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Author Topic: Alternative Vote  (Read 355 times)

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Offline AndyZTopic starter

Alternative Vote
« on: February 10, 2015, 02:31:42 AM »
So a lot of people who read through my stuff already know that I'm not all that great at this stuff.  I want to apologize in advance if I upset anyone.

Here's a video I saw a while back:

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide

To me, this would fix an awful lot of the issues we have now.  I think the two-party system is crap and seriously doubt I'm alone.

So I'll toss down a few questions.

1.) Is this better than what we have now?

2.) Is there an even better method than this?

3.) Is there a way to make a better method (whether this or another) feasible?


Offline Caehlim

Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2015, 01:28:45 PM »
This is the system that we have in Australia, with one difference.

You can either choose to write in your preferences, number every candidate in order (called voting below the line, because this is on the bottom of the sheet). This works exactly the same as the situation shown in the video, except not everyone does it because you usually have to number about 70 candidates in order to do this. (I always vote this way though personally).

Or alternatively you can place a single vote above the line if you're not all that fussed. When you vote above the line rather than using your personal preferences, if whoever you elected lost then they put their own preferences in place as to who their vote goes to. This means all of the minor parties have strong negotiations with each-other and the major parties about who their preferences go to.

As a result of this we also have two major parties. The Labour Party and the Coalition. (Technically speaking the Coalition is two parties, the Liberals and Nationals but they have a semi-permanent partnership with one another dating back decades and in most situations act as though they're a single party).

However we have other significant parties that manage to be in the elections, such as the Greens, who are our main third party. Generally they manage to have just enough seats in parliament to be the deciding vote on a lot of issues. There's also the Democrats who were the main third choice party before the Greens took over in that role. We'll also generally see a few independents in there who don't belong to any political party and while they're frequently very minor they can shift the vote on anything that's just close to an even split, which means they can negotiate to use those votes in exchange for real change somewhere else.

Other minor parties come and go such as Family First (extreme conservative christian values group), One Nation (a racist anti-immigration party), Palmer United (the very weird political party of an eccentric billionaire) that usually only get a couple of seats and basically act like independents. There are tons more that run in the elections but never actually get any seats in parliament because their share of the votes is far too small.

So yes, it does seem to encourage the existence of other parties and frequently creates a more active political system, since whichever main party gets in they frequently need the cooperation of other smaller parties to get bills passed. Personally I think it's a better system but I may be biased because it's what I'm used to.

Offline consortium11

Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2015, 02:20:05 PM »
There was a discussion on this a couple of years back for anyone who wants some background/context.

Alternative vote/single transferable vote/standard transferable vote (all the terms basically mean the same thing) does have a lot going for it; it retains many of the strengths of FPTP while also mitigating some of the weaknesses. That said, it also has some pretty deep flaws (as all systems do for that matter). The most obvious is inherent to the system; elections under AV tend to be won not by the party that people like most but by the party they dislike least, with elections decided by who manages to pick up the most second, third, fourth, fifth etc preferences. In essence it becomes less about what party people really support and more about which party is most inoffensive. I don't think that's the way elections should be won... I think they should be decided by who the most people support. STV can conceivably lead to a party that has 49.9999....% of the first preference votes losing to one that has far, far less... that strikes me as being an issue. Take the below example:

10 parties, 100 votes (note, I'm using "parties" here but depending on the electoral system it could well be "candidates" instead; read one, the other or both into it)

Party A gets 46
Party B gets 10
Party C gets 9
Party D gets 8
Party E gets 7
Party F gets 6
Party G gets 5
Party H gets 4
Party I gets 3
Party J gets 2

