Implementing Rank Choice Voting: Addressing Vested Interests, Misinformation, Dishonesty, and Legitimate Disputes



In our previous blog posts, we explored the advantages of Rank Choice Voting (RCV) and how it integrates elements of First Past the Post Voting (FPTP) and Approval Voting.


In this post, we will delve into the practical implementation of RCV, misinformation, and legitimate dispute on voting systems.


Vested Interests and Misinformation


When it comes to implementing RCV, it is essential to acknowledge the potential influence of vested interests and the spread of misinformation. Politicians with expertise in politics and campaign strategists may have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, as RCV challenges the dominance of major parties and viability of ‘lesser evil’ political strategies.


As a result, they might engage in smear campaigns or propagate misinformation to undermine the credibility of RCV. It is crucial to combat such tactics by promoting accurate information and increasing awareness about the benefits of RCV.


A common smear tactic for voting systems is to take one off scenarios as examples, like for example an incident where a district writes incorrect instructions or gave no instructions on an RCV ballot for first time users. Then try and use the data of that district as ‘data proving no one can understand RCV’, in slightly fancier words.

Counting Methods


One of the concerns associated with RCV implementation is the challenge of counting RCV ballots. Given the increased complexity of the system, some argue that it may require the use of computers for accurate tabulation.


However, it is important to note that if computers are already being used for ballot counting, the complexity of RCV should not be seen as an excuse. In most places across the US, this is already the case.


In some areas where people make this dispute, they already use computers to tabulate and make no attempt to do hand counting, in this case the argument is just dishonest.


In other areas where hand counting is actually performed and considered important, this is an honest and important consideration to take into account because it will actually impact costs and time to count ballots.


However it is important to note that the increase in counting effort will only happen in cases similar to split votes, which often would require recounts anyways. Comparing the difficulty of the hand-recounting to RCV-counting is more significant, because usually RCV can just count the 1st ranked candidate and determine the winner in the same way as FPTP.


So long as people understand the root nature of the voting system, and how to test to ensure it is performing honestly, the complexity of actual counting is not relevant in a computer context. The difficulty and resources are roughly equal in most cases when using a computer system.


Software algorithms can be designed to ensure fairness in both traditional ballot counting and RCV tabulation, making the process equally straightforward to implement.


It is valid to say RCV has higher complexity than approval and FPTP, however, this is because a more comprehensive system will always have higher complexity than a less comprehensive system.


A dynamic democracy requires the people to have the ability to express their opinion freely, and having a dynamic voting system is an important part of this process. Exchanging an easier way to count ballots for the freedom of expression for large portions of the population, is not a good trade off.

Hand Counting vs. Automated Counting


The choice of counting methods depends on the localities and their preferences. While some localities may opt for hand counting, others may prefer automated counting systems.


If the counting is automatic, almost any chosen system will not have a significant difference in cost beyond the first transition. And a note on this is similar costs may arise periodically even just updating and maintaining current systems, so the transition cost may not necessarily be significant.


A more thorough investigation would be necessary comparing maintenance vs creating new systems in that field would be necessary to determine if there is any significant difference.


Both hand and automated approaches have their merits, and localities can select the most suitable method based on their resources and capabilities. It is crucial in either case to ensure that the chosen method maintains fairness and accuracy in counting the RCV ballots.


Approval & Preferential Majorities


A common argument against RCV is that it ‘does not require the winner to get a majority’.


This is a more complex subject, and generally stems from a lack of understanding of Voting Systems, and the issue that groups actually dispute what a ‘real majority’ means. Often neglecting to mention the difference in defining it in the context of arguments, instead often stating that one method is ‘better’ because the other does not have a ‘real majority’.


RCV and other viable voting systems will usually have either an identifiable ‘preferential majority’ or an identifiable ‘approval majority’ candidate as the final winner.


Which majority type takes precedent influences the society itself, so understanding what the differences between them are and what that means in respect to outcomes is important.


In general, from my view, ‘preferential majority’ taking precedent more often retains the role of partisanship and competition in a society. Whereas ‘approval majority’ precedence enforces compromise, and reduces the role of partisanship.


