Voting system R&D (Re: 2017 update to the SPI voting algorithm for Board elections)

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Tue Mar 7 18:13:50 UTC 2017

Josh berkus writes ("Re: Voting system R&D (Re: 2017 update to the SPI voting algorithm for Board elections)"):
> So in all of this discussion, I've not heard anything which seems
> terribly persuasive compared with just taking our existing system and
> fixing the problem with unranked candidates (and maybe providing a
> slightly better UI).
> Yes, we could use a different system, but why?

The arguments were rehearsed extensively in July and August.

> The system we currently use has been good at choosing candidates who are
> acceptable to most voting members over candidates who take highly
> partisan positions.  This is a *virtue*, not a drawback.  If we'd had a
> voting system which supported more partisanship, SPI probably would have
> been destroyed ten years ago when we had folks actively trying to split
> the membership.

Proportional voting systems are _better_ at undermining partisanship
than winning-faction-takes-all ones.[1]

> If we have a problem with too many candidates needing to be Debian-ish,
> then the answer is to add specific board seats elected in a way which
> ensures a pool of candidates who don't care about Debian.  Personally,
> though, I think that would be more trouble than it's worth, and I work
> on Fedora.

Proportional voting systems avoid the need for this kind of explicit
division, seats set aside, and so on.  I don't SPI as a whole is at
all keen on such proposals.  They are, perhaps, a necessary evil in
some very divided societies.  SPI does not have those kind of

> Overally, I disagree that there's any major issue with our voting
> system, and this whole thing really looks to me like voting system geeks
> looking for an excuse to tinker with "cool voting tech".

The Single Transferable Vote is the opposite of "cool voting tech".

What we have right now is an experimental multi-winner Condorcet which
has been chosen almost by accident, and which has never been subjected
to any 3rd-party analysis, never been discussed in the literature, and
never adopted anywhere else.  I want to move away from that to
something standard, well-regarded, and widely adopted.

I am trying to switch from "cool voting tech" to something boring.

(If I wanted excitement I would be looking at Schultze's system more


[1] For example, if you want to read some sociology research
about Northern Ireland's adoption of STV, see

  _The Single Transferable Vote and Ethnic Conflict:
   The Evidence from Northern Ireland, 1982-2007_
  Paul Mitchell, LSE, for _Designing Democrat Instutitions,
  inaugural _Political Science and Political Economy_ conference,
  LSE 13-14 May 2008


  _Nationalism and ethnic politics in Northern Ireland:
   The Impact of PR-STV on European election campaigns"
  Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Henry Jarret
  Political Studies Association
  64th Annual International Conference
  Manchester 14-16 April 2014  

or you can do your own sociology research searches :-).

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