Mon 13 Feb 2017 7:15PM

Criteria - FairVote and Equal.Vote

MF Mark Frohnmayer Public Seen by 29

Both FairVote and Equal.Vote have proposed criteria for measuring the political viability and efficacy of proposed voting reforms. As we all discuss various reform options, it'd be really great to at least agree at the outset on how we measure the reform options going forward.

FairVote's 3 Criteria:

Does the method violate the most basic principle of majority rule? In an election with two candidates, we believe the candidate preferred by a majority should always win.

Does the method require the winner to have core support? We believe a winner should be at least one voter’s first choice, meaning they would receive more than 0% in current rules.

Does the method promote sincere voting? Voters should be likely to vote sincerely, according to the method’s rules, and not lose out to tactical voters who vote insincerely.

Equal.Vote's 5 Criteria:

Equality: Does the voting system provide an equal weight vote to every voter?

Accuracy: How accurately does the voting system reflect the will of the people?

Simplicity: How easy is the system for voters to understand and cast ballots, and how easy is it for elections officials to tabulate and hand-recount?

Expressiveness: Can the voter express a nuanced opinion on the outcome?

Honesty: Can the voter safely express her honest opinion on the ballot, and likewise, to what level does the system disincentivize voters from strategically voting insincerely in order to produce a better outcome?

What are the right criteria to use for measurement? Do these capture the essence? Are any unnecessary? What is missing?


Aaron Wolf Mon 13 Feb 2017 7:36PM

Really want to hear from others, so I don't want to dominate the conversation!

But my view: Only 1 of FairVote's 3 criteria is good. 2 of the 3 are not just low-priority but are not even desirable.

  • If we get majority rule, that isn't necessarily bad, but it is a bad criterion. There may be other reasons to downgrade systems that fail this criterion, but the criterion in itself is not desirable. Given two candidates, A with 100% approval and a 49% favorite should (for the goal of good democracy and governance) win over B with 51% approval and 51% favorite. Tyranny of the majority is a bad thing in itself, even if it may be correlated to desirable qualities.
  • The second FairVote criterion, must be someone's first choice is also a bad criterion. Of 12 candidates, one with 100% approval should win over candidates with low overall approval even if the 100% approval candidate is nobody's favorite.
  • I agree with the 3rd FairVote criterion even if I might word it differently.

I like all of the Equal.Vote criteria.


Sara Wolf Tue 14 Feb 2017 11:06AM

I like Honesty, Equality, Accuracy, Simplicity and Expressiveness. In that order! I feel like all others fall under those umbrellas.

A couple more specific criteria to feature:
-Favorite Betrayal Criteria: that you are never encouraged to put a candidate other than your first choice in a first choice spot.
-Dishonest Voting Criteria: that you never are encouraged to lie on your ballot to get a better result. This is the most toxic kind of strategic voting and deserves to wither in the spotlight for a minute.

The FairVote criteria are all problematic.
1. "Majority Rule": In most cases the majority should win but a candidate with strong support by 100% should beat a candidate who is the first choice of 51% but strongly opposed by the rest. Some degree of consensus and compromise is desirable.
2. "We believe a winner should be at least one voter’s first choice": Seriously? When would this issue ever come up in a real life election? There are a lot of more important criteria!
3. "Voters should be likely to vote sincerely": This kind of qualifier has no place in a fundamental criteria! How do you determine what is "likely"? How about voters should be rewarded for voting sincerely!


Aaron Wolf Tue 14 Feb 2017 5:40PM

I think the inverse of the first lousy FairVote criteria is better. Caring that about majority rule or that a candidate must be someone's first choice is just wrong. But we should want a winner to not be the majority's least-favorite (or among the least favorites). I still think that criteria shouldn't be the focus compared to the others mentioned here, but it's at least desirable.


Brian Setzler Tue 14 Feb 2017 8:16PM

I like and trust FairVote.

I don't think Equality is a huge deal, as long as one person's vote isn't worthy significantly more than another. I mean if you do the math and one vote equals 1 and another vote equals 1.073425. would not be the end of the world to me. As long as that factor was somewhat random (and not designed into the system.)


Mark Frohnmayer Wed 15 Feb 2017 5:17AM

"I don't think Equality is a huge deal, as long as one person's vote isn't worthy significantly more than another."

Wait, wait, what?


Sara Wolf Tue 14 Feb 2017 8:55PM

Equality can be a bit of a confusing criteria but look at these inequalities in our current system:
-43% of the country was registered Independent at the beginning of the last election cycle and a huge chunk of them were excluded from voting in the primary. As a result the 23% that are registered Republicans and 26% that are registered Democrats picked a couple candidates that were strongly opposed by the majority. This tragedy is one of the main reasons we're in this mess today.