Having more limited options in any form, creates greater extremity in one direction or the other. Either causing competition of ideas to become less relevant in Approval Voting due to ‘extreme compromise’ always being most important. Or causing compromise to become irrelevant due to ‘extreme competition’ always being most important.


FPTP is the most extreme possible format of competitive voting systems, using this definition. Similarly, Approval is also an extremity of compromise systems. The benefit of them both, is their simplicity.


By focusing on one ‘pure’ view of what is a ‘real majority’ and not considering more complicated views, there is a lot less data to have to consider at a time. However, this also means that anyone without a matching ‘pure’ view to the system used to vote, is forced to be dishonest when they vote, or they must not vote to avoid that dishonesty.


For multiple preferences this kind of calculation can still be done easily with the ‘condorcet method’, which allows a way to easily count who got ranked higher comparing each two candidates against one another even when there are multiple rankings. In this way, you can still compare any two candidates to see vote comparisons in a format logically similar to the current format.


In the first round of RCV it is much more likely for the winner to be a ‘preferential majority’ winner. However, with each sequential round it becomes more likely for an ‘approval majority’ winner to emerge.


Pure Voting Style Advocacies


Some Approval Voting advocates dislike that RCV gives earliest opportunities for ‘preferential majority’ to win, because it can causes the ‘center squeeze effect’. This effectively means that the ‘preferential majority’ is considered before the ‘approval majority’ is considered. Causing the more clear ‘approval majority’ winner to lose the race early on.


Some Approval Voting advocates generally believe the ‘approval majority’ is the ‘real majority’, because approval enforces moderation.


This is similar to certain FPTP advocates who dislike any non-FPTP method, because they consider the extremity of ‘preference majority’ where only the person ranked first should be considered part of the majority, the ‘real majority’.


RCV causes ‘preferential majority’ to take precedent early on in the race because your highest choice can’t be eliminated, until they have the lowest preferential majority in a given round.


‘Approval majority’ is more likely to take precedent the more rounds there are, because each elimination round causes more approval votes of lower rankings to be considered each round where there is not an over 50% ‘Preferential majority’ winner.


Degrees of Dishonesty


The ‘degree of dishonesty’ can be analyzed objectively for any given voter comparatively. Comparing voting systems this way can intuitively help voters understand why some voting systems may be better than others.


Enforced dishonesty can become a motive to vote strategically, where the likelihood of strategic voting is higher the more ‘degrees of dishonesty’ exist between an individuals ‘most honest’ voting opinion and the ‘enforced expression’ of voting opinion.


When a voter has a voting system that allows full expression of their opinion, there is generally no identifiable reason to vote strategically so long as the voting system is valid and oriented around either or both of the majority types.


For example, a voter who approves of two candidates equally using either RCV or Approval, is forced to only vote for one in FPTP. They can be considered to have one degree of approval dishonesty.


Or a candidate who only approves of three candidates equally in RCV and is forced to rank them, but could rank them equally at first place in ‘Better RCV’ to honestly express the lack of preference, would have three degrees of preferential dishonesty.


For Approval advocates, the latter is the primary reason they may have an issue with RCV over ‘Better RCV’ or approval. Some people genuinely think in terms of approving candidates and moderation only, and don’t like being forced to do otherwise.


Comparing systems ideologically


This is my view based on my experience.


Assuming you don’t care about complexity/cost and only care about how the system works and behaves.


If you extremely care most about enforcing competition and dominance of the most united political blocks, and partisanship, you will prefer First Past the Post Voting.


If you extremely dislike competition and want to enforce moderation so that the most people get some of what they want, you will prefer Approval Voting.


If you extremely care about freedom and honesty, and ensuring people maximize that freedom of choice effectively, you will most prefer using either STAR or Better RCV. The closest second which is already well accepted and tested in many places, and more politically viable currently, is RCV.



These are things that are actually distinctive and have legitimate political and cultural disputes baked into them. It is best to talk it through honestly and have debate.


After having those legitimate disputes, my opinion is you should go ahead and choose the one with more freedom and honesty.


This is America, the land of the free.


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