Posted by Charity on March 16th, 2009

But, it’s a good thing.  We should be discussing this.  In fact, we should have been discussing it more before we voted for it.  Better late than never, though, right?

Anyway, there is a post by whd3 over at Green Mountain Daily about IRV that has a detailed analysis of some of the problem with the outcome of Burlington’s election, Burlington’s 2009 Mayoral Election: Did IRV Fail the Voters?.  Go take a look at it there or at Integral Psychosis, where it is also posted.

(Did you read the post?  Because you kind of need the context.  I am going to talk as if you have read it.)

I have to agree that it is unsettling that Andy Montroll was probably the least disliked candidate, yet he was not in the final round, but that would have happened under the old system, too.  Kurt Wright and Bob Kiss would have gone to a run-off and Kiss would have (probably) won.  Or maybe not.  Either way, Montroll was out.

Anyway you slice it, the spoiler argument comes into play.  In a straight up winner-takes-all, Kurt Wright would have benefited, but we always had a 40% threshold, so that was never a risk.  But here, as wdh3 points out, Wright was actually a spoiler, in a sense, who kept Montroll from winning.

I have to admit, Montroll was my choice over Kiss (and I voted for Wright), for what anecdotal evidence is worth.

So, even with the claim that IRV would give us the preferred candidate, it really didn’t.

I prefer a two-party system, myself.  That eliminates all of these problems.  That was the reason for the two-party system in the first place, or so I was told in one of the poli sci classes I had in college.

But, of course, we think we know more than the founding fathers, despite the fact that most of us are far less intellectual and accomplished, so we want our own system.

Well, if we want our own multi-party system, let’s just turn everything on its head.

Here is the new voting system I propose.  We rank the candidates from least favorite to most.  That way, the one most people dislike gets bumped first.  Once you work your way up, you are left with the candidate that all of the people find the least repulsive.

What more could we want?

25 Responses to “Yes, We Will Be Beating the IRV Discussion to Death”

  1. So… do you agree that IRV is preferable to a traditional runoff? We seem to agree it’s better than a plurality system, and if the suggestion is we now opt for an even better instant runoff system, I’m certainly open to that discussion. So far, IRV is the best (most little-d-democratic) voting method I’ve ever gotten to personally participate in.

    It would be a shame if your take away from this debate is: IRV isn’t mathematically perfect, therefore it’s no better than the other options on the table. That’s simply not the case. IRV is vastly superior to the other voting methods being proffered in BTV (plurality and traditional runoffs).

    If you want to find an even more mathematically superior voting system to IRV and tout it in BTV, I’ll sign onto your movement and we can march side-by-side for democracy!

    Most of the anti-IRV talk going around now isn’t about IRV being less perfect than other alternative voting methods — it’s about returning to the old system. That would be going in the wrong direction.

  2. What you describe sounds a lot like range voting. As the Green Mountain Daily article mentioned, every system that has been conceived is imperfect so I doubt this is any different. Is range voting better than IRV? Probably. Should we go back to plurality voting because IRV is flawed? Absolutely not since plurality voting is even more flawed than IRV.

    While you may prefer the two-party system, the people of Burlington certainly do not want a two-party system considering how long the Progressives have been in charge. Well, I should clarify, they certainly don’t want just the Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps they’d be happy getting rid of one of those parties and replacing it with the Progressives. Should we get rid of the Republican or Democratic party in Burlington so that we can have a two-party system or live with the fact that we’ve got more than two parties here in Burlington? The reality is there are more than two parties here and we need a voting system that reflects that reality.

  3. Under the old system, there could be a “spoiler” a candidate who drew enough votes from one candidate to cause another one to win. Under IRV, the awesome power of the “spoiler” is lost, and that’s too bad.

    I’d make a bet that if we put it to a vote today, at majority of Burlington voters would choose to return to the old system.

  4. Haik,
    You’re seriously saying you believe spoiler candidates are a good thing? So that if you have two candidates with overlapping views that, together, are supported by a majority, then it’s a positive outcome if they split their supporters’ votes so that a third candidate who is supported by a minority plurality ends up winning? How on earth does that reflect the will of the people in any way that can be considered fair? In my mind, that’s a perfect example of how the traditional voting process can thwart true democracy, concentrating power in the hands of a minority voting bloc.

  5. I don’t know that IRV is preferable to traditional run-off. The thing I hate about IRV is the watered down debates. When you need the second place votes, you can’t criticize your opponents enough to draw out the real distinctions, IMO. I know some people think this makes elections “cleaner,” but I think it makes it harder to know who to vote for.

    Whether we used IRV or the 40% plurality system, with a traditional run-off, the least disliked candidate, Montroll, was still bumped.

    In Burlington, we had a situation where there were two candidates far from each other on the political spectrum (Wright and Kiss) and a third candidate, who both sides could tolerate (over the other), Montroll. In other words, most of the Wright (or Kiss) supporters would like Montroll over Kiss (or Wright).

