Endorsement of Range Voting from Mike Ossipoff (August 2005)

I was a participant in the election-methods mailing list since its inception. I was one of its founding members. In fact, it was I who suggested forming the "Single-Winner Committee" that evolved into the election-methods (EM) mailing list, which now has international membership.

My voting system articles can be found at the URL: http://www.barnsdle.demon.co.uk/vote/sing.html.

I've made many suggestions and proposals about voting systems and criteria for evaluating them. Some people like my criteria and agree with my voting system proposals, and some don't, but I'm well-known in Internet voting system circles.

Having worked with, discussed, and debated voting systems since 1983, I've now retired from the subject.

When I retire from a subject, the retirement is complete, but I wanted to make one exception, and post to this endorsement page of the Range Voting website.

In recent years I've often said that Range Voting shares Approval's merits, while probably being a much more winnable public proposal, due to Range Voting's great public familiarity. Who hasn't been asked to rate something from 1 to 10? Of course RV more typically might use 0 to 10, -10 to +10, etc. Some Olympic events are judged by Range Voting, with ratings from 0 to 10.

I've often argued that Range Voting is probably the most promising place to apply voting system reform effort, because of its great familiarity, and because, merit-wise, it's one of the best proposals.

Range Voting is also sometimes referred to as Cardinal Ratings (CR), or "The point system".

Approval is a simple version of RV. I've often suggested that if someone wants to propose Appoval, they should first introduce RV, and then introduce Approval as a type of RV. But the more wide-range RV versions seem more winnable.

For me, the greatest advantage of RV, in all its versions, including Approval, is that the voter never has any incentive or need to vote someone over his/her favorite.

That sounds like an obvious criterion, but very few methods comply with it. Many of us on the election-methods list consider it so important that we have a name for it: The Favorite-Betrayal Criterion (FBC).

Though I always considered FBC to be important, recent conversations with voters has convinced me that FBC compliance is absolutely necessary, at least at this time in history. Even intelligent progressives will vote someone over their favorite in Condorcet, or any method that doesn't transparently guarantee that they have no reason to do so. To tell the truth, I'd do so myself when it would increase the probability that an acceptable candidate would win instead of an unacceptable one.

I used to say that RV (including Approval) is the only method that meets FBC. But it's recently been pointed out, by Kevin Venzke and Forest Simmons, on the election-methods mailing list, that there are a few rank methods that meet FBC. Those rank methods also offer additional criterion-compliances that can only be gotten by rank-balloting.

But, when praising those newly-discovered FBC-complying rank methods, I pointed out that :

  1. Their compliance with FBC isn't as transparently obvious as that of Range Voting.
  2. Those rank methods are new methods, rank methods among a galaxy of rank methods. There are innumerable ways to count rank ballots. There's one way to count range ballots: Add them up. People won't ask why we count it as we do.
  3. Range Voting is familiar and popular and therefore probably much more winnable than any rank method.

In addition to FBC, Range Voting has additional advantages. As has been pointed out elsewhere at this website, RV, at least when the range is sufficiently large, say at least 0 to 10, maximizes social utility and minimizes Bayesian regret, if voting is sincere. [WDS's note: this is only if votes are utilities. In practice, voters would scale them so the top candidate had utility 10 and the bottom one had utility 0 to that voter, and with such scaling it is not necessarily the case that the best-utility winner is elected. Nevertheless, computer simulations indicate range voting achieved better expected utility than all other methods tried in a large comparative study of about 30 common proposals.]

And all RV versions, including Approval, when voting is strategic, guarantee that, with a few plausible assumptions RV will maximize the number of voters for whom the utility of the winner is greater than their pre-election expectation for the election. In other words, with strategic voting, RV maximizes the number of voters who are pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

That's a lot of advantages for one method.

Before quitting here, I should mention that I suspect that people would enjoy the idea of being able to give negative point assignments, and so the RV versions such as -10 to 10 might be especially popular. I should add that all of the RV versions are strategically equivalent to each other. It makes no practical difference which is enacted. Choice among them should be based entirely on what seems more winnable with the public. Of course polling should guide that judgement, but my bet is on the methods with wider ranges than Approval, especially the ones allowing negative point assignments.

One last thing. A simple, but potentially likeable RV version would be the -1,0,1 version. If no mark indicates a 0 rating, then -1,0,1 could be implemented with the same ballots and count machinery used in our initiative voting, in which we can vote yes or no on a list of initiatives.

Well, this posting, the one exception to my retirement, is my last voting system discussion. Let's hope that RV succeeds. It's great that there's an RV website and advocacy organization now. I wish that the Approval organizations would include general RV as a proposal, since Approval is an RV version. The RV effort and the Approval effort are really one effort, and those two movements should combine their strength and resources as a single organization. At the very least the RV and Approval websites should exchange links.

Mike Ossipoff

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