Monday, November 19, 2012

Pendulum Or Plumb?

An engineer, a mechanic, and a statistician go on an African hunting safari. They spot a lion in the distance, and the engineer aims, and fires... but misses five feet to the left. The mechanic scoffs, takes aim, and fires... but misses five feet to the right. So the statistician jumps up and shouts "We got 'em!"

Since about WWII, congressional polarization has steadily increased. Over the last election cycle we've seen another wave of incumbent moderates forced from office, either by successful primary challenges (e.g. Richard Lugar), or via replacement with a more partisan candidate that's more in-line with the area's political leanings (e.g. Scott Brown or Ben Nelson). As a result, this month's election continues that trend and makes the US Congress yet more polarized than it already was.

With moderation virtually impossible to find in any one member of congress, many Americans have resigned themselves to the hope that, while political power will swing like a pendulum between too-far-left and too-far-right, the results will average out to be somewhere in the middle. (Or worse, they've resigned themselves to the despair that politics has become hopelessly and irrevocably polarized.)

But what if there's a better way? Plurality voting (as well as instant runoff voting) suffers from a problem known as "center squeeze", where if three candidates are running for office, the one in the center is at a significant disadvantage. And so overtime, despite the honest intentions of every voter, the political center is emptied of elected representation. But if we use a voting method that does not suffer from "center squeeze", such as approval voting, then we would see the opposite effect: Over time, more members of congress would be found in the center.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alternative Voting Methods Experiment by OWS

The Political and Electoral Reform working group, a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, performed an exit-poll survey experiment on alternative voting methods. It was conducted at a very Democratic-leaning precinct, but the results are still quite informative. By all three methods tested (approval, score, and instant runoff voting), the Green party won, and only under IRV did the Democrats even come in second. In the actual election, the precinct went heavily to the Democrats, of course.

Four More Years

My first entry to this blog was four years ago today, the day after the election, arguing that Mike Huckabee may have been a spoiler for Mitt Romney in the 2008 Republican primary election. Back then I was arguing in favor of Condorcet ranked pairs. It wouldn't be until January, after reading Gaming the Vote, that I would jump away from ranked methods entirely to support evaluative methods like approval voting. I have been constant on some things though; I've always been against IRV. (Mostly.)

Support for third-parties has also been a constant undercurrent here. Mostly, I think, because third-party supporters are the ones with the most to gain from, and therefore the most likely to listen to, what I have to say. But be sure to read up on your history, and to disabuse yourself of spurious arguments, if you want to be ready for what comes next.

I try to always argue from a logical—rather than emotional—perspective, but I find I sometimes have to tap into a bit of esoterically academic minutia. Still, I try my best to keep my points accessible, and I hope the steady gain in my audience over these four years means I've been successful on both fronts.

Thank you for reading. Here's to four more years!