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Re: Condorcet Voting and Supermajorities (Re: [CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT] Disambiguation of 4.1.5)

On Wed, Dec 06, 2000 at 12:36:48PM -0500, Raul Miller wrote:
> > > First note: you don't attempt to distinguish between "this is worth
> > > redoing" and "this is not worth redoing", in your "status quo".
> > As I've said, I don't see any benefit in doing it. Whichever's
> > selected, as far as the constitution's concerned, you'll get the same
> > result (ie nothing will change). As far as people are concerned, I
> > don't believe it's appropriate to try to silence discussion by a vote.
> > I'll also note we haven't consistently distinguished between "no" and
> > "further discussion" in past votes.
> If no wins, and a new vote is called, the minimum discussion period
> must elapse before any further votes can be held.  If further discussion
> wins, a new vote can be held whenever.

From A.3(1): ``If Further Discussion wins then the entire resolution
procedure is set back to the start of the discussion period.'' From
A.3(2): ``If Further Discussion wins then the entire procedure is set
back to the start of the discussion period.''

If you're going to bring new assertions in, could you at least verify
them first? The above isn't something I'd thought of, and thus could've
been interesting if it had at least been correct.

> > > > An option has quorum if the number of individual ballots mentioning that
> > > > option is greater than or equal to the quorum required.
> > > > An option, a, meets a supermajority of N:1 if M[a,S] > M[S,a] * N, where
> > > > S is the Status-Quo option.
> > > Third note: this is something we're still debating.
> > Yes, and I'm using this scheme as an example of a single-ballot
> > preferential system that has the properties of supermajority I
> > describe. That's its whole point.
> Well, except that you're squeezing in other concepts (for example,
> you're tossing the further discussion option).

Oh, you meant `the Status-Quo option', by `this'. Look, forget it then.
Assume `Further Discussion' and `No' are separate options on the ballot,
and that they're both scaled according to the relevant supermajority
requirements. For the purposes of this discussion it doesn't really

> > > > The vote is counted by first finding the Smith set, then eliminating
> > > > all options from the Smith set that don't make quorum or their
> > > > respective supermajority requirement. If no options remain, the
> > > > default option, Status-quo wins. If many options remain, they're
> > > > chosen amongst by using STV, or something similar.
> > > It's interesting that you're throwing quorum into the middle of the
> > > vote instead of at the begining or the end.  I'm curious: do you
> > > have any describable reason for this choice?
> > If you throw it in at the very end, you don't have an opportunity to
> > select an alternative winner. If you put it at the start, I *believe*
> > it tends to encourage insincere votes unnecessarily.
> You really think that "winner doesn't have quorum, but some option it
> beat does" is a worthwhile scenario?  [You might be right -- I'm trying
> to understand if there's a reason behind this viewpoint.]

No, I'm not interested in it at all. Look, I realise this has other
features, but right now, I don't care about them. I'm trying to get you
to understand what supermajority stuff is about.

> > > > This isn't entirely ideal: it'll select the status-quo more often
> > > > than is probably desirable, but otherwise it's fairly expressive, and
> > > > doesn't weight any preferences any more than others wherever possible.
> > > I presume, here, you're talking about the case where we're picking between
> > > an option with a supermajority requirement and a case where we're not.
> > > And, I presume that a bias towards options with supermajority requirements
> > > is something that you don't really care about.
> > _Huh_?! Where did that come from?
> > The only biasses in the above are towards options that pairwise beat other
> > options, and towards the status-quo options (in the event others don't
> > meet their supermajority requirements).
> Supermajority options which don't meet supermajority requirement but do
> meet a lesser majority requirement will (by definition) pairwise beat
> other options [which don't have that requirement].

You're using a particular definition for `supermajority requirement'
there, that I don't accept or agree with. Can we avoid assuming you're
right for the moment, and see if there's a reasonable justification
for thinking that way?

> > Let me try a different explanation for what a "bias" is.
> > Suppose you had a vote amongst only two options, Foo and Bar, that went
> > something like:
> > 	60 votes F over B
> > 	40 votes B over F
> > then you would expect F to beat B, right? And if the vote went the other
> > way,
> > 	60 votes B over F
> > 	40 votes F over B
> > you'd expect B to win. That would be a completely unbiassed vote.
> No problem.

Now, I probably should have added: a completely unbiassed vote isn't
something we want. We want to bias towards (at least) the status-quo
because we know it works. This is at least what quorum is about, and
IMO, what supermajority is about.

