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Re: GRs, irrelevant amendments, and insincere voting

On Sat, Nov 01, 2003 at 12:23:49AM -0500, Lukas Geyer wrote:
> Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> writes:
> > So, I am assuming the typical non-activist voter will think "Well, gosh,
> > all of these good, and look like at least a marginal improvement over
> > the status quo, but in case I'm wrong I'll rank the least disruptive
> > options higher".[1]
> OK, is there any voting system which would prevent this? You could
> even argue that the electorate just gets what it wants in the case
> you describe.

I think such statements beg the question.  One of my premises is that
any voting method *is* a group's means of determining "the will of the
electorate".  But as we've seen with first-past-the-post and other
systems, any particular voting method is not a priori successful at
achieving this goal.  That's why election method theorists have come up
with critera that a good voting system should have.  One of those
criteria is that insincere voting is not rewarded.

So my hypothesis is that our method of ballot construction may serve to
reward insincere voting, *even assuming the actual method of tabulating
the votes does not*.

> Do you want to prohibit proposing amendments at all?

No.  I think that would probably promote inefficiency, causing a lot of
votes that are doomed to fail, and ultimately leading to disuse of the

A voting method is probably most efficient when the options are highly
competitive.  If an initiative fails by a landslide, then the proposer
likely badly misjudged the electorate.  If an initiative *succeeds* by a
landslide, then it might be an issue that was better handled by an
alternative process, say an administrative one.

> If you don't, you need some mechanism to choose among incompatible
> amendments, and if a majority of voters prefers to stay very close
> to the status quo, the more "revolutionary" options will always be
> defeated.

The thought had occurred to vest the Project Secretary with this
responsibility, but the PS already has a lot of power under our
Constitution.  At the same time, no other office described in the
Constitution seems more appropriate, and I'm not sure there is
sufficient cause to create a new one.

More simply, I don't know what the solution to this problem is.  That's
one reason I've raised it for discussion -- to the evident annoyance of
some people, unfortunately.

> I don't think this has anything to do with Condorcet and
> supermajority requirements, but probably you did not mean to imply
> that. 

No.  I may not have been clear that the focus of my scrutiny here is our
method of ballot construction, not majority requirements or
Condorcet/CSSD.  As I noted, the strategy I posited requires only 6
people to carry off.

> > If someone can make a good case that my premises above are invalid, then
> > I invite them to go ahead in this sub-thread.  I'd be quite relieved if
> > our system cannot be "gamed" in the manner I fear.
> I would make the case that every sane voting system is susceptible
> to this kind of "gaming", and I would even say that if it did not,
> the voting system would be unfair, as the intent of the electorate
> in your scenario is to make as little change as possible.

Again, this begs the question.  Your statement is only true if the
election method is sound, and doesn't reward insincere voting.

> If there is a problem with the "6 friends" obstructionism, it seems to
> be a matter of developer psychology, not voting systems.

I think that's a false alternative; obstructionism could be a problem
solvable on both fronts.  It may be possible to strengthen our voting
system against this sort of attack, while also having social techniques
for reining in wayward developers to attempt to encourage insincere
voting by propounding stalking-horse amendments.

I guess one function of this (sub-)thread is to try and spread the meme
that proposing irrelevant amendments that an original GR proposer is a
Bad Thing, and should be discouraged at the RFD stage, instead of us
accepting as and article of faith that "the voting method will take care
of it".  I am not convinced that our voting method will.

G. Branden Robinson                |        Beware of and eschew pompous
Debian GNU/Linux                   |        prolixity.
branden@debian.org                 |        -- Charles A. Beardsley
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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