Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Approval voting

Were coming up to primary election time here in Colorado and I am trying to learn about the candidates in "my" official party.

From what I'm told, this is the first year that "my" party is actually having a primary! And we get to vote in two races!

If you haven't guessed by now, yes, I am registered as something other than Democrat or Republican.

"Oh, no!"

How could I do that? I'm just "splitting" the vote, aren't I?

Well, no. I'm also attempting to express my personal convictions.

It fascinates me how distressing "third-party" really is both for those of us who are members as well as for people who are members of one of the two major parties. Dan Sallis, one of the Libertarian candidates in Colorado, has written an article about this issue titled Voting Libertarian is a Wasted Vote–Wrong! It's an interesting article. I don't like some of his language. (A warning for those who are easily offended.) But I think it makes a lot of sense: The candidates you vote for do NOT have to win for your vote to have an impact. When the numbers change, the major parties do take notice.

More interesting to me, however, than Sallis' article is one written by his opponent, Jaimes Brown: Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate Comments on Tancredo's Entry in the Race.

In case you're not familiar with the name, Tom Tancredo was a five-time US Congressman from Colorado any one time Republican presidential candidate (2008). He made a name for himself a few years ago through his strong and outspoken positions with respect to immigration into the United States.

Brown comments:

As a Libertarian candidate for governor in Colorado, I have watched with amusement and wonder at the hand wringing that Republicans have gone through over the past two weeks with the entry of Tom Tancredo in the governor's race.

Republicans have come out of the woodwork to condemn Tancredo for "splitting the vote", being a "spoiler" or "wasting your vote". As a Libertarian, we are typically painted with those descriptions, whether it is the perceived taking of votes from Republicans or Democrats.
And . . . ?

Brown suggests a solution I have never heard of before. I am intrigued.
Approval voting allows you to vote for multiple candidates. The candidate with the most votes wins. Pretty simple. This method allows you to vote for your favorite candidate, but also vote for the other "lesser of the evils" if you think that you could prevent the worst candidates from winning.

The whole issue of Tancredo in this race would be a moot point for the Republicans, with approval voting. Plurality voting splits the vote of similar ideologies. Approval voting would encourage the nearly 50% of eligible voters who don't bother voting because the two parties do not represent them.
Can something like this work?

A while, here is what Americans for Approval Voting has to say on the subject:
Approval Voting is similar to the plurality system that is generally used in America today except for one twist: Instead of voting for just one candidate per office, Approval Voting allows you the option of voting for any number of candidates for a given office. The candidate who collects the most votes wins.

Approval Voting in effect allows you to vote up or down on every candidate in every race. The election results are therefore most easily expressed as an "Approval Rating" for each candidate.

Approval Voting in public elections has a long history going back to 12th century Venice. Its use has been growing in recent years. Several private member associations have used Approval Voting to elect officers for over 15 years and are pleased with the system. A form of Approval Voting was also used in the Security Council of the United Nations in 1996 to narrow the list of potential candidates for Secretary General.

Approval Voting has been used for municipal ballot propositions in the United States as well as for internal elections of state political parties in Pennsylvania.

Approval Voting is overwhelmingly supported by mathematicians, political scientists and other specialists in the area of elections. While no system is perfect, Approval Voting is the only easy-to-use and simple-to-explain alternative system that can be used with existing election equipment. Fortunately it has marvelous properties that will dramatically improve elections in the United States.

Check out Americans for Approval Voting and Citizens for Approval Voting for more information.
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