Voting Plurality From Dummies

There isn't a typo in the title, this post isn't for dummies, but from one. I say this because I know I am wrong, but I think the only thing I can do with that is put ,y thought process on display and see where I end up.

This post is a response to Vox Day's recent post "A non-vote for X is NOT a vote for Y."

Now, Vox Day is an objectively intelligent person. So when someone who I can recognize is more intelligent than me says something which doesn't seem to be all that intelligent, I quickly put together this list of possible explanations in my head:

1) Vox Day doesn't understand how voting pluralities work.
2) Vox Day is intentionally saying something which is only half accurate to drive conversation and page views.
3) I am missing a joke or point somewhere.
4) I am seeing the final thoughts of a prior conversation.
5) I am responding to rhetoric as if it is dialectic.
6) Vox Day is responding to rhetoric as if it is dialectic.
7) I am not smart enough to understand what he is saying.

Seem like a decent list? I am sure more could be added but these are what I came up with first.

In trying to figure out which of these is most likely, I could say right off the bat that it is not probable that Vox does not understand how voting pluralities work. It's not impossible, but I would say it is not probable, so option #1 looks to be in doubt.

Until I looked at the specific claim being rebutted and start cranking up the pedantry.

It is true that not voting for Hillary Clinton is not voting for Hillary Clinton. This is a logically airtight statement. It also ignores the bigger picture, because votes are not the "end". Hillary doesn't want votes, she wants to get elected, and to do so she needs the most votes of the people who vote.

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to ignore the Electoral College.

This is the nature of a plurality voting system. You don't need the majority of votes from all people who can vote, only the majority of those who do vote. So each vote cast is not isolated, their significance is only seen among the chorus of other votes.

Let's do some maths to help make sense of this. Let's say we have 100 voters in Elbonia. Of them, only 60 ever bother to vote. In this election year, there are 4 different candidates to choose from, and they're conveniently stealing the identities our candidates.

If only 60 are going to vote, then whoever gets 31 votes "wins" the election, right? Well, not really, in that they may only need as few as 16. Each additional candidate who can't win but still gets votes can reduce the number of votes that any other candidate actually needs to win.

This is where it is correct to say that voting for Gary Johnson isn't voting for Hillary Clinton, incorrect in the sense that each vote for Gary Johnson reduces the number of votes that Hillary Clinton needs to have a majority of the remaining votes, but still also correct because it helps Donald Trump and Jill Stein just as much as it does Hillary Clinton.

Grok that?

This is at least in part because Gary Johnson has no hope of winning a majority of votes. Even if he did 100% better this cycle, he'd still end up with just under 2% of votes. In the Elbonian election, that would be about 1 voter, meaning the other 3 candidates need to fight for the remaining 59.

For those three candidates, the "bar" has then moved from an upper limit of 31 to 30 voters, and a lower limit from 16 to now being 20.

Let's go further and say Jill Stein repeats what Gary did in 2012, snags a single Elbonian for herself, leaving Trump and Clinton to fight over the remaining 58.

The "bar" moves again, but this time only for the lower limit, and the "winner" of the two remaining needs 30 votes to have the majority.

I then ask myself, "Ok, so when the third party candidates don't get big percentages, it doesn't really matter, but what happens if they do get bigger percentages?"

Let's run the math presuming they'd get ten times the percentage of votes in our Elbonian election. Gary gets 20%, 12 voters , and Jill 10%, with 6. This would mean that Trump and Clinton need to fight over the remaining 42 votes, with the "winner" needing 22 votes, second place getting 20 votes.

The "winner" only gets 3% more of the total votes than second place. How does that math change going back through our examples?

Gary 2% and Jill 1%, Trump and Hillary fight over 58, winner needs 30 votes, second place would still get 28 votes, and the winner wins by 3%.

Trump and Hillary alone, winner needs 31 votes, second place still gets 29 votes, and the winner wins by, can you guess it? Yup, 3%.

What this meant is that it didn't matter how many other people are in the race, if those other folks have no chance of threatening the majority of votes that will go to Clinton and Trump, the margin by which Trump needs to win doesn't ever really change when you have a static voter pool. In each scenario, the winner needs 2 more voters than second place, 3% of the total, period.

As a side note, there's really another candidate that shows up every election, "nobody". More people have voted for "nobody" by not voting than any other third party candidate. Keep that in mind.

Anyway, what does change is how much of the overall pie a candidate is required to be able to claim for that difference to become relevant. If Hillary has only 30% support, then her goal is to push Gary and Jill to get the fight between Trump and her down to fewer people, so that the 3% difference is occurring at or within the actual window of support she really has. Then, all she needs to do is steal some votes from "nobody".

We saw some of this dynamic already with regard to the Republican Nomination, as explained over a year ago by The Conservative Treehouse. JEB! was the anointed one by the party and the donors, but he would never be able to draw a big percentage of the overall pie. So the party put forth a litany of alternatives that broke apart the remaining 80% of people who wouldn't support JEB! so that he could "win" even with a relatively small actual support.

In Elbonia, it will be more difficult to get 31 voters than 22, but really it's always harder to get more people behind you than less.

