Town council election

Hey folks,
Do we have a method set for electing our town council this summer yet?

Hello,

While exact details are still being determined as election law is gone over and preparations are made, I can give you a few details that interim council was able to confirm or determine during the spring festivities. But be warned that some of this is subject to change. The number of town council seats must be a multiple of four and the interim council had settled on eight seets to be the best choice (four feeling too small for a settlement of our size while twelve felt like would be far too cumbersome). Four members of the council will be chosen to represent a season and therefore act as tiebreaker during their season. The exact manner and time of voting I do not believe has yet been finalized, but I am certain it will be in good time. If any other members of the interim council remember any details I am leaving out, please add them. And if any member of the community is well versed in election law, please do share your knowledge so we can best prepare.

Sincerely,
Dame Nathrach Rían Quigley

(OOC : No idea how election is happening, but I believe this is the number of seats open )

Why would four people and not two represent a season? If there were 8 representatives 2 members could be chosen for each of the seasons? Also, when did the interim council discuss this? I was part of the interim council and was not at any of this discussion.

I think it was two per season. As for when it was discussed, I remember it BEING discussed, but not when. I also remember it being hella hard to hear anything in the middle of the tavern with that many people stretched across a long table. Perhaps future councils should take place in a more quiet location.

My mistake on the one per season then. I thought someone had suggested still only having four to avoid situations where the two tiebreakers disagree thus causing a second tie. But that could have just been a thought and as already stated was sometimes difficult to properly discuss in a loud tavern. There had been a second meeting of the interim council after the first, but due to time constraints and the business with pirates it was rescheduled from a dinner to breakfast conversation and the timing of all meetings were a bit loose. I know I arrived to both a bit late thinking based off times I had been told that I was early or at least on time.

I don’t think it was even necessarily scheduled, I think enough people from the first meeting just happened to arrive at breakfast at the same time and it just sort of…happened.

There was discussion of both 1 per season and two per season on an eight person counsel, I don’t remember if we decided for sure or which way we decided if we did. A few people were taking notes, perhaps one of them will speak up. I tend to lean towards 1, as a simple tie breaker. On the other hand, the odds of the whole council being present every festival seems low, so maybe that doesn’t matter.

Two people per season seems fine; it will help keep the council populated in the even someone is disposed. To keep the voting simple, you could simply give only one vote per season normally and 2 votes to the current season to break ties. If there is an intractable disagreement between the two members of the same season then they abstain.

So, there’s two similar things being discussed here that need to get teased apart:

  1. How we pick who’s on the council.
  2. How the council, regardless of how they were chosen, makes decisions.

They’re both real important questions! But one’s going to be instrumental before the other, so I’m focusing there for now. (That would be picking the council in the first place, for the folks not paying attention in the back. There’s also the third question of what they’re allowed to decide, so they don’t immediately try to crown themselves all Petty Empress of the Port, Whose Will Is Law and To Defy Is Death, but that’s, eh, complicated and I think we already have some laws about that so it’s less pressing.)

Now, I don’t know much about election law, but I do know a fair bit about getting opinions from a disparate rabble in a way that doesn’t over-tax one’s sanity and isn’t likely to start a riot once you post the results.

So look forward to “Ol’ Ravil Explains it All: Election Systems and How Not To Fuck This Pooch,” coming as soon as I have a drink, a pen, and a spare hour all in the same place.

– Ravil Ibrashev

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I now want all the councilors to have ridiculous, over the top titles that don’t mean anything actually important because Reasons.

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In the Kithiran spirit of all citizens having a right to representation in their government, and being as electoral processes sometimes do not empower all citizens to representation via access to voting or ability to run for office, I’d like to float the idea that perhaps some seats on an eight-person Council be selected via public random lottery rather than election. This would increase the accessibility of Council seats to those without the means to run an electoral campaign and work to mitigate the influence of corporate financing and national party-based financing on the local political process.

I would propose that 4 seats be elected and 4 seats be selected via random lottery, but I am less particular on the proportions than on giving members of the public some access to Council seats.

