Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Could a 3rd Party Deadlock the Election?

Election Deadlocks Explained

According to the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, if no presidential candidate receives a majority of the Electoral College votes, the election is considered "deadlocked" and the decision goes to the House of Representatives to decide the president (among the top 3 candidates) and the Senate to decide the vice president (among the top 2 candidates).

This has only happened twice: once in 1800 before the amendment and again in 1824 during the crazy 4-way race between John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, and Henry Clay, all of whom took at least 2 of the then 24 states.

One goal of running modern third-party campaigns could be to intentionally cause a deadlock so that the 3rd party can attempt to play kingmaker in exchange for policy concessions. This was George Wallace's plan in 1968 and, although he failed, my election simulator shows he actually had a 18% chance of success!

Enter Evan McMullin

Over the last few days (mid-October) polls have taken a surprising twist: dark horse independent candidate Evan McMullin has emerged as a serious contender in Utah, polling at ~22% of the state’s popular vote. In case you haven’t been following the story, McMullin is an ex-CIA, Mormon, moderate Republican who is offering himself as an alternative to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

McMullin as a Republican Spoiler

I’ve gone ahead and simulated McMullin from the perspective of a third party spoiler effect. As a caveat, I want to point out that at the moment there is very little polling data on McMullin outside of Utah and Virginia. The Federalist provided me with a list of states McMullin has a decent chance in, which I then corrected against states where he is either on the ballot or a legal write-in. For states that fell into both categories, I’ve provisionally given McMullin all the polling percentage not allocated to Clinton, Trump or Johnson. This crude estimate will have to do for now.

Unlike Johnson and Stein, McMullin is a potential spoiler for the Republicans. But as usual with third-party candidates, his partisan bias is not as extreme as I’ve seen quoted in online sources. I’ve seen lean factors suggested between 50-100%, but because we have very solid data polling data in Utah from both before and after McMullin entered the race, I can state with some accuracy that his base shows only a 21% conservative lean. That said, it may be more extreme outside of Utah.

As a result, I’m showing McMullin with a 1.34% spoiler chance. Interestingly, Utah is not likely to be at the heart of a spoiler. Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, and Colorado would be more likely.

Could McMullin Deadlock the Election?

FiveThirtyEight discusses the obscure possibility that McMullin could become president. The three stage plan would involve (1) McMullin winning Utah, (2) causing a deadlock where neither candidate has the necessary 270 electoral votes, forcing the decision to the House where, (3) McMullin can negotiate himself as a compromise selection.

But how likely is that?

I can’t answer for the backdoor negotiations that would occur, but I can check the odds of McMullin winning Utah and causing a deadlock. I’ve added that question into the simulator, but since data is currently scarce, I’ll look at the results in three different scenarios.

The odds that McMullin could deadlock the election:

  1. Based on McMullin’s recent average of Utah polls: 0.005%
  2. Based on the not-especially-reliable but most McMullin-generous Utah poll: 0.460%
  3. Making the assumption that McMullin wins Utah: 1.811%

Ranking States by Deadlock Power

The Utah deadlock value above leads me to another question:

If you were a third party presidential candidate hoping to cause an electoral deadlock in 2016, and you could only choose one state to win (presumably your home state), which would it be?

Well, after returning to the simulator, the answer is... not Utah. It’s ranked 31st for deadlock potential. Obviously, states with more electoral votes have a better chance, but it isn’t quite so simple. This election, Democrat-leaning states make better targets, since removing them does more to “even the odds” towards a red-blue split.

For each state, I've calculated the chance of a 2016 election deadlock, were it to be captured by a third party:
  1. California (55):   27.886%
  2. New York (29):   12.801%
  3. Florida (29):   10.961%
  4. Texas (38):   8.458%
  5. Illinois (20):   8.252%
  6. Pennsylvania (20):   8.095%
  7. Michigan (16):   6.288%
  8. Ohio (18):   6.134%
  9. New Jersey (14):   5.384%
  10. North Carolina (15):   5.263%
  11. Georgia (16):   4.945%
  12. Virginia (13):   4.790%
  13. Washington (12):   4.577%
  14. Massachusetts (11):   4.144%
  15. Maryland (10):   3.689%
  16. Minnesota (10):   3.652%
  17. Wisconsin (10):   3.562%
  18. Arizona (11):   3.553%
  19. Indiana (11):   3.374%
  20. Tennessee (11):   3.227%
  21. Colorado (9):   3.041%
  22. Missouri (10):   2.930%
  23. South Carolina (9):   2.699%
  24. Alabama (9):   2.669%
  25. Louisiana (8):   2.461%
  26. Oregon (7):   2.387%
  27. Kentucky (8):   2.373%
  28. Connecticut (7):   2.367%
  29. Oklahoma (7):   2.076%
  30. Nevada (6):   1.864%
  31. Utah (6):   1.811%
  32. Iowa (6):   1.799%
  33. Kansas (6):   1.789%
  34. Arkansas (6):   1.737%
  35. Mississippi (6):   1.688%
  36. New Mexico (5):   1.584%
  37. West Virginia (5):   1.402%
  38. New Hampshire (4):   1.151%
  39. Hawaii (4):   1.111%
  40. Rhode Island (4):   1.108%
  41. Idaho (4):   1.048%
  42. Delaware (3):   0.765%
  43. Vermont (3):   0.752%
  44. North Dakota (3):   0.743%
  45. South Dakota (3):   0.743%
  46. Wyoming (3):   0.726%
  47. Alaska (3):   0.710%
  48. Montana (3):   0.710%
  49. D.C. (3):   0.709%
  50. Nebraska - State (2):   0.376%
  51. Maine - State (2):   0.351%
  52. Maine - 1st D (1):   0.006%
  53. Nebraska - 1st D (1):   0.005%
  54. Maine - 2nd D (1):   0.004%
  55. Nebraska - 3rd D (1):   0.004%
  56. Nebraska - 2nd D (1):   0.001%

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Election Simulator

Election Simulator with Spoiler Effect Odds

The election simulator is now up and running! You can use it to predict elections, but it’s also designed to measure the likelihood of a third-party spoiler effect and to identify which states could be at risk.

