Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

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Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Okita » Fri May 27, 2011 4:59 pm UTC

In a representative democracy (like the United States of America), we vote for our representatives within government. Those representatives are supposed to govern and protect our interests.

I'm curious about is the criteria for how we choose our elected officials.

On the one hand, voters ideally would vote for the person who would be best at the job. Obviously we want someone who is qualified for the job. Preferably smart.

On the other hand, we also want an elected official who matches your political and ethical views (on $_Debate_Subject).

These two criteria can sometimes be treated as the same (any one who doesn't agree with me is stupid and therefore not qualified for my vote) but what happens when they are not? Do I vote for a person even though they don't agree with me all the time because I trust that they are smarter and might know better?

It makes me think about people who argue the an official is out of touch with the average American people. This is has a negative connotation and rightfully so because we want our elected officials to understand our issues.

Consequently, should elected officials govern based upon what they believe to be right or by what the majority of their constituents think is right. If you believe yourself to be smarter than most of your constituents, will you make what you believe is the wrong choice because if you don't, you're not representing your constituency (think about it in the sense of voting on bills in Congress)?
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby DSenette » Fri May 27, 2011 5:24 pm UTC

Okita wrote:In a representative democracy (like the United States of America), we vote for our representatives within government. Those representatives are supposed to govern and protect our interests.

I'm curious about is the criteria for how we choose our elected officials.

On the one hand, voters ideally would vote for the person who would be best at the job. Obviously we want someone who is qualified for the job. Preferably smart.

On the other hand, we also want an elected official who matches your political and ethical views (on $_Debate_Subject).

These two criteria can sometimes be treated as the same (any one who doesn't agree with me is stupid and therefore not qualified for my vote) but what happens when they are not? Do I vote for a person even though they don't agree with me all the time because I trust that they are smarter and might know better?

It makes me think about people who argue the an official is out of touch with the average American people. This is has a negative connotation and rightfully so because we want our elected officials to understand our issues.

Consequently, should elected officials govern based upon what they believe to be right or by what the majority of their constituents think is right. If you believe yourself to be smarter than most of your constituents, will you make what you believe is the wrong choice because if you don't, you're not representing your constituency (think about it in the sense of voting on bills in Congress)?

unfortunately, it seems as though MOST politicians (in every level, and on every side of the US government at least) no longer actually do anything remotely close to their elected job description. virtually everything they do seems to be geared towards re-election.

they say whatever it is they think their voting population wants to hear them say, then they do fuck all once they get the job.

of course there are some politicians who actually do their job, and do what they think is best for their district/country/whatever. they rarely get re-elected though.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Abgrund » Sat May 28, 2011 12:07 am UTC

By the time it comes to a popular election, the real questions are already quite settled. The voter does not get to choose who they want to vote for; they get to choose among two or three carefully pre-selected masks for the plutocracy to wear.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby CorruptUser » Sat May 28, 2011 7:30 am UTC

Abgrund wrote:By the time it comes to a popular election, the real questions are already quite settled. The voter does not get to choose who they want to vote for; they get to choose among two or three carefully pre-selected masks for the plutocracy to wear.


Citation needed. Actual evidence, not claims by people with confirmation bias.

Honestly, if the country was actually run by a shadow government with so much control/secrecy they could keep themselves hidden, there would not be nearly as much chaos in the country. Unemployment would be much lower, if only as a distraction to prevent the masses from revolution or whatever. Is it really so hard to believe that most people are ignorant enough that they keep voting for political whores instead of rational candidates, rather than the political whores being part of some vast conspiracy with tens or hundreds of thousands of participants that somehow stay quiet?

Yes, there are conspiracies out there; people have always worked together to try and give themselves an advantage of some kind, legal or otherwise. But when you hear of a conspiracy, actually ask yourself if the evidence actually points to the conspiracy, or if you are only looking for evidence that points to the conspiracy.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Soralin » Sat May 28, 2011 9:37 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Abgrund wrote:By the time it comes to a popular election, the real questions are already quite settled. The voter does not get to choose who they want to vote for; they get to choose among two or three carefully pre-selected masks for the plutocracy to wear.


Citation needed. Actual evidence, not claims by people with confirmation bias.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby cazadoremi » Sat May 28, 2011 9:56 am UTC

While your response technically has something to do with elections, it doesn't explain your claim of plutocracy.
I mean, I agree with you, but this is SB and it's better to just lurk than post personal opinions unbacked by research.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby CorruptUser » Sat May 28, 2011 6:37 pm UTC

^ this.