Goody Sorrel,

I assume you are suggesting random selection among those interested? I am not certain if I support that, and would like to hear more of your rationale, but I am certain I oppose random selection including those who are not interested.

Frederick, Comptess Northmarch

Alright. I’m back. Let’s all get ready to learn!

What I’m trying to do here

Here’s a bunch of voting schemes from most obvious (and worst) to more complicated (and better - not because more complicated is better, but because I’m doing us all a favor and not talking about the ones that are more complicated and worse.) I know which one I like best, but I’m not insisting we go with that one. What I am insisting, though, is that people understand what they’re arguing for when they try to decide which election system we should use.

And in case it needs saying: Yes, just like I’m one of the people digging our shit-pits after I hollered about The Not Burning to Death or Shitting Ourselves Inside Out Platform, I’m willing to be the poor bastard doing the counting and tallying with three other people breathing down my neck trying to catch my arithmetic errors*. Even for the vote-counting systems where that’s really complicated.

*In exchange for a reasonable fee (10 ducats) and the right to fist-fight anyone who raised a spurious objection to my math, after the vote tallying has concluded in an orderly fashion.

I’m interested in your opinion, Ravil, but this is 5 pages long

You’re not wrong, and if I knew how long this was gonna be when I started writing it I’d have probably chickened out instead. But here we are! The short version is:

  • If you like simple to tally systems and are ok with expressing approval instead of explicitly ranking your choices, go with method 2
  • If you really want to rank your preferences, are ok with votes taking a while to count, and are also ok being incentivized to vote against your actual preferences in edge cases, go with method 3.
  • To include randomness or not is an orthogonal question that depends on your personal values.

Different ways to vote

One of the ways I like to think about voting* is it’s a principled way to answer a question.
The tricky thing about getting an answer is you have to ask the right question, as anyone whose been asked “if they’ve stopped being cruel to little babies yet” will well know.

It’s important to remember that this is discussing options for an election with multiple winners. How to perform single-winner elections, like for the person we send to Congress, has different considerations. In the examples below I’m using 8 seats, but the situation is basically the same until we get down to a single seat instead.

So let’s take a look at how we can try to answer “Who should be on the town council?”

*Yes, I liked to think about voting. We all like to dream about nice things we can’t have, eh?

No. 1: The easy, obvious, and terrible way:

Everyone writes down one name. The 8 people with the most votes are now councillor.

The most obvious problem with this way is you can end up with less than 8 councillors. Say everyone really likes the drinks at the bar and wants to see Seren as councillor for it. She’s elected unanimously, and now we have a town council of one. Whoops!

Another problem, which is really the same problem if you give it a bit of thought, is this is asking the wrong question. The question we’re trying to answer is: Who should be on the town council? But what this vote asks is: Who is the single person you most want on the town council?

And if you’re clever what it’s really, really, asking is “Who is the person that you most want to be on the town council that you think won’t get elected anyway without your vote”, which is even worse, because if everybody thinks like that the popular choices won’t get elected at all.

No. 2: An OK way

Everyone writes down as many different names as they want. The 8 people with the most votes are now councillor.

This fixes the issue where you want to drop your shoo-ins to focus your input on the candidates who are marginal enough for your votes to matter. (It’s still technically possible that we’ll elect less than eight folks, but I’m committing here and now that I’ll at least put down eight names so that won’t happen, I promise. I got a lot of opinions.)

It’s easy to explain, it’s easy to count, and it’ll handle people who know exactly who they want for councillors as well as folks who have some preference but not a full slate, or who know they’ll be ok with a wide set of candidates.

An issue is there’s no good way to express that you really want someone named Julian as councillor, but if you absolutely have to you can live with ZED. You can put down just the Julians, but then you’re not expressing your secondary preference for ZED, but if you put ZED down too, you’re giving just as much of a vote to ZED as you are to the Julians, which is not really what you meant. (Why not just let people grade candidates on a 0-10 scale or something? Because smart people will lie and rank the people the want elected 10, and everybody else 0. Once everybody figures this out, we’re back to yes/no votes.) Everyone has to judge where the cut-off is for who they vote for and who they don’t in the list of people they can tolerate.

