Letter: The case for approval voting
The Aurora mayoral race was finally decided more than a week after the election, and its results raise some important questions about the way we run elections.
Mike Coffman won with 35.7% of the vote to Omar Montgomery’s 35.4%. But 28.6% of the vote was divided among three other candidates and a write-in. Did these candidates “spoil” the election for Montgomery or nearly “spoil” it for Coffman?
Our current system requires voters to cast their single precious vote for only one candidate. But what if you liked both Coffman and Frazier, or Montgomery, Peterson, and Berzins, or would accept anyone but “Fill in the Blank?” Or what if in 2016 you liked Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush? How do you cast your precious vote? How do you keep “Fill in the Blank” from winning? How do you strategize your ballot?
How do you give visibility to these minor candidates and at the same time minimize their adverse impact? Conversely, how do you make peace within major factions, yet ensure they are not spoilers sabotaging their common goal?
Our current voting method — one person, one vote — polarizes between political parties and within the parties. This divisiveness can be rectified with a different voting method — approval voting — which can be used on current voting election machines with minor changes.
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Approval voting works like a “show of hands.” Vote for all the candidates you like, and the candidate with most votes wins.
One person, one ballot, just like it is now, Except that on that single ballot the voter may vote for as many candidates as he or she approves of. For major candidates, there will be fewer spoilers and for the minor candidates, there will be true support not suppressed by the “wasted vote” stigma attributed to sabotaging opponents.
Consider the 2000 Presidential race. The common wisdom is if Ralph Nader had not “stolen” votes from Al Gore, George W. Bush would not have won. The blade cuts both ways. Eight years earlier, Ross Perot got Bill Clinton elected. In both cases, a spoiler decided the winner and started us down the path to divisive elections we are currently seeing.
Please contact your state legislators and urge them to pass approval voting legislation for municipalities.
If you want to learn more about alternative voting methods, please attend an Electoral Reform Symposium on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Lot @ RiNo, 3435 Wynkoop St., Denver, hosted by Free and Equal Elections Foundation.