    In that case, isn’t the real will of the people to have Montroll? Or not?

    I do like the idea of range voting. It gives a more accurate picture of what the voters want.

    I think a multi-party system needs something more innovative and out-of-the-box to avoid the unfairnesses that arise with IRV and plurality systems.

    Unfairnesses – that’s not a word, is it?

  6. Also, I removed the comment moderation for new people, so people won’t have to wait for their comments to be approved.

  7. You’re seriously saying you believe spoiler candidates are a good thing?

    Well they aren’t inherently bad Ryan. It was a spoiler that gave us Bernie in 1981. Maybe Clavelle too in 1995. And of course, let’s not forget Bill Clinton in 1992. Oh and John Kennedy’s election to congress in 1946. The prospect of a spoiler probably brings new voices to elections, and it makes potential “spoilees” desire to draw sharper distinctions between themselves and potential “spoilers.” And it just plain makes things interesting. So sure. I likes me a “spoiler” sometimes.

  8. I’d make a bet that if we put it to a vote today, at majority of Burlington voters would choose to return to the old, non-IRV system.

    Anybody disagree?

  9. The idea that Montroll should have won this past election is just silly on the face of it. Sure, he was one of the main benefits of Smith’s votes once he was booted from the IRV process, but Kiss was the overwhelming winner of Montrol voters, which pushed him over the top in the end.

    So, first people get upset because Wright lost, and now we’re supposed to be “concerned” that Montroll lost as well?? Please…

    I personally don’t think that’s it possible to state simply that “Montroll was the ‘Beats-All winner’ (aka the ‘Condorcet winner’) as he would have beaten both Wright (56% to 44%) and Kiss (54% to 46%) in head-to-head races, demonstrating that he was the preferred candidate by the majority of voters” without twisting the intent of voters around. IRV is not about ranking one candidate against one other candidate only …it is a system of voting that really only should be used when there are more than two candidates in any given race.

    “If Wright had not run, Montroll would have won (which, incidentally, would have been preferable for the majority of Wright supporters who listed Montroll as their second choice 1513 to 495 for Kiss as their second choice).”

    But Wright DID run, and there’s really no way to accurately predict what Wright voters would have done had he not been in the race…stayed home, voted for another candidate, etc., etc….

    “This election also produced a ‘No-Show Paradox’, meaning that if 753 Wright supporters who preferred Montroll over Kiss had simply stayed home on Town Meeting Day they would have gotten a more desirable (in their view) outcome- Montroll would have beaten Kiss.”

    Again, would these people have bothered to show up had Wright not been in the race??

    “The software used to tabulate the votes eliminated Smith (1306 votes), Simpson (35 votes), and ‘write-in’ (36 votes) in the first round of counting because it deemed them all to be mathematically (‘inevitably’) losers of the election.”

    Really…does anyone really think that these candidates could make that bad a showing in the first choice votes and THEN end up winning in the end?? Please…when has this kind of thing *ever* happened in IRV??

    “If 753 people who voted Wright as their first choice (specifically, all 495 who voted Wright>Kiss>Montroll plus 258 of the 1289 people who voted Wright only) had instead voted for Kiss then Wright would have been eliminated instead of Montroll and Montroll would have beaten Kiss in the final round of IRV (4067 to 3755).”

    But they didn’t vote this way, and I’m sure all of those voters had valid reasons why they voted the way that they did. Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

    “Another way we can look at this all: all of the above voting methods are unanimous in one thing: Wright was the least favorite of the top three choices (i.e., he was the ‘worst choice’ or the least popular among them). If this is true, then at the very least the election should come down to Kiss versus Montroll”

    And this is supposed to be a surprise to anyone?? This is Burlington, VT people…GOPers, in general, aren’t valued too highly in that city yanno…sheesh…

    “Under IRV, the awesome power of the ‘spoiler’ is lost, and that’s too bad.”

    WHAT?! Why would you be in fvaor of MORE spoiler candidates?? Your comments on this issue get more & more obscure Mr. Bedrosian…

    “In that case, isn’t the real will of the people to have Montroll?”

    Who says that the so-called “middle” always wins (or should always win) in American politics??

  10. Haik,
    I do disagree. I think that, by and large, Burlingtonians are not knee-jerk reactionaries who would throw out the baby with the bathwater the instant something struck them as a little funny. Yes, this was a strange election, and some people are upset about the outcome, but it’s not catastrophic, and I don’t think most people think it went wrong.

    A poll would be interesting, however.

  11. A poll would be fun Ryan, but totally useless. It would better to put it to a vote. I don’t think the last election was particularly strange, and I’m certainly not upset about the outcome at all. Before election day I wanted Kiss to win and I wanted a recount. I got both, although I’d have preferred a complete recount.

    I would vote to go back to the old system. The votes would again be counted at the polling places and the party on election night would back at the Channel 17 studios where it belongs. The awesome democratic power of the “spoiler” would be restored it its rightful glory.

