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Fairvote on "wrong-way" elections

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  • AllAboutVoting
    From FairVote s blog comes this article: http://www.fairvote.org/blog/index.php/2007/08/30/to-the-spoilers-belong-the-victors/ To the Spoilers Belong the
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 30, 2007
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      From FairVote's blog comes this article:


      "To the Spoilers Belong the Victors.
      A Brief History of Non-majority Presidencies and Wrong-Winner Elections"

      The contents are similiar to http://rangevoting.org/FunnyElections.html

    • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
      I tried to get the FairVote site to email me the page, but it s apparently broken. Drat! So I directly copied it here:
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 31, 2007
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        I tried to get the FairVote site to email me the
        page, but it's apparently broken. Drat!

        So I directly copied it here:


        >To the Spoilers Belong the Victors
        >A Brief History of Non-majority Presidencies and Wrong-Winner Elections
        >A FairVote Innovative Analysis
        >Facts in the Spotlight
        >Presidential elections wrongly decided due to
        >plurality voting rules and “spoiler” candidacies
        >since 1828: 5, possibly 7 (11%, possibly 15.5%)
        >Presidential elections wherein no candidate
        >received a majority of votes since 1828: 16 (35.5%)

        Our gratitude to FairVote for compiling this. I'm
        not sure how this matches up with the CRV page,
        but we certainly have been aware that the
        circumstances described have been common.

        [political "shoulds" deleted. Not to disagree,
        necessarily. Probably much agreement there, in fact.]

        >The result is a system that is dangerously
        >susceptible to so-called “spoiler” candidacies,
        >often causing candidates to prevail who are
        >opposed by a majority of voters, and who may
        >even hold positions that are the polar opposites
        >of the “spoiler” candidate. Thanks to the
        >Electoral College, this is true even with
        >“spoilers” who only run or campaign in a handful
        >of states. With the memory of Ralph Nader in
        >2000 fresh in our minds, along with the looming
        >semi-candidacies of Michael Bloomberg and others
        >in 2008, the spoiler issue has never been more
        >salient or explosive. It is also nothing new.

        This is completely correct, of course.

        >A History of Spoiled Presidential Elections:
        >Inspired by William Poundstone’s upcoming book
        >Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren’t Fair (and
        >What We Can Do About It), we took a look at
        >spoilers throughout presidential election
        >history, and the numbers are quite telling.
        >Since 1828 (about the time it became the
        >established norm for all states to hold popular
        >elections), the outcomes of at least five
        >presidential elections were likely wrongly
        >decided due to the presence of a spoiler
        >candidate - and the number may in fact be as high as seven.

        "Wrongly decided" clearly means that a majority
        of voters would have voted against that candidate
        in favor of another. In making the determinations
        that are made here, the criterion for "wrong
        decision" is not stated. And there are political,
        tactical reasons why FairVote would not do this,
        because, under some conditions that might not be
        uncommon, if IRV somehow encourages third parties
        to become stronger, the center squeeze effect
        would arise, and IRV would *also* elect a Condorcet loser.

        >In 1844, slave-owning James K. Polk defeated
        >Henry Clay due to Clay losing votes in key
        >states to the more strongly-abolitionist candidate James Birney.
        >In 1848, former President Martin Van Buren split
        >the vote with fellow Democrat Lewis Cass to elect Zachary Taylor.

        Note that these were major candidates, this is, I
        think, the second-order spoiler effect, and the
        last thing that FairVote wants to do is to give
        us more exact information, we could use it to
        impeach IRV.... Instead, everything that FairVote
        does is calculated carefully to improve the image
        of IRV, or tarnish that of other methods.

        > In 1884, two minor candidates took a combined
        > 3% of the vote in a race where Grover Cleveland
        > defeated James Blaine by a tiny margin of 0.3%.

        IRV would presumably fix this. So would Counting
        All the Votes, which is, of course, much simpler
        and far less expensive to implement.

        >In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt entered the fray on the
        >Bull Moose ticket, splitting 50.6% of the vote
        >withfellow Republican William Howard Taft and electing Woodrow Wilson.

        Again, this is a situation where IRV could also
        fail. It would depend on the pattern of the
        Republican/Bull Moose voters. We forget that most
        voters are independent, and that election turnout
        also will vary with election method, if a method
        gives voters more power. They are assuming that
        all the Bull Moose and Republican voters would
        have voted for one of these if the other had
        withdrawn. Maybe. But Teddy Roosevelt was very
        popular. I'd say he quite likely attracted some
        who would have otherwise voted for Wilson. And it
        would only take a few tenths of a percent like
        that. Probably Wilson was the right winner.

        Approval would probably have performed better,
        that is, chosen the better winner *or* made it
        clear that Wilson was the proper winner, *or*
        that there was no majority winner.

        Further, the whole thing is a bit misleading.
        It's electoral votes that count, not popular
        votes. IRV, implemented at the state level, would
        not solve the electoral college problems.