The electoral college creates a massive inequality where a vote in a less populated state is worth over 3 votes in California. That's just a slap in the face.

This effect is magnified even further in the senate where every state has 2 senators. That means a populated state is getting screwed 6 ways to Sunday. This can't be fixed by election reform but it's a good one to be aware of anyways.

Many voting systems give a stronger vote to those who vote for centrist candidates, like Approval and Plurality, or favor fringe candidates like IRV. A good voting system doesn't care who you vote for or where you are. It's a fair and impartial system.

Not to mention voter disenfranchisment of those who work on election day, those who move or don't have a stable address, those who can't stand in line for hours and hours, lower numbers of polling places in minority communities... the list goes on.

Then there's the wasted vote effect, where a voter say in Oregon can honestly say my vote doesn't really matter. Oregon is going to go blue anyways. Or if I vote for someone who isn't in the top 2 parties my vote will at best be wasted and at worst be a spoiler. This system inherently discourages voter turnout and we can do better.


Sara Wolf Tue 14 Feb 2017 10:55PM


I like and trust FairVote.

I did too but after seeing a ton of people call them out for directly dishonest and misleading claims I did my homework and was shocked. Despite their claims, IRV doesn't always encourage honest voting and can actually create a spoiler effect if you don't betray your favorite and vote for a front runner in some cases (if your candidate isn't at the front or the back of the pack).

This might be an acceptable flaw to some, IRV still works best when voters are honest and it's a lot better than Plurality, but to ignore it and try and cover it up is disastrous as we saw when the Burlington, VT bill was repealed for this exact issue. I still like IRV for a lot of reasons but all systems and their advocates need to be honest and impartial and cut the propaganda.


Brian Setzler Wed 15 Feb 2017 12:57AM

Can someone explain how people would game RCV?

Candidate A, B, C and D are all running. My preference is that order. I love A and hate D.

How does someone game the system?


Aaron Wolf Wed 15 Feb 2017 1:13AM

It's a little more abstract than typical "gaming the system". It works like this:

  • "No!! Don't put A first! A plurality of voters favor D, enough that D has a shot, and some of the B and C voters prefer D over A, enough that if A makes it to the final round, A will (or could at least) lose to D!!"
  • "So, we need you to put B in first place! B will then get all of the A voters when A is eliminated, and the combination of B and A voters will succeed in defeating D!"
  • "So, too many people voting for A first means A will beat B before the final round, and then D will win! Everyone should call on A to drop out, and don't put A first!!"

And this scare tactic is, first of all, a real possibility, so there's no way to completely disregard it; and, in terms of "gaming", the B campaign can argue that they like A, but A is too risky, so they play the same political game that is used today to cut third-parties out of consideration etc.

Basically, A might have a shot at winning, but if they get close but not far enough, it could totally backfire. So the B campaign uses this scare tactic to convince everyone to abandon A.

From a different perspective, you might have that same worry as above (especially if you experience it actually happening some time), so then you strategically put B first without anyone else pushing you to do so. Either way, this "favorite betrayal" is the concern about traditional IRV and tactical voting.

There is no concern that anyone can actually undermine the system's integrity by "gaming it". The concern is only that totally honest votes can lead to bad results that are a very poor representation of the voters' will, and that fact can make the system degrade to favorite-betrayal, lesser-evil voting even though nobody is "gaming the system".

I hope that's clear, not trying to be partisan or anything, just trying to be clear and answer the question. Let me know if anything I wrote isn't clear. Thanks

Side-note: we really should try to make this sort of thing a new thread because concerns about gaming particular systems are not a discussion of criteria directly. But for now, feel free to respond / ask other questions, let's just then get back on topic or start a new thread.


Mark Frohnmayer Wed 15 Feb 2017 6:54AM

I'll quote FairVote's critique of Approval Voting:

"These strategic players include candidates, campaign consultants, partisan pundits and informed voters. They will analyze any system to see if there is a way to secure an advantage for helping their most preferred candidate and/or hurting their least preferred candidate.

Many voters will not work hard to figure out these incentives directly, but will be influenced by what they hear. Once a system as a clear strategic vulnerability, you can be sure that strategic players will exploit it."

The "Favorite Betrayal" weakness of IRV is now well established and even conveniently graphically animated by Approval Voting advocates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtKAScORevQ . Seems likely that if IRV were to be used in partisan elections in the US, that whatever dominant party felt a threat from a smaller party would do just what FV says "strategic players" would do under Approval Voting -- they would say that vote-splitting aka Favorite Betrayal would elect the worst choice, and so third parties would continue to see a minimization of actual support.

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