I'm the executive director of The Center for Election Science (www.electionscience.org). We study and advance better voting methods. I also started Male Contraceptive Initiative but am no longer there. I first learned about EA in 2016 and went to my first EA event in 2017. My formal education is in the social sciences and law. You can find my writing and resources at www.aaronhamlin.com. Also at: https://twitter.com/aaronfhamlin, https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronhamlin

Topic Contributions


CES EA Appeal 2021 (The Case For Giving To The Center For Election Science)

I feel like this comment falls in this category:

"Q: I heard there was this thing about approval voting that wasn’t so good or that another voting method was better. Also, don’t forget about Arrow’s Theorem.

A: All voting methods have quirks, but we maintain that the quirks of approval voting are comparatively mild compared to the alternatives. You can see this article where we go into all the details about approval voting critiques. Also, I talked with Kenneth Arrow personally for an hour, and he said that our choose-one voting method was bad. Really."

I put together a detailed article where I compare different voting methods (including STAR). Some relevant details there are that STAR had its chance on the ballot in the city of Portland and failed. Note that voting methods poll much, much better in cities. So that it failed in Portland where STAR advocates are centered is a particularly discouraging sign.  We also find that methods involving scoring (like STAR does) simply do not poll as well. This isn't that big of a deal because they're only slightly better in winner selection. And we have other methods that perform very nearly as well (approval voting, in the same cardinal family) that do poll well.

Recall also that approval voting passed by over 60% in both cities it was on the ballot for. I would disagree with the claim that our forces in St. Louis and Fargo were so large that they would have passed any voting method. Our forces were so large in St. Louis and Fargo because it was approval voting. I know because they considered other options. STAR folks even reached out to our key person in Fargo, and they still decided on approval voting. IRV folks reached out to the same folks we partnered with in St. Louis and they still went with approval voting. I feel like to say that our forces were so strong that we could have passed anything misses the causality of why our forces were so strong to begin with.

I also find it a bit hard to take seriously the idea of putting energy behind Condorcet methods. Condorcet methods are a class of ranking methods that elect a "beat-all" or Condorcet winner. The math involved to select the winner when there is no Condorcet winner is quite complex (more so than STAR or IRV). That alone seems like a large barrier. Even I have to look up the algorithms to remember how they're computed. And there's no doing these by hand.

I feel like those two rationales help to explain why we continue to get behind approval rather than splitting our focus.

It's also worth noting that CES explored the possibility of approval voting in Denver and to a lesser extent in Broomfield. We did this by talking with the Denver city council who invited us and talking with advocates in Colorado. We did not support signature gathering in Denver, and we did not submit it to be on the ballot (though there was an individual who did it on their own and abandoned it). We did not think that we had an adequate team of people who physically lived in Denver during the window that we were focused on. And so we decided to look at other opportunities. We're data-oriented and cautious about how we spend limited resources. These are hard decisions, but saying no to Denver also meant that we got to say yes to our partners in Seattle. Seattle is polling at 70% and we have great partners who live there.

Also, the question is not whether approval voting will outcompete IRV—though with proper funding it very well may. The bar is actually lower. Perhaps a better rephrasing of the question is whether approval voting can thrive as a candidate and be implemented so that it may be tested alongside IRV. And to that question, I'm confident that it can. We've evidenced that. And we will surely get more cities with proper funding. And we are currently exploring our plans with states. I can't say exactly where we're targeting and when just yet (we have to keep some aspects of our strategy confidential). But we will target states as our strategic opportunities align with our operational capacity—which is determined by funding.

Consider also that there are only two states that use IRV. Both won by slim margins. One of those states (Alaska) failed the first time it tried. IRV also failed by 10 points in Massachusetts. And it's been repealed by voters multiple times in cities across the US. This is not a runaway for IRV. And it took them multiple decades to get this far. There's enough reason for concern that it's worth supporting approval voting as a viable alternative—particularly given that approval voting does substantially better at its job as a voting method.

Plus our team at CES that is pushing approval voting is amazing. I feel very lucky to work with such talented staff. Each of them went through a very challenging blind hiring process, and now they get to continually flex their muscles at work. We're really just starting to show what we're capable of.

