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Thread: "Optimal" voting systems?

  1. #1 "Optimal" voting systems? 
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    A nonexistence of the optimal voting system can be proven in many situations, I wanted to propose a general discussion about choosing the best voting systems for various purposes and countries.
    Especially regarding the most interesting - parliamentary election: there is a territory divided into districts in which people vote for local candidates (usually representing one of parties), and we want to find seat apportionment to fulfill two priorities:
    1) The total number of seats of different parties is proportional to their total number of votes,
    2) Locally there are chosen those having majority of votes.
    Unfortunately these two priorities exclude each other – there are usually used systems based on the first one (proportional representation, e.g. Holland, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Brazil) or the second (e.g. single-member district - USA, Canada). As we would like to fulfill both priorities, there are also mixed systems (e.g. Germany), like: half of the seats are chosen by local majorities, half by proportional representation – what has some technical difficulties to fulfill. There is also being developed more modern biproportional apportionment to fulfill both priorities at once, but it based on approximations.

    I think that in the age of computers we don’t have to be satisfied by some approximation, as we can find the optimal apportionment – if only we would quantitatively define what do we mean by the best apportionment – define “optimality” function, such that we are searching for an apportionment having its highest value.
    Then a computer can start with some approximation and search nearby apportionments to find the best one. As it is a difficult computational problem, after voting statistics are announced, they could wait e.g. a day when everybody could search for a better apportionment (with higher “optimality” value) and finally the best found would be set.
    So the question is how to define this “optimality” function – it should be some average (e.g. weighted arithmetic) of terms corresponding to penalties of both priorities:
    1) minus distance of proportion of seats and proportion of votes, e.g. the simples Gallagher index. We could also take a more complex distance to emphasize the fact that accuracy is more essential for small parties (e.g. Kullback-Leibler).
    2) e.g. sum over districts of minus “the number of voters choosing a candidate with larger number of votes than the winner for this district” – for single-member districts (can be easily generalized). So it is kind of a number of people having a reason to complain as their candidate got more votes than the winer - it is zero if the one having majority has won.

    There has remained many questions, like what weights, distance, function in 2), averages should we choose. E.g. arithmetic average is more tolerable for compensating than geometric average (e.g. if 3,0 is better than 1,1 ?).
    Then, what kind of question should be asked – to motivate voters to come and to properly represent their choices. Maybe a choice of a single candidate, maybe a few, or maybe some preferential system?

    What would be the best voting systems and why – especially for your countries?
    What do we mean by the best apportionment – how to define the “optimality” function?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Only the rich and corrupt are in charge of all countries so trying to get better people elected won't ever happen.


    When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
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  4. #3  
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    If everybody would have such attitude, you would be completely right.
    Maybe some preferential voting system - where you can also vote against, would make you and others believe more in the strength of your vote - and so use it ... what can change a lot, especially for low frequency votings ...
    And you have voting not only in politics - how generally should we choose good methods to find best compromises?
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    I think it important to a society's psyche that the winner be elected by a majority of voters, as compared to a plurality. So, a nonpartisan blanket election might result in a majority of votes electing the winner, otherwise, it would narrow the field to two candidates, and a second round of voting would elect the winner.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  6. #5  
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    I think there's one aspect of voting that's overlooked here. That's whether the system is fair in the first place. That is, is it set up to best represent one vote, one value - or not?

    Being Australian, I'm horrified when I see reports of political parties in other countries having/getting control of drawing electoral boundaries. We used to have such lop-sided systems with the predictable results of one party being able to hold government in a state for decades when everyone knew that they would have lost frequently if the boundaries had been drawn fairly. Nowadays, political parties have a legitimate, stipulated role in making submissions when boundaries are reviewed by an independent body and they also have appeal rights against decisions. But they don't have the power to draw boundaries themselves.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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  7. #6  
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    I favor doing away with geographic districts and instead using what I call proxy voting. In essence, you can vote for any qualified candidate, with my preference being to define "qualified" as broadly as possible. In essence, all adult citizens who have not had voting rights removed by due process of a court (for committing criminal acts) should be considered qualified. You vote for whoever you want, not some narrowly defined list of candidates. You can "retain your proxy" simply by voting for yourself. Those who received votes (were "invested with proxies") get to vote on legislative bills with a voting strength equal to the number of proxies they wield.

    It is my view that voters largely feel voting is futile because the only candidates that they can vote for are people they dislike. This leads to a series of "lesser of two evils" contests that are decidedly unsatisfying. In a winner take all two party system like we currently have in the United States, voters only get a choice between the candidates put forth by the two parties, and for all intents and purposes these candidates are preselected by wealthy campaign contributors with little input from ordinary citizens. I propose to do away with this preselection, to reduce the influence of the rich and increase the influence of ordinary citizens by letting people vote for whoever they like. And with no geographic districts there is no gerrymandering.
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  8. #7  
    not ADM!N grmpysmrf's Avatar
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    This is pretty accurate..
    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Stalin
    The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.
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    "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
    President Dwight Eisenhower
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    I think it important to a society's psyche that the winner be elected by a majority of voters, as compared to a plurality. .
    The irony is the US Presidential elections have 18 times elected the person who neither plurality or the majority. But does it really make that much of a difference? Consider that Obama who's the first president to grab a majority (both elections) in more than half a century is without a doubt one not fully accepted by a huge part of the country.
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  10. #9  
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    adelady, indeed manipulating boundaries is an important issue - so called Gerrymandering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    It mainly concerns single-member district system - those based on proportionally apportionment or both priorities should be more resistant.

    danhanegan, allowing people also to vote against, like in preferential systems, should motivate more of them to vote.


    grmpysmgr, indeed voting frauds is an important issue, e.g. regarding Stalin's nation: Russian legislative election, 2011 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Fortunately it rather concern only some countries - see e.g. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/20...22109.full.pdf
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    I favor doing away with geographic districts and instead using what I call proxy voting. In essence, you can vote for any qualified candidate, with my preference being to define "qualified" as broadly as possible. In essence, all adult citizens who have not had voting rights removed by due process of a court (for committing criminal acts) should be considered qualified. You vote for whoever you want, not some narrowly defined list of candidates. You can "retain your proxy" simply by voting for yourself. Those who received votes (were "invested with proxies") get to vote on legislative bills with a voting strength equal to the number of proxies they wield.