> > If, instead, you had a "Yes" and a "No" vote, and "Yes" required 3:1
> > supermajority to win, then clearly:
> > 	60 votes N over Y
> > 	40 votes Y over N
> > would be a clear win for N, but then
> > 	60 votes Y over N
> > 	40 votes N over Y
> > would also be a win for N. So any way of counting votes like this is
> > biassed towards a "No" answer. Which is justifiable, because things
> > like changing the constitution or the social contract shouldn't be
> > done on a whim. Doing what we've always done is at least somewhat
> > effective, you need to have a strong, convincing argument to take
> > the risk and change. It's entirely fair and reasonable to be biassed
> > towards what we're already doing, and to encode that into the way we
> > vote.
> Ok, here you're defining the effect of supermajority as "bias".

I'm saying that supermajority requirements is a particular kind of bias,

> > What you're also saying, though, is that given three options, A, B and
> > Status-Quo, say, where A requires a 3:1 supermajority, but B doesn't, that
> > if the vote went like:
> > 	60 votes B over A over S
> > 	40 votes A over B over S
> > then B should clearly win (which I agree with), but also, if A and B were
> > swapped, so that you had:
> > 	60 votes A over B over S
> > 	40 votes B over A over S
> > that B should still win. That is, you're biassed towards accepting any
> > option that doesn't require a supermajority over any that does.
> Sure, this validates your underlying assumption: that a supermajority
> requirement is a bias.
> I can accept this definition, but using the terms in the way you've
> indicated: I don't see that "taking the bias out of the voting" system
> means anything other than "taking the effect of supermajority out of
> the voting system".

It'd also take quorum out of the voting system too. Arguably, it'd also
take tie-breakers out of the vote, also. It's irrelevant. I'm not trying
to remove all bias from the vote, only ones that don't have a reasonable

> > And while I can see the point of this for favouring the status-quo
> > (either expressed as "No" or "Further Discussion" or "Status-quo")
> > can't see any useful reason why we should be *that* scared of changing
> > the constitution, that we should always favour *anything* else.
> Ok, I understand this as saying: you'd like to see the effect of
> supermajority weakened.

No, you don't understand what I'm saying.

_Why_ do you think it's proper or justified or reasonable to be biassed
towards B over A? What's the motivation for doing this? Why is B better
than A? Why is A more of a risk than B?

Note that this argument should apply to _all_ possible A and B.

Note that biassing everything over A isn't the only way of handling a
supermajority (and isn't even a common or usual way --- you're welcome to
cite one other instance of _anyone_ doing it this way, though), you can
simply require a supermajority of people preferring A to the status-quo
(by literally having a "Status-quo" option, or by using "No" or "Further
Discussion" or both of them as a replacement).

Note that, IMO, introducing unnecessary biasses into a voting system is
a good way to encourage people to propose options for the sole purpose
of exploiting these biasses, or at least for others to accuse people of
doing it.

On that grounds, consider a vote that goes like:
	200 A over B over F over N
	 70 B over A over F over N
and having B win. Do you really think the 200 people are going to be
happy to be overruled by a minority of 70, who *didn't even dislike*
option A?

Perhaps I'm just oversensitive to this issue because I can already see
Branden flaming me endlessly about this, in spite of any argument I
might put forward against it now.

> > > > Okay, let me flesh out how I'd conduct a vote that has multiple related
> > > > alternatives that should be decided on at once.
> > > > First, since the constitution doesn't say anything about merging distinct
> > > > votes, I'd require the later alternatives to be phrased as amendments to
> > > > the first alternative presented, even if this essentially implies ignoring
> > > > the original proposal and rewriting it from scratch.
> > > Ok.
> > > > Once all the alternatives are assembled, and the proposers/sponsors have
> > > > called for a vote, I'd first form a ballot under A.3(1) that looked like
> > > > 	[ _ ] Original proposal
> > > > 	[ _ ] First amendment
> > > > 	[ _ ] Second amendment
> > > > 	[ _ ] Third amendment
> > > > 	[ _ ] Further discussion
> > > > (assuming there aren't any sensible combinations of two or more amendments).
> > > An important assumption.  
> > A simplifying assumption, not an important one. I could instead have just
> > listed a single amendment and the original proposal and there'd have been
> > no question.
> Given your interpretation -- that a person could be against the original
> proposal but for the amendment, I'd still have a serious question.

