In Favor of Fine-grained Score Voting

This is the version of the argument I direct toward Libertarians.

Defeating the Two-Party System

First, a disclaimer about where I am coming from politically and why I am posting here [not here, on my ‘blog, but there, on a Libertarian group on Facebook].

The pinned post says, “Please understand that there are a lot of right-wing and left wing posters who do not represent the libertarian/Libertarian principles and philosophy, but may try to make you think they do.”

I do not represent the libertarian/Libertarian principles and philosophy.

I am a left-wing poster.

However, I suggest that Libertarians and some others have, or should have, a common interest, to break the stranglehold that the 1% has on US politics, a stranglehold they exert via the two-party system and lesser (not lessor) evilism.

The vote-for-one system increases and strengthens the bandwagon effect, where people tend to think that their vote won’t count unless they are voting for one of the “front runners” in the horse race. We have to advocate for, and spread information about, better voting systems, such as would help unpopular parties and ideas move in from the fringe and garner increased serious attention. We should want people to evaluate ideas on their merits, not on whether the ideas have big-money support. We should want people to feel free to vote for candidates whose ideas impress them, even during stages of history where the candidates are not very popular. With such advanced voting systems, the outcomes of (single winner) elections would include not only the determination of the winner, but also some information about who is gaining in popularity and may be worth some consideration to evaluate their ideas.

For single-winner elections (e. g. governor of a State), I recommend either Approval Voting or finer-grained Range Voting also called Score Voting.

The reason I use that qualification, “finer-grained”, is that in fact Approval Voting is a subcategory of Range Voting.

In Approval Voting, the voters indicate on their ballots, which candidates they “approve”. The candidate receiving the highest count of approvals wins.

In Range Voting also known as Score Voting, the voters are invited to rate or grade so many of the candidates as they choose to, on some range of permissible values. The range is fixed by the election design. For example, it could go from -50 to 50. The election tallying process determines for each candidate, the sum of the scores awarded that candidate by the voters via their ballots. The candidate with the highest total wins.

If write-ins are allowed, the election design has to tell what score they should get from voters who don’t write them in. In my opinion, this should be the bottom of the range.

I think Approval Voting offers a strategy whereby the supporters of unpopular parties or ideas can work their way in. I will discuss that with anyone who asks what that strategy is.

With finer-grained Range Voting, if the grain is fine enough, I think the strategy is easier to explain. When I refer to grain, what I mean is, how close is the second-highest permissible score to the highest one, expressed as a proportion of the length of the whole range. If the range has only two values, the system amounts to Approval Voting.

For those who have heard of “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV) and heard it touted as better than Approval or Score, I point to a simulation study that shows that IRV behaves pathologically. See under the heading “Shattered” in

If you have heard that “ranked-choice voting” is the answer, that’s probably an attempt to sell you IRV under a different name. Otherwise, I want to know what tallying method is being advocated to use with ranking ballots. Anyway, all ranking systems are subject to Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem.

I favor Score Voting also known as Range Voting. I will now argue as to the fineness or coarseness of the range to use.

One of the concerns I have about voting systems is about whether a system helps a party (or a set of ideas), that is on the fringe in terms of levels of popular support, to move toward being considered seriously by larger proportions of the public. In the earliest stage of such a movement, it’s important for the voters who want to promote the fringe ideas or party, to be able to express support for candidates representing that fringe while also effectively supporting their compromise candidates against their worst candidates, so as to avoid being a victim of political blackmail. In an example election that I lay out in , I present I think a fairly realistic idea of how the 2012 POTUS election might have gone with fine-grained score voting. In this fantasy I depict the Greens fully supporting their candidate while giving .99 support to their compromise candidate, Mr. Obama. I don’t remember for sure, but I’m pretty sure that the voter counts in tab “tab01” reflect the actual election, based on the votes for Obama, Romney, Stein, and the other candidates. So I used the vote count for Stein as my estimate of the count of Green voters. Of course this is somewhat of an undercount, since the real election went by plurality (within States to determine the electoral votes) and so many of the Green voters, we can quite justifiably suppose they voted strategically against Stein. However, if we imagine that the first score election happened in 2012 and everything prior went by plurality, the mentality of the people wouldn’t have time to adjust to the possibilities of score voting, and so many of the voters still wouldn’t have taken up Green party membership and advocacy. So for such a state of public mentality, the actual count of Stein voters gives us the order of magnitude of Green adherence. These remarks about Stein and the Greens apply similarly to Johnson and the Libertarians.

To study what can happen with such a fringe when their action could actually affect the corporate portion of the election, let’s make some perturbed versions of this election where we imagine the Elephant and Donkey voter counts as closer together. I probably started this spreadsheet years ago and supposed the Green voters would vote their feelings about Obama, or my feelings, rather than use proper strategy, so I had them giving him .1 although now I think that for strategic reasons, they should give him .99. So in tab “tab02”, I’m adjusting that score to .99 and similarly having the Libertarian voters score Romney .99 for the same strategic reasons from what I suppose their viewpoint to be about who is the worst candidate and who is the compromise candidate. I jack up the count of Elephant voters to equal that of the Donkey voters, and Romney wins because the Libertarian voters, as few as they are, still overwhelm the Green voters.

In tab “tab03”, I cherry-pick the count of Elephant voters so Romney just barely wins.

For tab “tab04”, I suppose that (1) the Score granularity is now .1 instead of .01, that (2) the voters are not intelligent enough to use random variables to simulate finer Score voting, and that (3) no one wants to give anyone but their favorite a perfect score. The result is that the wrong candidate wins, Obama instead of Romney. This is why I promote .01 granularity near the extremes of the range.

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