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The NYC Mayor's race could be make or break for the future of RCV in the US.

The NYC Mayor's race could be make or break for the future of RCV in the US.

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  • By - gitis

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gitis

We've already seen open refusal among the leading candidates (Yang being the exception) to even entertain 2nd choice endorsements. And we've also seen open indulgence in the negative campaigning that RCV had promised to attenuate. Those are small matters, however. I'm much more interested in seeing how smoothly the ballot counting plays out, and whether the winner of the IRV tabulation is also the Condorcet winner.


colinjcole

Changes and adapting to new systems takes time. Folks in Minneapolis will tell you about how the first time they used IRV, campaigning didn't really change for most candidates, partially based on the advice of campaign consultants and professionals there unfamiliar with RCV. Then, their old tactics didn't work. And they started adapting. And now campaigns are different. Stuff like this is never, should never, can never be boiled down to what happens in one election. It's about long-term patterns and shifts that occur over time.


IlikeJG

Which is exactly why changes like this are so hard to bring about in our modern political landscape. Everything is about instant results and news headlines. If something takes many years or even decades to bring change it will often be ignored or even attacked.


i_sigh_less

> And we've also seen open indulgence in the negative campaigning that RCV had promised to attenuate. Wouldn't expect that to go away the first time they did it.


gitis

Correct. Old habits die hard. I think the long-term challenge is to transform the horse race aspect of the campaign from focus on a personality-based contest into a more fragmented issue-oriented affair. Let people rank the issues that are most important to them. Invite the candidates to rank those, and then respond with videos, tweets, blog posts and other content, issue by issue. And incentivize the candidates to rank each others' responses, issue by issue, by allowing them to add their own issues once they've done the ranking. Make it a show. Coordinate the candidate debates with reveals of their rankings and fresh content. It's a very blue-sky idea. The underlying API of [mayor21.com](https://mayor21.com) is structured to support it.


cookingandmusic

cool website. just voted :)


EclecticEuTECHtic

There's zero incentive for frontrunners to play nice with someone you expect to face in the final 2.


Drachefly

That's true until you have a viable third.


Happy-Argument

Will you base the "Condorcet winner" part on exit polling?


gitis

No. I presume the raw result data will be published at some point, and I intend to process it ( I doubt I'm the only one with that idea).


DontLookUpMyHistory

Very few IRV races have done this, though (publish raw data).


fullname001

How do they the runoff then? do they have the data laying around somewhere, or do you have to count the votes again?


ChironXII

They generally move the physical ballots to a central location, or upload the ballot lists privately. The reason they are not generally published is that IRV ballots can be personally identifying with more than a couple candidates (because of how many combinations of orderings there are).


conspicuous_lemon

> The reason they are not generally published is that IRV ballots can be personally identifying with more than a couple candidates (because of how many combinations of orderings there are). hmm I'm having a tough time seeing how publishing full ballot data would be problematic. Say I voted for some unique combination and then all the ballot data was published - how would you map the unique result back to me? Sounds suspiciously like fairvote propaganda....election results should be transparent, otherwise it just looks like a power grab.


ChironXII

It's not that someone can see how you voted specifically, but that someone can verify if you *didn't* cast a specific ballot, so it theoretically allows vote buying or coercion. Most precincts are small enough for that to be a real possibility if they are published individually. I don't know if there is any evidence of this happening but it's a thing that *can* so election officials will probably avoid the possibility.


conspicuous_lemon

Ah I see. Still an incredibly lame reason though, and the only way I see such an attack working is if there are extremely few people with a highly specific vote, meaning the damage itself would have to be limited in scope. I'm much more worried about the elites hiding the terrible results that IRV is likely to give than I am about any hypothetical vote buying using such a specific situation.


subheight640

Maine has.


ChironXII

IRV is not even monotonic much less Condorcet so it's unlikely unless there is a simple majority in the first round.


Drachefly

Nah, it is likely unless there are three or more highly popular candidates (not popular by first choice only).