Also, the voter does have indirect influence; each amorphous blob that we call a political party is trying to absorb the most people, so the political party that can keep the most people happy is the one that dominates. Hopefully, it's by creating policies most people agree with. Cynically, the Republicans try to get Hyper-Christians to pump out the kids so there are more Hyper-Christians, while Democrats try to put as many people on welfare as possible (while again, pumping out more Democrats).
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Bharrata » Sat May 28, 2011 11:11 pm UTC

should elected officials govern based upon what they believe to be right or by what the majority of their constituents think is right.


I would argue that:

Ideally: the latter most of the time so that when big decisions (war, unsustainable finances, etc.) come up the people know that their representative has listened to them before and is making the choice that is best for them due to his expertise.

Practically: the former, tempered by what he heard his constituents saying at rallies and in the local papers before he was elected, only doing the latter when there is massive public outcry to not do what the representative personally would have done.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby jules.LT » Sat May 28, 2011 11:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Abgrund wrote:By the time it comes to a popular election, the real questions are already quite settled. The voter does not get to choose who they want to vote for; they get to choose among two or three carefully pre-selected masks for the plutocracy to wear.

Citation needed. Actual evidence, not claims by people with confirmation bias.

Maybe he was referring to the way American politicians get massive financing from the corporate world? That certainly gives it a strong voice in the choice of candidates.

CorruptUser wrote:Cynically, the Republicans try to get Hyper-Christians to pump out the kids so there are more Hyper-Christians, while Democrats try to put as many people on welfare as possible (while again, pumping out more Democrats).

Democrats and Republicans try to outbreed each other? citation needed.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby ++$_ » Sun May 29, 2011 5:37 am UTC

I'd say the more deserving politician is the one who has the better grasp of the issues, over the one who follows the "will of the public" (which often means the will of 51% of the public, or even less).

When we say politicians are out of touch with the average American, it usually means that they don't understand what is going on in America. For example, they might think that the most important economic issue facing Americans is inflation, when it's actually unemployment. On the other hand, if most Americans think that unemployment is the most important issue, but actually inflation is most important, and the politicians realize this, in my book that makes most Americans out of touch, rather than the politicians. That is, saying that the politicians are out of touch with the average American really means that they are not making good policy choices. It doesn't mean they aren't doing the will of the people.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Vanzetti » Sun May 29, 2011 12:23 pm UTC

++$_, you are assuming there is some objectively most important issue. :roll:
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Robot_Raptor » Sun May 29, 2011 3:36 pm UTC

I'm wondering how voting system would influence this. Given a limited number of candidates how do you pick the one that best expressed the will of the people? FPTP is most definitely not the answer, but how do the others stack up?
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby CorruptUser » Sun May 29, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

I'm for auto-runoff voting or whatever it's called. If the person who got the most votes had less than (1/(x+1)) of the votes, another election is held with the top x candidates. It's still not perfect, but better than what we have.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Mechanicus » Sun May 29, 2011 7:01 pm UTC

I'm wondering how voting system would influence this. Given a limited number of candidates how do you pick the one that best expressed the will of the people? FPTP is most definitely not the answer, but how do the others stack up?
Personally, I think you need to look at the system that has the most flexibility in your vote. The binary, single-option first past the post is possibly the least expressive and flexible - you only express a view on one candidate and it's a yes or no. Approval voting, which is first past the post with as many options as you want, is possibly the most expressive 'put a cross' voting system. I suppose the next level up is a ranking system to be able to differentiate between candidates like the supplementary vote (ranking your top 2 candidates for example) or the instant runoff vote (ranking all candidates). I think the most expressive system is a scoring system like range voting - scoring each candidate from 1 to 10 say and summing all the scores for each candidate.

Proportionality is also, depending on your definition, important to best express the will of the people. Generally speaking, proportionality increases as the number of seats per constituency increases; in Northern Ireland they have six seats per constituency at least to ensure a decent degree of proportionality when using the single transferable vote for example. STV is supposed to be the most proportional of the ranking systems if implemented correctly, though list systems are probably the most proportional yet implemented but have a limited choice of actual representatives even under open list systems.

I'd be interested to see a multiple-winner version of range voting (reweighted range voting as one proposal is called).
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby endolith » Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

Mechanicus wrote:I suppose the next level up is a ranking system to be able to differentiate between candidates like the supplementary vote (ranking your top 2 candidates for example) or the instant runoff vote (ranking all candidates). I think the most expressive system is a scoring system like range voting - scoring each candidate from 1 to 10 say and summing all the scores for each candidate.