You can find the election simulator at the footer of the blog (scroll alllll the way down). It’s very simple:
  1. Choose a 3-party presidential race from the drop-down.
  2. Hit the “Run Simulation” button.

I’ve preloaded the simulator with data for the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a handful of other historical 3-party races that are interesting for a variety of reasons. More on that later.

Interpreting the Simulator Data

Right now the election simulator gives you some basic information about the candidates who ran in a given year, which way (conservative vs. liberal) the third party candidate leans and how many simulations it runs.

The results show you how often the Republicans win, how often the Democrats win, how often the third party wins, and how often a spoiler occurs. The results are shown for both the nation as a whole and the individual states. For states, I also show the historically-accurate electoral value and the “Spoiler Share,” which is the percentage of nation-wide spoilers which  each state contributed.

How Does It Work?

I started by feeding in state-level popular vote percentages. These can come from anywhere, but generally from polling data. For the current election, I’ve borrowed the aggregated meta-polls from popular statistician Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight as of October 7, 2016. I’ve also been following their methodology, which I’ll summarize shortly. I chose to use FiveThirtyEight as the foundation, because they predicted 49/50 states in 2008 and 50/50 in 2012.

For past elections I’ve been using the historical results as inputs. This is admittedly cheating, but I introduce error factors to compensate, generating reasonable “what if” scenarios if normalized alternative fluctuations had occurred. If someone has the pre-election prediction values for any election, please send me a copy/link!

I then generated vote counts per party in each state, with a normal distribution around the predicted mean and a standard deviation of 4.5 percentage points. This is a simplification, because different population sizes, samples sizes, and other biases lead to a lot of state-to-state variation in poll accuracy, but this baseline generated results within 1% of FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 simulation. I used smaller standard deviations for the historical data. I also implemented a national error with a linear distribution between +/- 3.3 which simulates the possibility of innate bias in polling (for instance, there might be political biases in the type of people who own phones or who answer surveys). These numbers fit Gallup poll’s historical accuracy, and again, recreated FiveThirtyEight’s results quite well.

I then simulated the election (I’ve been running batches of 1,000,000 trials) and looked at the results with a 3-party race and a 2-party race. Contrasting the results highlights whether a spoiler effect occurred. Sometimes states can experience a spoiler effect, but if it isn’t enough to change the outcome of the nation-wide election, it doesn’t count. However, multiple states can collaborate to cause a spoiler.

Critical to determining whether a spoiler effect occurs is a left/right-leaning factor. This is the percentage of a third party’s voter base that would have voted Democrat over Republican or vice versa (and subtracting people who would have stayed at home). This leaning factor is hard to accurately determine, so I’ve made educated guesses (displayed at the top of the simulation results) based on my not-terribly-scientific historical research. I’ve not taken into account state-by-state variation in third-party leaning, which could probably be done with more accurate demographic information.

What Are the Odds of a Spoiler Effect in 2016?

For our current election I’m using generous error factors (compared to the historical data) to simulate uncertainty. I have separate options to show how the Libertarian party and Green party affect the election. Both are doing well, benefiting from record-setting strongly-unfavorable ratings for both mainstream candidates. Both partiesare showing a leftward lean and at higher levels than 2012, in part due to gaining disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters and Democratic non-interventionists, although this may change as more moderate Republicans withdraw support from Donald Trump and look for an alternative. Gary Johnson is doing around eight times better than Jill Stein, but Stein leans more left.

Johnson shows about a 4.3% chance of a national spoiler. Not negligible, but his voter share is going consistently down. If a spoiler effect does take place, it would mostly likely be in Florida (14.7%), Pennsylvania (12.0%), Ohio (11.9%), Michigan (10.8%), North Carolina (10.5%), Colorado (10.5%), Virginia (10.1%), Wisconsin (9.1%), or Arizona (8.5%). No surprises there. Those are this year’s battleground states and the simulation bears out our expectation that battleground states are almost always spoiler risks.

Are there any surprises? The 7.5% spoiler share in solidly-blue New Mexico is interesting. It’s caused by Johnson enjoying 16.1% of the popular vote there, meaning that if a surprise Republican victory did occur, it would almost certainly be by a margin the Libertarians could have bridged. Iowa has a 6.9% share, which you’d think would be higher given that it is such a close race there, but at six electoral votes, Iowa isn’t especially critical to the overall outcome.

Stein shows about a 3.8% chance of a spoiler, a little higher than I would expect given her much smaller voter base, but many of the battleground states are so close that the Green Party matters in many of the same places listed above. They also lean harder left than liberals, both for classical reasons like environmentalism and newer ones like net neutrality.

Simulations of Interesting Historical Elections

1912 Election – Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party

The Progressive Party is the most successful third party in U.S. history, and the only one to beat a first party candidate. Roosevelt crushed his Republican friend-turned-rival, William Taft, who’d prevailed over him in the primary. The 54-46 schism within the conservative voter base was devastating, handing Woodrow Wilson a landslide victory. Notably, Socialist Eugene Debs managed a respectable 6%, but it didn’t chip away enough from the Democrats to matter.

In the simulation, the Democrats have won every time. 98% of their wins was due to a third party spoiler, largely due to a huge Progressive voter turnout which carved almost exclusively from the Republican side of the aisle. This is the most definitive spoiler effect in U.S. presidential history. Interestingly, New York, which then had 45 electoral votes, is the most frequent culprit, participating in 95% of the spoilers.

1968 – George Wallace’s American Independent Party

George Wallace’s American Independent Party is the most recent third party to win electoral votes, stealing mostly from the Republican side. He campaigned on a “law and order”and racial segregation platform that appealed to Republican-leaning ruralsoutherners and Democrat-leaning blue-collar union workers. Though he fell short, Wallace hoped to deprive the mainstream candidates of an electoral majority, which would have forced the House of Representatives to choose a winner.

The simulation still shows Nixon winning 91% of the time. In 99% of the cases where Nixon lost, Wallace is to blame, but history didn’t play out that way. If a spoiler had taken place, it would likely have been in Texas and/or Maryland.

1980 – John Anderson?

Why bother simulating Reagan’s landslide victory in 1980? Partly as a sanity check. Indeed, my simulation shows essentially 0% chance of a Democratic win for Jimmy Carter and a ~0% chance of a spoiler effect, though the occasional lottery-odds flukes in my million-loop simulations are fascinating.