Where exactly is that cut-off? Well there’s the honest way and the clever way. The honest way is that you write down everyone you think would do an acceptable job. The clever way is you imagine you didn’t vote. Very tragic. Imagine the tableau of fools who get elected without your wise input. Then write down everyone you think would do a better job than the average of the people who you think would be elected if you didn’t vote. So, again we see that clever dicks want to know what other people are doing but in this case the strategy is pretty simple, and not that different from what the clueless saps are doing. That makes this alright by my lights.

No. 3: Another OK way

Everyone writes down as many or as few names as they want, in order of preference. The votes are tallied as follows:

Ballots count as a vote for the highest-ranked candidate on that ballot still in the running
All candidates with enough votes
* to win a seat are elected councillor!
If they have extra votes, the surplus is redistributed† to their voters’ next choice
If that’s 8 elected councillors, or there’s only 8 candidates left, we’re done! Hurrah!
If not, we strike whoever has the fewest votes from the running and repeat from the beginning. If all of a ballot’s candidates are eliminated, that’s very sad but the ballot doesn’t have any more information we can use in the vote tallying, so it’s discarded.

*Enough votes means enough votes that it’s mathematically impossible that 7 other people get more votes than you.

† The principle when redistributing is to arrange things so that if, say, one candidate gets three times as many votes as necessary to win a seat, each voter only spends a third of a vote on electing that candidate - they didn’t “waste” their vote on the popular candidate, and their ballot counts for two thirds of a vote when going forward to their next choice. This can be achieved by randomly drawing in this case two-thirds of the votes for the winning candidate and redistributing those to their next choice (logistically easy but not necessarily fair), or marking each ballot with the fraction it’s now worth before redistributing (more math but fairer - unless the commisioners fuck up their arithmetic).

So we get to rank our preferences and there’s no wasted votes, either on popular candidates or absolute no-hopers. What’s the catch?

Problem one: this is real complicated. People are skeptical of things they don’t understand - and rightfully so! If I can’t explain a system to your satisfaction, then you’re not wrong for thinking maybe I want to pull one over on you somehow (though don’t forget that I might just be a bit stupid, instead.) Besides that, the more complicated the system is the longer it will take to tally, and the more likely it is that someone will make a mistake (or a “mistake”) and it won’t be noticed.

Problem two: Unlike Method 2, it’s possible to construct scenarios where people should rank a compromise candidate above who they really want to prevent someone they hate even more getting elected, which will in those cases limit elected candidate diversity. The good news is these scenarios involve reasoning about people’s later preferences and the order of candidate elimination, so it’s harder to be accurate and the utility of being a clever dick is concomitantly lessened vs bad choices like Method 1 (though this is less true the fewer seats you have.)

On Randomness

I’m glad Sorrel brought up randomness because there’s a few things worth saying about it.

First, random selection of the uninterested or unwilling is flawed on its face, since you don’t want someone at the helm who isn’t interested in doing a fine job, and I’m going to assume Sorrel meant random selection from the roll of candidates - or at the very least, letting people decline the job if they lottery in. If that’s not enough for you, I swear that if I get lottoed in, (and I’m sure not running outright,) I’ll do everything I can to sink this town into screaming misery out of spite, so you’d best not arrange things so that I might be forced to serve.

Second, whether or not to include a random element really cuts to the heart of how you think the town council should be assembled: Should it roughly follow the desires of the majority, under the premise that those unable to get mass support are unsuitable and unpopular for a reason, or should it ensure that even the most marginal perspectives have a shot at steering the destiny of the colony? Myself, I think depends on if you think the voting system is likely to be dominated by a particular group; or if you think there are dangerous candidates who’ll do dumb shite given half a chance, and which scenario you want to avoid most.

Third, there’s a wacky scheme that has a lot going for it - everyone’s best strategy is to tell the complete truth about who they think their ideal town council would be, it’s easy to hold elections, and it’s easy to understand:

Everyone writes down 8 names. A random ballot is drawn. That is the town council.

Maybe you think that’s lunacy - most people do. Maybe you’re ok with it. If you think a bit about how you feel about a random ballot draw and why, you might gain some insight into what’s important to you in a voting system.

