Clay Shentrup 
Member since Apr 12, 2012


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Recent Comments

Re: “Berkeley Progressives Say Mayor Bates’ Housing Plan is a “Blueprint for Gentrification”

> the current Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee — a charge on market-rate development projects that helps fund affordable housing in the city

Linking taxes and subsidies is generally a fallacy. Say we agree that we should subsidize affordable housing. But why should we tax market rate housing development? You want to tax negative externalities.…

Posted by Clay Shentrup on 04/04/2016 at 10:57 PM

Re: “Ranked-Choice Voting Repeal Blocked

It's important to realize that we're not talking about any particular voting method being "bad" in an absolute sense, but rather, better or worse _relative_ to other available systems.

Instant Runoff Voting is generally thought to be the worst of the commonly proposed alternative voting systems. You can see this as expressed via Bayesian Regret calculations here:

Apart from that measure of performance (ability to satisfy the preferences of the average voter) IRV also has a number of practical liabilities, such as making it impossible to have precinct subtotals resulting in a requirement for centralized counting. As to whether it is better than the Top-Two Runoff system which it replaced, that is a very complex question to answer.

A lot of people genuinely believe that the traditional delayed runoff helps voters to make more informed decisions. By contrast, it was clear in the last San Francisco mayoral race that many voters did not have a particularly full understand of the candidates' experience and positions, because there were more than 10 viable candidates. On the other side, there are those who believe runoffs allow too much influence from special interests. Both sides of this argument have good points. The fact that there's legitimate debate seems to bolster the argument Tony Santos is making, that voters deserve a chance to re-evaluate and decide for themselves whether to keep using IRV.

While they may have initially supported IRV by a good margin, the reality is that IRV was promoted on the basis of numerous misleading and even false claims:

1) Proponents claimed IRV would incent voters to cast sincere rankings. Utterly false.

2) Proponents claimed IRV would eliminate the spoiler effect. Also false.

3) IRV was called "as easy as 1-2-3", but the vast majority of voters don't understand it. We use it here in San Francisco, and plenty of smart software engineers I've worked with couldn't even explain it. Proof here:…

In general, FairVote and other groups who promoted IRV have a long history of making these sorts of outrageous claims, and also feeding them to groups like the League of Women Voters, who then become unwitting participants in the act of disseminating false information. You can see an egregious example of that here:…

Now that there's greater awareness of these realities, a second evaluation of IRV could lead to a very different result. Again, this is simply about giving voters the opportunity to have their say, now that they've used the system.

Clay Shentrup
The Center for Election Science

1 like, 5 dislikes
Posted by Clay Shentrup on 04/26/2012 at 9:00 PM

Re: “Ranked-Choice Voting Attacked in Oakland

Well, Approval Voting is a vastly better voting system than Instant Runoff Voting. You can see in Bayesian Regret calculations that IRV is generally the worst of the five commonly proposed Alternative Voting Systems:

Approval Voting is much simpler (uses an ordinary ballot, but just removes the one-candidate limit — so you can vote for as many candidates as you want). It can NEVER punish you (give a worse result) for voting for your sincere favorite candidate, the way ranked systems such as IRV can. And its generally the second most satisfying system according to Bayesian Regret calculations.

Here's a more rigorous comparison between Approval Voting and IRV.

My view is that if Oakland had adopted Approval Voting instead of IRV, the anti-reform forces wouldn't be able to make any credible case in favor of repealing it back to Plurality Voting. It's so simple, they wouldn't be able to claim that people were confused by it. It actually results in LOWER ballot spoilage.

Not that there's any point trying to talk about facts with most IRV advocates. My experience has been that the vast majority of them have no interest in objectively scientifically debating the facts. They seem to have their minds made up, and any attempt to engage them will almost surely be ignored.

Clay Shentrup
The Center for Election Science
San Francisco, CA

2 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by Clay Sh on 04/12/2012 at 6:33 PM

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