How Voting Goes Down

Brian: Let’s play Balderdash. Condorcet is:

1. An erectile dysfunction drug
2. A female endangered bird from California
3. A system of voting that weighs candidates with difference orders of preference
4. That thing where after you eat popcorn, you can tell something is stuck between your teeth, but nothing, not even a toothpick or floss, gets it out. It just has to work its way out on its own.

Ricardo:#3! (though #1 for many hacks, just talking about it gets me frisky). Unfortunately Elections Administrator Erik was unable to get it up in time for elections— “it” being an online voting system that can handle the ranking of candidates necessary for Condorcet. That means no Condorcet for the elections, which is going to have a big impact on how the election night turns out for a number of candidates.

For those of you without an unnecessary trivia-size understanding of different voting methods, ranked pairs Condorcet method requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Not all candidates need to be ranked and any number of candidates may be ranked equally. Whichever candidate is more preferred (when compared to every other candidate) wins. The system allows people to vote honestly, knowing they won’t have to vote strategically to avoid vote splitting and their most hated candidate winning (e.g. like many minority governments.)

Brian: AMS code actually requires these elections to use Condorcet, so the administrator had to put out a message explaining why Condorcet was not a realistic option. AMS Council will have to vote to suspend code at their meeting on January 12th.

From the sounds of it, UBC was not able to rig up a voting method that would work with its network and use the Condorcet method. If you’re wondering why we can’t use last year’s voting method, well, there’s this

Ricardo: –which I say could’ve been fixed with the time and money that was available, but people wanted nothing to do with the old system.

Brian: Right. It almost makes me want to go back to the simple times, when all a person had to do to vote was mark a piece of paper. And then I remember that my entire election got voided because of a stupid paper ballot.

So the real question now is: who gets helped and who gets screwed over the most with Condorcet not being available? And please, readers, chime in with comments if (when?) you think either of us are saying something batshit crazy.

Ricardo: First off, Condorcet doesn’t currently apply to the Board of Governors or Senate races, so the dynamics of those races are unaffected (because those are UBC races that are run by the AMS, same with the Ubyssey board of directors election.)

Condorcet doesn’t change anything in two-candidate races, so the VP Finance race is also unaffected. Presumably, Kathy Yan Li is running as a joke candidate (or at best an inexperienced candidate with no outright voting block),  so the VP Admin race won’t be affected much, though without Condorcet people will be unable to show their support of a joke candidate as a protest vote and demonstrate their preference.

As for the other three races, I don’t see Condorcet affecting the VP Academic race since I think it’s Justin Yang’s race to lose. For President, it may undermine Jeremy McElroy’s top-dog status a bit but it’s currently him against the rest, and realistically it may even help him since Omar Shaban and Michael Moll may end up splitting votes. Condorcet would’ve allowed each of them to take a bite out of Jeremy.

It’ll make a huge difference for VP External. Katherine  Tyson and Mitch Wright are the obvious front runners but not having Condorcet means that the votes Rory Breasail gets may prevent Tyson or Wright from winning. Alternatively, Breasail will lose some votes because Wright- and Tyson-supporters will want to make sure their least preferred candidate doesn’t win.

Brian: Kathy Yan Li told me she was running as a joke candidate, so unless she’s a LIAR, that’s settled.

I’m trying to decide whether I agree with everything you said, but it’s hard to keep straight exactly how a first-past-the-post system will change things from a preference-ranking system.

I agree that the Academic race is probably Yang’s to lose, but until we see how Parsons and Wang do in the debates, I’m not going to say too much more than that because I don’t know enough about them. (Yang and Wang in the same race? Great. Maybe we should use first names.) I tend to think that very qualified candidates are always hurt by a non-ranking system because they will usually get all the 2nd place votes from votes they don’t win outright.

