Bob Jonkman's thoughts on politics

UofW Bridges Lecture on Mathematics and Democracy, 7:30pm on 27 Feb 2015

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 23rd February 2015

This coming Friday, 27 February 2015 there’s an interesting lecture on “Mathematics and Democracy” at the University of Waterloo that may interest some of you.

Sometimes I get carried away, and pay more attention to the mechanics of voting systems than the political change we’re trying to effect. I think this lecture will satisfy that craving!

Please note that this is not a Fair Vote Waterloo Region Chapter event.

Here’s the blurb from the University of Waterloo website:

Bridges Lecture – Mathematics and Democracy

Friday, February 27, 2015 – 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Bridges lectures aim to overcome the gap between Mathematics and the Arts. Join Steven J. Brams (Politics) and D. Marc Kilgour (Math) for “Mathematics and Democracy.”

A multitude of election systems have been proposed for choosing both single winners (for mayor, governor, or president) or multiple winners (to a council or committee). Those based on approval voting, which allows voters to vote for more than one candidate or party, are especially appealing. We look at the mathematics behind these systems, and how well they satisfy properties considered important in a democracy. We also analyze the usage of approval voting in electing, among other officials, Catholic popes and UN secretaries general. More recently, approval voting has been adopted by several major professional societies to elect their presidents and advisory councils. Based on this experience, we offer several recommendations for the use of approval voting in public elections.

Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University and the author, co-author, or co-editor of 18 books and about 300 articles. His most recent book is Game Theory and the Humanities: Bridging Two Worlds (MIT, 2011).

Brams has applied game theory and social-choice theory to voting and elections, bargaining and fairness, international relations, and the Bible, theology, and literature. He is a former president of the Peace Science Society (1990-91) and of the Public Choice Society (2004-2006). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1986), a Guggenheim Fellow (1986-87), and was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1998-99).

Affiliation: Department of Politics, NYU

D. Marc Kilgour is Professor of Mathematics at Wilfrid Laurier University, Research Director: Conflict Analysis for the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo. His publications include 6 books and nearly 400 articles in journals, conference proceedings, and edited books.

Kilgour’s research lies at the intersection of mathematics, engineering, and social science. He has contributed in arms control, environmental management, negotiation, arbitration, voting, fair division, and coalition formation, and pioneered decision support systems for strategic conflict. President of the Peace Science Society in 2012-13, he is now President of the INFORMS Section on Group Decision and Negotiation.

Affiliation: Department of Mathematics, Wilfrid Laurier

Everyone is welcome to this free public lecture, followed by a reception. Free parking will be available at St. Paul’s.


St. Jerome’s University Event website Bridges Lecture- Mathematics and Democracy




STJ – St. Jerome’s University Siegfried Hall 290 Westmount Road North Waterloo, ON N2L 3G3 Canada

More info: Bridges Lecture – Mathematics and Democracy: http://sju.ca/news-events/public-events/bridges-lecture-series/mathematics-and-democracy

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E-voting Considered Harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 28th January 2013

Finger pressing on electronic voting screen

Voting Screen

The Waterloo Chronicle reports:

The City of Waterloo is going to investigate the possibility of using Internet and telephone voting in time for the 2014 municipal election.

There is already some concern about e-voting. Waterloo Regional Councillor Jane Mitchell writes My problem with on-line voting is the end of the secret ballot.

One of the principles of our electoral systems is anonymity. Another principle is “One person, one ballot”, or singular voting. Both objectives are reasonably easy to do with paper ballots – hand out one ballot to a voter, then cross that voter’s name off the list. The vote cast is both anonymous and singular.

But when people are allowed to vote anonymously on their home computer there’s no way to determine if they’re voting more than once. So to prevent multiple votes you’d have to track voters with a unique ID; but that can then be correlated with the vote cast, destroying anonymity.

Fundamentally, anonymous and singular voting is not achievable through computerized at-home voting. In a report “Technology and the Voting Process” [1] the conclusion of Elections Canada was that the integrity of electoral process is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a decision to move to electronic voting should not be made lightly, without much more study. “Much more study” has not been done by our municipal government.

And don’t get me started on the number of home computers that are infected with viruses, the number of people that are defrauded through identity theft, and the number of times government loses data from their laptops and thumb drives…


Footnote [1]: pp. 58-60, “Technology and the Voting Process”, KPMG and Sussex
Circle for Elections Canada, 1998.

Voting Screen by DonkeyHotey is used under a CC BYCreative Commons — Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC BY 2.0 license.

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Democracy Week 2012

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 15th September 2012

15 September marks International Day of Democracy, and kicks off Democracy Week in Canada. It’s about time I post the week’s events taking place in Waterloo Region. Up-to-date info will be on the Fair Vote Waterloo Region page.

Cooperate for Canada Event

I’ve just returned from a panel discussion on Cooperate for Canada. It was very interesting indeed, and I’ve learned a lot. More on Cooperation in another blog post, soon.

Exploring Why and How the Liberal, NDP and Green Parties Should Work Together to Replace the Harper Conservatives with a Majority Government that Reflects the Shared Vision of the Majority of Canadians, with an Immediate Commitment to Electoral Reform

Speakers to be followed by Q+A and Town Hall Style Discussion.

Liberal – David Merner, prospective Liberal Party of Canada cooperation leadership candidate, former President of the B.C. Liberal Party

NDP – James Gordon, past provincial Guelph NDP candidate, well known singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and community activist

Green – Cathy Maclellan, Energy Critic for the Green Party of Canada, past Green Party federal candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo

Democracy Fair on the Square

Fair Vote Waterloo is hosting a Democracy Fair on Waterloo Square on Sunday afternoon. Community groups, political parties and local businesses with an interest in democratic, sustainable communities are invited to participate with an information booth or table.
When: Sunday, 16 September from 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: Waterloo Square, Waterloo, Ontario (map)

Electoral Reform 101

Wondering what the talk of electoral reform is all about? Why do we need it? What does proportional representation mean? Come learn the basics with this presentation and bring your questions!
When: Monday, 17 September 2012 at 7:00pm
Where: Rm 108, Hallman School of Social Work, 120 Duke St W, Kitchener, Ontario (map)
Hosted by: Fair Vote Waterloo Region
More info: Anita Nickerson lanickerson@b2b2c.ca

Inaugural Pub Night

Come have a drink and talk about electoral reform and democracy!
When: Tuesday, 18 September 2012 starting at 7:00pm
Where: Huether Hotel, 59 King Street North, Waterloo, Ontario (map)
Hosted by: Fair Vote Waterloo Region
More info: Sharon Sommerville sharonsommerville@gmail.com

Screening: “The Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story”

A 2008 documentary about the Bush campaign tactics that changed election campaigns forever.
When: Thursdday, September 20 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: Waterloo Public Library, Harper Branch, 500 Fischer Hallman Blvd. Waterloo, Ontario (map)
Hosted by: Kitchener-Waterloo Federal Liberal Association
More info: Sharon Sommerville sharonsommerville@gmail.com

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