Now, if every voter ended up ranking their second, third etc preferences onwards in reverse popularity order (so those who voted for E had J as second, I as third, H as fourth etc etc) then the eventual winner of that election would be "I"; J is eliminated first giving I five votes, then H goes giving I nine, then G goes giving I 14, then F goes giving I 20, then E goes giving I 27, then D goes giving I 35, then C goes giving I 44 and finally B goes giving I 54 and the win. But only 3% of people really wanted I. It also presents an issue that despite J being the universal second choice and thus on paper the most acceptable answer, they're eliminated first and thus it no longer matters that everyone has them as their second choice. It can become even more complex when the votes aren't that simplistic; you'll have situations where a party wins not because they were second or third choice but because they were fifth and sixth choice. One could conceivably get around this by lessening the value of preferences beyond the first (so a first preferences counts for one, a second preference 0.5 etc etc) but that leads to horribly complicated maths.

STV also gives a huge amount more power to voters who use all their preferences compared to those who don't. A voter who ranks every single candidate has their vote counted at each runoff. Someone who votes only for the party they really like? Their vote only counts until that party are eliminated and then they are disenfranchised. One could get around this by requiring people to rank every party but that runs the risk of "donkey voting" where people eventually rank candidates merely in the order they appear on a ballot.

The main other voting system compared to STV and FPTP is some form of proportional representation. In principle this works by giving each party the same percentage of representation as their vote percentage; so a party with 4% of available votes gets 4% of available seats. This is inherently fair but comes with its own issue; you'll rarely, if ever, get an outright winner and so you'll have to have a coalition government... frequently a grand coalition featuring a large number of parties. This has two main impacts; first, it gives a huge amount of "kingmaker" powers to minor parties, because a party with 5% of the vote can decide who to form a coalition with to make a government they can demand executive positions and some of their policies implemented despite their lack of popularity with the wider public. You frequently see this is PR systems... a party which is constantly part of the government and gets some of its policies implemented despite having a tiny percentage of the vote. Secondly it also prevents parties from implementing their more radical policies; let's say a party gets 40% of the vote on the basis that it will say, abolish all taxes. Despite being the most popular party and the reason for it being that popular being that it will abolish taxes if every other party opposes that measure then the party will have to drop that policy if it wants to form a government... leaving the 40% of the electorate who voted for them on that basis disappointed. That's more an issue with coalitions then with PR itself... but PR pretty much always leads to coalitions.

To mitigate that issue in practice few systems are that proportional (Israel is the closest to fully proportional that I know), instead putting a threshold in so a party needs to get say 5 or 10% of the vote before it can get seats. But that only mitigates it; you'll still see parties who just cross that line wield disproportionate power (arguably more in that case) and more radical policies dropped, while it also weakens the inherent fairness of PR (why should a party count if its gets 5% of a vote but not a party which gets 4.9%?).

PR also has the issue of moving power away from voters to the party. PR systems tend to use a "party list"; in the simple 100 vote system used earlier a party would list 100 people who would get seats if they won the entire vote and if it got 40% it would take the top 40 and give them seats. This has two effects... first, it removes the direct connection between me and who represents me; I didn't directly vote for them (and as a follow up it's virtually impossible to have a constituency system in PR so there's no-one who directly represents my area in power). The second is a continuation from that; because it's the party who gets to decide whether someone gets a seat or not (by changing where they stand on the party list) if there's ever an issue where the representative has to decide between standing with his party and standing with the voters there's an incentive to support the party; the party can simply move them down the list for the next election and thus almost guarantee they're not elected regardless of how popular the party is. On a side note, PR also largely prevents true independents.

There are some hybrid systems that try to get around some of these issues by combining them; AV+ is an obvious example. This works by combing STV and PR; voting is conducted as if it was simply an STV election but then the final results are "topped up" by PR following a list. So if there are 200 seats to be won that 150 would be decided entirely by STV but the last 50 would be awarded proportionately on the basis of the STV votes (so if a party got 10% of the first preferences but didn't get anyone elected through that it would get 5 representatives on the basis of 10% of 50 being 5. It's a compromise that mitigates both the strengths and weaknesses of both systems and has the additional issue of creating two classes of representatives; those directly elected and those chosen by the party.

