Pressing Toward the Prize

Archive for February 2011

On Wednesday I met with my faculty liaison, Dr. Edgar, about my Capstone project. He encouraged me to continue reading Chaotic Elections with an eye for linear algebra. Donald Saari uses vectors, specifically what he calls voting vectors, to analyze the various voting methods, do manipulations of outcomes, and support his argument that the Borda Count is the superior voting method whenever three or more candidates or issues are on the ballot. My goal for this week, then, is to continue reading and refining my understanding.


Although I did not get to read Chaotic Elections as much as I had hoped (I did read a little), I have begun to formulate ideas for my Capstone outline. These are my first thoughts:

1. Define voting paradox and explain election conditions that may be problematic, i.e., there are three or more candidates or issues on the ballot, and the winning candidate or issue does not receive a majority of the votes.

2. Define various voting methods: plurality, Borda Count, Condorcet.

3. Offer brief historical background: Borda, de Condorcet, Arrow, Saari.

4. Give simple example to demonstrate the three voting methods and how different methods can produce different results when applied to the same election.

5. Explain some of the voting biases inherent to each of the methods, with examples, and the kinds of fallacies that can result.

6. Discuss how Donald Saari used mathematics to identify specific kinds of voting paradoxes, to analyze each for the causes of the various voting biases, and to determine the most reasonable voting method, i.e., the one most immune from voting method biases.

7. Offer possible reasons why, in light of existing evidence, wholesale changes have not yet been made to elections to insure that outcomes accurately reflect the will of the people

I will need much more research before I am ready to finalize my outline, and continuing research will be my plan for the week. I will refine the outline as I go, using this rough draft as a  starting place.

It’s hard to believe that I just finished my first week of spring semester at Pacific Lutheran University. When fall semester ended in December, I had such high hopes for working on my Capstone project during the break, but life took an unexpected turn. My house sold after being on the market for only a week, so I spent Christmas break moving, spending time with my dad, and getting settled in my new home as best I could. Then J-term started, and that was a wild four-week ride through Tudor England, and a noble attempt at learning ballroom dance!! To top it off, I had a family crisis during the first week of J-term, and it is continuing to impact my life. The week between J-term and spring semester was filled with doctor appointments, the application process for grad school, the GRE, and more unpacking and organizing. I only had time to read a little in Donald Saari’s book, Chaotic Elections, and that was a far cry from what I had hoped to accomplish.

So here I am, back at it. This is my final semester at PLU, at least that’s the plan, and my Capstone project is due in May. Although I find myself a bit under the gun and nowhere near where I had hoped to be at this point, I will continue moving forward. My immediate goal is to refresh my LaTex skills by completing the assignment we were given this week. I hope to also continue reading Chaotic Elections and begin formulating my project outline. I’ll check in next week and report how it goes… wish me luck!!


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  • gramsonjanessa: I can't wait to listen to your capstone presentation in the spring! Your proposal was really interesting and I'm interested to see how the linear alge
  • dewittda: This is impressive! I thought I was good because I solved a rubik’s cube once in an hour. I served with a guy in the Air Force who could solve a r
  • ZeroSum Ruler: The Euclidean algorithm should me the mainstream way we teach students how to find the GCF. Why isn't it? A mystery.