From an Election Fable to Election Procedures

  • Donald G. Saari


What could be easier than interpreting an election? You just count to determine which candidate receives the most votes. What can be difficult about something so elementary? After all, even nursery school children know how to vote to select their juice of choice before nap time.


Convex Hull Election Outcome Election Procedure Condorcet Winner Strategic Vote 
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  1. 1.
    Marxist Salvador Allende won the 1970 election for President of Chile even though the polls indicated that most voters preferred either of the two more moderate candidates. (See [Fr].) No excuse can justify the action precipitated by the American CIA leading to the overthrow and death of Allende, nor for the dark period of dictatorial abuse occurring in a country justifiably proud of its democratic traditions. Yet, one must wonder whether these events would have been possible had the election outcome better reflected the voters’ wishes.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A silly argument occasionally used against the BC is that it was born in the imagination of a member of nobility. Hey, just because someone is born in a manger doesn’t mean he is an ass!Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The principal role of many of these artificial conditions is to justify publishing another paper.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    To minimize the temptation to manipulate when k out of n candidates are selected, we occasionally use the weights (k, k − 1,…, 1,0,…, 0).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Most of this material comes from Cardinal Boso’s delightfully biased account of his friend Pope Alexander III. See, for example, Boso’s Life of Alexander III,[E] (the quotes are from page 44) and the important reference [U]. 1 also had informative conversations with Prof. R. Kieckhefer from the Northwestern University Department of Religion.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Previously there has been very little in the literature about Borda except where his name is attached to developments in fluid mechanics. This scarcity of reliable information reflects the lack of readily available biographical material about Borda. This situation is changing with the work of A. Urken and I. McClain; e.g., for a start see [Mc, MH, MU, Ur1, Ur2]. The best Borda reference I found-the source for most of my comments — is Jean Mascart, La vie et les travaux du Chevalier Jean-Charles de Borda [M]. (The quote given below from this book (page 128) and the material I used was translated for me by K. Saari.) In addition to Mascart’s reference, see Duncan Black’s classic The Theory of Committees and Elections [Bl], and [D]Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    In personal correspondence, A. Urken states his suspicion that Borda was an honorary, rather than a full member.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald G. Saari
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsNorthwestern UniversityEvastonUSA

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