A recent puff piece at BeyondChron.org casts "dissenters" to the Instant Runoff Voting system as representing business interests. While I don't expect them to publish it, here was my response.

This article does not give an accurate account of what went on that day.

I am not a "member of the business community", but rather a proponent of election system reform. I co-founded the Center for Election Science, a not-for-profit organization which researches voting systems and related issues. Our president, a Princeton math Ph.D. named Warren Smith, created this solution to prevent Gerrymandering for example:

Along with my associate, Dominic Paris, I explained that the IRV proponents have made a number of highly misleading and even outright false arguments.

For instance, attributing the increase in the board's diversity to the use of IRV, even though 38 of the 40 races to which IRV applied would have had the same outcome under the rules of Plurality Voting. (The two exceptions were Malia Cohen in D10, and Mark Farrell in D2.)
See http://www.electology.org/irv-diversity-sf

Or arguing that IRV has increased voter turnout, which is not supported by a thorough statistical analysis of the historical data.

Another claim was that IRV allows you to safely cast your sincere preferences in order. This is also false. In the 2009 IRV mayoral race is Burlington, Vermont, the Republican voters who preferred the Democrat to the Progressive got a worse result for being sincere. If they had insincerely ranked the Democrat in first place, then they would have gotten their second choice instead of their third choice, because that would have caused the Democrat to win instead of the Progressive. The Republican was a "spoiler" in that race, and they "threw away their vote" on the Republican. Moreover, it is the generally beneficial strategy with IRV to top-rank your favorite AMONG THE PERCEIVED FRONTRUNNERS regardless of who your overall sincere favorite candidate is.

During this hearing, I handed a brief note to Judy Cox, explaining this. Rather than engaging me in a polite and honest discussion of this matter, and showing some sign of a careful open-minded consideration of the facts, she simply handed the note off to Steve Hill. I have no idea why. All I know is that I have seen a near-uniform tendency of IRV proponents to totally refuse any kind of deep and scientifically rigorous dialog on this complex subject.

IRV may be a bit better than the traditional runoff system, when all factors are combined. But it remains essentially the worst of the commonly discussed alternative voting systems, as you can see in this graph of Bayesian Regret values from page 239 of William Pounstone's book _Gaming the Vote_.

Score Voting and Approval Voting, for instance, are simpler and superior in essentially every way.

But rather than embrace them as viable alternatives (which, to be fair, would benefit from more political vetting), IRV proponents such as Steve Hill have shot them down with a laundry list of absurd criticisms which are totally out of line with empirical data and game theoretical analysis. E.g. the "bullet voting" criticism:

I urge you to publish fact-based criticisms such as mine, in the name of maximizing understanding of this issue and leading voters to make the most informed decision possible.

Clay Shentrup
Noe Valley

1 comment:

Tony Santos, former Mayor said...

The San Francisco community should read Mr. Shentrup's comments and accept his thesis as he is correct. If RCV was so great, why would communities using RCV for first time repeal it. Note Burlington, Vermont, Cary, North Carolina, Aspen, Colorado and Pierce County, Washington all repealed RCV elections after using it once; further, England, Fort Collins, Co and Tuscon, Arizona all voted against its use. Hawaii after a lengthy debate tabled the matter. The bottom line is RCV is the worst system to use in elections-runoff and plurality equally better.