        >In 2000, consumer advocate Ralph Nader won 181
        >times more votes than the decisive Florida
        >victory margin for corporate-friendly Republican George W. Bush.

        This is one that I think pretty easy to call. But
        it was so close that there were other factors,
        any one of which could have turned the outcome.
        In order to measure the effect of IRV or Approval
        on Nader's spoiler candidacy, we would have to
        compare the Nader vote with the other independent
        party votes; if I'm correct, most of those would
        have gone preferentially to Bush, so .... how many others got votes?

        What would be more useful than what they are
        doing is to study what *state* elections (for the
        electors) showed apparent majority failure. Under
        present conditions, this is a much more accurate
        measure of IRV or Approval changing results.

        >In each case, voters hoping to lend their
        >support to the cause represented by the
        >independent or third party candidate found that
        >they may have inadvertently aided the candidate
        >who most strongly contradicted them.

        True for many, but not necessarily for all. I
        find it odd to think that the Nader voters did
        what they did "inadvertently." Nader campaigned
        with the position that it was irrelevant which
        won, the Democrat or the Republican. Greens and
        some others bought that argument. It was
        fundamentally flawed. But this is how they voted.
        They considered the expression of support for
        Nader, and the, what, a few dollars each that
        went to the Green Party, more important than
        voting for the better frontrunner. In other
        words, they sold the country down the river for a couple of dollars. Smart.

        If they had wanted to support Nader and the
        Greens, sending $5 to the Green Party, with a
        note that they preferred Nader but voted for Gore
        because of *other* issues where Gore and Bush
        differed, would have done far more good for the Green Party, ultimately.

        FairVote wants us to blame the election system,
        so that we will buy into the rest of their
        argument. Yes, there are better election methods,
        but IRV is not what we would choose if, fully
        informed, we made a deliberate decision. Why not
        start making deliberate decisions!

        Obviously, we can't all become fully informed.
        Many people, politically involved, bail at the
        first sight of a discussion of election methods,
        when it gets into the technical aspects, which
        are actually quite important, the devil is in the
        details. But we can solve this problem, and FA-DP
        is one method, allowing a trusted few to do the
        research and negotiate a consensus. A Green FA-DP
        organization, even a relatively small one, could
        have developed a strategy that would have served
        the Party far better than blindly following Nader's narrow argument.

        Sure, election one of the top two would do
        nothing to change the domination of our society
        by corporate interests. Nader is absolutely right
        about that. But that, while important, even
        *very* important, is not the only issue involved.
        Among other things, suppose that somehow Nader
        gets elected in 2008. He is now going to face a
        stacked Supreme Court that could have been
        avoided. The reforms he might succeed in getting
        passed could be blocked by that Court. It was
        *terrible* strategy that he campaigned on.

        If Greens were going to "spoil" the election,
        they should have done it with full awareness of
        the implications, and taking responsibility for
        the effect of their votes. Calling it
        "inadvertent," well, it is hard for me to
        understand that Green voters were so green as not
        to realize that voting for Nader failed to oppose votes going to Bush.

        >The other two cases in question are stark, if
        >not conclusive. In 1892, a close election
        >between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison
        >was shaken up by Populist James Weaver, who took
        >a sizable 8.5% of the vote while Cleveland
        >defeated Harrison by 3%. A century later, George
        >H. W. Bush was out of a job after billionaire
        >Ross Perot took almost 19% of the vote. Pundits
        >still scratch their heads over whether he handed
        >Bill Clinton the presidency, but what’s certain
        >is that Clinton only won a single state
        >(Arkansas) with a majority of the vote.

        How many of these Perot votes would have gone to
        Clinton? I'd guess quite a few. Independent
        voters tend to go toward flipping the power to
        the underdog, other things being equal. Clinton,
        in this context, would be seen as an outsider,
        like Perot. Assuming that the Perot voters were
        "conservative" is a vast oversimplification.

        Now, folks, if we had public ballot imaging, we
        would know far more. We'd know how the Perot
        voters voted on other issues, and could correlate
        the votes. We could make much better guesses as
        to how the election method is performing. If
        someone who votes straight Republican votes
        Perot, you know that you got a true spoiler vote.
        But if someone votes for Democrats, mostly, and
        voted for Perot, you might be looking at a vote
        that would have gone to Clinton.

        >Non-Majority Winners: Regardless of how one
        >characterizes these outcomes, certainly the
        >concept of majority rule is not being served.
        >Even putting aside the spoiler issue, 16 out of
        >45 presidents have been elected with less than
        >50% of the vote since 1828. That means in over
        >one third of those elections, most of the
        >country voted for someone other than the winner.
        >In fact, as of 2004, 14 governors were in office under the same circumstances.

        That does not *contradict* majority rule, it
        merely does not confirm it. Plurality is,
        ironically, considered a Majority Criterion compliant method.

        Do we get majority rule with IRV? Hardly! Rather,
        we get severely constrained vote reassignments
        that could end up with the wrong pairwise
        elections being considered, and the candidate who
        could win a true majority is passed over. Usually
        that won't happen, and FairVote will correctly
        claim this but will overstate the rarity.

