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Multiple Choice Vote

We recommend a multiple choice vote for single-winner issues, such as choosing a community meeting date or electing an energy commissioner. The ethical motivation for the method described here is that at each step it honors the preferences of as many voters as possible.

To count the votes, only the preferences are counted. This is the Condorcet voting method, developed by the 18th century mathematician and philosopher Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet. When all the votes have been cast, each (direct) voter's preferences are multiplied by the number of people the voter represents, before counting the votes. The actual letter grade a voter gave to an option is ignored. If more people prefer option X to option Y than prefer Y to X, then X beats Y. When all the pairs are examined, the winning option will usually be clear.

Unless of course there is a circle of preferences.

Example Ballot

What color shall we paint our community hall?
 OPTIONS
Good
Bad
Veto
 #1 white
A+
A
B
C
D
E
NO
 #2 blue
A+
A
B
C
D
E
NO
 #3 pink
A+
A
B
C
D
E
NO

If every option is beaten by at least one other option -- for example, if voters prefer X to Y, Y to Z, and Z to X -- an additional step is required.

A circle of preferences does not necessarily mean that the voters are crazy. For example, if there are three voters and three options -- X, Y, and Z -- then there will be a circle if the voters order their preferences, quite reasonably, as follows:

  • voter #1: X Y Z
  • voter #2: Y Z X
  • voter #3: Z X Y

Circles can usually be resolved by the Tideman method, favoring larger majorities over smaller ones, in the pairwise comparisons. For example, if X is overwhelmingly favored over Y, more so than Y over Z or Z over X, then X wins. For an illustrated example of the Tideman/Condorcet ("Ranked Pairs") method in action, see this site.

In the unlikely event that two or more pairwise victories tie for the win, then the number of vetoes and finally the actual letter grades given to each option will be used to break the tie.