Third party candidate John Anderson was a moderate Republican who split from the party and ran on a campaign that supported the Equal Rights Amendment, drawing support from women and liberal intellectuals. Anderson actually hit 15% of the popular vote in time to qualify for the presidential debates (Carter chose to boycott in protest), but later fell to 6.6% by the general election. At the end of the day Anderson ended up splitting Carter’s vote slightly more than Reagan’s, hurting Carter’s already doomed campaign.

1992 – Ross Perot’s Independent Party

Ross Perot’s Independent Party is interesting for managing 18.9% of the popular vote, and yet not really causing a spoiler effect in my simulations (a mere 0.4%). The reason is Perot's delicate balancing act of luring voters from both parties in almost exactly equal numbers. Clinton’s 5.6% margin victory over George H. W. Bush was too wide to be bridged by Perot’s truly very independent and centrist base.

Even if a spoiler had taken place, it would probably have benefited Clinton. It would most likely have taken place in California, which had a 25% share in 1992’s rare spoiler scenarios.

2000 – Ralph Nader’s Green Party

The classical spoiler effect cited in the modern era, which I’ve already written about at length. Ralph Nader’s Green Party borrowed enough liberals to split a close race and push the election in the Republican’s favor. The Democrats were heavily concentrated, but in too few states. Despite the Democrats having an edge in the popular vote, my simulation confirms that the Republicans really were favored to win under these conditions.

The simulation shows a 24% chance of a spoiler effect, caused more by the closeness of the race than the Green party’s ideological lean or popular sway (they only managed 2.74% of the vote). As one would expect, Florida is the most prominent game changer (43%), followed by New Hampshire (25%), Wisconsin (22%), New Mexico (22%), and Oregon (20%).

2012 – Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party

Last election saw both Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein appear on the scene, though they hadn’t yet gained their 2016 name recognition. They raked in a relatively lackluster 0.99% and 0.36% of the popular vote respectively. Simulating 2012 shows a typical 2-party race with a somewhat larger than average margin of victory, not uncommon for an incumbent president.

In the simulation, Barack Obama beats Mitt Romney about 98% of the time. A spoiler effect occurs in only about 0.18% of cases, with Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania rounding out the usual suspects. The low odds are partly due to a Republican victory being such a long shot and partly because the Libertarian party was particularly left-right neutral in 2012. Though commonly associated with the GOP because of their small-government, anti-tax, and pro-gun stances, they also appeal to liberals due to opposing Citizens United and supporting abortion rights, legalized marijuana, and gay marriage.

Election Simulator 2.0

If you haven’t already, take a moment to play around with the election simulator. Leave a comment if you have ideas for what you’d like to see next and I’ll see what I can do.

For instance: 
  • Other election years
  • User control of left-right leaning factor
  • User control of state and national error factors
  • User control of number of simulations
  • Graphs and maps of data

Friday, October 7, 2016

Conscientious Abstention, Protest Votes and Election Boycotts

Non-Voting Methods Explained

Non-voting covers conscientious abstention, protest votes and election boycotts, all of which may be used as ways to suggest anything from ambivalence to contempt for the ballot options available and/or a lack of legitimacy of the government, the election or the eventual winner.

In some cases, voters may choose not to vote because they do not believe votes matter: if they believe the candidates are equally bad, the candidates are merely puppets, or the election is rigged.

Conscientious Abstention

This is when a single voter decides not to vote at all. For the purposes of this discussion, I am only referring to cases where the voter has a political, social or moral reason for not voting. Recusing oneself to avoid a conflict of interest is a separate matter.

Protest Votes or Blank Votes

In this case, a voter does turn in a ballot, but intentionally chooses an invalid option, such as leaving the ballot blank, marking multiple choices or choosing a candidate that is unlikely, dead, fictional, etc. This is a more “active” choice than conscientious abstention, which in some cases will make it more likely to register.

Sometimes a “none of the above” option is available. There is some question as to whether marking this choice is considered a protest vote, since it is a legitimate option provided by the ballot organizer.

Election Boycotts

These are essentially abstentions on a mass scale. Since many people are involved, often as part of a movement, boycotts tend to have greater exposure.

There have been calls to boycott the current 2016 US Presidential election.

Pros and Cons of Non-Voting


The argument against forms of non-voting is that they do not have any impact, whereas voting does have at least a very small impact.

Conscientious abstention and boycotts are often outwardly indistinguishable from apolitical reasons for not voting, such as apathy or forgetfulness, and thus can easily go unnoticed. Similarly, blank votes can be mistaken for accidents.

Even when noticed, conscientious abstention can take additional information gathering to understand why the voter abstained. Not all voters may abstain for the same reason, which can lead to confusion or incorrect interpretations of the intended message. As such, abstention is unlikely to have any clear impact in isolation.

In isolation, abstention and boycotts, and some forms of protest voting, do not suggest a solution, but only highlight the presence of a problem. For that reason they can be seen as unproductive.

When at least a degree of choice is available on the ballot, as in a “lesser of two evils” case, choosing not to vote can backfire, resulting in the “greater of two evils” winning. Boycotts can also backfire by making victors appear more successful than they would have otherwise.

Advantages and Strategies

Non-voting can be used to undermine the perceived legitimacy of a government, election or the vote winner.

Many non-voters abstain for strictly personal reasons, but if the goal is changing public perception, being effective relies on spreading awareness of your actions (or non-actions). Non-voting should be announced, through either the traditional media, social media, or sympathetic organizations. Celebrities, especially highly respected figures, can be more effective in this regard.

Combining non-voting with other forms of protests, such as marches, rallies and strikes, can also be used to make sure the non-voting is noticed and ascribed to the correct causes. Acting in numbers will typically have more impact than acting alone, so I would rank election boycotts as a more powerful tool than conscientious abstention.

Non-voting is especially effective in elections or referendums that require a result to hit a certain percentage of the eligible voting pool, such as a majority or supermajority. They are less effective in elections that only require a plurality.

Non-voting sends a louder message in cases where voting is compulsory - where refusing to vote is an act of civil disobedience. Parliamentary voting, where voting members must be in attendance and give a verbal response, are also a conspicuously noticeable time to use non-voting.