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Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2015, 03:03:16 PM »
There was a discussion on this a couple of years back for anyone who wants some background/context.

I find it incredibly amusing that it was AndyZ who started that thread as well, for some reason.  I like to think we've now done all the possible topics of conversation and have just started cycling back over.

I have nothing on topic to add.

Offline consortium11

Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2015, 03:28:38 PM »
I like to think we've now done all the possible topics of conversation and have just started cycling back over.

I'm dreading the arrival of the next atheism/"why do you believe in God?" thread...

On a serious note there's pretty much always going to be a risk of this when it comes to topics that discuss ideas/systems rather than current affairs (or when a current affairs discussion moves to the wider ideas/concepts). And I use "risk" almost entirely incorrectly... it's been over three years since that last thread so it's not as if it's retreading ground we walked over last week.

Offline AndyZTopic starter

Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2015, 03:52:43 PM »
I honestly cannot remember starting this thread up before.  Thank you for pointing it out, though, Kythia ^_^ I probably just need a change in meds.

Offline Sethala

Re: Alternative Vote
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2015, 06:04:04 PM »
There was a discussion on this a couple of years back for anyone who wants some background/context.

Alternative vote/single transferable vote/standard transferable vote (all the terms basically mean the same thing) does have a lot going for it; it retains many of the strengths of FPTP while also mitigating some of the weaknesses. That said, it also has some pretty deep flaws (as all systems do for that matter). The most obvious is inherent to the system; elections under AV tend to be won not by the party that people like most but by the party they dislike least, with elections decided by who manages to pick up the most second, third, fourth, fifth etc preferences. In essence it becomes less about what party people really support and more about which party is most inoffensive. I don't think that's the way elections should be won... I think they should be decided by who the most people support. STV can conceivably lead to a party that has 49.9999....% of the first preference votes losing to one that has far, far less... that strikes me as being an issue. Take the below example:

10 parties, 100 votes (note, I'm using "parties" here but depending on the electoral system it could well be "candidates" instead; read one, the other or both into it)

Party A gets 46
Party B gets 10
Party C gets 9
Party D gets 8
Party E gets 7
Party F gets 6
Party G gets 5
Party H gets 4
Party I gets 3
Party J gets 2

Now, if every voter ended up ranking their second, third etc preferences onwards in reverse popularity order (so those who voted for E had J as second, I as third, H as fourth etc etc) then the eventual winner of that election would be "I"; J is eliminated first giving I five votes, then H goes giving I nine, then G goes giving I 14, then F goes giving I 20, then E goes giving I 27, then D goes giving I 35, then C goes giving I 44 and finally B goes giving I 54 and the win. But only 3% of people really wanted I. It also presents an issue that despite J being the universal second choice and thus on paper the most acceptable answer, they're eliminated first and thus it no longer matters that everyone has them as their second choice. It can become even more complex when the votes aren't that simplistic; you'll have situations where a party wins not because they were second or third choice but because they were fifth and sixth choice. One could conceivably get around this by lessening the value of preferences beyond the first (so a first preferences counts for one, a second preference 0.5 etc etc) but that leads to horribly complicated maths.

STV also gives a huge amount more power to voters who use all their preferences compared to those who don't. A voter who ranks every single candidate has their vote counted at each runoff. Someone who votes only for the party they really like? Their vote only counts until that party are eliminated and then they are disenfranchised. One could get around this by requiring people to rank every party but that runs the risk of "donkey voting" where people eventually rank candidates merely in the order they appear on a ballot.

