About the Center for Range Voting

The CRV was founded in 2005 by me, Warren D. Smith jointly with Jan Kok. I'm a PhD mathematician who has studied voting methods for some years. Its goals are to

  1. educate the public about the advantages of range voting and comparative disadvantages of other systems (especially the USA's embarrassingly poor current "plurality" system), and
  2. lobby for its adoption.

The present website can be viewed as a huge collaboratively-written slowly-evolving book (as of 2103 it contains over 1000 web pages) about voting methods. As of 2103 Warren D. Smith is the main author/editor of this "book," but there are many others, (who are credited on the pages they wrote).

I do not feel I am terribly suited to the job of being a political activist and organizer. But I do know what I am doing about voting systems, and appreciate the tremendous benefit that they can bring humanity.

In fact I was the first to measure that benefit for the range voting system (in 2000, see paper #56 here) via massive computer election simulations with the aid of a statistical yardstick called Bayesian Regret. This measurement showed that range voting is superior to every other commonly proposed single-winner voting system. That was quite amazing. I had not expected any nearly as dramatic superiority of anything. And the superiority was very "robust," by which I mean, you could change all sorts of parameters inside the simulation, governing: voter behavior, number of candidates, number of voters, how the voters perceive the candidates, what is at stake, etc. – and no matter what you did, range voting remained on top of the heap. And the amount by which range was better, stunned me some more. Bayesian Regret is a quantitative measure roughly translatable to "dollars lost" or "lives wasted" as result of bad election results throughout history. The annual amount of such damage that would be eliminated by switching from our present plurality system to range voting, is comparable to or exceeds the annual improvement we got from adopting democracy in the first place. That is how major an improvement we are talking about here. And what it takes is incredibly small. This is probably the hugest improvement possible for humanity compared to the effort in principle needed to do it.

I tried to convince others of this. Little success. And all the time I was learning more about voting systems and what it would take to make them happen. Three important discoveries and realizations were

  1. When we conducted the first-ever study of range (and approval) voting with real random voters in a real election – the US 2004 presidential election – we found out that range voting gave tremendously improved vote counts to all third party candidates. That meant that it was realistic for us to hope for unified third party support. After all – it is their political "lives" at stake and this system is by far the best for them. (Unlike, say IRV which is not of any real benefit to third parties since it too merely locks in 2-party domination.)
  2. Jan Kok realized how Range Voting could be done with ordinary plurality-style voting machines. You can try our demo election to see how easy Range Voting would be, even on a plurality-style machine.
  3. The major parties want range voting in Iowa presidential caucuses: If (say) the Republicans get wise and do Range Voting in their Iowa 2008 caucuses then they will get a significantly better chance to win the presidency, good free publicity, and look like (and genuinely be) reformers. All for a total cost and risk of nothing!

These things meant that we could really realistically hope for reform.

So one day I just got disgusted with the lack of action (or the muddled and sometimes even suicidally stupid nature of what action there was – like third parties actually thinking IRV would be good for them) in the world in the voting reform area. And I also got disgusted with myself. Why am I the top expert about this and I'm doing nothing? So I decided to found my own group.

During that process I also learned about the huge amount of gerrymandering, artificially manipulated spoiled ballots, and ludicrous ballot access restrictions that sully the USA. We also want to eliminate them.

I hope it will grow huge and strong and powerful, and that many other people will take it far beyond my wildest dreams. Please Endorse us and/or join us and/or help us and/or join the blog.

Warren D. Smith, August 2005

About the Co-founders

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