13 September 2004

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Foundation Elections

There has been talk on the foundation list about changing the vote counting procedure to something more fair. The method being proposed is Single Transferable Vote, which is the same system used within a single electorate for the senate vote in the Australian Federal Election. As with the Australian elections, some people have some trouble understanding exactly how it works, so here is a description.

  1. Each voter orders every candidate on their ballot in order of preference. Each ballot is assigned a weight of 1.
  2. The ballots are grouped by the first preference.
  3. If any candidate’s total reaches the quota, then they get in. The quota is chosen such that if there are s seats, then at most s candidates can reach the quota. So a candidate must get more than n/(s + 1) first preference votes in order to reach the quota.
  4. If any candidate gets over the quota, then the highest vote getter is elected, and their votes are redistributed at a reduced strength. If x people voted for the candidate, then the weighting of each of the votes is scaled by (xq)/x where q is the quota (xq is the number of votes over the quota). The winning candidate’s name is removed from all ballots and we go back to step 2 and repeat to find the next winner.
  5. If no candidate reaches the quota, then the candidate with the least first preference votes is removed from the election. Their name is removed from all ballots, and we go back to step 2. The votes for the removed candidate are redistributed at the same strength, since they didn’t help elect a candidate.

Note that this vote counting system is identical to Instant-runoff voting when there is only a single seat. The quota calculation shows that the winning candidate needs to get more than 50% of the votes to win, as expected.

Some of the nice properties of this system include:

  • If you vote for a losing candidate, your vote is transfered at the same strength, so is not wasted. This reduces the risk of voting for a candidate that is unlikely to win.
  • Voting for a popular candidate doesn’t waste your vote. The portion of your vote that wasn’t needed to elect the candidate is redistributed to the next preference. For example, if 50% of people vote for dcamp, but the quota is 10% of the votes, then all his votes will be redistributed to second preference at 80% strength.
  • If there are two similar candidates, they shouldn’t split the vote in such a way that neither wins. If one candidate gets knocked out, their votes will transfer to the other.

There are some differences between what I described and what is used in the Australian elections. This seems to be to make the process more discrete and easier to count (mostly rounding the various quotas and transfer values). For the foundation election though, I can’t see any reason not to use a more exact version.

Zenity Notification Icon

Yesterday Glynn posted about notification icon support in Zenity. His current implementation really only handles one-shot notifications, since the icon disappears and zenity exits when you click the icon.

I talked with him on IRC about adding support for a different mode where you send commands to zenity via stdin, similar to the jhbuild notification icon prototype Davyd did. This would allow you to write bash scripts like this:

exec 3> >(zenity --notification)
echo "icon: someicon" >&3
echo "tooltip: doing some important work" >&3
# do stuff
echo "icon: someothericon" >&3
# do some more stuff
exec 3>&-

This could be very useful for many scripts in addition to jhbuild, which is why I suggested adding it to zenity. Now it just needs implementing …