CIFeR voting. An alternative to asset voting


CIFeR stands for Candidate Initiated Free Riding.

How it works:

Each voter approves of any number of candidates.

The outcome with the combination of candidates in which the most voters approve of at least one of those candidates is the leading outcome.

But wait? Wouldn’t such a voting method be highly vulnerable to free riding? That’s where the candidate initiated free riding comes in.

Each candidate has the ability to remove any approval any voter gives them. (They also have the ability to undo a removal of one of their own approvals in case they mess up)

After a predetermined period of time in which candidates can decide which of their own approvals they want to remove from the ballots in order to give similar candidates a chance at winning seats, the current leading outcome becomes the winning outcome.


It passes the anti-favorite betrayal criterion.

Under the assumption that a voter’s favorite candidate has the same wits and intentions as that voter, it passes the favorite betrayal criterion.

In both Monroe’s method and Elbert’s method as well as virtually any method that uses hard quotas (such as @Ciaran’s apportioned methods) adding ballots that approve of every candidate can change the election result. However, like harmonic voting, adding both ballots that approve of every candidate and ballots that approve of no candidate cannot affect the election result. This is because candidates don’t have any incentive to remove their own approval off of a ballot that approves of every candidate, because doing so would just help every other candidate equally. This is good because a vote that does not give a distinction between any candidate being able to influence the election result seems a bit strange to me.

Advantages over asset voting:

One of the criticisms with asset voting is that it gives slimy politicians too much power. While candidates are still a player in the election result under CIFeR voting, the power politicians have to influence the election result is greatly reduced. Under asset voting it is theoretically possible for a unanimously unpopular least favorite candidate to win if he makes enough backroom deals with the other candidates. Under CIFeR voting, this is impossible since candidates can only remove their own approval marks from ballots and cannot alter the approvals of any other candidate on the ballot, thus they can’t make a voter approve of a candidate they didn’t approve of.

Asset voting is does not necessarily reduce to approval voting in the single winner case, it’s single winner version is viewed as inferior to other single winner voting methods. Unlike asset voting, CIFeR is a multi-winner adaption of approval voting because it actually reduces to approval voting in the single winner case. When electing a single winner, the only candidate whom has the ability to alter the election result after the votes have been cast is the approval voting winner, and there is no rational reason for the approval voting winner to remove his own approvals making him no longer the winner. But because the winning candidate technically has the ability to do this in the single winner case, CIFeR technically reduces to approval voting in which the winning candidate has the ability to resign and pass the contested seat to the next most approved candidate.

Disadvantages over asset voting:

Running a CIFeR voting election requires tallying up every possible combination in which a voter can rate all the candidates. That means, in order to run a CIFeR election, you need to tally each of the 2^C possible ballot combinations where C is the number of candidates in the race.


So what you mean is, a system that is vulnerable to VTWOEYAF (Vote This Way Or Else You Are Fired).


Version in which candidates are allowed to win multiple seats:

Candidates will be “cloned” as many times as there are seats, and a ballot that approves of a candidate automatically approves of all of their “clones”. Candidates can remove and re-add these separate approvals separately. Each candidate wins a seat each time one of their “clones” that wins.


I don’t know if this really cures the problem of asset elections feeling like they are decided by backroom deals. Any system where politicians negotiate over the outcome is going to suffer from that. The fact that the role of politicians in CIFeR is less straightforward than in Asset will probably increase the appearance of this problem, if not the reality.

With Asset, if I don’t trust politicians, I don’t have to vote for one. For example, I could give it to the leader of an activist group that promotes causes aligned with my views. With CIFeR, I have to trust the politicians, because my vote can only go to candidates I approved, and because I have no control over which of my approved candidates has the most power over who my vote ultimately elects. If I approve someone who winds up not needing my vote to win, they can prevent my vote from helping other candidates who I approved. This could be a problem when there are schisms within parties.

Also, will politicians actually be able to do this without screwing up?