And this gets us to where the intent of the people who try to say that a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary. Is it factually incorrect? Definitely. Does the argument hold water even when accounting for different quantities of votes that the third parties "steal"? Obviously not by the simplistic numbers seen so far.

So is there anything at least related to what they claim that is correct? Yes, if someone who voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein might have voted for someone else but didn't for a stupid reason, or as a response to voter fraud relating to the size of the pie and the votes for "nobody".

If someone is voting Gary Johnson, or not voting at all, who would otherwise have voted for Trump but didn't for a stupid reason, it is more useful to attack the stupid reason than to try and just say that they're voting for Hillary, because that statement is factually false. What they are actually doing is preventing their votes from contributing to expanding beyond the mandatory minimum difference between first and second place in our Elbonian example. You can say they are helping Hillary get elected by not voting for Trump, but not that they're voting for Hillary.

Pedantic, but accurate.

The third party voters are also pushing the actual support required down even further, which means that while the 3% difference in the example remains the same, the actual number of voters at which the 3% difference occurs does change, so a candidate with already low support has a better chance of getting "bumped" via fraud and getting away with it when they're only trying to fake a few percentage points. If nobody voted for "nobody", then the threshold gets even more difficult and the important distinctions between majority and plurality vote go away when everybody votes.

Put differently, why have Hillary only 3% away from Trump, and at a lower voter participant threshold, where the difference between the support she genuinely has and the support she has to lie about is much smaller? If she has to lie not only about being in the same ballpark as well as that she actually won the game, it's harder to believe than if she was legitimately within reach the whole time.

If Hillary could only ever get 18 Elbonian voters legitimately (30%), it is much less work to try and deal with a 4 vote disparity than 12. Smaller lies are easier to tell, and the bigger lies require more effort to sustain, and their lies are being exposed on a regular basis.

It's easier for her to claim that she went from 30% to 33% and clinch the win than to go from 30% to 50% support because all the sudden the voting pool got inflated while the lifeguards weren't looking.

In that light, the most accurate statement that on this topic might be:

"Any vote, or not voting all, for someone instead of Donald Trump helps Hillary get elected by reducing the margin by which she has to fake support and expose herself to getting caught by trying to fake bigger numbers because even if third party candidates pull a significant amount of the votes they don't have the ability to do anything but reduce the minimum threshold at which someone could win the election."

I'd be comfortable with that adjustment in my own mentality and claims. Correction refines.

This is also why they have been trying to depress Trump's turnout instead of drumming up more support for her, because they know she has a hard limit of actual support so they need to try and influence the turnout to look as much like the biased polling demographics as they can to reduce the amount of fraud they then have to try and commit to get her over the line.

Drumming up excitement to increase her actual support would have the double-edged effect of getting the opposition energized as well, and Trump is much better at harnessing that energy than she is.

In short, the demoralization efforts will only continue and will only get stronger, because driving people either to "nobody" or "anyone but Trump" makes their stealing of the election easier to pull off.

So, after all this, how do my original 7 explanations look?

#1 is I think out, in that the probability I have said anything here that Vox didn't already know is still pretty small. He was correct in what he said, and it's only when backing up a step and looking at the bigger picture that something relevant can still be said along those same lines. He can't be wrong for something he wasn't arguing.

#2 is a possibility, in that I read his post, and I may drive more a couple more people to it because I will post to Twitter/FB (which a direct link to his can't be), and it's gotten a decent number of comments on it which are not off-topic. It did generate interest.

#3 is still likely given what he states in the final paragraph of his post, but I'd think that the point about the amount of support being faked and exposure to being discovered would be a decent one to consider, though again that's not the claim he was trying to address.

#4 I am going to say is not as likely since it is a complete post which may have been inspired by a separate conversation, but the post does not appeal to prior conclusions outside of it to fill in gaps.

#5 There is rhetoric in there, and I feel like I am bad at rhetoric, so this is still a likely possibility.

#6 I would say is also possible, because I don't think that the people making the claim have thought about it in any great deal and are instead trying to place weight on the connotation of the statement instead of the explicit accuracy. This is presuming a lot on the part of other people, so anyone not willing to grant the same can feel free to dismiss this option outright.

#7 I don't think is possible because I agree with his assertions about the specific statement as provided being wrong, but disagree in spirit and updated my statement because the sentiment that I have had when making statements like that hasn't relied on the explicit accuracy but instead on the weight of the connotation of the statement because it's easier to say "A vote for Gary is a vote for Hillary" than try to run people through this whole thought process every time someone points out the factual inaccuracy of saying that "Voting or non-voting for X is not a vote for Y." The inaccuracy is a distraction open for exploitation.

I am wrong in the details and needed to correct how I say this, but the intent behind the incorrect statement can still be expressed with a few small adjustments and actually be an accurate statement too.

That's where this dummy is at, and unless Vox or someone else deigns to respond, where I will stay and how I will advertise from here on out.

Update after I've tried to do some proofreading before publishing.

Perhaps this would work:

Vote for Trump, or you will be lowering the bar that sick Hillary has to be carried over.

1 comment:

  1. Anti-Gnostic5/11/16 2:31 PM

    No vote for Trump or Hillary, both are equally deplorable.