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Unspecified votes: can unknowns get elected? [reply to DC]

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  • warren_d_smith31
    ... yes it does. However, this is not a problem in practice, our polling studies in the real world conclusively show. That is because in practice, a lot of
    Message 1 of 11 , Aug 8, 2005
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      --- In RangeVoting@yahoogroups.com, "Dan" <danc19fr@y...> wrote:
      > Suppose I get on the ballot, but I don't campaign and nobody has heard
      > of me so they leave me unspecified. Suppose my friends and family
      > give me a 99. Does that mean I get elected?
      >
      > - Dan Cooper

      yes it does. However, this is not a problem in practice,
      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
      http://math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/works.html #82.)

      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.
    • Dan
      Message 2 of 11 , Aug 8, 2005
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        << 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
        prevent this.

        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
      • warren_d_smith31
        ... --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
        Message 3 of 11 , Aug 8, 2005
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          > 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

          --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.

          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.
        • warren_d_smith31
          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
          Message 4 of 11 , Aug 8, 2005
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            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.)
          • Dan
            Message 5 of 11 , Aug 9, 2005
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              << --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
              don't support

              << 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
              unnecessary risks?

              - Dan Cooper
            • Dan
              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
              Message 6 of 11 , Aug 9, 2005
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                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
                been rectified.

                - Dan Cooper
              • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
                ... No. 99 on a two-digit range ballot is equal to one full vote. All the votes are totalled. They are not averaged.
                Message 7 of 11 , Aug 9, 2005
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                  At 04:42 AM 8/8/2005, Dan wrote:
                  >Suppose I get on the ballot, but I don't campaign and nobody has heard
                  >of me so they leave me unspecified. Suppose my friends and family
                  >give me a 99. Does that mean I get elected?

                  No. 99 on a two-digit range ballot is equal to one full vote. All the votes
                  are totalled. They are not averaged.
                • wds@math.temple.edu
                  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
                  Message 8 of 11 , Aug 9, 2005
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                    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.
                    wds
                  • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
                    ... Perhaps I ve overlooked something here. Range Voting is truly a variation on Approval, unless I ve missed something. Take standard Approval. You either
                    Message 9 of 11 , Aug 9, 2005
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                      At 03:26 AM 8/9/2005, Dan wrote:
                      >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.

                      Perhaps I've overlooked something here.

                      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
                      abstention.....

                      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.
                    • Dan
                      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
                      Message 10 of 11 , Aug 10, 2005
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                        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
                        Stalin used.

                        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
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