The assumption is that you can't apply any two of the amendments
simultaneously. That merely depends on how the amendments were written. If
they were written differently, the ballot would look different. If there
were four amendments it'd look different too.

> > > Also, if you're talking a constitutional ballot, I think you need an
> > > explicit "no" option, for people who don't want the original proposal
> > > with or without any amendments, and don't want to discuss it further.
> > No, section A.3(1) sets out the options to be included on the initial
> > ballot, that is all sensible combinations of amendments and options,
> > and an option Further Discussion. If people want to vote "No", they have
> > to do so in the final vote (A.3(2)), not the initial vote/s.
> This, I suspect, is the core of our disagreement.

...and I notice you don't refer to the constitution at all in your

In particular:

> However, if they're combined into a single final ballot, it
> makes sense to have the following options:

The constitution never says that multiple ballots can be combined into
a single ballot, merely that the ballots can be "held simultaneously,
even using a single voting message".

> Now, as I understand it, your feelings about this ballot are:
> [1] It's unconstitutional,

...because it has no basis in the constitution.

> [2] In addition, "Neither" and "Discuss" are equivalent
> and should be merged.  

This isn't possible to read from the constitution as it stands. Well,
as I'd read it.

> > > > Under A.3(2), I'd be required to issue a ballot that allowed people to choose
> > > > amongst:
> > > > 	[ _ ] Yes
> > > > 	[ _ ] No
> > > > 	[ _ ] Further discussion
> > > > to whichever of the above won.
> > > Yes.
> > 
> > > > Under A.3(3) I'd be permitted to issue these ballots in a single
> > > > message, as long as each voter could choose a different final vote no
> > > > matter which original option won.
> > > A.3(3) says: 
> > >     3. The vote taker (if there is one) or the voters (if voting is done
> > >        by public pronouncement) may arrange for these ballots to be held
> > >        simultaneously, even (for example) using a single voting message.
> > >        If amendment ballot(s) and the final ballot are combined in this
> > >        way then it must be possible for a voter to vote differently in
> > >        the final ballot for each of the possible forms of the final draft
> > >        resolution.
> > > I believe the case you're talking about is where the amendment
> > > ballot(s) are combined with the final ballot.  
> > 
> > What it says is that the ballots may be `held using a single voting
> > message', not that the ballots can be combined into a single ballot.
> > It further requires that the voter must be able to express a different
> > vote in the final ballot for each of the possible forms of the final
> > draft resolution.
> Right...
> So why are you adding, onto the ballot, mechanisms to express things
> that would never show up on the final ballot?

Because the constitution specifically requires that ``it must be possible
for a voter to vote differently in the final ballot for each of the
possible forms of the final draft resolution'', even though only _one_
of the possible forms of the final draft resolution will actually win
the initial vote.

> > That is, they must first be able to rank the various options for how
> > the final form of the resolution may look, and then, depending on the
> > result of that vote, must be able to choose their ordering of Yes, No
> > and Further Discussion on the final vote.
> Nope.
> The constitution says: 
>        If amendment ballot(s) and the final ballot are combined in this
>        way then it must be possible for a voter to vote differently in
>        the final ballot for each of the possible forms of the final
>        draft resolution.
> You're talking about creating a final ballot for rating each of a set of
> possible *ballots*.  You're supposed to be creating a ballot for rating
> each of the possible *resolutions*.

No. The form of the *ballots* are defined by A.3(1) and A.3(2). I am
simply combining these ballots in a single message.

The three Y/N/F ballots are for which *resolution* wins the initial vote.

> You do understand the difference, I hope?

At one point I would have hoped you'd understand the difference between
a message that combines two ballots and a ballot that does, but whatever.

> > > > I'd this make a message that
> > > > looked like:
> > > >       ,-- Preference for this option to win
> > > >      |     ,-- Preference for "Yes" in the final ballot if this option wins
> > > >      |    | ,--- Preference for "No" ...
> > > >      |    || ,---- Preference for "Further Discussion" ...
> > > >      V    VVV
> > > >    [ A ] [_B_] Original proposal
> > > >    [ _ ] [_C_] First amendment
> > > >    [ _ ] [_D_] Second amendment
> > > >    [ _ ] [_E_] Third amendment
> > > >    [ _ ]       Further discussion
> > (identifiers A,B,C,D,E added)
> > This form of ballot achieves that by allowing you to first consider the
> > preferences stated by each voter in the A vote, then, depending on which
> > option won, counting the votes made in only one of the B,C,D or E options.
> So how do I rate "Original proposal + first and third amendment" higher
> than "Original proposal + second and third amendment"?

