Approval Voting experiment

The lesser of two evils: that’s what many American voters feel they are faced with, according to

You’re going to have to vote for Clinton, or Trump, or none.  So it’s a good year for the Center for Electoral Science (CES) to run an interesting poll:

Center for Electoral Science

How do people say they would vote under other voting systems, which might give more choice and be more flexible and fair?

Be warned: the poll hasn’t started yet, and CES is hoping you will pledge a bit of money to fund it.  Only if and when they’re ready to launch it would CES ask for your dollar.

The current system, “plurality” voting, is, as CES says, “considered among experts to be the worst voting method there is.”  It is fair only when there are only two candidates.

I’ve long advocated Approval Voting.  CES tends to agree with me, and mentions it first.  Approval Voting means that you can give one vote to each of as many of the candidates as you like.  For instance, if the options were Trump, Clinton, and Sanders, you could vote for just, say, Clinton, or for both Clinton and Sanders without harming either and without unfairness to Trump.  Under the established system, if you vote for the one you really like best, the one who has more chance of winning is weakened and the one you like least strengthened; if you vote for the one who has the better chance, the one you really like will never make headway.

Approval Voting is the second simplest of all methods.  It is far simpler than – and would work better than – those that require voters to rank preferences, or that transfer votes and require re-counts..

I think it’s fairly well known that Clinton I won in 1992 because Perot split the vote for Bush I, and Bush II won in 2000 because Nader split the vote for Gore.  Approval Voting would have shown exactly how much support each really had.

Another kind of example seems to be expressed by a graphic in the CES website.  In the 2007 French presidential election, the candidates Nicolas Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal, and François Bayrou got 31, 26, and 19 percent of the vote.  Since none reached 50% there was a runoff between Sarkozy and Royal, which Sarkozy won.  However, when voters were asked how they would have voted under the Approval system, the percentages were about 50 for Bayrou, 45 for Sarkozy, and 44 for Royal.  Adding up to more than 100, because you can Approve more than one candidate.  Bayrou (a “centrist” who calls the European Union “the most beautiful construction of all humanity”) was the most widely approved, but was excluded from the final vote.  Shurely shome mishtake, as the editor of Private Eye used to interject.

My friend by correspondence Jan Kok, of Fort Collins, Colorado, told me about CES’s initiative.  I thought I ought to pledge something since Approval Voting is my baby and I only at irregular intervals contribute any effort to the quixotic struggle for it.  I wish I could live to see it.  Democracy matters.


7 thoughts on “Approval Voting experiment”

  1. Starting in 1996 I vowed to vote for the “best candidate” in elections instead of the “lesser of two evils”, which for me always ended up being a “minor” party candidate or a write-in. My reasoning was that I wanted to do my part to demonstrate to the political class that there is a market for ideas outside of the two-party duopoly, but with Approval Voting I could send that message but also support the “lesser of two evils” idea if I felt one was significantly less evil. I think it’s a good idea.

  2. I think Guy’s blog is so interesting because of the variety of topics he covers. You just never know what he’s going to write about next, whether it’s eclipses, punting or human rights. But then I like surprises.

  3. The election in the US is one person = one vote. Changing it would require a complete change in the political system. The blog also failed to mention the Electoral College. The poll suggested is a silly one since any result out of it will be fantasy.

  4. My first thought was that your proposal would be too confusing to the voter, but after reading the link, I saw how the U.N. worded their ballot.

    For our current election of 4 presidential hopefuls, the ballot would only have to say, “Vote for up to 3.” Seems like easy to understand instructions.

    Acceptance voting would reflect the will of the people with more accuracy. Maybe a petition to ask the gov’t to modify voting laws would be the best chance for implementation of approval voting.

  5. I think it’s a bad idea to bring politics into this blog. I’d like to think we all have a common agenda, to observe the skies, but once you mention politics, I think you tear that concept apart….I’ve never voted, but I plan to this year, for the lesser of two evils, a horrible reason to do so, but this year, I feel too strongly about it to not vote.

    1. Jack, I think I have a way for you to vote for whoever you really want, and not have to vote for the lesser evil. I’m curious what you think about this:

      Suppose you like Jill Stein but feel compelled to vote for Clinton to keep Trump from winning. And suppose your neighbor likes Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin but feels compelled to vote for Trump to try to keep Clinton from winning. If you vote for Clinton and he or she votes for Trump, your votes cancel and you’ve both accomplished exactly nothing.

      But suppose you get together and agree to vote for neither Clinton or Trump. Then you are free to vote for and show support for whoever you really want, and at the same time you take away one vote each from Clinton and Trump. You can ensure that you both follow your agreement, by filling out absentee ballots in each other’s presence and mailing them together, or by going to the polls together and checking each other’s ballots before turning them in.

      This idea is promoted by If all the disaffected Democrats and Republicans would follow this strategy, the effect on this and future elections would be huge!

      The idea even works well with Approval Voting! Using the Vote Pact idea, you wouldn’t have to vote for the lesser evil with Approval Voting (although it gets more complicated if more than two parties become competitive).

      1. This idea, Vote Pact, is in a way an extension of, or provisional substitute for, the Approval Voting idea. It is ingenious and workable, though it requires personal arrangements that are quite elaborate and therefore seem unlikely to be carried through by large numbers of people. It is a way of getting one of the great benefits of Approval Voting without having to wait for that system. The benefit is that the option you “really like” (Jill Stein for one kind of voter, Gary Johnson for another) increases his or her success, getting nearer to a fair showing of his or her real support, without causing a gain for the option you “really like least”.

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