Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Interesting pro-IRV site that talks about problems with centrallized processing of IRV ballots

Did more searching of google using "IRV sucks" as my search criteria, and this popped up - http://www.braindoll.net/vote/ for general site, and this particular link for hand counting IRV: http://www.braindoll.net/vote/#Technicalities%20(or:%20I%27m%20a%20geek).5

5.5. How could you do a hand count for IRV?
If you have all the ballots in one place, it's easy. Separate the ballots into counted piles according to the first choice marked. If no one pile is 50%, take the smallest pile, cross out the first choice on those ballots, and redistribute. If any have no choices left, put them in an "exhausted" pile. Continue the process until one candidate's pile is over 50% of the ballots NOT in the "exhausted" pile.

The problem is that you have to have all the ballots in one place. You can transmit them physically or electronically, but you need every individual ballot. However you transmit them, it's an opportunity for fraud or incompetence.

If you don't have the ballots in one place, you can do the first count, transmit the results to a central location, wait until everyone else finishes and the results are all in, recieve the word of who to eliminate, recount those ballots, retransmit the results, wait again... It's a lot of chatter back and forth, and a lot of waiting for the slowest counter, not just once, but several times.

This is one of the biggest problems that I see with IRV in North Carolina or anywhere else - the fact that vote counting will now rely on central processing, not just central reporting. This seems to make sense for paper ballots, but here's where it gets much more difficult if not IMPPOSSIBLE....how do you do the manual counts, recounts and audits of IRV elections?

5.11. So using the same mathematical language in Arrow's theorem, what are the flaws in IRV? In VOTE-123?

Both of them have problems with independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIAC). This means that they can be manipulated by controlling the pool of candidates. It also means that the voters can change the results by strategically ignoring (down-ranking) certain candidates who have no chance.

5.12. Wait a minute. Up above you say that under VOTE-123 "You can always vote honestly, period." But here you seem to be contradicting that by saying that no voting system can be perfect that way.

OK, you caught me. There's a theorem related to Arrow's theorem (the 'Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem') that shows that there is no voting system without some strategy - that is, some situation where an omniscient voter could vote dishonestly and thus increase their satisfaction. But just as you can mathematically prove that there's always a situation like that, you can mathematically prove that (especially given the right tiebreaker) under VOTE-123 it is always too risky to try it. Specifically:

Strategic voting only works under VOTE-123 if, either before or after the strategic changing of votes, there is a "Condorcet tie" - what I've been calling a three-way tie. This situation is very rare - as I said, it involves nearly-balanced voting blocs which not only disagree about which candidate is better, but also about which candidates are similar to each other. Most especially, it is very, very hard to predict accurately using polls. Most people will never make the effort to reliably tell pollsters who their second choice will be, and in such a closely-balanced situation the tiniest polling error could throw off the poll's results. And if you switch around your vote based on a poll that's wrong, you're more likely to end up hurting than helping yourself - especially since your plans will probably leak out and people can plan a counterstrategy.

So, you can still say it categorically: under VOTE-123, there is never a good reason to vote strategically.

And from the same source - http://www.braindoll.net/vote/#The%20politics%20of%20PV%20(or:%20Get%20Involved).5.2 they claim that FairVoteSF coughed up $87,000 to push the pro-IRV Proposition A in 2002.

2.5.2. San Francisco, 2002: IRV vs. Lobbyists
For a more modern case, I plan to do an analysis of the San Francisco vote on Prop A (to use IRV in city elections) which passed in 2001. There were two committees against Prop A: one small committee of honest skeptics, and one that was run by Jim Sutton, the guy who's the lawyer for all the big-money campaigns in San Francisco. He used his whole bag of shady tricks to run a last-minute lying smear campaign without having to disclose anything about his funding until long after the election is over. (Once his funding disclosures come out in August 2002 and I have time to analyze them, I'll give you the details.)

Preliminary numbers from the Department of Ethics Forms 460: "No on A", a small committee formed by some people honestly suspicious of that the SF department of elections couldn't handle IRV, had a total budget of about $500.

It's easy to understand why some people felt that San Francisco Dept. of Elections couldn't handle IRV. One posting on here from the FairVote site shows they had doubts that SF could handle IRV in 2004! And it really hasn't gotten any better - between the reports that San Francisco still doesn't have a certified method to tabulate IRV votes, the civil grand jury that states there are still voter education problems after 4 IRV elections, as well as the month's-long IRV tabulation - they still have much to work out after 4 IRV elections.

Do we really want to buy into all that hassle? We must investigate cheaper and less complicated alternatives to IRV to deal with the occasional need for runoff elections. San Francisco has proved IRV isn't the way for NC to do it.

"San Franciscans for Voter Rights", an anti-IRV PAC formed by a big-time downtown lobbyist, declared in the last 16 days before the election to try to get around reporting requirements, sent out lying hit pieces using about $77,000. This originally came entirely from downtown businesses, most of it came funnelled through big PACs (such as $61,000 from the "committee on JOBS") which have a long term reputation for backing corporate-written bills (for instance, insurance industry bills, etc.).

If you add up the other contributions of those same large PACs to various "voter guide" organizations (the "so-and-so Democratic club", etc.) which all conveniently had a "No on A" stance, there are over $100,000 EXTRA (in addition to the amounts above). There were obviously other issues on the ballot, but given the way many of these "voter guides" highlighted their measure A "NO" with bold face, I think that it's fair to count at least 10% of this as anti-A money; so count this as another $10,000

Add in 1/2 of the $32,000 staff expenses, January-March, for "San Francisco Chamber of Commerce 21st Century Fund", which although it is supposed to be a "general" lobbying organization took up no other issues in this race: another $16,000

Total anti-A money: over $100,000

For balance, the pro-a money:

"Fair Vote SF", a pro-A group, got $87,000 from small contributions from individuals, most (about $55,000) of it funneled through national or state PACs that see voting reform as important (primarily Center for Voting and Democracy).

Using the same analysis as above (what else did the pro-A PACs do with their money?) there is no extra money to report. Obviously there were pro-A "voter guides", but these voter guides did not get money from clearly pro-A PAC's. Not surprising: generally, the forces of good have simpler accounting practices than the forces of evil. (For full disclosure - the CVD did give $2,713 to "Matt Gonzalez for Supervisor")

Total pro-A money: $87,000

Pro IRV sources in FL claim that FairVote contributed thousands if not tens of thousands in money and staff time to push IRV in Sarasota. I wonder how much they spent to push IRV in general and in Cary and Hendersonville in particular that never got included in the cost of implementing IRV?

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