For more practical advice, see Gene Sharp's The Politics of Nonviolent Action.

Historical Cases of Election Boycotts

To judge the success or failure of an election boycott we need a metric. I would consider any of the following a measure of success:
  • The ruling party changing before the next regular election cycle. For example, if the ruling party vacated leadership, was overthrown, or was deposed by a special election.
  • The leadership adopting specific policy changes in line with the agenda of the non-voter(s).
  • A noticeable, widely-documented authoritarian “thaw” such a reduction in violence, the release of political prisoners or the beginning of peaceful negotiations.
  • Recognition by the international community coupled with related concrete results (beyond official censure) such as successful external political pressure, imposition of economic sanctions, or military intervention.

Below are some prominent historical cases and my evaluation of their success. Please note that I do not intend to lessen the struggles, which can include imprisonment and death, of boycotts whose results I rate as failures. Nor should there be any assumption, unless I specify, that I advocate for or against either the methods used or the political entities involved.

Since my research of historical cases is rather haphazard, I appreciate additions and corrections.

Portugal, 1918

Three of the most prominent opposition parties (Democratic, Evolutionist and Republican Union) boycotted over recent coup victor Sidonio Pais running for president unopposed. As a result the National Republican Party won a two-thirds majority in the House. Pais was assassinated before the year was out and NRP party collapsed.

Verdict: Success

Northern Ireland, 1973

Not an election, but the Northern Ireland Sovereignty referendum of 1973, a vote on whether Northern Ireland should be ceded from the UK to the Republic of Ireland, is a well-known boycott example. Held a little over a year after Bloody Sunday and during the height of The Troubles, it was probably in part a publicity stunt by Prime Minister Edward Heath. Heath was well-aware that the predominantly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party did not have the majority they needed for a united Ireland. The SDLP knew as well, and decided to boycott the election. However, the plan backfired, making the decision to stay seem more popular than it was and providing the opposition with propaganda for decades to come.

Verdict: Failure

Jamaica, 1983

The Jamaican 1983 boycott, caused one of the lowest turnouts in the history of democracy. The right-wing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Edward Seaga, stayed in power and now controlled every parliamentary seat. Jamaica’s constitution required an opposition, but Seaga simply appointed 8 independent senators to fulfill this role. JLP’s dominance lasted until 1989 when the left-wing People's National Party (PNP) changed tactics and ran against them on an anti-corruption and hurricane-recovery platform. By 1991, the PNP had made meaningful change, including a reduction in crime, improvements in the economy, a welfare program and housing improvements.

Verdict: Failure

Ghana, 1992

Unfazed by the election boycott, the ruling party, led by Jerry John Rawlings, stayed in power for 9 more years. 

Verdict: Failure

Bangladesh, Feb 1996

In Bangladesh in February 1996, a boycott kept the ruling power in place, but along with strikes, mass protests and international outcry, a second election was held in June in which the Awami opposition party won an election with high turnout. The boycott appears to have helped stimulate an immediate reaction.

Verdict: Success

Slovakia, 1997

The 1997 Slovak referendum was part of a complex, but fascinating, faceoff between outgoing president Michal Kovac and dictatorial prime minister Vladimir Meciar. Referendums in Slovakia require a 50% turnout. Hoping to stir up the necessary votes, the government combined four questions, beginning with joining NATO and ending with a question on switching to direct elections for president, which were otherwise headed for a deadlock via the current parliamentary process. Meciar, who stood to benefit from the resulting power vacuum, had the final question struck from the ballots. Kovac’s party retaliated with a boycott that successfully killed the referendum. Slovakia was conspicuously not invited into NATO two months later, unlike the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, and were passed over for EU membership in favor of Estonia and Slovenia.

Verdict: Success

Algeria, 1999

This was a six-party boycott following unmet promises of a fair election. Violence had been waning leading up to the elections in anticipation of a reconciliation, which were fulfilled by a nationwide referendum in September 2000. Bouteflika, who won unopposed, granted amnesty to the Islamist groups that fought against him over the previous 8 years and won subsequent elections on platforms focused on peace and stability with high turnout (despite smaller boycott efforts) overseen by the OSCE. He remains in power to this day. I suspect the boycott helped Bouteflika realize he had to focus on earning legitimacy through unity measures. Violence significantly fell.

Verdict: Success

The Gambia, 2002

Authoritarian president Yahya Jammeh and his party won in a landslide, helped by the boycott. He remains in power to this day. Conditions in the Gambia have steadily deteriorated.

Verdict: Failure

Iran, 2005

The boycott of the 2005 presidential election is perhaps one of the most clear-cut cases in favor of accepting the lesser of two (or in this case more) evils. Reformists and intellectuals pushed for a boycott over unsatisfactory candidates, the too-powerful position of the supreme leader and voter registration bias. But the opposition was divided on the tactics, with many prominent figures suggesting voting in favor of the least-conservative choices over the hardline military-bred fundamentalist choices. The poorly-coordinated hybrid approach led to a victory by Mohammad Khatami, a serial human rights violator. Outside observers suspected the election was probably manipulated anyway.

Verdict: Failure

Venezuela, 2005

The Venezuelan 2005 boycott was largely considered a disaster, as the OAS and EU were helping oversee what looked to be a fair election that had made important concessions to the opposition parties. Still, the oppositions parties withdrew at the last minute, claiming distrust of the electoral process. The decision was bad PR both internationally and abroad. Venezuela’s international approval remained high. Even Human Rights Watch balked, “It's really hard to understand what exactly the political opposition leadership has in mind. But certainly it is not going to help them to present themselves as victims that deserve solidarity from the international community. With these kinds of tactics I don't think they'll gain any ground." The ruling party stayed in power a 10 further years.

Verdict: Failure

Kosovo, 2007

Serbs boycotted a chaotic, but peaceful, round of mayoral elections observed by the Council of Europe. The boycott led to annulment of the results in 5 Serbian-majority municipalities.

