(Click the post username for an Easter egg!)
When I first began “blogging” I was at the now-defunct “repentantnadervoter.org” in 2004, where people came to repent for having voted for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore, thus enabling the Supreme Court to select George W. Bush in 2000. I was into mathematical logic and linguistics so I immediately became fascinated by the “spoiler effect” (I invented that term and spread it all over the Internet). This spoiler effect is at the heart of about 50% of all our problems! Our “plurality” voting system absolutely guarantees a Republican/Democrat two-party government, with an Obama, a Congress of Pigs, etc, etc. We all know that, I hope. This means that we do not have real elections at all, which obviously means we have no real power at all.
So what is the solution? Is there any? IRV was being touted by many Green Party types, and promoted with Rockefeller Brothers Fund grants (lately it’s been the Carnegie Mellon Fund) so I looked into it. Proof that IRV has been funded by ford foundation:
With IRV you have to “rank” the candidates. If it’s done on paper it goes like this:
All the ballots are transported to a single counting center. If someone has 50% +1 first-rank votes, they win. If nobody has that many, then the ballot of every voter who gave a first-rank vote to the one with the least votes is “amended” such that the first loser is eliminated, and all the other candidates that were ranked below the first loser are “moved up” a notch. In a real democracy, there would be at least 30 candidates, so it would be quite a job possibly amending millions of ballots. (Check out: Voters in District 5 will have 22 candidates to choose from when they go to the polls Nov. 2, and: 25 candidates file for Washington County judgeship) Then the first-rank votes are counted again, including the “new” ones that were “moved up” from second-rank. If somebody now gets 50% +1 “first-rank votes,” they win. If not, the second poorest loser is “eliminated,” the amendment process is repeated on perhaps 100 million ballots, and the old and new “first-rank votes” are counted again to find if someone gets 50% +1 “first-rank votes.” And this entire process is repeated until someone gets 50% +1 “first-rank votes.”
Something is a little odd here? Okay, say we have an election with George W. Bush, Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. In the first round Al Gore gets exactly 50% of the first-rank votes. He would have won with 50% +1, but some “honest” (or “sincere”) voter (as they are wont to say) gave first rank to Nader and second rank to Gore, so we must do the big shuffle. People have actually claimed that since since Gore already has 50%, he surely will get one more in the second shuffle, thus win! Not so fast! Due to the shuffle, many of the second-rank votes are now first-rank, so Gore no longer has his 50%! In fact, Bush, who had only 47% of the original first-rank votes, “inherits” many votes when Buchanan is eliminated, and winds up having 52%, and of course thus wins. But if that “honest” voter had only given first-rank to Gore instead of Nader, Gore would have won. This is actually the spoiler effect (or black hat effect) yet again. And this is why communities that try IRV end up right back with two-party duopoly.
Also, it is rather obvious that this method requires computer tabulation. I was apparently the first one to state that computers have no place in elections, on BlackBoxVoting.org and BradBlog.com, in 1995 . Virtually no one else was saying that. Now most of them agree completely. Computers cannot be made safe for voting. Using computers for that is like using a bulldozer to mow the lawn.
So I played around with voting methods. Some are much safer than IRV, but are even (much) more complex. By mix and matching I found out that the approval voting method can be combined with consecutive runoffs to completely remove the spoiler effect. It in no way guarantees that a candidate most desired by the most voters will win, but you could not ever cause Bush to win by voting for Nader. This means that multiple parties and candidates would absolutely become viable! Since It’s painful for me to type, here is one version of consecutive runoff with approval voting that I have posted on one of my blogs:
TWO-CONSECUTIVE RUNOFF VOTING:
In the first runoff, the approval method is used to choose exactly two candidates to run in the second runoff. The first runoff is simply an approval election; each voter can give just one vote to as many candidates she or he “approves of,” or finds acceptable. There is one practical consideration, however, due to the potential problem of voters casting an inordinate number of votes. So it would seem advantageous to limit the total number of votes that each voter can cast to some arbitrary number. A limit of 20 is suggested, but many people holding currently dominant perspectives seem to prefer a limit of 10. At the end of the polling, all of the votes are simply added up, and only the two candidates with the most votes go on to the second runoff.
The second runoff is quite simple; the two remaining candidates run against each other, and the one who achieves an absolute majority becomes the winner. Obviously, there can be no black hat (spoiler) syndrome, since there can be no third candidate.
The design of this method was undertaken with the express assumption that some interested party will often, if not always, attempt to use the black hat (spoiler) syndrome to circumvent the will of the voters. Therefor, we are not merely attempting to attain a method that precludes “voter strategies” (rather than “honest” heroic voting — vote your conscience and elect Hitler!) but to gain a method that precludes the black hat (spoiler) syndrome from being exploited by the dominant special interests (billionaires). This is a somewhat subtle consideration, which only becomes more tricky if it is assumed that special interests will actively attempt to use this syndrome to manipulate elections.
