W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-w3process@w3.org > May 2014

Re: Voting again…

From: Nottingham, Mark <mnotting@akamai.com>
Date: Sun, 4 May 2014 18:33:22 -0500
To: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
CC: "public-w3process@w3.org" <public-w3process@w3.org>
Message-ID: <8332A731-17B9-4DCB-913D-8E90B70B2854@akamai.com>
As I’ve said a number of times, I’d very much like to see this happen. I don’t think inertia is a good reason to stop it; if people have a problem with it, I’d like to hear it articulated (as well as the benefits have been on numerous occasions).


On 5 May 2014, at 3:04 am, Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru> wrote:

> TL;DR: AB (and TAG) elections are broken, if we find out exactly how  
> broken it won't really affect the ability of each group to do their work,  
> but it isn't hard to fix this and we should. A simiarly broken system is  
> being proposed for Webizens, whereit is likely to be even more important  
> to have a decent system.
> There is an election (for the Advisory Board), where there are a dozen  
> candidates. As far as I can tell all of them are qualified for the  
> position, although of course Ihave preferences for whom I would prefer to  
> see on the AB.
> But the existing system for voting makes a total mess of this. Given  
> candidates of roughly equal quality, more than half the votes cast will be  
> completely wasted. If we see (as we have in the last two TAG elections and  
> the last AB election) a campaign for a slate of voters, even if they are  
> running on a single "party" platform and proposing exactly the same  
> things, the system is likely to elect the entire slate, rather than a  
> diverse group of people representing the diverse preferences of the whole  
> AC.
> The only sensible way to vote, then, is to vote for one candidate. I waste  
> 80% of my right to vote, but increase the odds that my vote is actually  
> useful in helping elect one of the people I *really* want on the AB. I do  
> this repeatedly, but reluctantly, as the least-worst of a set of bad  
> options in how to vote under the current system.
> This is why for the last few years (and more so since the beginning of  
> last year when it started being an issue in practice as slates of  
> candidates were run in elections) I have been trying to get some traction  
> on a change in the voting procedures.
> There have been a number of arguments raised against such a change, and I  
> would like to address them:
> == It ain't broke, why fix it?
> When a slate of candidates standing on a single position ("reform all the  
> thingz") gets elected in each of the last 3 elections it may mean that we  
> face only one important problem. I doubt that - and as a candidate (and  
> someone many other candidates have turned to for advice) I understand the  
> pressure to align oneself with that "platform". I think this is an  
> anti-democratic result, and that we are seeing an artificial reduction in  
> the diversity of the AB, and how representative they really are of the  
> membership.
> In addition I *believe* that an increasing number of votes are "strategic"  
> - people voting for far fewer candidates than they could, in order to try  
> and maximise the chances that their vote counts at all. Without an open  
> count it is hard to know for certain, but the W3C team at least has those  
> numbers.
> == Don't deligitimise the AB / TAG
> I find this argument illogical. The voting system we use effectively  
> deligitimises the results as being representative of us, the AC. This is a  
> simple mathematical property of a choice made a decade or so ago, based on  
> a aprticular view of a century and a half of research into and deployment  
> of voting systems designed to ensure fair outcomes (and also those  
> designed to favour incumbents or other sectional interests).
> While running an experimental vote system that showed the results we get  
> in our elections are not a very good reflection of the real intentions of  
> the community would indeed suggest that we have "the wrong people" on the  
> TAG or AB, I don't think this is a huge problem in practice. First,  
> because while I believe the AC gets misrepresented by election results, I  
> also believe that the candidates who are elected but would not have been  
> under a fairer system are actually widey regarded as well-qualified for  
> the task.
> In other words, what we have now is a somewhat random system for selecting  
> representatives, that doesn't actually choose what we want, but whose  
> impact is balanced by the fact that at least most candidates are  
> reasonable. In which case, why bother with the election instead of a  
> random selection?
> == No voting system is perfect, so why swap?
> Arrow's theorem is one of those that demonstrates that it is effectively  
> impossible to get a system that cannot be gamed (e.g. allowing a slate of  
> candidates to effectively shut out diversity), and that entirely reliably  
> represents the interests of the voters.
> However, it is one piece of a large body of work going back to at least  
> the mid 19th century on how to provide *better* systems. And it is  
> generally accepted that some systems are significantly better than others  
> - and we happen to have on of the worst.
> == STV is really complicated…
> Well, it does require the ability to rank candidates in order of  
> preference. Which in turn means being able to count perhaps as far as 12.  
> I believe that all members of the AC can manage that task without getting  
> terribly confused.
> Even the most complex voting systems could be hand-calculated for the AC -  
> but luckily we also have computers that can simplify this process,  
> providing a result effectively instantaneously for an election the size of  
> those we run in W3C.
> == How do we select a new system?
> Obviously, unless you have a decent voting procedure in place, you're  
> unlikely to get one by voting on it! However, while I think the level of  
> candidates for W3C elections is generally high enough that it isn't a big  
> deal whether we vote or pull names out of a hat, that isn't true of voting  
> systems.
> Pretty much any STV or ranked-pair voting system is so much better than  
> the current one that it would be a big improvement.
> However, David Baron did some research a while ago. He expressed interest  
> in approval voting[0], which unfortunately is still subject to most of the  
> problems of our current system. His eventual conclusion (which matches  
> mine, unless I have misinterpreted him as merely proposing a strawman) was  
> that there are a couple of systems seriously worth further consideration.
> Of those David suggested were most worth further investigation, the  
> "qualification" is that they are highly resistant to managed voting,  
> ensuring that the best voting strategy is to say exactly what you want.  
> And of them, the Shulze system[1] has a couple of very interesting  
> properties:
>  - You can try it on the Web[2], where there is an explanation of how it  
> is a big improvement, and
>  - there is open-source code[3] to implement the counting, which means we  
> would require a minimal effort to implement it in e.g. WBS (assuming we  
> don't 'outsource' our voting to the open web).
> Since David's suggestion and subsequent discussion a year ago, I haven't  
> seen *any* suggestion that we should not use the Schulze system in any  
> discussion. I would like to know if there are any alternative candidates.
> == Conclusion
> There should be a call for consensus on whether we should adopt an STV  
> system for voting. At this stage, I am thinking of simply an up/down vote  
> on the Schulze system (primarily to help defuse the "but it's all so  
> complicated - and which system would we choose" argument that is  
> occasionally raised), but before I do anything I welcome further thoughts,  
> suggestions, ideas and opinions.
> [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schulze_STV
> [2] http://www.modernballots.com/
> [3]  
> https://github.com/bradbeattie/python-vote-core/blob/master/pyvotecore/schulze_stv.py
> cheers
> Chaals
> -- 
> Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
>       chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com

Mark Nottingham    mnot@akamai.com   http://www.mnot.net/

Received on Sunday, 4 May 2014 23:33:52 UTC

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