Verdict: Success

Sicily, 2012

The 2012 regional election boycott in Sicily helped outsider-party Five Star Movement gain a significant foothold. Was that the boycott's intention? If so, that's a success. But one would think that if the boycotters wanted the Five Star Movement in power, they would have voted for them. I do credit Five Star as a "3rd party" success (though note that Italy isn't a 2-party system), for effecting concrete aspects of their agenda, including major anti-corruption work, legalizing same-sex marriage and relaxing immigration law.

Verdict: Uncertain

Thailand, 2014

Widespread opposition protests against Prime Minister Yingluck, combined with an election boycott, prevented both the registration of candidates and the election of a valid House of Representatives. The protest movement succeeded in getting Yingluck removed from power a few months later. Unfortunately, the resulting power vacuum paved the way for a coup by the arguably more corrupt Prayut Chan-o-cha and his military junta. Still, the boycott meets my definition of having triggered meaningful change.

Verdict: Success

Vote Trading and Vote Pacts

Vote Pairing

Vote pairing is any scheme whereby to people commit to voting in a mutually agreed upon manner. You will often here it called vote trading, vote swapping, or vote pacts. It was officially declared legal in 2007. Vote pairing is really only necessary if you care about preventing a spoiler effect.

Vote pairing is largely grassroots and there is not much data on its impact or success rate. It is based on the honor system, so it is not immune to manipulation.

That said, the idea of vote pairing is sound and I support it. If you are thinking about voting 3rd party, this is the approach I’d recommend.

There are two major strains of vote pairing.

Vote Swapping

In vote swapping, Voter A, who wants to vote third party in a swing state, swaps their vote with Voter B, who wants to vote for the ideologically-closer 1st party in a state that already has an overwhelming majority for their candidate. The idea is that neither voter risks a spoiler effect without any change to the nationwide vote tallies for each candidate.

Vote swapping has a couple of additional advantages. It helps candidates get to 5% of the popular vote (necessary to become eligible for federal campaign matching funds) or 15% (for debate representation).

Infiltration by oppositely-aligned mainstream party voters can’t do much damage. Vote swapping also increase the number of 3rd party voters who would otherwise vote 1st party out of fear of a spoiler effect.

Vote Pacts

In vote pacts, a disaffected Democrat and a disaffected Republican in the same state both agree to vote for third parties. Neither voter affects the relative standing of the two mainstream parties, so there is no possibility of a spoiler effect (unlike vote swapping, which just makes it incredibly unlikely). However, with vote pacts you may end up helping an ideologically opposite 3rd party.

Before agreeing to a vote pact you should ensure the following:
  • You and your pact buddy are both in the same state. If your state is Nebraska or Maine, where electoral votes can be split, make sure you are in the same congressional district.
  • In the absence of the pact, both you and your partner were fully committed to voting for opposite mainstream candidates.
  • You absolutely trust your pact buddy. [Optional] It may help if you know them in real life.
  • [Optional] You both vote for the same 3rd party. If you can agree on a 3rd party, vote pacts are even safer!

Compared to vote swapping, vote pacts, especially online, are more susceptible to tampering and rely more heavily on trust. However they have the advantage of increasing 3rd party votes by twice as much as vote swapping. This is important if you’d like to see 3rd parties get powerful enough to one day break the two-party system.


Are the Republicans and Democrats the Same?

“There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats.”
--George Wallace, the last 3rd party candidate to get electoral votes (1968)

In a two-party system you don’t have an awful lot of choice and there will, inevitably, be positions that are not covered by the two mainstream parties. Despite my click-bait title, I believe there are many key issues that distinguish the Republicans and Democrats, but in this post I will be listing oft-cited commonalities between them.

It isn’t always a bad thing when the left and the right agree. One woman’s duopoly may be another woman’s bipartisanship. But as the quantity of similarities goes up and your disagreement in one or more of these areas increases, so too does the merit of voting for a 3rd party.

I also want to point out that not every Democrat and Republican shares their party’s typical stance. You will have to do your own research on a case-by-case basis.

Oft-cited commonality between Republicans and Democrats:
  • Willingness to accept donations and other forms of support from corporations and their lobbyists in exchange for supporting policies not in the best interest of American citizens.
  • Support for or acceptance of broad powers, rights, legal exceptions and tax exemptions for corporations.
  • Corporate welfare, such as bailouts.
  • Consolidation of power for a political and/or financial elite.
  • Belief in a fundamentally capitalist economy.
  • Willingness to use military intervention abroad. “Pro-war” in practice if not in rhetoric.
  • On the flip side, reluctance to go to war except for the U.S.’s political or financial interest. Failure to take definitive military action to defend human rights abroad.
  • Willingness to take extra-judiciary covert action abroad, such as spying, supplying weapons and funding in secret and supporting coups (and likely assassinations).
  • Use of drone warfare.
  • Massive defense budgets and a large standing military.
  • Violently punitive approach to solving issues like crime and terrorism.
  • Pro-Israel. Non-recognition of Palestine as a state.
  • Non-acceptance of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
  • Failure to acknowledge or make reparations for slavery, the genocide of Native Americans and the occupation of their lands, or US war crimes. Often disinterest in even issuing apologies.
  • Under-representation of women, minorities, members of the LGBTQIA community, practitioners of non-Christian religions, persons with disabilities, and/or veterans.
  • Support for free trade.
  • Support for globalization.
  • Non-isolationist policy in terms of trade and treaties.
  • Tax simplification, but rarely radical tax reform such as flat tax, single tax or FairTax.
  • Reluctance to pay down national debt and inefficacy at doing so.
  • High spending rates (though where the money gets spent varies).
  • Continuation of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • General support for “big government,” such as large discretionary budgets, involvement in the daily lives of citizens, and broad legal rights and powers of government agencies.
  • Belief in centralized governmental authority.
  • Soft on environmentalism, such as failing to take dramatic steps to slow climate change, put hard limits on arctic and offshore drilling, aggressively regulate corporations, federally mandate recycling, ban certain uses of plastic, etc.
  • Belief in a monotheistic God and Judeo-Christian values.
  • Separation of church and state. No official US religion.
  • Unwillingness to appeal the second amendment.
  • Implicit support of the two party system. De facto blackballing of 3rd parties and their representatives.
  • In favor of the death penalty. Note that the DNC officially reversed its stance in 2016, but many prominent Democrat politicians are still in favor.
  • Reluctance to adopt languages other than English (e.g. Spanish) as official languages or to publish government document in multiple languages.

