A lot of the theoretical criticism of STAR Voting comes from the position that ideal STAR Voting strategy is what I’ll call “abacus voting”—i.e. pushing candidates to the extremes like beads on an abacus, which cannot actually overlap.
While I believe this is trivially true (and I’m sure Warren or Jameson or Andy Jennings can come up with a simple mathematical proof of this), the practical consideration is whether voters can effectively exploit this in the real world. I’m highly skeptical that they can.
To wit, I have yet to see any of our resident math geniuses cite a simple strategy heuristic that is better than fully honest normalized ballots. We KNOW such a strategy exists with Score Voting. Warren readily acknowledges it.
Given that, I would argue that even the most sophisticated voters (perhaps especially the most sophisticated voters) will tend to be honest with STAR Voting. And so, even if the runoff step reduces utility efficiency (as e.g. Warren Smith expects, but others believe the opposite), we should expect that to be more than compensated for by the increased voter honesty that STAR Voting incentivizes.
I am not saying that I am 100% sold on this argument, but I think it’s highly compelling.
We then of course have to ask, is this postulated improvement worth the additional complexity of STAR Voting? Well, two things:
Complexity is mostly a concern of political viability. And there is a plausible narrative I hear from Mark Frohnmayer and other STAR advocates, that the “majority runoff” step actually helps with political viability, after having pitched the system to thousands of Lane County voters face-to-face (they got 16,000 signatures, so take this experience seriously). The argument is simply that voters often come up with the initial objection about bullet voting, but then generally seem satisfied with the counter about being honest to have an impact in the runoff step. Valid or not, what matters most is whether this rhetoric actually is effective with real human voters.
Both Score Voting and STAR are much simpler than IRV. So STAR is still below an obviously critical complexity threshold.
Imagine that STAR Voting “tricks” tactical voters into being more honest, and then elects the first-round (honest Score Voting) winner 95% of the time. Then it’s essentially just a “better” way of getting the honest Score Voting winner—which should be the end goal that Score Voting advocates say they want anyway, right?
And even if you don’t totally buy all that, I think outright opposition or hostility toward STAR Voting is really unreasonable. It gets voters using a Score Voting ballot, and establishes that there are valid alternatives besides IRV. I feel that this should earn passionate support from any Score Voting advocate, if you’re really taking the long-term pragmatic view.
P.S. This is post ID 42. So you should really take it seriously.