Announcing my retirement

Thanks for all you've done for the forum, Aaron! It was a challenging assignment to say the least. And a personal thank you for your feedback on some of my not-so-short essays! Best of luck on your new path. I'll be cheering you on.

Nice find, and thank you for sharing! I can verify that it worked quickly.

Managing COVID restrictions for EA Global travel: My plans + request for other examples

Useful for: Anyone who is required to show COVID Day 2 testing verification for their flight to the UK from the US (or other "non-red" countries).

Getting my ticket through British Airways automatically sent me through a confirmation process for a "Health Passenger Locator Form." Part of this requirement is for booking a COVID test prior to arrival in London (but actually done in London). The form actually doesn't let you proceed until 48 hours prior to your arrival in London, so this information may be helpful for those approaching that window.

There is a walk-in testing site right by Heathrow Airport. You can do that right after you land to get it out of the way. They have the DAY 2 LATERAL FLOW TEST. Here is where you can book it: https://ldn.randox.com/

You'll get a reference number after you pay, which you'll be required to add to a form later. As long as you sent it to a reliable email, you can reference it with no problem. As far as I know, this is all you need if you're staying in London for fewer than 10 days.

You can take transit right there after you land. I added a bit of a buffer, but Google Maps says you can get there from Arrivals within 15 minutes. https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Heathrow+Airport,+Longford+TW6,+United+Kingdom/Radisson+Blu+Edwardian+Heathrow+Hotel+%26+Conference+Centre,+London,+140+Bath+Rd,+Harlington,+Hayes+UB3+5AW,+United+Kingdom/@51.4724018,-0.4627096,14.38z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x48767234cdc56de9:0x8fe7535543f64167!2m2!1d-0.4542955!2d51.4700223!1m5!1m1!1s0x48767248b4db8263:0x13eaaf45e2a032b0!2m2!1d-0.4410154!2d51.4814337!3e3

I hope this helps! I apologize if I've made any errors because this was a bit confusing. If I have, we'll suffer together. :)

Gifted $1 million. What to do? (Not hypothetical)

Congrats, Ben! In terms of targets for any donation, I'd be happy to talk with you about The Center for Election Science, where I'm the executive director.

In terms of strategies relating to tax efficiency and giving, I'd be happy to talk with you and your financial advisor. I think a lot about this topic and have written about it quite a bit. I actually just finished my sixth essay on giving and taxes. Aside from working in the nonprofit sector for going on ten years, I'm also a licensed attorney. Feel free to email me and we can set up a call.

What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

The Center for Election Science could easily make efficient use of greater than $50M a year with infrastructure and ballot initiatives. We've already laid out a plan on how we would spend it. We could also potentially build towards some hyper-aggressive $100M years by including lobbying in the remaining states that don't allow ballot initiatives. In any case, we are woefully underfunded relative to our goals and could at the very least surpass the $50M threshold in a couple of years with sufficient funding. If even greater funding were available, we could build in lobbying following more state-level wins.

For clarity, our lack of funding has already cost us approval voting campaign opportunities and is a big issue for us.

Research Topics in Nonprofit Operations

One idea may be predictors of successful fundraising (ex// sector, revenue source, revenue distribution)

AMA: Toby Ord @ EA Global: Reconnect

Do you see existential risks being mitigated without (1) strong governmental policy on those issue areas and (2) the ability for those policies to be sustained over a long time scale?

Follow-ups if yes:
1. How urgent is having a system where those governmental policies can reliably take hold?
2. Which country or countries should be prioritized?

Follow-up if no:
1. What would you recommend we focus on alongside or instead of governmental policy changes?

Hiring Director of Applied Data & Research - CES

If an applicant has a strong stats and data analysis background, I would still encourage them to apply. It can sometimes be hard to check off every single box. Either way, please share with your network as well. Thanks!

Why I find longtermism hard, and what keeps me motivated

I know it's a struggle to balance polishing and publishing. I find it challenging to balance myself. But I'd love to read your post when you have it up all the way.  I think a lot of us are curious about the interaction between longtermism, immediacy, and philanthropic investment.

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