This is just a partial list. Feel free to send me others. Please provide sources if there would be any question of doubt.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Can 3rd Party Votes Swing an Election? Revisiting Nadar in 2000.

Did Nader Spoil Gore in 2000?

Probably the #1 concern I hear about voting 3rd party is the potential for a spoiler. A spoiler effect is the phenomenon whereby voting for a 3rd party candidate on one end of the left-right spectrum splits the vote and hands the election to the mainstream candidate on the opposite end of the spectrum. For years people said the odds are low enough to dismiss. Then came the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election.

This is a topic that gets some people very upset and emotional, but let’s look at it as pragmatically as possible. Let’s start with the facts everyone agrees on.

The 2000 presidential election was an extremely tight race, with Gore winning the popular vote 48.4% to 47.9% and Bush ultimately winning the electoral vote 271 to 266. The deciding factor came down to Florida where results were so close that Gore called for a hand recount, which dragged on from Nov 8 to Dec 12. A 5-4 US Supreme Court decision would ultimately call off the recount with Bush winning by 537 votes, a margin of only 0.009%.

The Green Party, represented by Ralph Nader, had carried 97,488 votes in Florida, more than enough to have given Gore the win if the Green Party hadn’t been on the ballot.

But wait! You can’t just assume that everyone who voted for the Green Party would have voted for the Democratic Party had the Green Party not been an option. The overlap between the Democrat and Green Party base has been frequently overestimated by left-leaning commentators. The bias is easy to explain: a Democrat is more likely to know a fellow Democrat who “jumped ship” to the Green Party, than a former Republican who made the same leap.

Yet exit polls confirm that, although the Green Party is less of a “Democrat siphon” than popularly supposed, they did disproportionately lure voters who would otherwise have voted for Gore. National Nader “second choice” exit polls showed 47% Gore, 21% Bush and 32% no vote. Nader himself cites Florida exit polls that said 38% of his supporters would have voted for Gore, 25% Bush and the rest would have stayed at home - still more than enough for a Gore victory.

But wait! The number of Floridian surveyed who voted for Nader and also gave a valid “second choice” was only 264 people. That’s an awfully small sample size! Speaking of which, a frequently-cited CNN exit poll showed Nader supporters preferring Bush, but if you check out the raw data yourself, you’ll notice the poll’s sample size of Nader voters is… 30. All the “Greens-were-conservatives” defenses I’ve found swirling about the internet are based on survey answers from these 30 people out of almost 100,000. To call that a representative sample size is more than misleading, it's unethical. So then, isn’t it possible that we just don't have enough polling data to draw conclusions?

Well, a couple people agreed, and conducted an extensive ballot-level UCLA study. They actually went through the original ballots casts for Nadar and individually looked at what other choices the voter made beyond the selection for president. They then built up a mathematical model that compares these choices to the ballots that were cast for Gore and Bush to find left-leaning and right-leaning trends. Despite mistakenly being cited as evidence in Nader's favor by some, the study’s conclusion was clear:

“How do our results stack up against conventional wisdom, which holds that Ralph Nader spoiled the 2000 presidential election for Gore? We find that this common belief is justified, but our results show clearly that Nader spoiled Gore’s presidency only because the 2000 presidential race in Florida was unusually tight.”

At this point, the case is pretty much closed, but let’s go ahead and examine that last conditional statement, “…only because the 2000 presidential race in Florida was unusually tight.” So, it would be extremely unlikely for a similar spoiler effect to show up in multiple states, right?

Well, though it certainly got far less media coverage, Florida wasn’t the only state to see a 3rd party spoiler effect in the 2000 race. New Hampshire, which also could have swung the election in Gore’s favor, saw the Democrats losing by 7,211, a gap that could have been closed by the Green Party’s 22,198 votes. And, of course, right-leaning 3rd parties can have the same effect on the Republican side. In New Mexico, Pat Buchanan’s Reform party spoiled Bush. Gore won by only 366 votes, even less than the difference in Florida! It didn’t get widely reported because New Mexico’s 5 electoral votes wouldn’t have altered the outcome of the election.

So spoiler effects can’t just be dismissed as exceedingly rare flukes - especially since modern U.S. presidential elections have shown a tendency to be relatively tight. (The widest spread in the national popular vote in the last six elections was 7.2%.) This is, in part, a well-documented consequence of winner-takes-all 2-party systems. And the chance of a spoiler goes up (until you approach a 3-party equilibrium), when the 3rd parties has a larger vote share, as they do in the current 2016 election.

But anyway, overwhelming evidence suggests that if the Green Party hadn’t run a candidate for president in 2000, Gore would have won the election.

That’s enough to satisfy me that any responsible voter MUST consider the non-negligible possibility of a spoiler effect when choosing to vote 3rd party.

I’d be happy to stop right there.

But that isn’t enough for many people.

They also have to know, “Was Nader responsible?” I warn you, down that path lies madness. But if you want, while we’re already on this topic, read on.

The Blame Game

In defenses of Nader the same central argument appears again and again and again: Nader can’t be blamed for Bush winning the 2000 election because other factors could've just as easily or more easily changed the outcome in Florida. The margin was so narrow! It is a logical fallacy to claim Nader didn’t cause a spoiler effect based on this reasoning, but on a moral or philosophical level, deciding whether Nader deserves to be blamed or whether it makes more sense to spread the blame around, is actually kind of a fascinating question.

So let’s explore some of the other targets that we could also blame. But before we even get started, I want to say that I think there is absolutely some validity to all of these. So for those of you who just really need to hear that Nader was not the only one to blame, you can save yourself some reading.

1) Gore lost the election for himself

There are a lot of variations of this. Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, which Bill Clinton had carried in the previous two elections, and Clinton's home state, too, for that matter. He failed to capitalize on the Clinton-era strong economy. He chose controversial Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate. Voters found his personality stiff and uninspiring, his debate performance off-putting and his campaign boring. In Florida, he failed to capture the senior vote and the oft-Democratic white female demographic by margins that led to his defeat.

