Saturday, 29 January 2011

AV Voting and the split vote

One of the flaws with FPTP is it's ability to split vote.

So the idea is

Candidate A
Candidate B
Candidate C
and Candidate D

Are all running.

55% of people prefer A over B but some of the would be A voters also vote for C

Candidate A gets 35%
Candidate B gets 40%
Candidate C gets 20%
Candidate D gets 5%

Candidate B wins

So by taking away C we would have got

Candidate A gets 55%
Candidate B gets 40%
Candidate D gets 5%

We will try this example with AV .

Candidate A gets 35%
Candidate B gets 40%
Candidate C gets 20%
Candidate D gets 5%

end result say is
Candidate A gets 55%
Candidate B gets 45%


However, say you took out the winning party

Candidate B gets 45%
Candidate C gets 55%

..But what if we take out the runner up instead??

Candidate A gets 35%
Candidate C gets 65%

Perhaps? by taking away the winning OR runner up before the election, we can influence who wins.

It does not end split votes.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Reform, it's definition and application

I am getting a bit tired of the speculation and shock of people over the BBC's decision to not use the word 'reform' in the referendum to decide if we are to use AV for elections.

So let's discuss the word's definition and see if we can see why an organisation that has to stay unbias might want to not use it. - "1. To improve by alteration,
correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition." - "To improve by alteration,
correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form " - "to make better by removing faults and defects" - "to put or change into an improved form or condition b : to amend or improve
by change of form or removal of faults or abuses" "verb. 1 make changes in (something, especially an institution or practice) in
order to improve it. "

or from the oxford dictionary - "to improve a system, an organization, a law, etc. by making changes to it"

So, this is the word that so many people seem shocked that the BBC may think it suggests improvement??

I dare say that if in the referendum we vote in favour of it, THEN they can start calling it reform, because we collectively have decided that AV IS an improvement.

...which brings me onto the next point.

Reform can be used by the government for the same reason. They are the representative body of the UK. They are in power by our votes. Therefore it is widely accepted that they are using the people's authority to enact these changes and that agree with them. Therefore they are reforms.

I hope we can put both of these...well, stupid is the word that keeps popping into my head( but desperate, innane, illogical etc will all do too), arguments to bed and get on debating the worth of AV.

The Huge (not at all similar in anyway you idiot) difference between two preferences and two votes

Hello and Welcome,
One of the main arguments of the No2AV squad is that A.V. would give the supporters of eliminated candidates extra votes.
The standard retort to this by the Yes2AV club is "You do not get two votes, just two preferences!" Normally followed by some of the more moronic elements by something like "You just want to tell lies and keep the status quo ...nazi!" or something to that effect.

Now, I think it is very important to deal with this once and for all so I am going to run a mock election under both of these completely different systems.
The end result does not matter in this case at all, so hopefully I will get no shouts of "You can use facts to prove anything" like I have in the past. It doesn't matter how the preferences are set out and are done at random in this example to show it.


Voter A
He Wants Candidate Sam to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Fred.

Voter B
He Wants Candidate Fred to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Sam.

Voter C
He Wants Candidate Fred to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Sam,
Doesn't like Candidate Jane.

Voter D
He Wants Candidate Sam to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Fred.

Voter E
He Wants Candidate Jane to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Fred,
Doesn't like Candidate Sam.

So Jane is eliminated with only one vote, Voter E's second preference now gets her vote.

Fred Now wins, with three votes to two votes.

Now lets try the other weird, completely different, not like in any way, stupid system of the eliminated candidate's voter getting another vote.

Voter A
He Wants Candidate Sam to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Fred.

Voter B
He Wants Candidate Fred to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Sam.

Voter C
He Wants Candidate Fred to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Sam,
Doesn't like Candidate Jane.

Voter D
He Wants Candidate Sam to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Jane,
Doesn't like Candidate Fred.

Voter E
He Wants Candidate Jane to win,
Would Put up with Candidate Fred,
Doesn't like Candidate Sam.

So Jane is eliminated with only one vote, Voter E's second vote now comes into play. As she prefers Fred, with her brand new vote she votes for Fred.

Fred is declared the winner by 3 votes to 2 votes.

Hmmm, wait a minute *gasps*. That is exactly the same result!

Whatever the Yes2AV club want to call it, getting another vote when your first choice is eliminated is the same as getting an extra preference.

