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Letters: Consider the benefits of ‘approval’ voting

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San Francisco residents cast their votes during California’s primary election at City Hall on June 7, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Ranked-choice voting a barrier to participation,” Nato Green, April 30
Consider the benefits of ‘approval’ voting

San Francisco’s grand experiment in ranked-preference voting will be valuable in setting a national precedent. Thus, Nato Green’s recent article on this is of national interest, and it is already being circulated amongst voting organization nationwide.

Supporting a voting system because it tends to benefit a party is a poor place to start reasoning. It’s only slightly less poor to support it because it benefits a political philosophy. The fact that it failed to achieve the desired partisan outcome is, ironically, a good quality of the voting system, not a bad one.

Ranked-choice voting predictably leads to more complex ballots, which are harder to print on a single page and harder to vote without spoiling or casting a disqualifying ballot.

An alternative that has many similar properties is “approval” voting, which looks just like a conventional hand-marked ballot with one oval per name. The difference is you can vote for as many candidates in the same race as you like. The votes are all equally weighted.

To the individual voter, this may feel funny because they probably do prefer one candidate to another and, thus, chafe at equal weight. But in aggregate across all voters, this does make sense. People accept this notion more nowadays because they are acquainted with its net effect in the form of Facebook “likes.” Approval voting is used in many municipalities already (most typically in councils with multiple at-large positions).

Approval voting approximates the ideal merger of two different voting systems. Ranked-preference voting has its appeal, but another method is to “rate” candidates with a score (like Netflix). This rating method is actually superior to ranking (as more information is being given) but only in the case where everyone honestly rates the value of the candidate to them. If voters over- or under-rate the relative difference in their preferences, it doesn’t work well, because people can give their votes more weight if they exaggerate the relative differences.

The way to foreclose that pathology is to make it a binary rating. That pattern is the natural ultimate behavior anyhow in an adversarial scoring-based voting system, so nothing is lost by reducing it to a binary “like.”

By reducing complexity of the ballot layout compared to ranked-preference voting, approval voting more easily absorbs a large slate without creating spoiler effects, thus perhaps even eliminating the need for publicly financed primaries.

Charlie Strauss
New Mexico

Our planet needs evidence-based policies, not preconceived notions,” Green Space, April 26
Climate change here to stay

I was at one of the hundreds of marches last month in which hundreds of thousands of scientists, researchers and evidence nerds took the time and made the effort to express their support for the use of science in our society and to express dismay at the anti-science policies being promoted by the president and Republicans in Congress. As one marcher’s sign succinctly announced, “You know the problem is dire when this many introverts come out to march.”

What problem? Trump’s budget proposes reducing funding for environmental protection, for health research, for global monitoring of our planet’s climate change. Trump’s executive orders prohibit federal employees from even mentioning the words “global climate change.” As if pretending it doesn’t exist will make it go away.

“Science” is a method of observing phenomena and carefully testing opinions and assumptions about them, to know what is true and real. Evidence is the best basis for making governmental policy, yet this Republican-controlled government doesn’t even want to collect evidence for informed policymaking.

That’s why so many science-minded introverts were in the streets. The survival of a habitable Earth, as well as our country’s greatness, depend upon our politicians taking heed.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont

Letters: Neil Taylor’s mark onSan Francisco,” From Readers, April 20
Spectrum of emotion

I enjoyed the range of emotion and opinion regarding the death of homeless resident Neil Taylor. From sympathetic reverence to brutal honesty, it was a refreshingly candid spectrum.

I believe that many citizens have experienced both compassion and disgust in response to the people who call the streets home. There are the psychotic, who should be committed to humane care, and there are the lifestylers, who should be held to the rule of law. In between these extremes are many diverse and tragic stories that deserve to be heard and attended to depending on their merit.

No simple answers exist. This last week alone, I witnessed a Muni rider stage a completely insane fit, found several addicts shooting up next to my parked car and had an intoxicated woman collapse on top of me while riding the Metro. I also saw people wrapped in rags dying on the pavement. How does one reconcile this to the million-dollar high-rise condos crowding the skies and luxury stores and restaurants filling the streets?

I don’t have the solution, but I do know I appreciate the letters of outrage, compassion and anger that the Examiner has the guts to print.

Steve Abney
San Francisco

Lyft Hub disrupts Potrero Hill,” The City, April 20
Lyft isn’t the enemy

Perhaps another perspective on the Lyft hub might be useful. Those saying the final indignity was the painting of the “iconic” white van pink is laughable.

A person close to me, who works for Lyft, tells me of endless neighborhood meetings where she suffered much verbal and emotional abuse from those living around the Lyft Hub.

Like all else with complaints about The City’s issues, it appears those who are recent residents to that neighborhood feel a sense of entitlement. Their beef is not with Lyft but with city agencies that may or may not enforce traffic laws.

Philip H. Krikau
San Francisco

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