Is Asset truly inferior as a single winner system? The main complaint, corruption, doesn’t make sense, because honest candidates can have corrupt candidates investigated and jailed.


Is Asset truly inferior as a single winner system? The main complaint, corruption, doesn’t make sense, because honest candidates can have corrupt candidates investigated and jailed.

The argument against listed on Warren D. Smith’s page I was referring to:

Here is an example by Raphfrk aimed at demonstrating Asset Voting dealmaking misbehavior in a single-winner scenario.

#Voters their vote
38 Rightist
25 Centrist
37 Leftist

In this situation, had we been using a more conventional good-quality voting system such as range voting or a Condorcet system, quite likely Centrist would have won, because the Left and Right voters would each prefer the Centrist over the Other Side. But with Asset Voting, it is highly unlikely the Leftist and Rightist will place the common good over their personal careers and power, hence one of them (whichever one the Centrist prefers) will win the election. That’s an example of a plausible scenario in which the Asset Voting result would presumably be less good for society. IRV also would malfunction in this situation by refusing to elect Centrist.

This is not an issue of corruption, but rather an issue of candidates being stubborn about transferring their votes to the centrist because they care too deeply about their own re-election. While a voter might not care which leftist or rightest wins, the leftest or rightest is running in the race because they want to be the leftist or rightest that wins. Because their own election or re-election is involved they may be much less willing to compromise then the voters that voted for them. Corruption is a separate issue that can potentially make this problem much worse.

I guess the problem of candidates being too suborn about their own election can be a problem in CIFeR voting too when it is used for multi-winner races when candidates don’t want to risk losing their election by removing too many of their own approvals, but with CIFeR, candidates always have the ability to re-add an approval that they previously removed, and this problem is only relevent amoung candidates that win seats (i.e. if a candidate can’t win a seat, their stubbornness is irrelevant). Also, in CIFeR’s worst case scenario in which no candidates remove their own approvals, the voting method simply reduces to the simi-prortional Δ approaches 0 variant of harmonic voting which is still proportional when voters are strategic and much better worst case scenario then asset voting’s SNTV worst case senario when all candidates are stubborn enough.


Suppose the most extreme doesn’t give their votes to the moderate. Doesn’t this just guarantee a worse outcome for their voters, potentially dooming their re election?


Well, if we are talking about the single winner example, presumably the most extreme candidate isn’t giving their votes to the moderate because they need those votes to win. Thus, what happens to them next election won’t make much of a difference to them anyways if they are going to lose their current election.


Let us say that there is a very liberal candidate with 40% of the votes, a moderate at 20%, and a very conservative with 40%. As long as the moderate is guaranteed to lose, the moderate will try to elect the extremist who is willing to compromise and be more moderate than the other. Even if this doesn’t work, you can imagine the very liberal sweating the idea of the moderate electing the very conservative, and therefore electing the moderate instead, to ensure a better outcome. Honest voting for voters, strategic voting for candidates is a good way to sum it up.


As long as the moderate is guaranteed to lose, the moderate will try to elect the extremist who is willing to compromise and be more moderate than the other.

Similar to IRV in the case of the center squeeze efect. Once the moderate is eliminated, the more moderate of the two extremists will win under IRV because the more moderate of the two should pairwise beat the less moderate one.

Even if this doesn’t work, you can imagine the very liberal sweating the idea of the moderate electing the very conservative, and therefore electing the moderate instead, to ensure a better outcome.

That could happen, but it depends on how stubborn the liberal candidate is. The longer the liberal withholds her support, the more likely the moderate is to give her vote to one of the two extremists to prevent the other from winning. If the liberal is invested enough in her own election, she may prefer to wager the possibility that the moderate prefers her to the other extremist.