There is no difference.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An AV oddity

A very important issue to me as you may have gathered from my previous blows is equality.

I believe every vote should count as one, and every vote should only affect the result by one. However this is not the same under AV.

Party A has 50%+1 of the vote
Party B has 30% of the vote
Party C has 20%-1 of the vote

Under Fptp and AV this is a comfortable win.

However, even from an election pool of 10 million voters, under AV party A may have lost with 2 less votes.
So, to the moment, they won by 20% or 2 million votes...but take two away and they can lose.

Extreme obviously, but it demonstrates my point in the huge swings possible.

It would seem that under AV, a vote can be worth a lot more than one.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Is AV the portal to a different dimension?

Ok, very short one.

After speaking to many people on various networking sites about AV, the same argument keeps coming up again and again.

"This MP only got 40% of the vote and still won, that means that 60% voted against him, under AV people cannot steal elections".

This is pretty much the range of arguments, in the same family, that i have encountered.

I am in no way saying this is the official line of 'Yes to Fairer Votes' or even that it is used by anyone but their most 'dragging of knuckles' supporters, but it is there.

So let's discuss a few of the points.

The MP got elected with 40% of the vote...that is pretty high, from an election where perhaps 6-8 people ran, to get 40% of all votes is pretty good. Then factor in the tactical vote working against them which seems to fluctuate depending on what is most useful for the critics of my points. I however will use the same percentage I always have 9%. So even if the MP won by 1 vote, he didn't really win by 1 vote.

Pushers of this point also seem to forget that no matter what trash they throw at the MP for winning on 40%, the runner up is only going to come off worse as they didn't even manage to get that. So who exactly have they stole the election from?

Now, to get on to the title of the blog piece.

I am starting to get the impression that proponents of AV are expecting that if and when AV is introduced, a whole new wave of MPs will rise out of the ground or pop through a worm hole and will be able to please 50%+1 of everyone.

What they seem to forget is one (a lot of the MPs on close to 50% will be elected again), the 40% person is most likely to be re-elected, but this time with 50%+.

Is this a magic trick?? Or has he just announced free unicorns to every voter in a Nick Cleggish way?

No, he is just as popular as ever but the 'looks better on paper' system of AV makes it LOOK like he got more support. Please bare that in mind next time you talk about AV increasing the popularity of the elected MP.

5 is 5% of 100, and 50% of 10. You can change percentages quite easily by condensing the available pool.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Voting Flowchart

I came across this flow chart floating (haha) around on twitter today.

published by Anthony Smith

Ok, those of you that have spoken to me about similar subjects will probably know where I am going with this.

The argument comes down to one thing.

What is an election for and why do you vote in one?

Is it A) An election is to evaluate the support of each candidate standing for election and we vote to let them know OUR view.


Is it B) An election is a process to try and second guess and/or manipulate in an effort to ensure the rightful winner is only elected if you support them yourself (and trying to ensure they don't win by any means necessary if YOU don't want them to).

I am an "A" person. The author, seems to me, to be a "B" person.

FPTP to any "A" or honest, people (who accept that democracy means the most supported should win) FPTP is simply relieve the list, vote for who you want most.

This is commonly accepted to be a minimum of 91% of people from the research into tactical voting I have read  [I am always open to learning so let me know what you find out].

While a falacy so I will not claim it as an argument on its own, the fact that "B"s advocate AV, does very little for the case for "Fairness".

In the same way that Nick Griffin's support doesn't help FPTP at all, but only idiots would use THAT argument right?

Can you be the most beloved and most hated?

A lot of talk has occurred between the AV club and The FPTP order in which the terms "Most supported" and "Least Disliked" have come up.

I quickly came to the conclusion, as you have my wonderful clever readers (have a cookie), that this is probably not going to be the same candidate.

This sparks in my memory the Marmite/ Nick Clegg debacle.

Now there are two very subtlely different points I will be making here, so I will split them up.

1) Most Supported vs Least Disliked

If we assume these are two different candidates, who should the system we use look to elect?
If you have read any of my other blog entries you will know my preference and I will not spoil your reading by telling you now.

My case.
Think of something 'least disliked', I don't mean most loved (though this doesn't exclude it of course).
I have a friend in mind from my rather small group of friends, who I would say is the most disliked. They don't offend anyone, they haven't said anything bad about anyone,  always remembers to 'poke' back, shows up at anyone and everyone's parties and is well known. What's he like? I'll tell you. Haven't got a clue. The reason why, is because he has no views! Nothing distinguishing.

