Re: Why plurality is not "wrong"

From: Eron Lloyd <elloyd_at_lancaster_dot_lib_dot_pa_dot_us>
Date: Sat Apr 17 2004 - 05:27:00 CDT


It's good that you are interested in these issues, but this is not the forum.
If you'd like, come on over to
where we discuss these issues *every day*. Also, join up with the Center for
Voting and Democracy (, which is THE organization leading
the charge for election reform.

Within the OVC, we need people rolling up their sleeves and assisting in
moving us forward with our very explicit goal: producing the best e-voting
solution possible. Once that is done, we can examine other avenues (within
the limited boundaries of our purpose).

Right now, we need testers, documentation writers, coders, and promoters.
Ideas abound here, but bringing them to fruition is the biggest challenge.



On Saturday 17 April 2004 12:45 am, Jeff Almeida wrote:
> Also Sprach David Mertz:
> >Jeff has been pushing the notion that plurality voting is somehow wrong
> >technically, not simply something he disagrees with politically.
> >
> >Jeff's notion is simply misguided--Jeff's criteria for what he would
> >consider the "correct" outcome is not uniformly shared by all voters
> >(or probably even most voters).
> Nonsense. You're making the assumption that I care (in a mathematical
> sense; obviously I do have a political opinion on the subject) which of
> the other outcomes is chosen -- I do not. The problem with plurality is
> not the sort of Al-George-Ralph problem people generally use where two
> candidates are close and which one wins is determined (or not) by the
> failed second-choice of the minor candidate. The problem with plurality
> is the degenerate case that lives at the very center of the solution
> space, the one Saari talks about WRT both Jesse Ventura and his famous
> "Band Vacation to Upper Michigan" text.
> Fundamentally, while it is reasonably difficult (in fact, Arrow's theorem
> suggests a scenario could exist where the choice of counting method could
> make any one of the three win) to determine the winner of such a three-way
> contest, it is on the other hand fairly simple to determine who should NOT
> win such a race: if you admit ANY non-cyclic order relation on the
> candidate set for each voter, then should any one of the candidates be the
> last place choice of a majority of the electorate, it is reasonable to
> conclude that that candidate should not win the election. Unfortunately,
> that is precisely what happened in Minnesota in 1998, where poll numbers
> suggest overwhelming percentages of Coleman voters preferred Humphrey to
> Ventura and vice-versa.
> To borrow Saari's quote from an article in the November 2000 issue of
> Discover magazine, "The plurality vote is the only procedure that will
> elect someone who's despised by almost two thirds of the voters." THAT is
> the fundamental flaw with pluralities, and it is a technical, not a
> political problem. For further contrast of pluralities v. runoffs, I'd
> point you to sec. 3.5.5 of Saari's book "Geometry of Voting"
> (Springer-Verlag, 1994).
> Besides which, if you read what I have been saying closely, I have never
> argued that we should be unwilling to tabluate a plurality winner. All
> I'm asking is that we include a blanket caveat that pluralities are more
> likely to admit aborrent results, much like using a toaster while sitting
> in a bathtub.
> jeff :)

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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:10 2004

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