Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Up for Discussion...

Got this interesting post from a reader about what I call "voting shotgun". Maybe not a conspiracy but interesting stuff...any comments?


Blogger David Pritchett said...

He seems to dislike the concept of Bullet Voting, apparently to force voters to vote for someone they do not really like, instead of only voting for one or two candidates, even though up to 3 votes can be cast. That guy is way off and seems to be chasing windmills. My comments to his confusing proposal:


Valerio, el Cacique said...

dude... you are trying to fix something that is NOT a problem, with an explanation that only confuses.

The candidate who receive the next-highest number of votes simply gets appointed to Council. A bit weird to implement your proposal that essentially is: "vote for a fourth candidate in case a Councilmember becomes Mayor, even though you know know that fourth vote is for someone who probably will not get appoointed to anything."

Why not just vote for one, with the councilmembers simply determined as which candidates receive the top 3 total number of votes?

The scenario of voting for 3 really would be best if a voter could cast 3 votes for 1 candidate if that is desired... the ultimate in BULLET VOTING with a gun with 3 rounds in it.
October 18, 2005 2:38 PM
Valerio, el Cacique said...

At least Santa Barbara does not fill vacancies on the council the way Santa Maria does: simply by the remaining councilmembers appointing anyone they want to, regardless of any past performance on a ballot.

Having the remaining incumbents fill a vacancy simply by appointing their friends is a travesty, but commonly done with many cities and special districts. Santa Barbara city does not do that, so be glad.

10/18/2005 2:48 PM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

Here is the full posting at the other blog by Eric Carr, whoever he is. He is making a case, very elaborately, that BULLET VOTING is somehow bad and "manipulative". He seems to want to force people to vote for candidates they do not like, as if only casting one or two votes, when up to three are possible, somehow should be illegal or at least is not fair.

His conclusions in his item no. 2 are especially funny, as if one should not vote only for candidates whom one wants to be elected.

Full Posting by Carr:
Thursday, October 13, 2005

How to Manipulating the Santa Barbara City Council Elections

This is the first revision of this blog. I have been asked to explain how this system of manipulating the Santa Barbara City Council elections works. Below, in statement four, I am giving a fuller explanation of how manipulation of the voting process is done in SB City Council elections.

1. This system works only if you favor one or two candidates. If it is your intention to use all three of your votes to vote for three candidates whom you feel strongly about, then you can not use this system of manipulating the voting process.

2. To manipulate the City Council voting system to your advantage, you vote for only the one candidate or, the two candidates that you have a strong interest in seeing elected. By not using your second or third votes you are ensuring that a candidate that you have little interest in does not get ahead in votes.

3. Is this legal? The answer is yes, it is legal. Not only is it legal, but if you examined the election results in previous City Council elections, you would see that a minority of Santa Barbara city voters have been doing this for years. In the last City Council election, there are over 5000 missing votes. This is more than enough votes to bring some of the losing candidates into a winning result.

4. First I want to thank the professors and graduate students of the Department of Mathematics at UCSB who, several months ago, took the time and effort to analyze this voting system and attempted to provide me with a way to mathematically explain what is occurring in this voting system. What was most interesting to me was that each response was an entirely different approach. This gave me a lot of material to work with. Unfortunately, none of these models seemed to have the simplicity I wanted to be able to disseminate this information to the general public.

I am trained as a scientist. At the time I contacted the UCSB math department, I did not see a solution for mathematically explaining the problem with this voting system. After getting the responses from UCSB, I took another shot at developing my own illustration to explain the problem with SB’s City Council voting system. Here’s the solution I came up with:

Consider a City Council election that has six candidates and each voter gets three votes to fill three vacancies. The voting rules allow a voter to use only one vote per candidate (in other words, you can not give all three of your votes to one candidate) and, the voting machine will accept one, two, or three votes. (Except for the number of candidates (there are usually more), this is similar to the system in SB.)

In this election there were 1000 voters. Because each voter got three votes, the total number of votes cast was 3000. When the results of this election were revealed something very unusual occurred. All six candidates had exactly the same number of votes: each of the six candidates received 500 votes. Because the town elders could not decide what to do they went to a judge who ordered that a new election be held next month. For the second election everybody but two voters voted the same as they did in the first election. One of the two voters that voted differently in the second election decided that he really liked candidate ‘C’ and that he did not know any of the other candidates well enough to vote for them. Therefore, this voter used only one of his three votes. The other voter who voted differently in the second election decided that she really liked candidates ‘D’ and ‘E’ and none of the others. Therefore, this voter used only two of her three votes. The result of this election was that three candidates had one more vote than three other candidates. The winners were declared. Candidates ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’ won with 500 votes each. Candidates ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘F’ lost with 499 votes each.