The main other voting system compared to STV and FPTP is some form of proportional representation. In principle this works by giving each party the same percentage of representation as their vote percentage; so a party with 4% of available votes gets 4% of available seats. This is inherently fair but comes with its own issue; you'll rarely, if ever, get an outright winner and so you'll have to have a coalition government... frequently a grand coalition featuring a large number of parties. This has two main impacts; first, it gives a huge amount of "kingmaker" powers to minor parties, because a party with 5% of the vote can decide who to form a coalition with to make a government they can demand executive positions and some of their policies implemented despite their lack of popularity with the wider public. You frequently see this is PR systems... a party which is constantly part of the government and gets some of its policies implemented despite having a tiny percentage of the vote. Secondly it also prevents parties from implementing their more radical policies; let's say a party gets 40% of the vote on the basis that it will say, abolish all taxes. Despite being the most popular party and the reason for it being that popular being that it will abolish taxes if every other party opposes that measure then the party will have to drop that policy if it wants to form a government... leaving the 40% of the electorate who voted for them on that basis disappointed. That's more an issue with coalitions then with PR itself... but PR pretty much always leads to coalitions.

To mitigate that issue in practice few systems are that proportional (Israel is the closest to fully proportional that I know), instead putting a threshold in so a party needs to get say 5 or 10% of the vote before it can get seats. But that only mitigates it; you'll still see parties who just cross that line wield disproportionate power (arguably more in that case) and more radical policies dropped, while it also weakens the inherent fairness of PR (why should a party count if its gets 5% of a vote but not a party which gets 4.9%?).

PR also has the issue of moving power away from voters to the party. PR systems tend to use a "party list"; in the simple 100 vote system used earlier a party would list 100 people who would get seats if they won the entire vote and if it got 40% it would take the top 40 and give them seats. This has two effects... first, it removes the direct connection between me and who represents me; I didn't directly vote for them (and as a follow up it's virtually impossible to have a constituency system in PR so there's no-one who directly represents my area in power). The second is a continuation from that; because it's the party who gets to decide whether someone gets a seat or not (by changing where they stand on the party list) if there's ever an issue where the representative has to decide between standing with his party and standing with the voters there's an incentive to support the party; the party can simply move them down the list for the next election and thus almost guarantee they're not elected regardless of how popular the party is. On a side note, PR also largely prevents true independents.

There are some hybrid systems that try to get around some of these issues by combining them; AV+ is an obvious example. This works by combing STV and PR; voting is conducted as if it was simply an STV election but then the final results are "topped up" by PR following a list. So if there are 200 seats to be won that 150 would be decided entirely by STV but the last 50 would be awarded proportionately on the basis of the STV votes (so if a party got 10% of the first preferences but didn't get anyone elected through that it would get 5 representatives on the basis of 10% of 50 being 5. It's a compromise that mitigates both the strengths and weaknesses of both systems and has the additional issue of creating two classes of representatives; those directly elected and those chosen by the party.

I don't quite understand how the math for your example pans out, to be honest, would you mind explaining it a bit more?  I may just not be understanding the system as a whole...

As for a solution, here's my proposal off the top of my head: No matter how many options there are on the ballot, everyone votes by giving each option a rating between 0 and 4, and the results are tallied.  Any option not voted for is given a 2 by default.  There's no minimum or maximum of each number, either; someone can say "I'm only happy if A wins" and gives A the full 4 while giving everyone else 0, someone else can say "I'd really like B to win, but I'm fine with C and D, but A is terribly wrong", and then give 4 to B, 3 to C and D, 0 to A, and leave the rest blank.

As you said though, this has the potential for "donkey voting".  My solution for this is actually to steal an idea from Steam; simply put, every time you reload Steam's main page during a sale, the games on the front page sale are the same, but the order - and which game is in the "big box" - is different each time.  Similarly, the ballot could be randomized each time someone votes, so every candidate has an equal amount of time in the top position; that won't necessarily keep people from just voting the top few options, but it will mean that such votes will balance each other out.  Obviously, this is much easier to do on computerized ballots than on paper ones, but even paper ballots could be printed with a custom program to randomize the candidates on each copy (with the vote-counting machine likewise programmed to determine which position each candidate is in on each ballot).