RE: WHAT THE DEMO WILL DEMONSTRATE --voting methods, tabulation, and on-screen ballot

From: Arnie Urken <aurken_at_stevens-tech_dot_edu>
Date: Mon Aug 25 2003 - 22:56:08 CDT

Alan,

I am willing to take the lead on the tabulation work with different voting
methods, but I am not a programmer, so I will need to work with someone. I
can take the data and create aggregated results for precincts and
centralized districts and produce a colorful spreadsheet/table of results.

Although we could do all of the races, it may be too much to do for a demo.
Who are the audiences for the demo? Election officials and funding
agencies--including NSF? I agree that we should choose enough races to
illustrate the tabulation of the results under different voting methods, but
I need more information about the reasons for defining the voting rules on
your proposed ballot.

For example, is voting for up to three candidates typical of California
ballots? Is that the reason that you framed the cat catcher choice this way?
Unless it will rankle election officials in California, I would suggest
allowing voters to cast one vote for each choice that they "approve." This
framing of the vote will attract the attention of the national (and
international) movement to advance approval voting. This movement is very
concerned about technological impediments to the use of approval voting, so
our demonstration audience should be planned to invite state/local
advocates.

For the county commissioner race, the ranking of choices will appeal to the
advocates of Instant Referendum Vote at fairvote.com, particularly if we
show the steps in taking an indecisive outcome and transforming it into a
majoritarian outcome using the IRV methodology. But IRV advocates seem
oblivious to the strategic implications of collecting rank orderings. In
fact, they point to a couple pieces of software that distort voter input by
preventing a voter from, say, ranking Packard and Hewlitt in first place to
show that there is a tie. Our interface should allow ties and make use of
the information for the IRV method as well as the Borda, Condorcet, and
Copeland methods. When the data are summarized before submission, the
individual ranking should be displayed with a means of indicating a tie
(e.g., font, color,etc).

On write-in ballots, how will the voter's input be accepted and matched
against registered candidates? If there is a perfect match (no spelling
differences), the ballot can be accepted. But if there is a difference, the
possibile matches should be presented (with some identifiers) so that the
voter can confirm his/her intent. In ranking systems, there is an incentive
to submit more than one write-in. Are there limits by state law? We should
keep it simple, but take account of reality.

The fairvote folks state that you cannot hurt the chances that your favorite
choice will win if you rank all of the choices. This is nonsense, but they
believe it.

What we demonstrate about alternative scoring methods should be aimed at
showing that our intent is to be neutral about voting method religion. Your
suggestion that blank rankings be categorized as "no preference indicated"
is probably better than allowing incomplete ballots--though I see
"undervotes" as an expression of preference or confusion rather than error.
But if we use "no preference indicated," we should allow the voter to revise
the input when s/he views the summary before submitting the data.

Although I agree that it is easy to overdo item 11, on-screen beauty, I
think that item should be upgraded from "highly desirable" to "must have."
I would advise setting a high minimum standard rather than downgrading the
importance of the item. After all, whatever we can do to make a good
impression will be appreciated by sophisticated and general
audiences--including pictures that find their way into online, TV, and
printed media.

We need to work out a timetable for the ballot and reporting work. How many
voters should we include in a precinct and how many precincts are we using?
Is the central unit a county or a city?

Arnie
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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:16 2003

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