the totally ticked off and frustrated.) But unfortunately "informed" and "engaged" aren't at all the same thing -- some of the most politically vehement people get all their info from a very small number of heavily biased sources, and aren't informed at all. And some others aren't engaged in any real sense and don't bother to get informed, but do show up to vote because they're in the habit, and/or it's considered standard behavior in their family or religious group or other social group, and for them it's relatively easy. (For a lot of people, me included, voting is ten or so minutes out of their day, at a time that's convenient, and at a place that's somewhere or right next to somewhere they need to go to anyway. For others, it can be up to a several hour wait at an inconvenient time at a place that takes them significant time to get to, but at which they had no other reason to be that day. This discrepancy is a significant problem.)
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