I think Shaban’s chances are probably helped by having no Condorcet because anyone who votes for McElroy or Moll is not likely to rank Shaban high. Shaban is far to the left of either of them, and also a controversial candidate for, you know, telling Canada to go fuck itself. I kind of suspect that vote-splitting is actually more of a danger between Moll and McElroy, but I don’t know enough about Moll yet to say for sure. I agree that McElroy is the frontrunner here.

The VP External race is wide open, and it’s going to be fun to watch. You are probably right that Breasail is in a weaker position than the other two, but he also ran a pretty good campaign for AMS Rep in the spring. I think Breasail is helped for the same reason that Omar is: the votes that Wright and Tyson get were probably not going to rank Breasail high, because his politics are quite a bit to the left of theirs.

Ricardo: That’s definitely true about those two races: the more that candidate support overlaps, the more of an effect not having Condorcet will have. I’m assuming all the candidates will have average turnouts from their support groups, but I can’t say for certain for instance whether Mike Silley or Matt Parsons are particularly beloved or hated by Greeks (i.e frat and sorority members) that go out and vote.

The always present wildcard of course is the “undecided” voter turnout (i.e voters who don’t find themselves in a particular block). For instance, Silley would have to be particularly reviled to lose Greek votes but who knows how candidates will fare with voters who don’t explicitly support any candidate in a race. One imagines that incumbents hold a bit of an edge (assuming they did a decent job, which shouldn’t be assumed with at least one weiner incumbent I can think of.)

Which races or candidates have the most to gain or lose from undecided voters?

Brian: Definitely the candidates who are relative unknowns. There’s always a couple of these; for example, Michael Haack running for VP Admin last year.

I can speak a bit about this too, because in the spring I ran for AUS President out of nowhere against Mike Silley and Ryan Trasolini, both of whom are heavily involved in the Greek system. It means you have to be absolutely dedicated, go to every single event, be the most active on social media, and have memorable posters and flyers. If you can write a detailed, well thought-out platform, you’ll get a chunk of the hack vote. Of course, working that hard still might not win you anything; I tied for first place in that one, but in the second election, when people knew who I was, I won with a comfortable margin. You really can’t replace name recognition.

But the other candidates who have the most to gain or lose are those who are good speakers, and have the most experience. If you get the chance to talk in front of undecided voters, the ability to out-talk the other candidate is huge. (As long as you aren’t spouting transparent bullshit, of course.)

The real wildcards are those candidates, like Tim Chu two years ago, who absolutely plaster the campus with their presence, making constant appearances at the bus loop and in classrooms and the SUB and such. If someone is voting, and they’ve only seen one of the three candidates on the ballot, they’ll probably vote for that person. Right?

Ricardo: Public perception is definitely key. In my books, that was the difference between Bijan Ahmadian and Natalie Swift last year in the presidential race. They came in even steven, and Ahmadian just out-debated her. I don’t see that happening in this year’s presidential race but the VP External debate will definitely be one to listen to. Condorcet or not, I think the winner in that race will be whoever makes a better statement on the position (and is not Breasail, though best of luck to him in stirring shit up).

Speaking of debates, don’t forget to tune into 101.9FM (or online) Monday at 5pm for candidate debates in the VP Finance, Academic, and Admin races which we will be liveblogging. Will Arash Ehteshami be able to expose Elin Tayyar’s failings as incumbent or simply his own inexperience? Will Kathy Yan Li be an actually intentionally funny joke candidate for once? Will Mike Silley and Gord Katic spout anything but boring drivel, like so many sewage treatment outlets? Will Justin Yang’s mic need to be turned up or will he overcome his shy personality to establish why he’s the best candidate?
Tune in tomorrow, same owl time (5pm), same owl channel (this website). Or be a loser and don’t.

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1 Comment

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One response to “How Voting Goes Down

  1. Miss Confidential

    I definitely disagree with “I don’t see Condorcet affecting the VP Academic race since I think it’s Justin Yang’s race to lose” but I’ll leave my reply to our post going up on Wednesday about the same topic ❤

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