Do you see what happened here? The election was won by three candidates because two voters did not use all three of there votes. In other words, three winners were declared by the action of not voting. This runs counter intuitively to how the democratic process of voting is expected to work. We normally expect a winning candidate to be declared because voters voted for somebody, not because we did not use all of our votes. In effect, the two voters above, who did not use all three of there votes, took control of the election. Do you now see the fallacy of using this voting system? This is exactly the same system used in the SB City Council elections.

As I mentioned elsewhere, in the last City Council elections there were over 5000 unused votes. This number of votes could easily have pushed up several of the losing candidates to surpass candidates who were declared the winners. In other words, it is very possible that a minority of voters controled the election results by not using all of their votes. The tragedy of this system is that it is very likely that the people (the voters) of Santa Barbara are not being represented by the candidates who they really want to represent them. When you do not use all three of your votes, this is the result of strategy voting.

5. Why is this allowed to happen? Good question! The answer is that the City of Santa Barbara uses an archaic and ineffective voting system for its City Council elections. This is probably the result of using people to write the City Charter and voting rules who were not qualified for the job. The best people to design a fair and effective election are mathematicians. The next best would be scientists with advanced math skills. If you had a lawyer with advanced math skills, that would be good too, and exceptional.

6. Why am I making this information available to all? I believe that one of the most important social legacies we leave our children is our system of government. I believe that it is important to all voters and to all candidates to use the best voting procedures we can create so that the voters may choose their representatives. This is realized only when the voting system is fair and effective for the voters and the candidates. No voting system is perfect when you have more than two candidates and also when you are selecting more than one candidate from a large field of candidates. However, there is a better system and it is for your City Council to see that changes are made. By making this information available to all the voters in the city of Santa Barbara, the voters will be aware of all their options and they will also be aware of how the current voting system does not work.

7. Another problem with being able to manipulate the voting system in the City Council elections is that one or more candidates could get onto to the City Council by default because voters did not use all their votes. They were hoping to ensure that only one or two particular candidates got voted into office. On the other hand, if you use all three of your votes, you could inadvertently contribute votes to a candidate that beats your main candidate of interest. What a mess! (Please, do not blame the message (me) for this chaos system of voting. I did not create this mess and, I have tried (unsuccessfully) to interest the existing City Council to start making changes in how the voters of Santa Barbara get to choose their City Council representatives.

8. If you think this is bad, you should check out the first part of section 503 of the SB City Charter. This section attempts to fill a vacancy on the City Council when a sitting City Council member whose seat is not up for re-election runs for the office of mayor, wins this new position, and creates a vacancy on the City Council that needs to be filled. In this case, the procedure to fill this vacancy has nobody voting for the candidate that fills this seat! see: "What's Wrong with Section 503" at:

# posted by Eric Carr

10/18/2005 3:06 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Agreed -- there's nothing wrong with bullet voting in a democracy. If you don't like three, vote for less! Assisting another candidate by statistics is a risk we take -- I'm mor worried about voters being INFORMED!

10/18/2005 3:36 PM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

Upon more digestion... the premise of the lengthy missives by Carr is that for some reason he has not articulated very well, if at all, is that voters MUST exercise all 3 of their votes, because not casting all votes eligible is somehow not fair. Therefore, he thinks the next candidate with the most number of votes should NOT get to be on City Council if another sitting councilmember is elected to Mayor. Instead, he wants voters to cast a 4th vote JUST IN CASE a vacancy happens if a councilmember becomes mayor.
Very weird. And confusing.

Democracy is served under the current system, because the candidates receiving the most votes get elected in accordance with the number of vacancies to be filled, regardless of whether a sitting councilmember moves off to become mayor.

A more interesting question may be why is Carr so adamant about this purported flaw with the City Charter and voting procedure. And why am I so interested in making all these responses, which now has ended!

10/18/2005 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would bullet vote for Das. But he is not there so bullet vote for his side kick Dianne Channing. It is like getting Das squared. Channing is like a Das clone. My only worry is if she loses it paints a bad picture for Das.

10/29/2005 8:47 PM  

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