Post-Script

So by now (and good job if you’re still with us) you might be thinking one or more of a few things:

“Ravil, it sounds like all of these methods have problems.”
You’re right! There’s no perfect voting system, or at least none that I know of, but maybe we’ll make a more informed choice now.

“Ravil, I have a good idea you didn’t mention.”
Yeah I was ready to write up detailed refutations of systems that look like good ideas but really aren’t but Lilywhite said they made this too damn long and he had a point for once. If you’re itching to share, sing out and if I think it’s a poor choice I’ll say why.

“Ravil, you’re a dumb shite who wasted everyone’s time.”
Guilty as charged, and may I say that’s unecessarily hostile as well?

“Ravil, you should run for councillor!”
No.

– Ravil Ibrashev

((OOC Appendix))

I hope this was a fun or at least tolerable introduction to voting theory and some of the voting systems that exist for multiple-winner elections.

In the real world these voting systems are called:

  1. First Past the Post
  2. Approval Voting
  3. Standard Transferrable Vote

Range Voting is an honorable mention that only gets discussed in the Approval Voting section.

I didn’t discuss methods that were uncomputable by hand, and I’ve taken a few liberties with which methods are “in-period” for the game - most egregiously, Single Transferable Vote wasn’t invented in the real world until the 19th century.

Material I used to put this together comes from:

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Hello Comptess Northmarch,

I am suggesting random selection among all citizens of Port Katherine. I am suggesting that once selected, an individual is encouraged to serve their civic duty as a participant in their local political system, however may choose to decline the appointment, in which case a replacement would be selected by the same method. In other words, let’s grant for our purposes here that I agree with you that no one should serve on Council if they strongly object, but I am proposing a limited number of seats for which people opt out instead of opting in to these seats.

I am not well versed in political philosophy, but it seems to me that there are two competing goals of political governance: governance by expertise (by those most fit to govern - the wise, the good, those well-versed in law and administration, etc etc), and governance that is understanding and reflective of the needs of those governed. As a matter of practicality, or perhaps an artifact of our society, it seems to me that those who are called to govern due to their expertise tend to be distant from understanding the needs of the governed. They tend to be those who have led lives of power, wealth, education. At their best (though not in practice), our politicians and leaders are the best of us – but this means that they are not reflective of us; they do not, in some important sense, represent us. I believe it is important to have leadership by expertise. I also believe that it is important to empower diverse perspectives representative of the governed. I believe that random selection is the best way to achieve that second goal, and so I propose a hybrid system of governance including both expertise and representation.

But enough abstractions.

There are myriad practical barriers that prevent persons from opting in to civic participation. Broadly speaking, electoral systems requiring one to run for election select for potential leaders with high degrees of wealth, political connection, education, urban sensibilities, traditionally feminine upbringing and identification, and outgoing, competitive personality. Looking at the state of Kithiran politics and politicians, it seems to me that the electoral system as currently implemented has generally selected leaders for traits that are good for winning elections, but not good for wise, just, thoughtful, caring governance. I am at a loss for how to reform elections, so I am proposing a component of local government to act as a balance on elected officials, in the form of randomly selected representatives of the population. I believe this will open up access to public office, perhaps not to those most wise and good, but at least to those less wealthy, less groomed for politics, less honed for the winning of elections. Would it be a bad thing to have a humble soldier or a thoughtful scholar on our Town Council? Would it be a bad thing to have some local leadership by people who shy away from the pomp and viciousness of electoral politics but would, if called, serve for the good of their town?

And then there is the matter, of course, of financing in electoral politics, especially local politics. Obviously, those running for election with significant means (family, wealth, corporate connections, party endorsement, political background) can use these means to influence elections in various ways, from the scope of their campaigning (adverts, sponsorship, hiring famous spokespeople) to the unregulatable practice of private vote-buying. By proposing a partial check and balance on elected officials, that is instead representative of the people governed, I am proposing a partial check on financing (especially financing from outside of Port Katherine) in the determination of our local leadership.

