Unspecified votes: can unknowns get elected? [reply to DC]
- --- In RangeVoting@yahoogroups.com, "Dan" <danc19fr@y...> wrote:
> Suppose I get on the ballot, but I don't campaign and nobody has heardyes it does. However, this is not a problem in practice,
> of me so they leave me unspecified. Suppose my friends and family
> give me a 99. Does that mean I get elected?
> - Dan Cooper
our polling studies in the real world conclusively
show. That is because in practice, a lot of the people who
might want to put "unspecified" actually put "zero".
(By "a lot" I mean, a lot. Somewhere between 20 and 90% for sure.)
(Paper describing the study is
Due to this effect, there is a heavy built in bias against
little-known candidates. Range voting, by allowing
blanks, merely reduces that bias, but does not come
close to eliminating it.
This is exactly the right thing to do.
So in any reasonably large range election where your friends+family voted for you
but nobody else had ever heard of you, you would have absolutely
no chance of winning.
However, if 50% of the population absolutely loved you and 50%
had not heard of you, you might be able to get elected. I admit
that seems implausible, but more important is the bias-reducing effect
which allows good candidates who are little-known, to get better
vote totals. This would not allow them to win but would get them
the attention they deserve for use in next election.
- << However, if 50% of the population absolutely loved you and 50% had
not heard of you, you might be able to get elected. I admit that
seems implausible, but more important is the bias-reducing effect
which allows good candidates who are little-known, to get better vote
totals. This would not allow them to win but would get them the
attention they deserve for use in next election. >>
I am uncomfortable with this. Suppose an organization put up a
candidate, did no campaigning at all, but got a lot of people to vote
for their stealth candidate. I am afraid there is a risk of electing
a candidate with minority support, representing a narrow special
interest. I am not confident that cultural factors will always
I would much rather see a blank vote count as 0 for purposes of the
election, but that the total number of votes and average range value
be reported for all candidates. This is my conservative side coming
out. If we are going to sell RV or AV, we will have to sell it to
people a lot more conservative than me.
- Dan Cooper
> I would much rather see a blank vote count as 0 for purposes of the--Well, the thing is, there are a lot of conservative voters like you out there, and
> election, but that the total number of votes and average range value
> be reported for all candidates. This is my conservative side coming
> out. If we are going to sell RV or AV, we will have to sell it to
> people a lot more conservative than me.
> - Dan Cooper
there always will be. Those voters can and will choose to intentionally put
0, where those of us who felt less conservative, would put blank.
That causes an impossibly huge pit that any stealth candidate has to climb out of.
I mean, I do not think it is possible for a candidate to be well known by,
say, 30% of society but unknown to the rest. Perhaps 20%, but that is
the most I could believe. OK, fine. Suppose this incredible stealth
candidate gets 99s from his 20%-of-society, gets blanks from 70% of
the rest, and gets 0s from 30% of the rest. I am being extremely
generous in all this because I think 20% and 70% both are extremely high
overestimates of what will happen in reality. Result: that candidate gets
an average non-blank score of 45. That is unlikely to be enough to win
since one of the two frontrunners ought to get at least 50%.
And more realistically, a stealth candidate would be loved by 5% of
society and would get zeroed by 50% of the rest, leading to an
average nonblank score for him of 9.4, placing him well in the rear.
If you want to worry about stealth candidates, you should worry about
the plurality system, not range. Right now some wacko can often
get elected, even though nobody knows a damn thing about him,
simply because he managed, either through luck, apathy, or
an inside deal, to get to be either the Democrat or Republican candidate.
This in fact happens constantly with the election of, e.g, judges.
With range voting, the importance of the major parties will
diminish and so I think that won't happen as much.
- Also, I should add, if we eliminated the "leave blank" option,
here are the bad things that would happen:
The "non-conservative" voters who would have
wanted to put blanks, will be frustrated. There are a lot of them,
and their desire to be honest, is being frustrated, and they don't like it.
(I'm not just blowing smoke here. This all is based on my
actual experience conducting a range election as a 2004 exit poll.)
That would hurt the "selling" of range voting.
Also it won't work anyway, because those voters will simply
award unknown candidates a score of 50, or whatever they
think the average score is, or some intermediate value,
or a guess, anyhow not zero. (Which in fact can lead to
a lot *more* distortion and noise.)