By that, I mean of course, he has no 'vocalised' views, I am sure he mutters under his breath...or in the shower...or into his pillow, but he doesn't go out on a limb, he isn't decisive, he is not other words he is the opposite of a natural born leader.

What if we forced him to be a leader? We don't know and cannot predict at all.

I fear that if we elect the most disliked we will end up with the grey luke warm soup of a government that offends no-one but does nothing.

2) Most Supported vs Most hated

So, now we have a different problem. What happens when the most supported is also the most hated person?
I have thought about this too and it may not suprise you either but came conclusion that Love beats Hate.

The way I can explain my view on this is very practical.
I can name the stance on most issues of parties I support. I generally know their history, their central ideology and how it has changed over the years. I can even do this with affiliated groups from other countries (oh yes, I am a treat at parties as you can imagine). However, I cannot say the same as the parties I dislike.

I dislike the BNP. I dislike what they stand for, I dislike their leaders, present and past, I dislike their central theme but I cannot tell you their economic policy.

I can imagine it has probably something to do with getting rid of everyone not from this country (bye bye uncle John, shouldn't have been descended from Normans, bye bye Jeff, too much Norse blood, Bye Bye Simon too much Germanic blood....wait a sec, there is no-one left) , cutting links with Europe and demanding that the deficit clear itself up or be shot with the Citizen's Assault Rifle.
But that is just a guess.

I tested this theory out the other day too.
In numerous places (chosen by the number of labour voters and complete with my Thatcher/Che logo) I posted the following message.
"I think that everyone should get the child benefit, even millionaires"

Within minutes on 3 of the 5 locations I was called a "Tory C**t", accused of being detached, not knowing how hard it was for the REAL people (I guess I AM an illusion afterall) and here is the extra extra fun one, called a "Prick" because...and I quote "Benefits should be means tested".

It took half an hour for someone to realise, after a few hints, something which I hope you have figured out already.  "I think that everyone should get the child benefit, even millionaires" a socialist policy. DUM DUM DUM!!!!

Infact, it was used to ATTACK the Tory lead coalition. by no other than Ed Miliband.

Isn't that scary? Labour people calling ME a 'Tory C*unt' for claiming to have the same opinion as their leader...used to attack the Tories. They then tell me things should be means tested...a fundamental idea of the Tories.

I can't claim I was speechless, because I did it on purpose knowing that this was the likely response, but it is worrying.

People know so little about who they hate, that they are willing to hate them even if they adopt policies they claim to agree with.

Hate is not conducive to understanding. It is in a lot of cases born from ignorance, prejudice and hearsay.

An exercise for you to try at home kids.

Try to think of something you love, and then something you hate in the same family and then name as many facts about them as you can.

I predict you will find more in the love column in most cases.

This is why even the most hated is the best choice in my opinion if it is the most supported.

Principles of AV/FPTP in real life

The Famous Fire Analogy

Two men are standing outside their respective houses.

Unfortunately for the two men their houses are on fire.
Each man has a wife, a beloved pet and a TV (they are minimalist).

Out of the two men, one of the man's wives, let call him Man 1, has already evacuated his wife. Man 2 on the other hand, hasn't.

Out of the two men, which one would you imagine is more prepared to charge into the flames?

Now, is it far to say that the newly introduced Man 3, who has got both his wife AND his pet out of the house is even more likely to charge in?

Transfer this over to the AV voting system.

Who has most support, someone voting for their first choice (wife) or someone voting for their second choice (pet) because their first choice is now out of the picture or someone voting for their third choice (wardrobe) because their first and second are out of the picture ?

Would it be accurate to Man 1 cares no more about charging the flames than Man 3 does? I don't think so and when the Fire Department turn up I know where any non bias person would send them first.

1st preferences count more than 2nd , 2nd count more than 3rd. Any system that does not recognise this, does not accurately measure support.

Ignorance vs Lies

My (completely unrelated to any bias the system gives to support one party over another i.e.) mathematical problem with AV.

If we take on board that different preferences differ in amount of support they symbolise (which is the definition of a preference after all) and we accept that averaged out people’s first preferences have more support that second, we can make inroads to putting a value against the preference.