ChironXII

With 15 candidates there's only about a 40% chance of a Condorcet winner existing in the first place (in simulations of normally distributed voters). The first choice support is quite unclear as well - 20/15/12 for the top three. The polling hasn't really been useful thus far though; most only give first choice support and nothing about ordinals.


jman722

If the full ballot data isn't released, there will be an uproar. If the full ballot data is released and the IRV winner is found to be the "wrong" winner (which is likely in a race this competitive), there will be an uproar. I say there's a slim chance of this all looking good for RCV in the end. We'll see how it affects Utah.


fullname001

Wait if they dont release the full ballot data ,does that mean they have to count the votes again if no one gets a majority, or do they just have the data laying around?


jman722

They just have the data lying around. Most IRV races in the US haven't had the entire ballot set released, which is needed not only to independently verify results, but to analyze the outcome with other tabulations to see how well it performed. There's a counterargument about vote coercion and vote selling, but modern studies have shown that to be an overblown concern because campaigning has proven to be the most efficient use of money to get votes. The real reason ballot data usually isn't released is because it's just a lot to deal with. IRV requires O(N!) data points to tabulate, far more than basically any other single-winner method. Most are O(N^(2)) or even O(N).


Jman9420

Do you have a source for the claim that they're not released "because it's just a lot to deal with"? I've looked into the voting equipment used by Maine and from what I found it seemed like the tabulation machines format their results into an excel file that could be easily shared. Elsewhere in this thread someone claimed that full results aren't shared due to privacy concerns with individual ballots being potentially identifiable, which makes a little more sense. Nice username btw.


jman722

I downloaded the Maine ballot data from 2020. It only showed the first choices. I suspect it was because there were majorities in the first round, but I haven’t spent enough time looking through it to verify. Whatever the reason, that’s not enough data to allow us to compare it to other methods because they don’t make preference matrices. Yes, anonymity is potentially an issue. It’s an issue pretty unique to IRV (for single-winner anyway). The point I was making is that the importance of anonymity is beginning to be questioned because long-running assumptions about vote coercion and vote selling have been found to be baseless. Either way, IRV is problematic on the front of releasing ballot data.


serns

Can you explain what you mean by "wrong" winner, please?


jman722

There are several ways to interpret it, but generally, if tabulating the ballots using a bunch of other methods ~~considered to be~~ that *are* more accurate all produce the same result and that consensus result is different from what the instant runoff produces, the instant runoff tabulation elected the wrong candidate. The most likely version of this would be a case where the Condorcet winner loses under instant runoff. There does exist a “correct” winner in every race (except in some extreme true tie situations): it’s the candidate closest to the center of public opinion. Voting science is all about figuring out who that candidate is in real world elections (or theoretical ones for those who prefer unreality).


Calfzilla2000

I think it's going to go badly and Republicans (and the clueless Democrats that still oppose it like Gavin Newsome) will use it all over the country as evidence that RCV does not work. It will probably take forever to get a result and count all the votes (NYC has this issue normally but RCV detractors will ignore that). The candidates are mostly refusing to cross endorse or even name a #2 ranking (Yang and a couple other candidates have though). The campaigns are not less toxic (because the candidates don't have proof that it hurts them in that format). Eric Adams, the top polling candidate right now, is against Ranked Choice voting and will likely try to kill it if he wins. He will likely refer to the long counting time. Yang is in support of RCV and likely will try to make sure it's a success moving forward. Hopefully Yang wins and is able to ensure its future success in the city because I feel like the leadership in the city want it to fail.


EpsilonRose

> I think it's going to go badly and Republicans (and the clueless Democrats that still oppose it like Gavin Newsome) will use it all over the country as evidence that RCV does not work. But RCV *doesn't* work. It's vulnerable to favorite betrayal and spoiler candidates in much the same way as FPTP. It just exploads at a slightly higher threshold.


davehouforyang

You’re talking about IRV specifically, right? Not Score, Range, STAR or Approval voting.


EpsilonRose

I am *very* specifically talking about IRV. Range, Star, Approval, and Condorcet methods lack IRV's vulnerabilities. (That is not to say that they don't have their own flaws, but those flaws are *much* less severe.) Also, for the record, score voting and range voting are, to my knowledge, the same thing. Similarly, IRV and RCV are often used interchangeably, but IRV is not the only ranked system. Condorcet systems also make use of rankings, but they do not have IRV's flaws.


ChironXII

> will use it all over the country as evidence that RCV does not work. And they will be correct... (specifically IRV is bad; there are good ranked systems, but IRV has unfortunately become synonymous with RCV).


fullname001

Why does RCV counting take so long, cant all of the preferences be counted inmediatly?