- << --Well, the thing is, there are a lot of conservative voters like
you out there, and there always will be. Those voters can and will
choose to intentionally put 0, where those of us who felt less
conservative, would put blank. >>
Warren, you don't get it. I want to be able to leave a blank, so
that I don't unwitting hurt the results of a candidate who deserves
recognition and more publicity next time. I don't want to be afraid
that by leaving a blank I could be helping the chances of someone I
<< That causes an impossibly huge pit that any stealth candidate has
to climb out of. >>
I would prefer that there be a lid over the pit. This is a serious
enough issue for me that I would vote against a referendum for range
voting if it had this feature.
<< If you want to worry about stealth candidates, you should worry
about the plurality system, not range. >>
I am not supporting plurality voting. The only reason I want to
support RV or AV is to reduce these risks. Why incorporate
- Dan Cooper
- Warren, I want you to respond to my proposal, not tear down one that I
did not make. I will repeat my proposal.
Allow blank votes.
For the purpose of determining the winner, count blank votes as zero.
For each candidate, report the total number of votes and the average
range value. Thus blank votes will not pull down the reported averages.
If blank votes were not counted for determining the winner, I would
indeed vote strategically by putting zeros instead of blanks. I am
very afraid of the government being taken over by someone not committed
to freedom, justice, and democracy. It has happened and it has not yet
- Dan Cooper
- At 04:42 AM 8/8/2005, Dan wrote:
>Suppose I get on the ballot, but I don't campaign and nobody has heardNo. 99 on a two-digit range ballot is equal to one full vote. All the votes
>of me so they leave me unspecified. Suppose my friends and family
>give me a 99. Does that mean I get elected?
are totalled. They are not averaged.
- To reply to an error by Lomax replaying to Cooper...
the range voting definition on the Bulletin Board
uses averaging not totalling.
Avging is an "improvement" over totalling. In my opinion.
Because it allows blanks to have no effect.
Dan Cooper's suggestion was, in different words, to get rid
of averaging and put totalling in its place.
That causes Blanks to be equivalent to zeros.
I've tried both and real world people who have to fill out range voting
ballots seem to prefer the averaging + blanks-allowed flavor.
- At 03:26 AM 8/9/2005, Dan wrote:
>Warren, I want you to respond to my proposal, not tear down one that IPerhaps I've overlooked something here.
>did not make. I will repeat my proposal.
>Allow blank votes.
>For the purpose of determining the winner, count blank votes as zero.
Range Voting is truly a variation on Approval, unless I've missed something.
Take standard Approval. You either vote for a candidate (1) or you don't
(0). The way we ordinarily consider Approval, 0 is the default. You only
vote 1 by actually marking the candidate's position.
Now, imagine that instead of having only these two options, you can, in
addition, mark a fraction of a vote for a candidate.
This is Range.
Any voter can vote Range as if it were standard Approval, simply by voting
the maximum for each candidate approved and the minimum for all others. In
two-digit range, the maximum is 99/99, the minimum is 0/99.
Now, it is possible to distinguish between a vote of 0 and an abstention.
But if one votes for *any* candidate for an office, the vote is not an
Anyway, in basic Range, "blank votes" for a candidate would presumably be
treated as zero.
However, I think this needs to be underscored. Range Voting and Approval
Voting are the same system, in principle. Fractional votes merely
complicate it a little, they give voters some intermediate latitude.
Neither system guarantees a majority approval winner. Both of them probably
make such a winner substantially more likely.
- Abd-ul Rahman,
I agree that Approval and Range voting are variants of the same
system, and that neither system guarantees a majority winner.
There is only one way to guarantee a majority winner: the method
My concern was Warren's proposal to not count abstention votes. Each
candidate's score would be the average of votes cast for him, not the
total. I think this provides an unnecessary risk of manipulation.
Warren may argue that it is a small risk, but why take it at all?
The results of recent elections IMHO represent manipulation by big
money and big parties. A certain proportion of voters allow
themselves to be manipulated without thinking about the issues. Then
the side they rooted for wins, like a football game, and they are
happy. Is this the kind of majority support our government should
have? I think not. It is like when Ancient Rome was torn up into
four parties which opposed each other on everything from sports to
politics. They were like urban gangs.
The first thing that is needed is to make any reform system as immune
as possible to manipulation. What good does it do if 60% of the
population express their wishes to a fine nuance, and 40% of the
population control the outcome?
- Dan Cooper