Consecutive Runoff Approval Voting[edit | edit source]
© Robert K. Joyce (blues) 2006 Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
Observe below that I use hardly any mathematical methods to describe Consecutive Runoff Approval Voting. This is probably because I work largely in natural language study, and have decided that whenever the potential number of criteria appears to exceed the number of methods they might be applied to, mathematical analyses tend to be less than fruitful. I do have one very prominent criterion, which is that any proposed system of voting should be completely free of the Black Hat Syndrome (or "spoiler effect"). I have concluded that every method is susceptible to a Gray Hat Syndrome, in which the presence of a Black Hat "ogre" candidate could cause the election of a Gray Hat, where a White hat would otherwise have been elected.
Consecutive Runoff Approval Voting --- The Basics:
The number and viability of subtle, yet pervasive, ways for "election hackers" to create security holes in all forms of "IRV" stunned me. And I began the search for a reasonably simple, stable version of "IRV" that could withstand brute-force assaults. I found none. I also found that "IRV" was advocacy was being generously supported by The Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Carnegie Mellon Foundation. So, I reluctantly concluded that "IRV" was essentially a trap that would doom all other viable efforts to institute any spoiler effect neutralizing election methods. It was depressing. And probably hundreds of Green Party, or semi-Green advocates had by this time been 100% sold on the amazingly attractive, yet nearly useless "IRV" methods.
So, below, I repost what I see as one of the best explanations of a method that can actually completely overcome the baleful consequences of the spoiler effect, which I call the Black Hat Syndrome these days. Here it is:
There are so many reasons why, in this age of coordinated electronic propaganda, democracy just doesn't work. First of all, as I have said so often, it is totally foolish to believe that people who are one paycheck away from starvation would be permitted to wield the real power of the vote when their electronic media environment is owned by a few multi-billionaires. Ask yourself "Would that be possible?" Or try this more difficult one: "Can pigs fly?"
Our plurality voting system extracts 99% of the decision making power of the voters (very roughly speaking). If you would like to vote for a White Hat, say Nader, but there is a Gray Hat, say Kerry, and a Black Hat, say Bush, in the contest, you would be suicidal to vote for the White Hat. So you are screwed.
Some misled people think IRV voting will help. It never has, never will, be helpful. As I have pointed out before, there are an infinite number of different methods for counting the ranked ballots of IRV, and the best of them require that specific information about every ballot bust be conveyed into one location, one computational funnel. And the the computation of the vote is exceedingly intricate for the best methods of counting. Moreover, you will still need to give your first rank vote to a Gray Hat, If a Black hat is present in the contest.
All these woes disappear if you just have three distinct runoffs for each election. The first runoff is an approval election that narrows the field to, say, eight candidates. With the approval method, each voter can cast just one ballot for each potential candidate that she or he approves of. There would need to be some practical limit on the number of people each voter could give one vote to, maybe 20, since we can't deal with lists bearing thousands of names. The second runoff, in which each voter could give just one vote to as many of the remaining eight as she or he wishes, would narrow the field to just the two candidates who get the most votes. The third and final runoff would be simply a race between those two candidates. I would suggest that, for each runoff, the voting could be allowed to run over a span of three days. The ballots would be hand-marked, and hand-counted by randomly drafted citizens, with each day's results announces at each polling station on the morning after that day's voting. I would give the citizens a week to deliberate between each runoff, so there would be three days for the first runoff, plus a week, the same time for the second runoff, then three days to complete the final runoff. Such a procedure of consecutive runoff approval voting would ensure that the citizens would feel that they would be making real and serious decisions.
I have claimed that IRV-style voting methods would not provide any substantial improvement over "our" current plurality method. All questions about voting methods tend to be tricky. One of the most disturbing things about IRV-style voting is that it would "cloak" the security holes of plurality voting; another is that, despite all the claims otherwise, even the most moderately secure forms of IRV require massive computer intervention, and they still retain a spoiler effect (Black Hat Effect) of their own, since in every system that offers a highest-rank choice to the voter, the voter is ultimately forced (out of self preservation) the give that highest-rank vote to a Gray Hat when Black Hats are present. It does absolutely no good to surmise that such scenarios are unlikely, since reality dictates that powerful anti-populist power brokers can always use money power to maneuver to make such scenarios inevitable.
And, when it comes to voting: SIMPLE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!
Everything comes at a price, and voting method selection is the very last place we should expect to get something for nothing. One difficulty with Approval voting is reflected in the fact that it really should be called "Acceptability voting"; You would pretty well thwart the elite (ish) anti-populist power brokers, but would still occasionally struggle with an irksome conundrum. For example, suppose three fourths want, say, Ralph Nader very, very, much but all four-fifths of us still find John Kerry slightly acceptable. Even though no one is very excited at all about Kerry's campaign, while three fourths totally love Nader's program, Kerry will win. This is a bad, though not ruinous, outcome. But it will not encourage participation. So, I advocate consecutive runoff approval voting. That is:
A first Approval runoff that narrows the field of candidates to eight:
A week later, another Approval runoff that narrows the field of candidates to two.
A week later, another final Approval runoff that selects the office holder-elect. (Technically, that would be nearly equivalent to the present Plurality method, except that no "third candidate" could be on the ballot to spoil the voting).
Of course, these advantages will not come "for free." Three consecutive runoffs would be required. However, as any old organizer knows perfectly well, the more you get people to participate or struggle, the more engaged they will always become, and the more they will see themselves as holding a stake in that process and its outcome. As I have reiterated again and again, voting is like military service, and people are willing to vote for the same reasons they are willing to fight. If you can get people to spend years in hard military battle, then you can get them to go out and vote three times.