If the extremist’s calculations are off, though, they may never get voted for ever again. Their political career would be over. And after this election, where at least 60% of the voters are okay or happy with the result, I’m guessing every extremist candidate would be forced by their voters to negotiate. My theory is that since most voters are strategic under FPTP, they’ll understand immediately the implications of their candidate refusing to trade, and will only pick negotiators in future elections. I could be wrong, though.

Edit: Supposing the liberal holds out, couldn’t the conservative elect the moderate? Most elections would have one extremist slightly ahead of the other, so let’s say it’s 41% liberal and 39% conservative. This gives the conservative an even greater incentive to elect the moderate. If the liberal tries to “hold out”, it’ll be obvious that she’ll lose either way, and she might fear that the moderate and conservative are lying about the deal they made, so as a pre emptive measure she might elect the moderate, despite being ahead. A lot of ways for moderates to win here.


Yes, there are a lot of ways for the moderate to win here, and there are also a lot of ways for an extremist to win too… Perhaps the conservative is also willing to wager that the moderate will fallow through with that deal or prefers the conservative to the other extremist. There are a lot of ways for both the moderates and extremists to win.

One example in which the extremists did win happened in the UK in 2010. In 2010, the conservative party, not the centrist liberal democrat party, won the election.

Seat distribution (from most right wing to most left wing):
Democratic Unionist Party - 8 seats
Conservatives - 306 seats <- prime minister
Liberal Democrats - 57 seats <- median MP member on right to left wing scale, and probably the utilitarian winner as well
Alliance - 1 seat
Social Democrats and Labour Party - 3 seats
Scottish National Party - 6 seats
Labour Party - 258 seats
Plaid Cymru - 3 seats
Sein Feinn - 5 seats

Others - 1 seat


I finally understand why Asset is so different from Parliamentary coalitions, having thought on your example. Essentially, members of Parliament hold a certain share of the vote until the next election, while candidates in Asset only hold them until the end of the current election. Candidates in Asset can give away their “power”, while Parliamentary ministers, short of proxying or resigning, can not. This explains why moderates win in Asset: extremists give away their votes to avoid opposition victories, whereas Parliamentary parties can only ally themselves, inevitably leading to a sort of two side majoritarian extremist outcome. Asset at its worst is just a majoritarian method at its best.


Really, the best way to test this is in real life, but in a place where:

  1. A significant portion of the electorate actually cares who wins.
  2. The press there covers the elections in detail, not just breezing by on an obscure section on one day).
  3. The candidates actually behave like real politicians. (Real, as in not perfect angels but also REAL politicians not the overdramatized sweeping myths.)

Admit it: (check all that apply; do not use the internet)

  • I know who the President is
  • I know who my state’s governor is
  • I know who my Senators are (2019-2020)
  • I know who my Representative is (2019-2020)
  • I know who my state legislators are
  • I know who my city’s mayor is
  • I know who my City/County Representatives are

0 voters

I doubt anyone can truthfully answer yes to all 7 questions. And this is the problem with trying things in cities. The elections there are often fundamentally different from the “big picture” elections that we ultimately want to fix.


Apparently I already found someone who does not know who their senator is for the upcoming session.

I think I should auto close the poll after 2020 is over. EDIT: I doubt I can do that. So I might close it after a few weeks instead. EDIT2: Closed just because it got lost.


Most critiques of Asset assume restricted ballots, where there is a printed list of candidates. Because Asset actually creates a variable-vote Electoral College, the need for that is gone, and the power to dominate elections through controlling nominations would disappear. Asset creates what should be seen, in theory at least, as ideal: representation by chosen representatives, as distinct from the winners of contest elections, which leaves those whose choices did not “win,” out in the cold.

Candidates would be required to register to receive votes (alternatives can be imagined, but this is the simplest). Registration is consent to become a “public voter,:” because the vote assignments must be public. Asset systems could shade into representative-full participation democracy, but an Asset Assembly would be a major transformation from present systems, even electors have a one-year term,say. I would allow the Electoral College, with appropriate rules to prevent damage from churning, to replace seats in the Asssembly, at any time. A continuous representation system could allow voters to reassign their original votes. It could get complicated, and a basic Asset system could be incredibly simple.

