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Re: An ammendment (Re: Formal CFV: General Resolution to Abolish Non-Free)

On Sat, June 10, 2000 10:00 PM, Branden Robinson wrote:

>On Sat, Jun 10, 2000 at 09:53:40PM -0500, Chris Lawrence wrote:
>> Now follows a dissertation on the voting system:
>Thanks for the primer; this was quite possibly the most useful message in
>this entire thread.

Except that Chris Lawrence is mistaken as to how Condorcet's method is
implemented within the Debian Project.  Yesterday he wrote:

>A primer on Concordet: you should rank all options unless there is an
>option you honestly don't care about.  Not voting for an option IS NOT
>THE SAME as ranking it lower than another option.  For example, if you
>like John's proposal on the second ballot shown above, and vote 1---
>(- = no vote), you haven't really voted, because you haven't expressed
>any relative preferences.

While it is possible to interpret a ranked ballot in the way Chris Lawrence
suggested, the more usual practice is to consider all unranked options the
same as if they had been ranked EQUALLY LAST (as an aside, I am a
participant in something called the 'Election Methods (EM) List, where there
has been active discussion of Condorcet and other single-winner methods for
a number of years, and this is the usual assumption -- see
http://www.eskimo.com/~robla/politics/condorcet.html for more information).
So for Chris' example above, the ballot '1---' is treated exactly the same
as if the ballot had been marked '1444', thus scoring a total of 3 votes
(rather than 0), with the 1st option scoring 1 vote against the 2nd, 3rd,
and 4th options, respectively.  This is done in order to avoid the problem
he identified, for those who neglect to rank all the options explicitly.

It is easy to verify that the Debian Project's implementation of Condorcet's
method (for some reason called the 'Concorde' method in the Constitution
(?)) works this way, since complete sets of ballots and outcomes are
provided for certain elections.  Consider the following results from Vote

Vote 0002 Outcome
logo1 results - 107 valid votes

SINGLE License has:
    35 1st preference votes
    44 2nd preference votes
    9 3rd preference votes
    19 no preference votes
DUEL Licnese has:
    68 1st preference votes
    18 2nd preference votes
    6 3rd preference votes
    15 no preference votes
FURTHER Discussion has:
    4 1st preference votes
    29 2nd preference votes
    42 3rd preference votes
    32 no preference votes

SINGLE License
     Dominates FURTHER Discussion [77 - 20]

DUEL Licnese
     Dominates SINGLE License [69 - 37]
     Dominates FURTHER Discussion [85 - 17]

FURTHER Discussion


If you tally the number of votes a particular option received against all
the alternatives, it should be equal to 2*1st-preference votes + 1*2nd
preference votes (in this 3-way race), since a 1st preference will score 1
vote against the remaining two choices, and the 2nd preference will score a
vote against the last choice.  Verifying this with DUEL License, for
example, we get:

69+85 = 154 votes
68*2+18 = 154 votes -- check.

If Chris' interpretation of the ballots had been correct, this would not be
true, since some voters only ranked a single candidate, and their ballots
would not have counted *at all*.  Looking at the ballots themselves, we see:

Discussion -----+
Licnese ----+|
License ---+||

aph@debian.org                                               Adam Di
Carlo -1-
branden@debian.org                                        Branden
Robinson --1

Had Adam Di Carlo's ballot not been counted, the tally of votes against his
two unranked candidates would not have included votes from his ballot, in
which case the pairwise vote totals would have been 68+84 = 152 votes or
less (depending on how many other voters did this).

Therefore, Debian's voters DO NOT have to be overly concerned about the
effects of partial ranking -- the system is designed to take into account
the fact that they may do this, and makes a reasonable assumption about what
was intended by considering the unranked options as having been ranked
equally last.  Having said that, it is *still* a good idea for voters to
explicitly rank all the options, if they have any preference *at all*
between the available choices.  Doing so will maximise the impact that the
voter's ballot will have on the outcome.  Partial rankings, or many
equally-ranked alternatives on the ballot reduces the number of pairwise
decisions the voter is participating in, and thereby lessens the chance that
their ballot will be the deciding factor in the election outcome.

It might be a good idea for the Debian project to amend the Constitution so
that this little detail is made explicit.  Whereas the current definition of
the method merely states:

A.6. Concorde Vote Counting
This is used to determine the winner amongst a list of options. Each ballot
paper gives a ranking of the voter's preferred options. (The ranking need
not be complete.)

This should probably be changed to something like:

A.6. CONDORCET Vote Counting
This is used to determine the winner amongst a list of options. Each ballot
paper gives a ranking of the voter's preferred options. (The ranking need

The tiebreaker specified in A.6.5 also needs some work, but I won't go into
that now :-)  I am not a Debian developer (merely a satisfied user), but
would be pleased to assist with drafting an amendment that would address the
minor problem identified above and clarify the use of the tiebreaker, etc.
if anyone considers it worth the effort.  In any case, the Debian Project is
to be commended for having chosen such an excellent system for making group
decisions.  For those of us on the EM list
(http://www.eskimo.com/~robla/em/) who study these things, Condorcet's
method is widely regarded as the best single-winner method available.  We
are very pleased that there is at least one organisation in the real world
that's putting it to good use.


Norman Petry

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