Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By-Elections or Filling Vacant Seats with RCV

Sometimes it happens that an elected office becomes unexpectedly vacant. The person who held the office may resign, be kicked out, or have died. When this happens, the office may remain vacant until the next scheduled election or a special election or by-election may be held specifically to fill the vacant seat.

One cool feature about ranked-choice voting is that it is REALLY easy to reuse the ballots to fill a vacancy. This avoids the expense and hassle of having people come out to vote again to fill the vacancy. We'll address single-winner and multi-winner elections separately because there are different considerations.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why We Love Online Voting Tools (And You Should, Too!)

Making the switch to online voting can prompt some understandable concerns. Voters who are used to physical ballots may wonder what happens to votes that are collected and tallied with the help of online voting software. But as the advantages of online voting tools quickly reveal themselves, your voters will love online voting as much as we do.

Online Voting Is Convenient for Organizations and Voters

You can set up and distribute ballots in minutes, rather than the days or weeks it can take to get ballots printed and mailed or completed at a polling location. OpaVote's ballots are easy to read and voters can vote from any device at any location.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Proportional vs. Majoritarian Representation

When electing a group of people, such as a congress, council, or committee, you need to decide which philosophy of representation that you would like to use. At a very high level, there are two basic options: proportional representation or majoritarian representation.

Proportional Representation

As an example, we'll use a hypothetical election of the U.S. House of Representatives described by Daily Kos and illustrated by the diagram above. The Daily Kos article hypothesizes what the House might look like if U.S. elections used proportional representation. You can see 9 different political parties with different levels of support.

With proportional representation, the percentage of seats held by a party will be approximately equal to their percent support by the voters. In this example, about 6% of voters prefer the Green party, so the Green party gets 26 of the 435 seats or about 6% of the seats.

The most common voting methods that provide proportional representation are the single transferable vote (STV), party list voting, and mixed member proportional representation. STV is the only one that makes sense for non-government elections since the other two are based on political parties. OpaVote provides several variations of STV including Scottish STV, Meek STV, and ERS97 STV.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meek STV Explained

Brian Meek
Meek STV is the creme de la creme of STV counting rules. For you math nerds, I would even call it a beautiful algorithm! To appreciate all that beauty, we're going to have to get our hands dirty. I'm going to assume that you have a solid understanding of STV and that you've read our previous post describing Scottish STV. Feel free to brush up on STV and come back later if you need to.

Meek STV is named after Brian Meek (1934-1997) who first came up with these counting rules. I spent a lot of effort tracking down a photo of him to give him some publicity for his work!

As with all STV rules, there are two types of vote transfers: (i) vote transfers from eliminated candidates and (ii) transfers of surplus votes from candidates who have too many votes.

The magic of Meek STV is in transferring the surplus votes. Recall that STV rules have a winning threshold or a quota, and any votes held by a candidate above this winning threshold are surplus votes that need to be transferred.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Common Misconceptions About Online Voting

When organizations introduce online voting or make the switch to an online voting service, their voting members naturally voice their concerns about the change. These concerns stem from the need to have accessible, accurate, and secure voting processes for every voter.  For those organizing the election, reliable results are crucial to maintaining confidence in the organization's governance. When weighing your options for voting systems, you may encounter the following questions.

Is Online Voting Easy to Use?

If your voting members aren't tech savvy, this may be a significant concern, but a needless one. Voters will get an email containing a link for the ballot. If your voters can receive and reply to email, they can use our online voting service.

Is Online Voting Anonymous?

Organizations that are used to secret ballots should know that emails are never used to violate the anonymity of the ballot box. If voters are having trouble accessing, completing, or submitting their ballot, OpaVote can address these concerns without ever needing to ask about their ballot choices. Managers have no way to associate specific ballot choices with a specific voter.

Is Online Voting Secure?

On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. But our security measures can prevent an unauthorized user from gaining access to your election or a voter from submitting a duplicate ballot. Once you are done with your election and remove it from OpaVote, we delete the information we collected to maintain and secure your privacy. Emails are not used for any purpose outside the election so your voters need not worry about being bombarded with spam for using our online voting service.

Is Online Voting Affordable?

For the price of a latte, you can run an election for up to 100 voters for two weeks. Small elections lasting a week with up to 25 voters are free. Our pricing schedule offers plans that will accommodate up to 10,000 voters for an election cycle lasting nearly two years, leaving you with enough money and plenty of time to plan a victory party.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why we love the Borda count

"My scheme is intended only for honest men."
The Borda count is a great voting system that doesn't get enough attention. It is really easy to understand and is very useful for certain types of elections. It does, however, have a serious flaw that you need to be aware of before using it. More on that later.

A quick bit of history. The man credited with inventing the Borda count is Jean-Charles de Borda. He invented a lot of things and has a crater on the moon named after him.

How the Borda count works

The Borda count is really simple. Suppose 5 candidates are running in the election. The voters rank the candidates, and each candidate gets 4 points for every first choice, 3 points for every second choice, 2 points for every third choice, 1 point for every fourth choice, and no points for last choices. You count up the points, and the person with the most points wins.

Sometimes you will see other point systems. E.g., 5 points for a first choice and 1 point for a last choice. Sometimes it is reversed and you get 1 point for a first choice, 5 points for a last choice vote, and the person with the fewest points wins. You get the same winner either way so it doesn't matter.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why use ranked choice voting over Condorcet voting

This is a follow up article to my previous article explaining why I prefer ranked choice voting over approval voting. The task here is to explain why I prefer ranked choice voting (RCV) over Condorcet for most elections.

To not keep you in suspense, I'll tell you up front. It is MUCH harder for voters to understand how Condorcet ballots are counted than to understand how RCV ballots are counted. In my view, it is very important for voters to understand the counting process. For this reason, I recommend that most organizations use RCV and not Condorcet.

With both RCV and Condorcet, voters cast the same exact ranked ballot. The difference is how the ballots are counted to determine the winner, and I'll explain this next.

Counting RCV Ballots

With RCV, the ballots are counted in rounds, and here is an example of RCV results. For the first round, each ballot is allocated to its first choice. For each subsequent round, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and the ballots of the last-place candidate are transferred to the next choices on the ballots. The counting is complete when a candidate has a majority or only two candidates remain.