ICS 269, Fall 2022: Theory Seminar
Bren Hall 1427, 1:00 – 1:50

4 November 2022

Plurality Veto: A Simple Voting Rule Achieving Optimal Metric Distortion

Fatih Erdem Kizilkaya

Abstract: The metric distortion framework posits that n voters and m candidates are jointly embedded in a metric space such that voters rank candidates that are closer to them higher. A voting rule's purpose is to pick a candidate with minimum total distance to the voters, given only the rankings, but not the actual distances. As a result, in the worst case, each deterministic rule picks a candidate whose total distance is at least three times larger than that of an optimal one, i.e., has distortion at least 3. A recent breakthrough result showed that achieving this bound of 3 is possible; however, the proof is non-constructive, and the voting rule itself is a complicated exhaustive search. Our main result is an extremely simple voting rule, called Plurality Veto, which achieves the same optimal distortion of 3. Each candidate starts with a score equal to his number of first-place votes. These scores are then gradually decreased via an n-round veto process in which a candidate drops out when his score reaches zero. One after the other, voters decrement the score of their bottom choice among the standing candidates, and the last standing candidate wins. We give a one-paragraph proof that this voting rule achieves distortion 3. This rule is also immensely practical, and it only makes two queries to each voter, so it has low communication overhead.