Different uses for voting
need different types of voting.
A Condorcet tally enacts the most central policy.
Humor 5 for politicians: Who said, half jokingly, “The illegal
we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
1) Abbey Hoffman, 2) Jimmy Carter, 3) Gerald Ford, 4) Henry Kissinger ?
Common agenda rules resolve an issue through a series of votes. These require taking a separate vote on each proposed amendment. That method results in problems, errors and manipulations.
Newer rules let members avoid those problems by ranking all related motions at the same time. A tally can then find the one proposal which can top each of the others, one-against-one.
Democracy's Tragedies and Failures Budget deficits threaten all Western nations as baby-boomers retire and their pension payments tax younger workers. In the U.S. the problem has been debated since the seventies. Several proposals have notable supporters. But none has a majority so no action has been taken. Some reps say deadlock and delay are worse than any of the proposals.
Abortion debates exemplify how an issue can polarize communities and remain unresolved for decades, hurting the health and spirit of communities and people.
Some say these tragedies come from an inevitable culture war; but in fact they are largely artifacts caused by old tools for group decisions. The common errors and manipulations of sequential agendas are so varied that brief descriptions will fill a page of this chapter.
A Democratic SolutionThe solution starts with preference ballots to let council members rank all versions of a bill at once. Then they can find the Condorcet winner, the version which can beat each of the others in one against one comparisons. (The chapter on single-office elections introduced the logic and merits of preference ballots and Condorcet's rule.)
If the version with, say, a poison-pill amendment isn't preferred over others by most reps, it won't be enacted and it won't delay them from enacting a better policy.
Policy MakingEnacting a law is like electing a mayor, only one of many candidates can win. So the winner should be the one proposal that most people prefer over any other, the Condorcet winner.
A one-third minority does not have a right to enact one-third of the laws nor to design one-third of each law. But vote trading sometimes lets a minority gather enough support to shape a policy. They must care a great deal about the issue to trade votes for it, and their policy must be acceptable to reps who trade away votes.
Preference ballots do not make it harder to trade votes. Two reps can no longer trade a “Yea” on amendment B for a “Yea” on amendment C. But they can agree, “I'll rank versions with both of our amendments above versions without both if you will do the same.”
Merits of Preference BallotsYes-no ballots promote false dichotomies and social polarization. They require a series of separate debates and votes on parliamentary motions, amendments, and finally the (amended) proposal. Earlier pages have shown some of the problems inherent in that serial process.
Preference ballots, on the other hand, let reps rank many versions of a bill. They reveal that the old political splits or dichotomies of “us versus them” or left versus right, hide many subtle shades of opinion.
Preference ballots combine many motions on one ballot giving them equal priority, flattening the hierarchy of motions and simplifying the rules of order. They speed the decision-making process by reducing the number of times a committee must stop to cast and count votes. This cuts sequential agenda effects, including tricks such as free-rider and poison-pill amendments.
A “free-rider” amendment attaches an unpopular motion to a popular or essential bill. Many reps will feel they must vote for the bill, even though it carries a bad amendment. A “wrecking” amendment attaches a very unpopular motion to a popular bill. Many reps will feel they must vote against the bill, because it carries such a bad amendment. Another kind of amendment reverses the meaning of a bill.
Reducing false dichotomies and parliamentary tricks is likely to reduce partisan hostility.
Merits of Central PoliciesEnacting the top-majority policy, the Condorcet winner, is a key criterion for measuring democracy. No other policy wins such strong, broad support; no other wins a majority over every other policy on the ballot.
Open primaries give U.S. reps some independence from party leaders. This lets the most central Republicans sometimes turn from their arch-conservative comrades and form a majority with the most central Democrats. That can happen much more easily and more often if councils use Condorcet's rule to enact policies.
The more diverse a council is, the more solutions are offered for every question and the harder it is to build majority support for any one proposals. Condorcet's rule finds the top majority, the proposal that beats each of the others, even when no coalition has a majority advocating it. Notice, the options include one to keep the status quo with no change.
Stability is not rigidity: Well-balanced majorities and stable policies might seem to increase the risk of continuing a policy even when it stops working. But accurate elections and policy decisions match changes in the electorate, changing as fast and as smoothly as voters and their reps want — not under reacting then over reacting as old methods do when the majority shifts from one side to the other.
Everyone helps choose our center.
Initiatives and Constitutional AmendmentsBy using Condorcet's rule, one election can decide among competing versions of a referendum or initiative. Voters have a real choice only when offered competing versions of a policy. Not just, “Do we need a tax, yes or no?” but several versions of the tax can and should be offered.
Initiatives are most appropriate for controlling elected officials by setting election rules such as the voting rule, district boundaries, campaign funding and public disclosure laws, and by setting limits on terms, salaries, taxes, debt, and so on. One country, Switzerland, several states in the USA, and many voluntary-membership groups give voters the power to override some legislative decisions.
Condorcet's rule allows voters several options when amending their constitution. A proposed amendment must better all rivals and must win a supermajority (usually 67%) against the “No Change” option.
One solution to the problem of social security's future solvency is to debate all proposals, rank them on preference ballots, and use Condorcet's rule to find out if one policy can beat each rival. This could focus the debate quickly on a few major proposals and balanced compromises.
Abortion is a complex ethical issue, but most proposed policies fall along a one-dimensional line with various restrictions added from left to right. Candidate A says it should be legal, free, and encouraged for unwed teens. E says it should not be encouraged. J says it should require teen counseling and parental notification. P says it should require a two day wait for all women and private funding. U says it should not be allowed except in cases of rape, incest, or grave risk to the woman's life. Z says it should never be legal.
It is likely that one of the middle positions is a Condorcet winner, with a narrow yet clear majority over the next closest policy. That should not end the ethical debate, but it should end the debate over which policy has majority support. Yet our current voting rules fail to reveal the majority position; instead they give us hysteria and threaten upheaval in every legislative session.
This might become the most popular democratic reform. Even reps who oppose changing the electoral voting rule that gave them power might favor changing the legislative rules that lead to unnecessary polarization and deadlock. A Condorcet process for group decisions may be the most enticing service democracy trainers can offer to organizations.
Many voters have strong fears due to unresolved political debates. Accurate democracy can calm those fears with moderate policies. Another rampant fear is that one political group will seize more than its fair share of funding, the topic of the next chapter.
Yes Yes Yes
Kissinger's quip lost much of its charm as reporters and lawyers
uncovered the election campaign crimes known as Watergate.
Searching for more? There are a score of pairwaise-tournament Condorcet-completion rules.
You will find rules named for their inventors such as Black, Coombs, Copeland, Dodgson, Kemeny, Nanson, Tideman, Schulze, and Schwartz. You will also find rules named for a logic mechanism: beat path, minimax, or min max, and ranked pairs. So a rule may have two common names. And you will find names that express variations on these rules. The voting glossary defines some of these.
There are several synonyms for “rules of order:”