EpsilonRose

Not really. Only the top line preference on each ballot matters at each stage of the count, but you don't know the order candidates will be eliminated in when you start counting, nor do you know if and when any given ballot will need to change their top line. Put another way, RCV needs to go through the following steps until it hits a "majority" winner: 1. Count the top line votes for every ballot. 1. Check for a majority winner. 1. Check for the last place candidate. 1. Evaluate every ballot to determine if its top line candidate was the last place candidate. 1. Determine the new top line candidates for those ballots Go back to 1. This cycle causes also slows things down by preventing precinct sumability. That is, because the elimination order matters, you cannot produce 1 neat result for each precinct and then sum those results at a central location. Instead, you must transmit the totals for every unique ballot configuration (or just every ballot) to a central location that then does all of the counting. To be clear, these problems are not inherent to ranked systems, and there are numerous condorcet implementations that will avoid them. Rather, they're just another example of IRV being kind-of awful.


fullname001

wouldnt it be faster to report the amount of votes each candidate received ( eg candidate 1 has x first place votes, y second place votes ...)?


EpsilonRose

It would be, but that information isn't actually helpful for IRV. Unlike other ranked systems, IRV *only* looks at first place votes. Ranking 2nd on a ballot with a 1st place candidate still in the running does *nothing*. As such, the ordering of individual ballots is important.


fullname001

>it will probably take forever to get a result and count all the votes i was trying to give a solution to this comment >does nothing It is still important for transparency, and fraud prevention


EpsilonRose

> i was trying to give a solution to this comment > Right and I was telling you that IRV doesn't work that way. Second place votes is an inherently meaningless statistic under IRV. If you're suggesting they switch to a different system, then I'd agree with you, but that's not the same thing as suggesting a way to count IRV ballots more quickly. > It is still important for transparency, and fraud prevention Not really. Again, second place votes isn't meaningful under IRV. You need ballot orderings. There's no way to go from "Candidate X came in 3rd on A ballots in the first round" to "Candidate X should have had B votes on the 3rd round."


fullname001

>Right and I was telling you that IRV doesn't work that way I am pretty sure you can look an IRV ballot , and know how voter ranked the candidates >inherently meaningless statistic under IRV i wouldnt call something that will decide the election if no one gets a majority meaningless >There's no way to go from "Candidate X came in 3rd on A ballots in the first round" to "Candidate X should have had B votes on the 3rd round. Yes there is eg Candidate A has 100 first round votes, 50 second round votes from candidate B, 30 second round votes from candidate C, 20 third round votes from candidate B, and 60 third round votes from candidate C, 100+ (50 secondB) + 30(secondC) + (20 third B) + (60 thirdC)


EpsilonRose

> I am pretty sure you can look an IRV ballot , and know how voter ranked the candidates You can. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you can look at a sum of those rankings and determine what individual ballots looked like, which also means you can't determine the results of the election. >i wouldnt call something that will decide the election if no one gets a majority meaningless The sum of second place rankings does not directly effect the results of the election under IRV. > Yes there is > > eg Candidate A has 100 first round votes, 50 second round votes from candidate B, 30 second round votes from candidate C, 20 third round votes from candidate B, and 60 third round votes from candidate C, > > 100+ (50 secondB) + 30(secondC) + (20 third B) + (60 thirdC) It doesn't work that way. Only 1 candidate gets eliminated each round, so only ballots with that candidate as their top transfer to their second choice. This also means, after the first round, transfers are likely to be a mix of second and *third* choice candidates. For example, lets say we have the following ballots: * 45: A>C>B * 10: B>C>A * 18: B>A>C * 27: C>B>A We could say that A has 45 first place votes and 18 second place votes, while B has 28 first place votes and 28 second place votes, finally, C has 27 first place votes and 55 second place votes. However, this is how an actual IRV election would work: In the first round, there is no candidate with more than half of the votes, so the candidate with the fewest first place votes gets eliminated and their voters go to their second place candidate. In this case, all of C's voters had B as their second choice, so the new configuration is as follows: * 45: A>B * 10: B>A * 18: B>A * 27: B>A Now B wins with 55 votes to A's 45. This is a relatively simple, and silly, scenario, so it's pretty easy to tell how it's going to go just from looking at it, but it also showed us that the second place rankings didn't really tell us much about the overall results. It's also important to keep in mind that in elections with more than 3 candidates, and more than 2 rounds, what constitutes a voter for any remaining candidate quickly becomes a very mixed group. For the third round, it's entirely possible that some of the redistributed ballots will be going to their 3rd choice, while others will be going to their first. What's more, some of the ballots that were redistributed for the the second round will *stay* on their second choice while some of the ballots that were originally for the 2nd elimination will *skip* their second choice and jump to their third.


fullname001

>45: A>C>B 10: B>C>A 18: B>A>C 27: C>B>A That is what i am saying, election officials should report that data so that the viewer at home has an idea of what is going to happen once C is eliminated


indoordinosaur

It's a lot faster than the run-off elections that NY used to have.


fullname001

I dont see how ranked ballots could be counted faster than single preference ballots


Nighthunter007

By which he meant that it is faster than holding another election a few weeks later, which takes a few weeks before you get the total result.