Another critique about Asset is “backroom deals.” The only way to prevent that would be to prevent communication among electors, and to prevent negotiation, which is crucial to deliberative democracy. There is a deep-rooted distrust of “politicians,” but that is based on systemic confusion between the judicial and executive functions, and, as well, by election systems that easily entrench those who serve in offices. In an Asset system, supervisory power would be heavily decentralized. For immediate practical reasons, I’d have an Asset election take place once per year. That is so far superior to present systems, as far as vulnerability to corruption, that it’s obvious what is happening: attachment to other ideas is outweighing an understanding that we make choices among alternatives. One could buy an Asset elector, but there would be so many that it would be come not only very expensive to buy enough, but also, if illegal, far more likely to be exposed.

(I’m not sure it should be illegal! Rather, the problem would be covert bribery, the secrecy and lack of transparency. Public compensation or payments might not be nearly as harmful, and might even be beneficial. Key is that registered electors would probably pledge to represent and serve the interests of those who vote for them, or the interests of the entire jurisdiction, and covert bribery would damage that, but open payments might not. It should really be up to the voters, and Asset gives them the power, at least once a year, if that is the election periiod, but that power could be immediate with internet voting.)

Asset turns voting systems theory on its head, so it might not be surprising that some voting system wonks are less than impressed. Scenarios showing the behavior of a three-candidate system as violating this or that election criterion are essentially irrelevant to the actual (or projected) function of Asset, as far as I have seen.


Thanks for pointing out the potential!
There is a need for a restricted ballot and somewhat limited number of candidates with significant vote totals, but write ins should make it work a lot better.


This scenario would not happen in a sane Asset system. As I point out in another post, Asset does not need restricted ballot access, and printed names on ballots reduce the freedom of voters (even if write-in votes are allowed). In an Asset system, the votes shown in the scenario could not happen as primary votes, this would be a preliminary assignment, perhaps. Let’s assume that the original electors are strongly fixed in their votes (which would be not likely, but possible).
So what would actually happen? Centrist knows that if he votes for either Leftist or Rightist, he will create an unpopular and not widely accepted winner, whose support will be weak. Were I Centrist, I’d sit on the situation. This is crucial in democratic process, and is neglected by many voting systems theorists: to make a decision, a support of a majority of voters is required otherwise the election fails. That simple rule being set aside for “convenience” is why vote-for-one is a poor method, and likewise IRV, when interpreted as it is by FairVote and the laws that have been passed. Roberts’ Rules of Order is very aware of the issue, and their “IRV” rules specifically warn that the election will fail if voters do not fully rank all candidates.

This problem appears in single-winner elections. It is, in fact, a strong argument for parliamentary systems, where officers are essentially hired by the parliament, and can be fired at any time.

In such a system, Imagine a 100-member parliament, and imagine three factions, the same as in the scenario, so the Leftist elects 37 seats, the Centrist 25, and the Rightist 38. So, then, the Centrist becomes the decider when Left and Right cannot agree.

This kind of major power in three individuals is very unlikely in a functioning Asset system, but it would simply approach present partisan systems.

Then, when it comes time to elect a Chief Executive, or any other office, the office may remain vacant until and unless some compromise is made. Ah, the government might shut down, except where provisions have been made for continuation.

In such a system, Leftist and Rightist only have power if Centrist agrees. In single-winner systems, there is a Hobson’s choice. Centrist will lose, unless we create more complex voting systems to ameliorate what is really a single-winner problem. Vote for One, majority required, is ancient, and by dropping “majority required”: hosts of problems were created.

Asset can advance beyond majority required in multiwinner systems, becoming a requirement of unanimous consent of a quota to win a seat. (essentially Hare quota, but the Droop quota can also be used as long as it is possible that the remaining seat can be elected by the unanimous consent of all those who are not yet represented. An extra seat is harmless. Or there could be intermediate compromises.