Do you think the more "expressive" system is inherently the better one? A ranked system makes more sense to me, since humans are good at expressing relative preferences between choices, but not good at expressing absolute preferences on arbitrary scales. We suffer from cognitive biases like anchoring, for instance.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby sam_i_am » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

I don't have any formal voting criteria. I just try to soak up what information i can, and vote for the guy whom I happen to like the most
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:18 pm UTC

Okita wrote:On the one hand, voters ideally would vote for the person who would be best at the job. Obviously we want someone who is qualified for the job. Preferably smart.

On the other hand, we also want an elected official who matches your political and ethical views (on $_Debate_Subject).


If my political and ethical views lead me to want bad things, they're poor political and ethical views, and I need to change them. If you're ever saying "sure, I know it'll actually just screw everything up, but it's the right thing to do", you may want to re-evaluate how you determine what's right.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby omgryebread » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:38 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Okita wrote:On the one hand, voters ideally would vote for the person who would be best at the job. Obviously we want someone who is qualified for the job. Preferably smart.

On the other hand, we also want an elected official who matches your political and ethical views (on $_Debate_Subject).


If my political and ethical views lead me to want bad things, they're poor political and ethical views, and I need to change them. If you're ever saying "sure, I know it'll actually just screw everything up, but it's the right thing to do", you may want to re-evaluate how you determine what's right.
I don't think that was what he was saying.

Criterion 1 is "Is this candidate capable of handling crises, working with the legislature, negotiating with foreign powers, managing the executive branch, etc.

Criterion 2 is "Does this candidate's positions on policy decisions match my own?"

I can surely envision a candidate I see as smart, able to handle crises, able to get bills passed, and effectively pursue his foreign policy agenda, yet one I disagree with on a substantial number of issues.

Actually, I don't need to imagine that candidate, since there is one: Gary Johnson. He perfectly fits Criterion 1 for me.

The problem is that I think he'd work effectively to pass bills I don't like, he'd effectively pursue the wrong foreign policy agenda, etc.
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby endolith » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:53 pm UTC

Is there some kind of weighting function based on polls that can convert a preferential vote into a FPTP vote? Like write down the candidates you'd support in order, and then weight them using polls by the likelihood that they can actually win.

In general in the US it's pretty easy to tell who to vote for, because the two-party system is so dominant and you just pick the first of the two parties on your preference list, but is there a mathematical function for it?
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Re: Representative Democracy and the voting criteria

Postby Derek » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:11 pm UTC

endolith wrote:Is there some kind of weighting function based on polls that can convert a preferential vote into a FPTP vote? Like write down the candidates you'd support in order, and then weight them using polls by the likelihood that they can actually win.

In general in the US it's pretty easy to tell who to vote for, because the two-party system is so dominant and you just pick the first of the two parties on your preference list, but is there a mathematical function for it?

If you just want to optimize one voters ballot, and you assume that all other voters vote for their most preferred candidate, then it's easy. Look at the top two contenders, and vote for your preferred candidate.

But this includes a very unrealistic assumption: That other votes simply vote for their favorite candidate. In reality, most voters are applying a similar function to optimize their ballots. What we would like to find then is a function that will give us a Nash equilibrium result (ie, no voters would go back and chance his ballot, if he could do so). For a single election, there may be many of these, for example, in FPTP any election where everyone votes for one of only two candidates is a Nash equilibrium. This doesn't help us very much though because it doesn't tell us which equilibrium is the best one.

Most (all?) ranked voting systems can be described as a way to find a good Nash equilibrium from the potential FPTP solutions. For example, IRV performs a series of FPTP elections using the voters most preferred candidates, eliminating the lowest performing candidate at each round, and then re-running the election. The final round is a FPTP election between the remaining two candidates, and a winner is chosen. Condorcet methods perform a FPTP race between every pair of candidates, and if one of the candidates would beat all the rest, chooses him as the winner (where no such Condorcet winner exists, Condorcet methods vary in how to choose a winner).

But if we're using a ranked system, we might extend our question from "Who should we vote for in FPTP to optimize our vote?" to "In what order should we rank the candidates to optimize our vote?". Even in ranked voting system, an honest vote is usually not optimal. Again, we would like to find a Nash equilibrium result where no voter would change his ballot. Finding a solution to this is not easy, and there may not even be a pure equilibrium (where every voter has a deterministic strategy). This is unfortunate, because really we want a voting system where a voters optimal vote is obvious. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that the optimal vote is honest, but not voting system accomplishes this*.


* Approval voting sort of does this: An optimal vote is honest in the sense that every candidate you vote for is preferred to every candidate you do not vote for. But this leaves many possible honest votes, and voter still must choose which is optimal.
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