SubGothius

> cant all of the preferences be counted inmediatly? An IRV ballot only ever supports exactly one candidate, just one at a time in turns. All that ever matters in IRV is which single candidate your ballot winds up supporting in the final winning round; the result is exactly the same as if you'd just cast a single bullet-vote for that candidate in the first place. But going by the initial aggregate ballot data alone, IRV offers no way of determining which single candidate that even is for each ballot; the ballots all have to be in, and they all have to go through the elimination rounds. For all that IRV supporters like to tout the expressiveness of letting voters rank their preferences, they often don't seem to realize how IRV in actual practice only allows for the *token illusion* of preference, when the voter's support (or lack thereof) for the eventual winner is all that ever matters in IRV. Their painstakingly-ranked preferences get *entirely disregarded* in the final tabulation; they don't affect the ultimate outcome. At all.


fullname001

>the ballots all have to be in Elections are usually called way before all the ballots are counted, i dont see how IRV would be any different For example imagine there are 4 Candidates (A,B,C,D) with 80% of ballots counted First preference ballots indicate that A received 39%, B received 37% , C received 14%, and D received 10% should we really have to wait for all ballots to be counted so that the media can start looking at Cs and Ds second preferences, because there is no way for them to able to get to the last round ​ Because the alternative is to wait until all ballots are counted and wait for election officials to tell us who won(which isnt that great for transparency)


SubGothius

> Elections are usually called way before all the ballots are counted, i dont see how IRV would be any different Sure, plurality elections may be easy to call or at least predict with some confidence early, because they're precinct-summable by simple addition, so elections officials can release results by precinct as those sites close and report their final counts. And those votes won't change later, unlike IRV that ultimately discards some early votes and reassigns them to other candidates later. Even professional programmers underestimate the fiendish complexity of the IRV tabulation algorithm until they sit down and start trying to write a script that could perform it. > should we really have to wait for all ballots to be counted so that the media can start looking at Cs and Ds second preferences, because there is no way for them to able to get to the last round I mean sure, they can start *looking* at second choices, but that may not reveal anything predictive with so much of the vote yet uncounted. The best they could really say is, "*If* there were no more ballots out, here's what the ballots we have in now would do..." And that's presuming election officials even release such early stats, which brings us to... > Because the alternative is to wait until all ballots are counted and wait for election officials to tell us who won(which isnt that great for transparency) Indeed, which is yet another reason why IRV isn't a great prospect for electoral reform. It isn't precinct-summable and must be centrally-tabulated by a complex algorithm, where it may be subject to manipulation by corrupt elections officials. Compared to any cardinal method like Approval, Score or STAR, which *are* precinct-summable by simple addition (just like familiar ol' Plurality), IRV is a hard sell when we'd need enough of the electorate to both fully understand *and trust* any prospective reform to get it enacted at all.


gitis

There's a lot at stake, but there's still room for optimism. The election workers in NYC have had ample time to prepare, so we'll have to count on their professionalism. And lots of people have already factored in the prospect of a long vote count. I'm not as sure that media folk are prepared to explain the nuances of the IRV tabulation system, which is why having good dataviz tools staged up may turn out to be very important. Also, I've got a hypothesis brewing that a deeply fractured field using IRV tabulation would be likely to settle on the Condorcet winner. We'll see. At the end of the day, if Plurality winner = IRV winner = Condorcet winner, everyone will move on quickly. And if IRV winner = Condorcet winner, but != Plurality winner, the media will spend some time on the learning curve about how the RCV cookie crumbles, but it'll be OK. Because, by definition, most of the folks on the ground will feel satisfied by the consensus result they brought about. However, if, as in Burlington, Plurality winner != IRV winner != Condorcet winner, OUCH!


Radlib123

Ranked Choice Voting is like a band-aid to a broken bone. It has same problems of FPTP. It still causes vote splitting and two-party duopoly. Approval, approval runoff, score, star voting are better voting systems than RCV and they actually do solve vote splitting issue compared to RCV. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtKAScORevQ](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtKAScORevQ)


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