Asset is radically different from mere coalitions. It is also possible that electors (those holding votes in an Asset election) could continue to function in an advisory capacity, and they would also advise those who follow them as to what is going on in the Parliament. Under some conditions, they could replace seats that become vacant, they could recall seats. What I called the Electoral College is the true and fully representative body, chosen by all the voters, with voting power in it according to the Asset election. And so the EC could continue to function until the next Asset election. But it is not legislative, it does not exercise direct power, thus it is advisory, which is actually a judicial function (though we don’t normally think of it that way, and these things get blurred).
A lot depends on the exact rules for translating Asset representation to election of seats. The Asset system would create a set of electors who are directly responsible for the election of seats, and the holders of those seats would, if normal, be very open to communication with electors (public voters!) holding a substantial number of votes. Thus Asset creates a system that would encourage more focused communication, and voters all know to whom they gave power with their votes, and thus know whom to talk to if they have ideas or concerns.

This actually would address the well-known problem of scale in democracy. It breaks down communication between the public and its representatives into manageable traffic. Direct secret-ballot election hides what would actually define supporters and non-supporters. In an Asset multiwinner system, voters know exactly who was elected with their vote, so the votes exercise real and visible power (to them!), and they create power that is public (i.e, the seats know who buttered their bread.) No wasted votes. Period.

I have never seen an election where my vote actually made a difference. With every asset election, there would be a visible effect. (I have suggested that electors would assign votes, where possible, by precinct, if they are assigning votes to multiple seats, making it more visible to voters where their vote went.)

Asset properly understood is not merely majoritarian, it is consensus-based. Seats are elected by a consensus of a quota of votes. Not a mere majority.

Decisions in the Assembly would remain by majority vote. Never plurality. And there will be traditional protections preserving the rights of minorities. (Such as cloture rules).

This would summarize it: Representation is best by full consent, without forced compromise. Decisions must have, as a minimum, a true majority (more than a tie).

It is desirable to have broader consensus than that, but this requires more than election methods. (A common device, though, is to create a proposed compromise choice through a method like Approval or Score, and then this must be ratified by majority vote, and, as an example, Popes required a 2/3 majority to be elected, after a series of Approval ballots, if I have that right.)

What I have seen is that full-on consensus rules give excess power to stubborn minorities, not so good. The majority can ends up dominating the majority, where the status quo favors the minority, unless the majority walks and creates a new organization, which can be difficult.


There is no need for a restricted ballot. We are so accustomed to printed ballots, with primitive voting systems, that we forget that Roberts Rules of Order, for example, does not use printed ballots, and voters simply write in the names of the candidates. That was normal in public elections, too.

There is no need to restrict people from exercising, in an Electoral College, even a single vote. (Rather, I would expect that someone with a single vote would likely delegate it to someone with more, but out of a large number of possible choices.

Rather, I would have electors register as willing to serve as electors. When registered, they would be give an code that voters could use to vote for them. There could be a cheaply-printed list of all electors available at polling places, or on-line voting systems could have lookup facility. Or no lists. I would want to encourage people to vote for electors they have actually met and can meet again.

Again, we might assume that the electors in an Asset election are “candidates” for the office. There is no reason to require that an otherwise eligible member or citizen be a candidate at all to be elected, if enough electoral votes are provided for their election (but consent is obviously required.) One might agree to serve as an elector with no intention or consent to serve beyond that.

I’ve been saying this for years. Asset is simple, yet absolutely radical. It would utterly transform the political landscape. Indeed, it is so powerful that I have recommended adoption in NGOs, where it would be relatively safe, not because I think it is dangerous, but because it is largely untested.

This, then, would provide a reform path. I expect Asset to create better communication in organizations between the membership and organizational management, to foster genuine consensus and participation and trust, and thus to make the organization more united and stronger. If it works, it will be imitated.