Fairvote on "wrong-way" elections
- 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
- 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 VictorsOur gratitude to FairVote for compiling this. I'm
>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%)
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 dangerouslyThis is completely correct, of course.
>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.
>A History of Spoiled Presidential Elections:"Wrongly decided" clearly means that a majority
>Inspired by William Poundstones upcoming book
>Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Arent 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.
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 defeatedNote that these were major candidates, this is, I
>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.
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 combinedIRV would presumably fix this. So would Counting
> 3% of the vote in a race where Grover Cleveland
> defeated James Blaine by a tiny margin of 0.3%.
All the Votes, which is, of course, much simpler
and far less expensive to implement.
>Again, this is a situation where IRV could also
>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.
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 181This is one that I think pretty easy to call. But
>times more votes than the decisive Florida
>victory margin for corporate-friendly Republican George W. Bush.
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 theirTrue for many, but not necessarily for all. I
>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.
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, ifHow many of these Perot votes would have gone to
>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 whats certain
>is that Clinton only won a single state
>(Arkansas) with a majority of the vote.
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 oneThat does not *contradict* majority rule, it
>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.
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 theseIt's not true. Both sentences. FPTP is a
>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.
*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 theApproval and Range do all this better than IRV.
> 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.
But they are not going to tell you this.
>Most nations elect their presidents withAnd it doesn't work very well, frequently failing
>two-round runoff systems based on the majority principle,
-- 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 StatesUnless certain conditions arise, such as one of
> 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 ones 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.
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 runoffSeriously debated and rejected? Why not be more
>voting for president, and states where this has
>been seriously debated range from Vermont to Alaska.
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:Now, there is a link on the blog, a comment,
>instantrunoff.com or fairvote.org/irv. Previous
>editions of Innovative Analysis can be found here.
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....
- 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.