I apologize, I had originally intended for this to be a simple proposal to provoke thought! I’ve been long-winded.

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Wow, thanks Ravil for such a well-written guide to vote-tallying procedure!

I’ll just add that in addition to deciding how votes will determine an election outcome, election procedure also needs to decide who will be eligible to vote and how votes will be cast. Some sub-issues:

  • How is voting eligibility determined in theory? Is there a minimum age to vote? Is there a minimum period of residency before being eligible to vote, or can someone vote the minute they land (and possibly leave again the next day)? If someone lives on Port Katherine part-time and also maintains residency elsewhere part-time, are they eligible to vote only in the jurisdiction in which they maintain residency for a plurality of the year? Majority of the year?

  • How is voting eligibility verified in practice? What prevents dastardly pirates from voting in our elections? Here is where some kind of registry of voters is useful.

  • Who oversees electoral procedure and checks that it is being followed? (Some kind of neutral election commission unaffiliated with any candidates?) Who resolves disputes regarding voting procedure, such as determining voting eligibility in unclear cases?

  • How is the physical security of the ballot box safeguarded? Are people hired to guard the ballot box at all hours?

  • Early/absentee voting: How do we ensure voting access for eligible voters who are performing important duties during the normal period of voting? It would be a bad idea to require every single person to personally attend the Fire Festival at the same time in order to vote. Arcana mines would be left vulnerable to pirate attack. Navy sailors who are also eligible voters may need to be at sea ensuring the safety of our shores (especially later, when we might have a shipyard), unless the security of the island is 100% in the hands of noncitizens. How is the physical security of early/absentee votes ensured? (Is there a ballot box that is physically guarded for weeks before the election?)

If I were being troublesome I would say that random selection of an initial council, empowered to determine subsequent election procedure, and to whom interested parties can bring concrete suggestions, is fairer and easier and more effective than a few people sitting around the tavern talking about election procedure but unsure of how to put proposals into practice.

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Is there any chance we can have 7 regular representatives? What do we gain by having seasonal representatives when we can have an odd number of representatives? I want to have consistent representation, not have major decisions be decided essentially randomly.

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Perhaps the 8 representatives can, among themselves, elect one of their members as a sort of Chairwoman, who has the power to break ties and is responsible for keeping council meetings civil and moving forward?

This would avoid the ill luck of having merely 7 seats, especially in such an important place as the leadership of the town.

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Well I guess I am a little late to this, but I do desire to speak my mind. These are all my opinions and do not go into every possible detail, because frankly I do not want that level of power to dictate exactly how the election will be run. I have a sneaking suspicion a good majority of my fire festival will be spent in meetings discussing this very topic. However below you can view my off the cuff opinions and my mentality towards the election this festival.

So firstly as many mentioned we wish to have a council which is evenly divisible by 4, allowing us to follow the natural order of the world. Myself and others have leaned towards 8 total with 4 who can cast tie breaking votes during their season. I would seek those 4 to be chosen by the council with each of the 4 who “win” choosing a second to represent the season if they can not be in attendance. This allows for a larger council that will represent the a large swath of the population.

Random Chance elections
On delegates being decided through random chance… I have a great many things to say about it and will do my best to condense my feelings to 3 points.

  1. We would not select our lead surgeons through a lottery, nor our military leadership. They are selected by their skills and merits. The council should be decided in that manner as well. The skills required to govern are skills, yes they are soft skills but it is skilled work none the less.
  2. Randomness will force individuals to do work they do not desire and may be unqualified for. This also has a chance to produce a very lop sided town council that does not represent the interests of the town, nor has any incentive to serve their fellow townsfolk. Regardless of their choices they will be up for a random lottery in the next year!
  3. You are attempting to solve a problem which I personally have not seen. You claim that a certain invest must be made and the bar is too high to participate in town politics… I remember speaking with anyone who would listen and offered a seat at a common table in our tavern. Again the following morning anyone who wished to learn or participated had only to pay the price of a conversation with myself or anyone else present at the meeting the day before.
    A) If a person can not be asked to set aside time during their day to speak with others or discover the meeting times, I would not want that person to have the power to control our laws, because clearly they don’t want to put in any effort. I personally put in a large amount of my time during the festival and afterwards because I care, I saw many others doing the same! I would be happy to have those individuals lead our town, not those who wish to put no effort in.
    B) On the note of some having advantages this is in fact true. I personally chose to spend my time pouring over political readings instead of learning how to wield a scalpel, this should disqualify me from operating on another member of our town. I am simply unqualified and if I wish to operate on others I should spend the time and resources necessary to become qualified.