    I would be in favor of more spoiler candidates, Mister Guy. That just means more candidates. Every candidate is a “spoiler” for all the others that don’t win. Look! Wright was supposedly a spoiler for Montroll, even with IRV! Spoilers everywhere! Duck and Cover!

    I’m not sure “obscure” describes my comments. It would describe the date of Burlington’s most recent Mayoral runoff election prior to 2006. Anybody know what year that was?

  12. “That just means more candidates.”

    IRV allows for an unlimited number of candidates…with no spolier effect as well.

    “Every candidate is a ‘spoiler” for all the others that don’t win. Look! Wright was supposedly a spoiler for Montroll, even with IRV!”

    Nonsense…you’re just being intentionally obtuse on this issue…face it…

  13. I’m with Charity on this one. Great discussion going on here, however.
    I’d also like to see IRV challenged again in a referendum vote.

  14. Mister Guy,

    Wright was indeed a spoiler for Montroll. That’s just a fact. We have tho ballot data to prove it.

  15. The best analysis of the situation (by a Princeton math Ph.D. who is one of the world’s leading experts on voting methods) is here:

  16. REALITY CHECK: At least 78% of Burlington’s voters in the mayoral contest are satisfied by the final outcome.

    How can I make that claim? Simple … add up all the ballots that listed Bob Kiss somewhere on the ballot. A huge majority of people got to see one of their preferred choices elected.

  17. Rama, that does not work. A candidate being ranked does not equal the voter being satisfied with that candidate winning. I voted for Kiss…. FOURTH! I would not say that I am satisfied that my fourth choice was the winner.

  18. Then why did you even list him?

    But being as #1 through 3 didn’t make it to the finish line, would you have been happier with somebody you didn’t even list on your ballot?

  19. “Wright was indeed a spoiler for Montroll. That’s just a fact. We have tho ballot data to prove it.”

    No, you really don’t. All you have is wild extraploations on what “might” have happened had Wright dropped out of the race (which is an insane idea in the first place given what we all locally know about Kurt Wright…he’s wanted wanted to be mayor for many, many years now!) and voters “might” have voted a different way.

    “The best analysis of the situation (by a Princeton math Ph.D. who is one of the world’s leading experts on voting methods) is here”

    Nonsense, as I’ve pointed out to you in another thread on another website, what passes for “analysis” there is laughable in quite a few spots given several assumptions about the suposed will of the voter where there is no evidence that making those kind of assuptions is in any way, shape, or form logical or reasonable.

    “I voted for Kiss…. FOURTH! I would not say that I am satisfied that my fourth choice was the winner.”

    Ah, but you apparently voted for Wright FIRST, which means, given the way the IRV process went, that your fourth choice didn’t amount to a hill of beans. You didn’t help Bob Kiss get elected Charity…you helped Wright come in second.

  20. Charity, I also should add my percentage of voters who are okay with the result only counted those who listed Kiss in the top three.

    Quick history lesson: Charity, you wrote “But, of course, we think we know more than the founding fathers, despite the fact that most of us are far less intellectual and accomplished, so we want our own system.”

    You will find no mention of a two party system in our federal constitution. If you read the writings of those days, you will, however, find great concern over the degradation of government that can come from having political parties (or factions).

  21. Rama, the two-party system was not officially laid out in the constitution, but it has always been in practice since our founding.

    The two-party system eliminates factions by forcing people to get along with each other in the party (or at least compromise). You see this in our modern parties, disparate groups joined together for common cause.

    Think about it: if “factions” referred to the parties in a two-party system, why would the very writers who cautioned against the dangers of factions have taken part in a two-party system?

    They favored that system because it eliminates the power of factions.

  22. Factions eliminate the power of factions?

  23. That is not what I said. I think you know that, though.

    You are not helping your cause by acting this way toward people who question IRV.

    “Faction” is not a substitute word for political party. Factions exist within political parties. Pro-lifers, environmentalists, 2A rights activists, small government proponents – those are examples of factions. The two party system forces all of the factions to unite under one of two parties. It forces compromise. It was a way to slow down our government and one faction from having too much power.

  24. Actually “faction” is a substitute for political parties, but parties is not necessarily a substitute for factions. See (Federalist Papers, Vol 10)

    Simple question: acting what way?

  25. You tend to belittle people or make them appear stupid, like when you paraphrased me as saying “factions eliminate the power of factions.” That is not what I said. Maybe you didn’t understand me, but I thought I was pretty clear. I have seen you do that to people over at GMD, too. It doesn’t help your case.

    I will let you have the last word on the factions thing. I think I’m right. That’s how I learned it in college and the federalist paper you linked to does not contradict my understanding of it. (In fact, it supports it.) But I do not have the time to debate such trivial disagreements.

    Some day when I am not homeschooling three kids (one with special needs) and trying to start up a homemade bath and beauty products business, I will be happy to spend hours debating such topics! :)