        Most importantly, it can happen with IRV when
        there are three parties in range of winning, so
        that the Center Squeeze effect becomes possible.
        And under these conditions -- which are rare
        because we have a two party system, which IRV
        will tend to maintain -- IRV will fail much more often. *Not* rarely!

        If FairVote were actually interested in the
        increase of knowledge about elections, they would
        join with us in advocating public ballot imaging.
        We would then be able to study elections much
        more closely, *plus* we would kill much of the opportunity for election fraud.

        But my guess is that they actually don't want
        this. They want IRV because they need it, they
        believe, to make it practical to move to PR. They
        are deceiving the public about the performance of
        IRV, and they think it justified because they
        also think that their ultimate goal is noble, and
        STV, multiwinner, is far better than IRV, if the
        districts are large enough, i.e., with enough members.

        >All of this confusion and all of these
        >“wrong-winner” elections are due to our
        >first-past-the-post plurality system of electing
        >office holders. Remember, in a three-way race,
        >it takes as little as 34% to win, but it also means that 66% voted against you.

        It's not true. Both sentences. FPTP is a
        *partial* cause of the problem. The other cause
        is that the public is not organized. If it were
        organized such that it could find consensus -- or
        at least majority agreement -- prior to the
        actual poll, FPTP would work just fine. It is
        ignorance and isolation, *combined* with FPTP, that creates the problem.

        >The Solution:

        Hereit comes!

        > If we want our elected leaders to have the
        > political legitimacy of majority support, we
        > need to have a system that allows for it. If we
        > want to reap the benefits of independent
        > candidacies –(such as a greater range of issues
        > being discussed, a wider range of choices, and
        > an increased level of discourse) we need a
        > system that does not turn them into spoilers.

        Approval and Range do all this better than IRV.
        But they are not going to tell you this.

        >Most nations elect their presidents with
        >two-round runoff systems based on the majority principle,

        And it doesn't work very well, frequently failing
        -- in France in particular -- to elect the
        pairwise winner. And IRV is "instant" runoff. It
        simulates two-round runoff, but with no actual
        runoff. Ultimately, the same candidates are
        dropped. So it suffers from the same failures.

        > but what might work best in the United States
        > is instant runoff voting (IRV), an increasingly
        > popular voting method that allows voters to
        > rank their choices in order of preference and
        > ensures a majority winner. By ranking
        > candidates in order of preference, it becomes
        > possible to vote one’s conscience while still
        > lending support to a candidate with a more
        > realistic shot at winning. With IRV, no one
        > plays the spoiler, and one candidate always emerges with majority support.

        Unless certain conditions arise, such as one of
        these third parties we are supposedly helping to
        get started actually starts succeeding, in which
        case the spoiler effect emerges with a vengeance.
        Presumably, FairVote thinks that by this time,
        they are likely to have introduced other reforms
        that would head the problem off, most notably PR.
        It's a dangerous strategy, and they are not
        warning supporters of the risks. They wouldn't do
        that kind of thing, they are a political action
        organization dedicated to a fixed goal (PR) and
        with a fixed tactic to support that ultimate goal
        (IRV). They are not an organization dedicated to
        the truth about election methods, but only to
        "education" as meaning advocacy, spinning
        everything toward the desired conclusion.

        >States are empowered to adopt instant runoff
        >voting for president, and states where this has
        >been seriously debated range from Vermont to Alaska.

        Seriously debated and rejected? Why not be more
        specific? Because they are working on creating an
        impression, an impression of a tidal wave of
        support, so the facts are spun in that direction.

        States are not empowered to adopt IRV for
        "president." They may select *electors* in any
        manner they choose. Unless a stacked Supreme
        Court decides to intervene on some phony-baloney
        "right" it has discovered, such as the obviously
        nonconstitutional -- anti-constitutional -- right
        of a candidate to a speedy decision. They could discover other such "rights."

        Interesting, isn't it, how a conservative
        movement that supposedly hates judicial invention
        of "rights," proceeds to do just that in order to
        get what it wants. Corrupt, that's my term for
        it. Not conservative at all, just corrupt, hungry
        for power, willing to toss precedent and principle to the winds.

        >Read more about instant runoff voting at:
        >instantrunoff.com or fairvote.org/irv. Previous
        >editions of Innovative Analysis can be found here.

        Now, there is a link on the blog, a comment,
        which points to the CRV web site. Good. I'm not
        sure who put it there, but it is still there, so
        there is some preservation of democracy in what
        FairVote is doing with this. They are to be
        commended for allowing that, it's a step in the
        right direction. Of course, if it disappears in short order....
      • warren_d_smith31
        That FairVote page is a good page. It would be good to check out their claims, and decide which ones we believe. They found some examples I was unaware of -
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 31, 2007
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          That FairVote page is a good page. It would be good to check out
          their claims, and decide which ones we believe.

          They found some examples I was unaware of - perhaps because I was
          ignorant, or perhaps because they overclaimed, I do not know which.
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