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Electoral Games People Play


Steven Hill, a FairVote activist and proponent of Instant Runoff Voting, is mistaken in his criticism of score voting (aka range voting), and its simplified form, approval voting. He says:

"[Score voting] fine when voters don't care greatly about the outcome. But if range voting is used for public elections, once again smart candidates will urge their supporters to vote strategically by not rating other candidates—that is, to bullet vote. So range voting also would tend to regress to plurality voting."

This claim is simply false, as demonstrated by the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, in which NES polling data shows that 90% of the voters who preferred Nader voted for someone else, even though he passionately urged them to vote for their sincere favorite. This is an observation that Hill himself has made in numerous pro-IRV articles, e.g.:

"[With IRV] voters are liberated to vote for the candidates they really like without worrying about "spoilers." You can rank your favorite candidate first, knowing if she or he can't win, you haven't wasted your vote because it will go to your second choice."

So Hill is making two contradictory claims, depending on what happens to support his argument in a given context. This behavior is typical of FairVote activists, including Rob Richie and Terrill Bouricius. (You can see a similar response to this one, but addressed to Terrill Bouricius, here: )

It might surprise readers to know that Poundstone covered all this extensively in his book, after talking with mathematics and politics experts, like Warren Smith, the Princeton math Ph.D. who started the score voting movement. And various score voting advocates, including myself, have corrected Hill on this issue in the past. But FairVote has an agenda to implement proportional representation, and sees IRV as a stepping stone to that goal. And so they have absolutely no concern for what the math/politics experts say about better alternatives to IRV. They will simply ignore those facts and keep repeating these talking points.

Hill continues: "In short, range and approval voting sound good in theory but have serious shortcomings that become apparent when one takes into account human psychology and the blood sport of politics, with their disincentives to honest voting."

This is more deceptive propaganda.

IRV is _also_ susceptible to strategic voting.

And score voting yields more satisfying/representative election outcomes than IRV, even if we assume for the sake of argument that IRV results in less strategic voting.

I am somewhat shocked that an anti-science partisan like Steven Hill was offered the chance to write this review, given his complete lack of objectiveness on this issue.

Clay Shentrup
San Francisco, CA

posted by Clay Shentrup
October 12, 2008


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