It seems reasonable to assume that any ranked voting method will be susceptible to black hat manipulation, since it appears obvious that if special interests vigorously promote black hat candidates, voters will effectively be forced to cast their highest rank vote for whatever, generally minimally, acceptable candidate is perceived as likely to defeat the black hat candidates. In fact, this writer has engaged in countless discussions, in which it appeared that, with only four, at most, in a race, most (if not all) reasonably simple methods of ranked voting could enable a vote for a white hat candidate, from the perspective of some individual voter, to eventually lead to the actual election of a candidate that that individual voter perceives as a black hat. And this is a result that would have been avoided if the voter had given a gray hat candidate their highest rank vote. But at minimum, it seems reasonable to assume that a voter would tend to cast his or her first rank ballot for a likely-to-win gray hat candidate, rather than a “long shot” candidate, if a strong black hat is in the race. This would eventuate in the evolution of a closed two-party system.
Two-consecutive runoff voting cannot cause the situation in which a voter causes the election of a black hat by giving a high-rank vote a white hat, or even a case in which a voter perceives a need to give a high-rank vote to a gray hat in order to avoid the election of a black hat. And the obvious reason is that there are no ranks involved in this method. However a “gray hat” syndrome is present, in that, if a black hat is in the race, voters may feel some pressure to include some gray hats of “darker shades” in the first runoff if a black hat is in the race. However, this gray hat syndrome is vastly more benign than the black hat syndrome; for example, a voter could still vote for as many white hats as he or she desired.
It seems likely that the gray hat syndrome would be further ameliorated if a three runoff method is employed. On the other hand, this method requires three consecutive runoffs, which present-day online straw poll voters seem to dislike.
Merely by use of this very simple method, the year 2000 election debacle, in which Ralph Nader was blamed for throwing the election to black hat George W. Bush (by being a “spoiler”), could have been entirely eliminated. Gore and Bush would have received the most votes in the first runoff, and would have faced ONLY each other in the second runoff.
However, Nader would undoubtedly have received 10,000 times more votes in an initial approval-style runoff than he ever did in the ultimately futile general “plurality-style” “election.” of 2000.
So it would have been perfectly safe to campaign for Nader, and we would not have become pushed onto the the “two-party” merry-go-round that is now destroying us. There are simple solutions to our problems, but the Ford Foundation types are determined to divert us into solutions that are total dead ends.
THREE-CONSECUTIVE RUNOFF VOTING:
As mentioned above, two-consecutive runoff voting does harbor a “gray hat” syndrome, since, if black hats are inserted in a race, voters will then feel pressure to include some gray hats of “darker shades” in the first runoff, and this is not an ideal condition for the election of the candidates that the voters find most desirable. If we want candidates that the voters truly desire to be elected, we should minimize the gray hat syndrome, and the best way to accomplish that would be to adopt a three-consecutive runoff voting method. It does require three runoff elections, but it seems that voters would still be more inclined to participate if understood that they could have a real say in election outcomes.
In the first runoff of a three-consecutive runoff method, the approval method is used to choose the six candidates with the most votes, who would go on to the second runoff. In the second runoff, only the two candidates with the most votes go on to the third runoff (so no third candidate could become a “spoiler”), and the one candidate who achieves an absolute majority then becomes the winner.
Totally unlike the abstract, ranked voting proposals of academic game theorists, these methods really are just as simple as they appear. All the counting involves nothing more exotic than simple arithmetic. The public is not so ignorant as many game theorists seem to prefer to believe, and people will get out and vote once they realize they really have choices.
There are many steps that could be taken to make voting easier. Why not give the voters two days to vote, say, the first Friday and Saturday in the month of June, when the weather is comfortable? Silly tricks like declaring election days holidays are not likely to reduce the public’s cynicism. Again, election juries should control each voting station, and all results should be announced publicly at each polling station at the end of each day of voting, before being handed up into larger pools of tabulation. And of course, all ballots should be paper ballots, since computers will always be rigged by people who have powerful special interests to promote. People will vote once they are provided with real choices.
I have tried to run three-consecutive runoff voting elections on three (other) progressive “social” blogs, and hardly anyone showed any interest. One Blog Master even ridiculed my attempt, claimed I was distracting from the all-important effort to elect Obama, called me names, and banned me. Well my ego should not be an issue. Since we are caught in a system that effectively makes all elections essentially meaningless, why do we waste effort discussing political issues. Why bother when we have no power to begin with?