I started out on the assumption of values that showed that first preference is 1, second preference is .5, third preference .25, fourth preference .125 but after much talk with various people was convinced that people do often favour their choices a lot closer.

For this reason I have revised my example to 1, 0.75, 0.50, 0.25

This area can be studied and is in other fields like pain research where the collective subjective value is averaged out to approximate an objective value.

So say we have three parties running


A has 12 votes, B has 9 votes, C has 8 Votes.

This under FPTP would produce a win for A.
Arguments against this would be that 17 people DIDN’T vote for them. This is a valid argument.
Arguments for this is that given what we know, out of A, B and C,
A has most support. This is a valid argument too.

Now lets try under AV

A has 12 votes, B has 9 votes, C has 8 Votes.
C is eliminated. Let’s say the votes are split 6 to B and 2 to A.

Votes now read
A has 14 votes (12 first preference and 2 second preference)
B has 15 votes (9 first preference and 6 second preference)

Under AV, B wins.

Argument for this is that it allows some of those eliminated to still be involved.
Argument against this is that not every voter was as involved as the next.

Now, lets apply value of vote

A has 12 first preferences and 2 second preference, meaning a total support value of 13.50

B has 9 first preferences and 6 second preferences, meaning a total support value of 13.50
So in affect we have a draw.
Please bare in mind this is with a generous weighting as it is (that you might support your second preference candidate only 25% less than your first).

So AV has given us a false result.
The margin of error will only increase more and more when smaller preferences weighted at 0.5 and 0.25 are introduced into the mix.

That is the first mathematical problem under AV, but stick around because the level of potential error is going to get a lot bigger.

Let’s go back to our previous example to keep things fair.

A has 12 votes, B has 9 votes, C has 8 votes. Under AV we asked for the preferences and since AV does not publish them all, lets do that now

A has 12 votes, they second preference C (they are dead against B, their main rivals)
B has 9 Votes, they second preference C (they are dead against A, their main rivals)
C has 8 Votes, they second preference 6 to C and 2 to A (no real rivalry, just a leaning to B)

(Can you see who it is yet?)

Now we have a much better understanding of the will of the people, don’t we.
Why would any system not tell us this?
Why take all that useful data and class more than half of it as irrelevant?

Now let’s use the value weighting.
A has 13.5 as before
B has 13.5 as before
C has 23.75

If we changed the weighting to 1, .5, .25, etc
The result would be
A has 13.5
B has 12
C has 18.5

Say we took it ridiculous and changed weighting to 1, .25, .01
The result would be
A has 12.5
B has 10.5
C has 13.25

Even taken to that degree, it is quite clear that B should NEVER win.
It didn’t have the most first preferences, and it didn’t have the most second preferences. (Adding logical 1st prefs would only help A as only C are likely to 'third preference'. A are likely to get 6 third prefs and B only 2 third prefs but that isn't even needed to show my point).

The weighting value which I conceded to of 1, .75, .5 makes it more obvious. Under my previous 1, .5, .25 it is closer but still obvious who should win.

That is just one anomaly. What if the people from A didn’t mind B? Or vice versa? You could have a different result again to the AV result. In fact the mind boggles at how much data is ignored by AV.

For this (mathematical) reason, it is clear to conclude that by counting only the smallest parties vote, you are getting an incorrect picture of total support.

FPTP, even though not ideal and less sophisticated has at least one thing going for it that AV doesn’t. You can only win if you have the most votes according to ALL it's data.

The difference in a sound bite would be
"FPTP can be ignorant, but AV can Lie"

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Everyday Scenarios with AV/FPTP principles

-Medical Research

When researching new drugs and treatments they sometimes need to know how much pain the patient is suffering.
There is no real way of finding this out to an accurate degree medically, as heart rate, reactions etc while affected by intensity of pain are very varied to begin with from person to person.
So they use a questionaire in a lot of cases, for example the patented 'McGill Pain Questionnaire' or the pictured 'wong-baker FACES scale'.

This allows sufferers to rank pain. Some from one to five, others up to twenty.

(Many of you will probably see where I am going with this now)

The doctors are under no illusion that one persons '2' will be less painful than one other persons '4' all the time without fail.

What they DO accept however is that if on average a treatment results in figures from 1-2 that it is less painful than a treatment that results in a 3-4 and the accuracy of this goes up with each new participant in the trial (so it would be more accurate say if 20 thousand people took part instead of the thousand or so in most medical trials)

Now to bring elections back into it.

