dburrows/ blog/ entry/ On voting to release Lenny

Regarding the ballot currently before the Developers, Christian Perrier writes:

Moreover, the proposal is worded and was pushed in a way that all (but one) options that would allow us to release lenny will need a 3:1 majority, which is obviously very hard to achieve (and as, there are several such proposals, the vote will be spread out among all of them).

So, those folks who make the release of lenny their priority are now facing an interesting tactical choice: how the ..... should we vote for this to happen?

I personnally did choose to vote this way: 5462371.

I agree with Christian's goals, but in my opinion, the ballot he has cast actually makes less likely that the winning option will allow us to release lenny.

In Debian, we run a two-round election using a single ballot. In the first round, any options that need a 3:1 majority must defeat the default option by a 3:1 majority. Options which fail this test are eliminated and dropped from further consideration. In the second round, a winner is chosen from the remaining options using a Condorcet method as usual. The upshot of this is that the votes for the 3:1 majority cannot be spread out, unless people habitually place only one of the 3:1 options over Further Discussion. Furthermore, voting everything below Further Discussion benefits the options that don't require a 3:1 majority over the ones that do.

For a real example, let's say that we have a ballot like this:

[ ] Choice 1: Omelette [3:1]
[ ] Choice 2: Quiche [3:1]
[ ] Choice 3: Toast
[ ] Choice 4: Further Discussion

Suppose that we don't like the ballot at all, but we want an egg-based breakfast. What happens if we vote like this?

[2] Choice 1: Omelette [3:1]
[3] Choice 2: Quiche [3:1]
[4] Choice 3: Toast
[1] Choice 4: Further Discussion

This ballot can be read as: I don't think that omelettes or quiche should pass the 3:1 majority requirement. But if they do, I prefer them to toast. Unless 75% of the remaining voters vote omelette and quiche above toast, those two options will be thrown away, and the vote will be determined by whether half the voters placed toast over further discussion. If you want to make sure that toast doesn't win, you have to vote (insincerely) like this:

[1] Choice 1: Omelette [3:1]
[1] Choice 2: Quiche [3:1]
[3] Choice 3: Toast
[2] Choice 4: Further Discussion

Sadly, there is no way to vote against the vote without effectively also voting for toast!


I wonder if it was a mistake to combine the supermajority vote and the Condorcet vote on a single ballot. Maybe it would be better to write both ballots out explicitly:

Some options on this ballot must be approved by a 3:1
supermajority of the electorate.  Please enter 'Y' next to the
options that you approve of and 'N' next to those you disapprove
of.  Ballot options on which 75% of voters vote 'Y' will proceed
to the next round (below).

[ ] Choice 1: Omelette [3:1]
[ ] Choice 2: Quiche [3:1]

Rank the ballot options below:

[ ] Choice 1: Omelette [3:1]
[ ] Choice 2: Quiche [3:1]
[ ] Choice 3: Toast
[ ] Choice 4: Further Discussion

That would allow people who want to vote against the vote without privileging any of the options over the others to do so: vote Y to all 3:1 options, then vote 2221 on the rest.

On the other hand, I suspect people would be confused in different ways by a voting system that was this complicated, voting Y in places where they should write a number and writing numbers where they should write Y or N. I guess all this mess is why we still use First Past the Post for votes in the real world...