You don't, because that would be meaningless. Just like you don't vote
for "Original proposal + fourth amendment". Is this really that difficult
to comprehend?

I thought you wanted to just take clearly specified types of vote
rather than explicit examples. "Four alternatives, none independent"
is a specific type of vote to consider, isn't it?

> > > > That's how I would interpret A.3(1..3) anyway.
> > > But.. uh.. I don't see that you've pointed out anything in the 
> > > constitution that favors your interpretation above mine.
> > Well, of course not. 
> *blink*
> > I have no idea what you would consider a valid basis for
> > interpretation of the constitution.
> I guess I'd think that the english language would be a valid basis
> for interpretation of the constitution.  


> > You seem to be quite happy to say things like "Well sure, it doesn't
> > say you can combine separate votes in a single ballot, but it doesn't
> > say you can't, so why not?",
> I've never said anything like that.

Message-ID: <974167288.0c1bf761@debian.org>
Subject: Re: [CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT] Disambiguation of 4.1.5
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 21:03:27 -0500

Please don't bother poring over the constitution and finding that, say,
A.3(1) says `combinations of amendments and options', and arguing how
clearly it's differentiating amendments and options, and how thus options
must mean other proposals, because there's nothing else it can mean,
and whatever else. I really don't care at this point.

Your definition of `using English as a basis for interpretation' and
mine are wildly different and probably irreconcilable. 

Can we just focus on talking about what would make a good and fair and
efficient voting system for Debian?

> > I could just ask you, but if I'm going to do that, I might as well
> > just accept you as an Oracle, and take your word as gospel anyway. And
> > there is, at least, constitutional support for doing _that_.
> Not at present there isn't.

Well, I haven't seen Darren make himself visible on the lists recently,
so 7.2 paragraph 3 could easily come into play. Although, I guess if
you say it can't, then even if it did, it doesn't.

> > So I don't really see the point of this digression, but you did ask.
> I am trying to understand the basis for what you're saying.  This..
> helps.... sort of.
> I guess I was hoping that you were arguing from some kind of reasonable
> and objective viewpoint.

No, isn't it obvious? I'm trying to destroy Debian from within, by
ensuring that no decisions can be made and distracting Raul from doing
his other jobs and thus ensuring the continued decline of standards and
quality and consensus. I'm completely unreasonable, and am motivated by
bad intentions, just like Branden likes to assert.


> > > I think we need to talk about what it means to have distinct
> > > options on the ballot. [I recognize, from your "Status-Quo" option,
> > > that you're not talking about the constitutional mechanism, but
> > > are talking about some hypothetical mechanism. But, from your
> > > explanation of how you understand the constitution, I think we
> > > need to talk a bit more about the difference between independent
> > > alternatives and distinct choices. Wait until we've agreed on the
> > > more fundamental concepts before you teach me about your view of
> > > supermajorities.]
> > Considering we've already attempted to have a vote that (was deemed
> > to) require a supermajority, and had two options on a single ballot
> > with different supermajority requirements, yet we've never had a
> > single ballot with independent alternatives, I'm inclined to disagree
> > with your assertion as to what's more fundamental.
> I meant fundamental to understanding. See above for what I consider as
> important in a constitutional interpretation.

You can have a vote where there aren't any independent alternatives, but
there is a supermajority requirement.

Do you disagree?

You can understand that vote.

Do you disagree?

It's possible to understand supermajority requirements independently of
the possibility of multiple independent options.

Do you disagree?

I really don't see any hope for this discussion to ever end if we start
introducing more facets.

> > I suspect deciding fairly amongst a number of independent options will
> > probably be as difficult to understand as the stuff we've discussed so
> > far, so I'm inclined against wandering into that fray and having to
> > come back and start this all over again.
> I suspect that the reason this discussion has been so prolonged has more
> to do with my lack of understanding of your unstated assumptions.  [And,
> to be fair: your lack of understanding of my unstated assumptions.]

There's that, and there's that these considerations aren't obvious in the
first place.

It would help if you'd not argue from a basis of "that's what
supermajority means so that's how supermajority works" for a few messages,


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

     ``Thanks to all avid pokers out there''
                       -- linux.conf.au, 17-20 January 2001

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