As for voting:
I would like to meet with others and see what we can achieve for a voting system, as well as safeguards. However I personally am biased to a pool of candidates and then having those candidates ranked in order of preference as a voting system. Preferably with at least one public meeting where the town can meet and hear the platform of those running.

Voting Safeguards

  1. I would prefer voting being restricted to Port Katherine residence only/
  2. Verification of voting is a tricky subject, I would like to have a formal census, beyond the medical one, that could be used to solve that very problem. However we don’t currently have one so until we do we can have others in town vouch for the membership of another.
  3. Finding a neutral electoral party at this time would probably prove to be difficult, even if only 8 candidates run our town is small and anyone could easily find a connection. In the future we could seek to hire an outside company to assist in this manner, however I would feel confident in having the individual(s) who hold the heart of the town assisting in this role(presuming they are willing). They clearly demonstrated that they have the towns faith.
    4)Ballot box security can be overseen by the military
  4. Early/absentee voting is something that the council would probably seek to set up. This carries with it a whole host of its own problems.

Dame Vaast Verenberg

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A few additional thoughts, and a question of purely theoretical interest as a post-script addressed to Ravil.

I am not particularly concerned about creating a voting system of mathematical perfection. While I appreciate Ravil’s mechanistic approach, I tend to believe that anyone with sufficient knowledge of the preferences of the rest of the town to correctly “game the system” will be able to more effectively impact the outcome of the election by swinging the votes of at least a portion of the town. That is, I do not believe voter’s preferences are fixed and immutable, and regard changing them as both a fair part of the process and an easier one than cleverly calculating the impact of your individual vote.

With that in mind, I would be fine with either Ravil’s first OK method or Dame Vaast’s suggested ranked voting among candidates, or with simpler vote-counting measures. I think Ravil’s second OK method is far more complicated than necessary.

With regards to Randomness, I find myself largely in agreement with Dame Vaast. Again, while I see the theoretical concerns that cause Goody Sorrel to suggest that randomness has some value, I think in a community of approximately 100 souls, it is difficult to find oneself so removed from others concerns as all that, and a randomly elected council may actually be more likely to exclude portions of the town from representation by chance than an elected one would.

Frederick, Comptess Northmarch

Ravil, as an aside, why do “smart people” “lie” and vote either 10 or 0 in a ranked system in your first method? I recognize that throwing in a vote at 5 makes it less likely that your “real” 10’s get elected, but it also makes it more likely that your “real” 0’s do not. Surely whether that is smart or not depends on your risk tolerance, which is entirely something I am happy to have the system accommodate. Am I missing something?

Maybe I’m just a bit dogmatic (or, again, I might be real stupid) but the way I see it you should just figure which of those cases you’re more alright with (Mx. 5 gets elected at the expense of Mx. 10, or Mx. 0 gets elected at all) and then pull real hard in that direction to maximize your expected take.

I wouldn’t say that scoring everyone instead of just yes/no voting makes the system strictly worse, since it’s not taking away any options that didn’t exist in the approval-only system: I wouldn’t be heartbroken if that was the chosen system, but I do think it’s important people know the tricky little nuances that come along with.

((OOC details below, again))

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Range_voting#Strategy, https://electology.org/score-voting-threshold-strategy, and https://electology.org/approval-voting-tactics cover this topic with more nuance and mathematical rigor than Ravil is inclined to.

NB: Electology is a group advocating for the adoption of Approval or Range voting, so they spend a lot of time attacking other methods and defending against criticisms of AV, which is kind of a distraction from the reason I linked to them (worked examples of AV strategy) but I couldn’t find a better non-ideological resource quickly.