Wed 30 Aug 2017 4:46PM

New post by Kristin Eberhard criticizes voting method scientists


Clay Shentrup Wed 30 Aug 2017 4:59PM

When reformers start to build momentum to pass electoral reform, they often attract a Voting Theorist who comes out to argue for some other method. He (it’s often a he) uses technical jargon and mathematical theorems...

The use of the capital "Voting Theorist" comes across as belittling, as if to suggest that we're a bunch of out of touch eggheads who don't understand the real world. Same goes for the attack on technical jargon and math.

This is a cheap shot. As voting theorists themselves understand, voting methods are mathematical processes. They are algorithms. And while human psychology and behavior plays a major role in electoral outcomes, the intrinsic math plays a far greater role than a layperson would expect. In some respects that's actually the bigger issue. For instance, Warren found that under some models, Score/Approval behaved better with 100% tactical voters than IRV with 100% honest voters. Which means, even if we assume the best case scenario with regard to the human component, the math component still is the determining factor.

So the math and technical jargon is essential, whether we like it or not. Thus I find Kristin's anti-intellectual bent rather repugnant, much as I feel when some Twitter climate change skeptic troll tells me "it's just weather", and pokes fun of the pocket-protector-wearing scientists thinking they're so smart with all their fancy theorems. Especially so because she's come in as a novice to this field, and has diminished the work of insanely brilliant people like Warren Smith, who has an actual math PhD and has studied this subject for two decades, not to mention having done groundbreaking work in the field.

The Sightline Institute seems like a great organization, at least in terms of their mission. But I'll be blunt. I think they've picked the wrong person to study this particular issue.

On the plus side, all of the comments so far appear to be written by people with greater understanding of the subject. Warren Smith's response is particularly good.

Lastly, you have to love the Bernie-bro-esque invocation of gender when she says "it's usually a he".


Aaron Wolf Wed 30 Aug 2017 5:15PM

This should simply be titled, "Kristin Eberhard outs herself as a dogmatic IRV-proponent willing to play political games and uninterested in honest debate and discourse". This article is no better than one from a climate-denier or creationist who spent lots of time claiming to be a sincere person interested in science but who was all along just trying to undermine the science and promote their dogmatic worldview.

It would be trivial (but tedious) to go through the article pointing out the large number of tactics that are intellectually-invalid and indeed comparable to those of climate-deniers and creationists.

And yes, the "often a 'he'" bit succeeded at making me feel that much more hesitant to participate because I don't want to validate the impression of sexism (and, as frustrated as I might feel, we DO live in a VERY sexist world still). In other words, these tactics get used because they WORK. Welcome to politics.

@kristineb I think I've shown constantly my good will in being generous in assuming good-faith from all sides in this discussion. I think doing that is extremely important, so I'm going to continue assuming good faith in general, even from most IRV-proponents (several of whom I'm sure do have good faith, like @fillardspringrhyne for instance). I'll even have hope that you have the possibility to get back to that if you ever had it, there was evidence in that direction before. But this article is written with BAD faith. You've cherry-picked things, intentionally misrepresented the views of others, and have written the whole thing as a debate where you are interested only in your "side" winning and not in honest understanding. Your article actively encourages readers to use sloppy tactics to reject arguments, leading IRV-proponents who accept your framing to have a worse understanding of the whole situation. Your readers will not come away more able to effectively discuss anything, quite the opposite.

I hope that others will call me out strongly if I'm ever guilty of this level of dishonest bad faith.

@kristineb If you want to get back to good faith, consider Rapoport's Rules — present the views you criticize in words that those you criticize would agree with. Your efforts in the opposite direction are offensive and divisive. I think you've done real harm to voting reform here by undermining the standard for honest discourse. I'm fine with you presenting any viewpoint if you do it honorably.


Clay Shentrup Sat 2 Sep 2017 2:13PM

Aaron just had a Samantha Power moment. ;)


Sara Wolf Thu 19 Oct 2017 10:03AM

I knew it was bad but this tops the charts! WTF Kristin? Are you sure the ends justify the means?


Fillard Spring-Rhyne Sun 4 Mar 2018 8:03AM

Speaking as someone who’s been cited here as having good faith (thanks Aaron), I’d like to go on record as agreeing with the gist of Kristin’s post. I haven’t carefully evaluated each of the claims and responses she lists, and speaking for myself I wouldn’t have chosen the phrase “voting theorist”. But she isn’t being anti-intellectual, and overall her concerns are both valid and important.


William WAUGH Sun 4 Mar 2018 8:43PM

On what grounds, Fillard Spring-Rhyne?