The “Gore is to blame” argument is a compelling one, and fits with my own sense of justice. The election was Gore’s to win or lose. His policy and campaign issues were his own. His performance on TV, in rallies, during speeches and in debates were his own. He clearly gave it an honest shot, but he made mistakes.

In the man’s defense, unless someone can send me a citation to prove otherwise, Gore never blamed Nader. In his rather classy concession speech he said he accepted his responsibility and would move on. And it’s worth pointing out that he did.

But let’s not underplay the fact the Gore actually won the popular vote. More Americans wanted Gore to be the president than any other candidate, including Bush. And, though we will likely never know for sure, many studies demonstrate persuasive evidence that Gore rightfully should have won.

2) Miscounted ballots, confusing ballots and computer errors robbed Gore

As for miscounted ballots, this New York Times piece exhaustively (and exhaustion is the operative word), covers the balloting mess. It’s pretty boring, so I’ll summarize:

Bush would have won even if Gore had gotten his original demand: a hand recount of the votes in 4 of Florida’s 67 counties under existing ballot classification. Gore could have won with a complete Florida recount. Gore almost certainly would have won if they’d applied the “intent of the voter” standard, accepting undervotes (the voter marked their preference but in a way the machine failed to read - remember hanging chads?) and/or overvotes (the voter marked Gore and also wrote his name down as a write-in).

One thing that remains a mystery to me is why ballots from voters who chose Gore were disproportionately among those uncounted. Were the ballot-counting machines used in Democrat-leaning poorer counties older, cheaper and more prone to error?

And then some have also argued that the ”butterfly” ballots were confusing.

Finally, you really have to want this one, but there were allegedly some suspicious computer anomalies that night: a faulty memory card uploaded 16,022 negative votes for Gore in a county with 600 voters. Sounds a little conspiracy theory-esque for my taste, but when computer errors and human error team up, you never know.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court decision, which I’m coming to next, notes that about 2% of votes (2.1 million) go uncounted each year “for whatever reason.”

3) A Supreme Court ruling robbed Gore

On the evening of November 8, 2000 the Florida polls closed with Bush having a margin of 1,784. The margin was narrow enough to trigger an automatic machine recount, and although at least 5 counties never did, the margin shrank to 327. Gore then requested a hand recount in 4 counties, which Florida election law permits.

Pressured by her party, Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris moved, entirely within the law, to certify the original results before the recounts could finish. Gore took her to the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered, 4-3, a statewide hand recount. Only a day later the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split we’ll see again shortly, halted the recount while it deliberated the now infamous Gore vs. Bush case.

Bush’s lawyer, Theodore Olsen (who was rewarded with the position of Solicitor General for his work), argued that the recount was unconstitutional because there was no single standard for assessing the validity of ballots, theoretically violating the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment. Gore’s lawyer, David Boies, argued that the single standard was simply the “intent of the voter.”

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court agreed that this was not enough. (In Judge Steven’s dissent he would argue that “intent of the voter” was no less sufficient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” clause in trial decisions.)

But what wasn’t clear was what to do about it. Four of the Justices argued that the logical solution was to remand the case to the Florida Supreme Court with an order to define “intent of the voter” and then continue with the recount. But the five-Justice conservative-leaning majority abruptly ruled that the recount would be called off to meet the deadline implied by Title 3 of the United States Code.

The decision was widely criticized. According to Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan, “A court that believes that the real problem in Florida was the disparities in the manual recount standards, rather than the disparities in a voter's overall chance of casting a ballot that is actually counted, has strained at a gnat only to ignore an elephant.” Or, in other words, the court caused the uncounted ballots to be treated equally by simply throwing them all out.

Many smelled partisanship. University of Chicago Law Professor George Stone points out that the ruling was remarkably uncharacteristic of Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas: “As a group they cast more votes (three, to be exact) to uphold the Equal Protection Clause claim in Bush v. Gore than they had previously cast in all [46] of the non-affirmative action Equal Protection Clause cases that they had considered in the previous decade.” Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz agrees, “the court's majority let its desire for a particular partisan outcome have priority over legal principles.”

Once more returning to Steven’s dissent, “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” You can also read Breyer’s dissent and Souter’s.

A few people have risen to the Court’s defense on the grounds that they felt pressed for time and were clearly worried that dragging things out would undermine the legitimacy of the eventual winner. But in their combined dissent, Stevens argued quite the reverse, “Preventing the recount from being completed will inevitably cast a cloud on the legitimacy of the election.”

4) Democrats who voted Republican are to blame

In Florida alone there were 191,000 self-described liberals and 308,000 registered Democrats who voted for Bush. Why aren’t they being blamed?

Florida is a closed primary, meaning that in the primary a person can only vote for the party with whom they are registered, so many independents and tactical voters register for a party not aligned with their actual politics. Also, Florida leaves it up to the voter to send in paperwork if they want to change their official party, which many people will never bother to do.

I am not, by any means, suggesting this accounts for all 308,000, but I do think the number misrepresents the degree to which Democrats “betrayed the party.”

As for self-described liberals, who knows what they were thinking? I don't have a defense for them, but I will note that significantly more "self-described conservatives" voted for Gore. Crossing the party line is relatively common, and healthy in an open-minded society, and it worked in Gore's favor overall.

But I do think these voters should be blamed. If people give them a free pass, I assumed it's because, ballot confusion aside, those voters got what they wanted from their vote.

5) People who didn’t vote are to blame

Oh, trust me, I blame these people. All 5 million+ in Florida alone. More than half the voting age population didn’t vote in 2000; an especially bad year (although not the worst). My opinion is, if you don’t vote (but were eligible), you have lost the lion’s share of your right to complain.

But since I’m going to give everyone a fair defense, I will point out that we have no way to know which way these non-voters would have cast their ballots. Even if they had all voted, Gore might not have won.

6) Why not blame any of the 7 other 3rd parties, all of whom got more than 537 votes?

Any one of the seven other 3rd parties got enough votes to swing Florida, technically. They were, in order, the Reform, Libertarian, Natural Law*, Workers World*, Constitution, Socialist* and Socialist Workers* parties. Of those, the four with asterisks almost certainly drew heavily from the left.