    It is my view that voters largely feel voting is futile because the only candidates that they can vote for are people they dislike. This leads to a series of "lesser of two evils" contests that are decidedly unsatisfying. In a winner take all two party system like we currently have in the United States, voters only get a choice between the candidates put forth by the two parties, and for all intents and purposes these candidates are preselected by wealthy campaign contributors with little input from ordinary citizens. I propose to do away with this preselection, to reduce the influence of the rich and increase the influence of ordinary citizens by letting people vote for whoever they like. And with no geographic districts there is no gerrymandering.
    I forsee that as a system where absolutely nothing gets achieved ever. Every single piece of legislation is going to piss some people off and giving the decision to a sample of the general public pretty much guarantees it will never pass. And who, in that system, would be proposing the legislation in the first place? The general public? Prepare for a torrent of frivolous garbage. :P
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  12. #11  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    I'm surprised Wikipedia's gerrymandering article didn't mention Arizona's 2nd congressional district from 2003 to 2013.



    "The odd shape of the district was indicative of the use of gerrymandering in its construction. The unusual division was not, however, drawn to favor politicians. Owing to historic tensions between the Hopi and the Navajo Native American tribes and since tribal boundary disputes are a federal matter, it was thought inappropriate that both tribes should be represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by the same member. Since the Hopi reservation is completely surrounded by the Navajo reservation, and in order to comply with current Arizona redistricting laws, some means of connection was required that avoided including large portions of Navajo land, hence the narrow riverine connection."

    source
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarek Duda View Post
    Especially regarding the most interesting - parliamentary election: there is a territory divided into districts in which people vote for local candidates (usually representing one of parties), and we want to find seat apportionment to fulfill two priorities:
    1) The total number of seats of different parties is proportional to their total number of votes,
    2) Locally there are chosen those having majority of votes.
    I prefer proportional or mixed systems, since many people tend to vote for parties.

    Even with single-member districts, it's possible to improve on first-past-the-post. One can do a delayed top-two runoff or do instant runoff voting. FPTP is well-known for its vulnerability to spoilers, and delayed runoffs are somewhat less vulnerable. IRV is much less vulnerable, although one has to rank candidates by preference.
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  14. #13  
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    Or you could go the whole hog and take on the Hare-Clark system they use in Tasmania.

    Candidates are elected by achieving a quota of votes, and those votes can be made up by votes cast for the candidate, or votes transferred to the candidate as preferences. Hence the term 'quota-preferential'. Quota preferential systems are used for the Senate, to elect upper houses in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and from 2006, the Victorian Legislative Council. It is also used for local government elections in some states.

    In terms of how the count is conducted, there are only minor differences between the Senate-style systems and Hare-Clark. The real difference is created by the way the Senate system favours parties, while Hare-Clark gives greater weight to candidates.
    Worth reading for anyone interested in varieties of voting systems. Hare Clark Explained. Antony Green Election Guide. Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC).

    The great advantage of this system is that nearly every voter finishes up with someone representing their district that they feel comfortable in approaching with personal problems or policy proposals. Usually there are 2 of each from the major parties plus one other, nowadays that would be Green, but there were other parties in the past that filled the same role. There are some people of course who vote for rank outsiders who will never be in that position so you can't please them, but in the rest of the country Liberal voters who live in an electorate that elected a Labor or Green representative are often reluctant to approach them and the same goes when the situation is reversed. A Hare-Clark arrangement, which is really just aggregates current electoral boundaries, means that Labor voters and Liberal voters - who are the great majority - all have at least one or two Labor/ Liberal members representing their district.

    The reason why most big political parties don't like this system is their own self interest. It more or less guarantees that some minor party and independent members will be elected. Fewer seats for the big parties even if they win government in their own right.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  15. #14  
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    This cartoon is hilarious for all the Aussies and NZedders here who've kept up with yesterday's bombshell in Oz politics.

    First Dog on the Moon on ... the new Senate

    Others might find our "irreverence" (perhaps better described as vulgarity) when making fun of our politicians and their shenanigans a bit much. But yesterday? A multi-billionaire coal mines owner, who refused until last week to pay the carbon tax assessed on his operations, fronts up to our media with Al Gore in tow to throw a whole toolbox of spanners in Tony Abbott's climate "policy" set up. No one, absolutely no one, not a comedian, not a political commentator, not a climate fanatic, no one at all made any predictions remotely as weird as this.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  16. #15  
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    I think that choosing a winner is short-sighted and irrelevant. As citizens we'd better focus on altering the behaviour of politicians and parties. And because they must always be shameless vote-suckers, it's not really difficult: the party will always (re)position itself to capture our votes. If they're "losing" a perhaps crucial 5% of support to the anarchist/communist/nazi/green/UFO party, then they'll alter policy and campaign to win over the fringey voters. All other voting strategies cause major parties to align, though of course they pretend to be as different as Coke and Pepsi.

    If the big party you don't like keeps winning elections, but shifts a bit your way every time, you're winning. Sometimes you can win a war by evading many battles.

    So the solution is up to voters looking further than the current election, what their part in the statistics does to politicians.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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