Can an individuals 4th choice be guaranteed to have less support than someones 2nd? The simple answer is is more likely but cannot be relied on. However, 1000 4th preferences suggest almost beyond doubt that it has less support than 1000 2nd preferences.

The law of averages is a marvellous thing you see, trusted by among many sectors, the medical profession.

If it is good enough to make life saving decisions, surely it is enough for life changing decisions like the election.

Supporters of AV will say that 1000 votes is a 1000 votes no matter how much support those votes have.
Do you?

Everyday senarios with AV and FPTP principles

Scene- Two Flat mates (Jane and Sam) are sitting down to watch TV.
Sam - I Hope 'Hollyoaks' is on I love that programme.
Jane - Oh, I hope 'friends' is on, it's my favourite.

*Tv is turned on, flicking through the TV Guide, Hollyoaks is on but friends isn't...Eastenders is though.

Jane -Oh, Eastenders is on, now THAT is my favourite now
Sam - But you just said Friends was?
Jane- That was before I knew it wasn't on, now this one is my favourite.

action. There is a glitch with the BBC, a message scrolls across the screen asking viewers to stand by, while waiting they flick through the channels

Jane- Oh look, Location, location, location is on.. that's my favourite.....
Sam- *Sighs*

Now very crudely we can test the principles of FPTP and AV here.
Does someone's second or third choice equal the same amount of support as others first?

Is it fair that they are still undecided what to watch and in a stalemate?

Under AV this is a draw. Plain and simple and if the third preference goes down, then her fourth or fifth or sixth 'favourite' will be considered the same as their first, despite obviously lower levels of support.

Should people be elected with support or technicalities?

Problems with AV 2

This is a very quick one.
Should the candidate with the most support be elected? I think so.

Second part of the argument is slightly more complicated..but not by much.
What would you say has most support on average? A first or second preference?
If we agree, like I hope we can, that the higher the preference the higher the level of support, we can agree that counting all preferences the same does not accurately show support.

Who would you say has most support out of this example for instance?
Candidate A has 10 1st preference votes.
Candidate B has 5 1st preferences, 3 2nd preferences and 2 3rd preferences.
AV would say there is no difference between the two candidates.
Fptp would say that ' A ' wins

That is a simple one, what about the same example but with candidate B having an extra 4th preference vote.
How much more would you say a 1st preference shows support than a 3rd or 4th? Would it cancel it out perhaps?
Under AV ' B ' would be elected..

I don't think this reflects support at all.

Problems with av

Ok, it's important first of all to explain that I am fully aware that very specific examples can be bandied around to 'prove' anything.

That said the mechanics involved in this example are universal.

Candidates A B C D
Candidate A has 10 votes
candidate B has 7 votes
Candidate C has 4 votes
Candidate D has 2 votes

Fptp would say A is the winner

AV would eliminate D...
D's votes transfers to C.

We now have
Candidate A with 10 votes
Candidate B with 7 votes
Candidate C has 4 first pref votes and 2 second pref votes.

C is eliminated. Say 1 1st pref vote goes to A. the rest goes b

And we now have our winner

B wins with seven 1st pref, three 2nd pref and two 3rd preference.
A with ten 1st pref and one 2nd pref.

Now this result sounds pretty dodgy to me as it is.

We have asked 23 people for first preferences, 6 people for a 2nd preference and 1 person for a 3rd preference.
What about the 17 people who didn't get their 2nd preference registered. Being that you only need 12 votes to win, it is very silly to ignore these 17 2nd preference votes and to go on to other people's less relevant 3rd choices.
What if all 17 had C as their second preference?
Or any other type of combination...this is still more relevant and representative than going onto 3rd preference votes.

This can mean (and will mean) that under AV, people will get elected who wouldn't under Fptp, and who wouldn't if the two most popular candidates supporters weren't ignored after their 1st preference, but were treated the same as everyone else ( or as it is known in the wider world outside the yes 2 AV club, fairly or equally).

Candidates will be voted in not on support but by the quirks of a counting system.

Under Fptp because we do not ask for preferences, we have to go with what we have.
Under AV they ask for preferences...and then ignore in most cases most of the even in a four horse race someone can be elected even if they have less first, second and third preference votes than other candidates.