I’m not sure why they weren’t blamed other than that Nader was just by far the most prominent example. He had more than 42 times as many votes as the next highest left-leaning party, the now defunct Natural Law party, best known (unfairly) for advocating transcendental meditation to solve national problems.

7) Ralph Nader actually is at fault

If you’ve made it this far you might have come to the conclusion that I don’t like Nader. However he is, in truth, one of my favorite activists and one of the first to truly inspire me. I’m a fan of Nader’s platform, his consumer advocacy and his books. His central thesis, that corporation pose perhaps the greatest threat to democracy today, is one I still agree with. A part of me admires Nader's determination, zealotry and idealism, even at their most self-destructive and megalomaniac.

In part because I respect Nader’s intelligence, I will not claim that he couldn’t or didn’t know the risks he was taking. There is a reasonably solid case that Ralph Nader knew exactly what he was doing and deserves to blamed.

In the weeks leading up the election a group of Nader's colleagues called "Nader’s Raiders for Gore" sent Nader an open letter and took out newspaper ads warning Nader and his supporters of a possible spoiler effect. I found a lot of claims that Nader broke a promise not to campaign in Florida, which was known to be hotly contested. I can find no evidence Ralph Nader ever made that promise. However, Nader admits he said, "I'm not going to go out of my way to go into the swing states."

But in the final days of his campaign he chose to focus on battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania. Nader would later claim he only wanted to hit the 5% mark to secure federal campaign matching funds, so then why visit states where the odds of prying loose votes were especially unfavorable? His unsatisfactory response has been that he wanted to follow the other candidates into every state.

He also rejected a plea to support vote trading, a scheme that could have helped him reach 5% without risking a spoiler effect. Even without Nader’s endorsement, people tried to vote trade anyway, which could have saved the election for Gore. Republicans noticed what was going on and declared it a criminal act, leading to the websites being shut down until the court declared vote trading legal 7 years later.

Anyway, throughout the campaign, Ralph Nader, as verified by Politifact, essentially said it didn’t matter if Gore or Bush won. The most famous example being, “The only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.” Nader did sometimes admit that Bush was the greater of two evils, but claimed the liberals exaggerated the differences, although in retrospect, Bush was far worse than anyone predicted.

Along the campaign trail, Nader’s rhetoric against Gore became increasingly harsh. Nader called him a coward, whose supporters had “a servile mentality.” Nader attacked Gore and his RFK Human Rights Award winning book Earth in the Balance, in the following diatribe documented in letters Nader sent to the Sierra Club environmental organization, “Earth in the Balance, Gore's script for his reemergence as a national politician was an advertisement for his calculated strategy and availability as an environmental poseur, prepared to attract, barter and mollify environmental support for corporate cash. As a broker of environmental voters on corporate terms, Gore is the prototype for the bankable, Green corporate politician.”

I frankly don’t see it. Despite some policy difference, some as sensible as siding with civil rights against the EPA for permit discrimination, Gore was and continues to be exactly the type of sincere, productive, environmental politician-activist that Nader should have been allying with, not tearing down. Gore went on to become the poster child for acknowledging and addressing climate change, writing the follow-up book “An Inconvenient Truth,” whose documentary adaptation won an Academy Award. In 2007 Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental advocacy.

I think it’s fair to suggest that Gore’s contribution to environmentalism is comparable to Nader’s, not that it should have been a competition. My point being, these guys had way more in common than not!

When Nader returned in the 2004 election, former supporters Bill Maher and Michael Moore begged him on their knees not to run. DNC chair Terry McAuliffe offered financial support for Nader's organization if he agreed not to contest 19 battleground states. Nader characterized these as bribes

Nader had a cordial meeting with Democratic candidate John Kerry and presented him with a list of issues he thought Kerry should highlight. In the documentary An Unreasonable Man, Nader says he offered to join forces with Kerry if he tackled three issues: ending corporate welfare, cracking down on corporate crime, and reforming labor law. Nader claims that Kerry turned on him instead. 

Nader ran as an independent in 2004 and saw an 84% drop off in votes compared to the previous election cycle. There are a lot of factors why that might be, but, whether fair or not, the backlash from his 2000 spoiler was likely among them.

Nader has done a lot to change the world for the better. I know you are probably linked-out by now, so let me remind you: the Clean Air and Water Acts, Wholesome Meat and Poultry Acts, OSHA, the Freedom of Information Act, Whistleblower Protection Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Nuclear Power Safety, Safe Drinking Water Act. The act that created the EPA. Founding Public Citizen. Nutrition labels. Warnings on cigarettes and pharmaceuticals. Crash testing. Air bags! Seatbelts alone have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I would comfortably argue that Nader has done more good than many presidents.

But Nader never won an election, never even hit his goal of 5% of the popular vote (or even 3%), failed to get the Democratic Party to change its platform and widely confirmed the American public’s worst fears about a spoiler effect. So it’s worth asking, might there have been a more productive way to further his agenda than running a 3rd party campaign?


Probably the weather that day in Florida, or the traffic in some counties, or the locations of the polling stations, and what was on TV could also have swung an election that close. So where does that leave us?

I think all of culprits highlighted above are responsible on some level. We are all responsible for our country and each other, but we live in a society where the idea of taking responsibility, especially in such a complicated and often indirect sense, is considered academic at best and political suicide at worst.

If you want to get even more philosophical consider this: because George W. Bush won the election, he went on to lead the U.S. into the Iraq War based on the false contention that they had WMDs. Hundreds of thousands died. Do we blame Nader for that, too? Or just stick with the obvious target, Bush? But wait, Bush was relying on bad intelligence that someone fed him, so that guy’s really the one to blame, right? And so on down the rabbit hole...

I will end this post with an excerpt from Jeffrey Toobin’s book “Too Close to Call,” in which Gore calls Bush at 2:30 a.m. the night of the fateful election to do something that had never been done in U.S. history:

Gore: Circumstances have changed dramatically since I first called you.
Bush: Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Let me make sure that I understand. You’re calling back to retract that concession?
Gore: You don’t have to get snippy about it.
George Bush then told Gore that his brother Jeb Bush had assured him that he had won Florida.
Gore: Let me explain something: your little brother is not the ultimate authority on this.

And of course, neither am I, but I hope gathering all this info in one place has been useful to you!