Saturday, August 20, 2005

New Ideas in Election Reform: Approval Voting

Robert Rouse of A Little Left of Centrist has posted an interview with Rob LeGrand, head of Americans for Approval voting. The group is advocating a method of voting that would allow voters to cast a vote of approval for any and every candidate on the ballot whom they feel would be an acceptable choice.

This sounds a lot like instant runoff elections (a method actually used in Australia) where voters rank candidates from favorite to least favorite. If no candidate gets a majority of first level votes, then the second level votes are tallied for the two top contenders. Approval voting seems similar, except that instead of creating automatic runoffs, it allows for voters to actually vote for more than one candidate at a time.

I’m all for election reforms, even if implementing them will be difficult. But I’m not sure approval voting is a system I can support. My biggest problem with it is that it allows for multiple voting by individuals. It’s not any different than casting two (or three or more) ballots—which is illegal and illegal for a good reason.

Instant runoffs, however, could be just as effective of a reform but are less radical in that voters are still casting only one vote. And they could still afford the moderating influence that LeGrand thinks can come form approval voting. In both systems, candidates would have to try to appeal to the broad electorate instead of simply motivating their bases.

But instant runoff is the better system, in my mind. Thanks to Robert for taking the time to conduct and post this fascinating interview.


At 7:25 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Alan, I have to disagrre with you on one point. It's not like casting more than one ballot. Let's say I voted five times, the reson for my mulitple votes would be to vote for a specific candidate. In other words, Candidate "A" would receive five votes from me. However, with approval voting, I would only vote for candidate "A" one time, but I could also show my approval of Candidate "C" and "D" while refusing to approve Candidate "B". A much different thing than casting more than one ballot.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

IK misspelled reason. Sheesh, now I feel like a complete idiot. :)

At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just one correction - I think here in Australia second preferences are distributed to ALL candidates, just not the leading one, as the bottom candidate is eliminated. Theoretically you could finish second-to-last after the first count and still win (assuming the leading candidate didn't secure a majority after the initial count).

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


I see your point, but I wonder if approval voting would lead to a lot of mushy winners. There could be a race to be as bland as possible so as to be sure that the most people possible clicked the approval button. I'm not sure the system would create diversity so much as it would dissuade boldness. It would be interesting to see a jurisdiction somewhere adopt it and test it out.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Dr. Ernie said...

Hi Alan, If you like instant-runoff-voting, you should love Majority Voting (aka Condorcet).

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Joseph Brenner said...

"Instant Runoff Voting" sounds exciting, like a new kind of lottery ticket. Condorcet voting has a froofy french name, and American's will never go for it. "Majority" voting is a nice try, but it's not ditinct enough: don't we already have a rule of the majority? And correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't "pairwise" voting with a dozen candidates require voting 144 times? This is the kind of craziness that only an election geek could love. (By the way,


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