Background[edit | edit source]

Most of the ideas mentioned in the following page came from another site. See this for more details and another slant on the issues.

Approval voting is a voting procedure in which voters can vote for, or approve of, as many option (or candidates) as they wish. Each option approved of receives one vote, and the options with the most votes wins.

Approval voting has several compelling advantages over other voting procedures:[edit | edit source]

  • Gives voters more flexible options
  • Helps to choose the strongest option
  • Reduces negative campaigning
  • Increases voter turnout
  • Gives minority candidates and positions proper due
  • Eminently practicable
  • Different and Yet Easy to Understand

Unlike more complicated ranking systems, which suffer from a variety of theoretical as well as practical defects, approval voting is simple for voters to understand and use. Approval voting is used today by various governments and organizations around the world, including the UN to elect the secretary-general.

See Approval Voting and the Good Society for more specifics. The book Approval Voting (1983) by Steven J. Brams and Peter C. Fishburn contains much more information.

See also Approval Voting, J. Econ Perspectives 9(1), Winter 1995, by Robert J. Weber, who discovered and named "Approval Voting" in 1971.

Alternative voting systems[edit | edit source]

A wide array of alternative voting reforms exist. Lest you get lost in the details, keep in mind that nearly everyone agrees that the traditional single-vote-plurality system does the worst job of picking the best candidate.

Still worse than traditional voting is consensus voting and facist rule, as detailed in other sections of this postion paper, and as practiced by the South Side Planning Forum.

No voting at all is the worst. Let's keep far away from those alternatives.

Binary decisions on planning are flawed as well.

See Making Multicandidate Elections More Democratic, by Samuel Merrill, Princeton University Press, 1988.

Some scholarly works have concluded that the most reliable systems for meeting the "Condorcet" and "maximum social utility" criteria are approval voting and the Hare (or "preferential" or "Single Transferrable Vote") and runoff methods. Among these three, approval voting ranks slightly higher and is much easier to implement. Other methods tend to be vulnerable to subversion by "strategic voting".

For further comparisons and references, see More Information on Approval Voting. It seems clear that approval voting is the best system for single-winner elections. But it seems only fair to refer to information on other reasonable alternatives: a Condorcet method, and Hare (STV).

When there is more than one winner the situation is more complicated. See the Center for Voting and Democracy and the Proportional Representation page. For more information on political science and elections, see the Political Science Resources page.

Boulder Example[edit | edit source]

Boulder Colorado has a long history of interest in alternative voting systems. It was the second city in the US to implement the Hare (or Single Transferrable Vote) method in 1917 (though it was repealed in 1947). For a look at what Boulder is doing to further democratic principles now, spend some time visiting our host system, the Boulder Community Network.

another type[edit | edit source]

Cumulative Voting[edit | edit source]

Under cumulative voting, voters cast multiple votes up to the number fixed by the number of open seats.

If there are five seats on city council, then each voter gets to cast five votes. But they may choose to express the intensity of their preferences by concentrating all of their votes on a single candidate.

Cumulative Voting and Political Debate[edit | edit source]

Cumulative voting encourages genuine debate rather than foster polarization. Cumulative voting lowers the barriers to entry for local third parties since supporters of such parties can concentrate all their votes on the candidates from their party. With barriers reduced, minority political parties might reclaim, at a newly invigorated grassroots level, the traditional party role of mobilizing voter participation, expanding the space of organized alternatives and so stretching the limits of political debate.

Additionally, locally-based political parties might then organize around issues or issue-based coalitions. Since the potential support for the minority political party is not confined by a geographic or necessarily racial base, cross-racial coalitions are possible. Cumulative Voting and Inclusion

Cumulative voting is more inclusive than winner-take-all. Cumulative voting begins with the proposition that a consensus model of power sharing is preferable to a majoritarian model of centralized, winner-take-all accountability and popular sovereignty.

Cumulative voting takes the idea of democracy by consensus and compromise and structures it in a deliberative, collective decision-making body in which the prejudiced white majority is "disaggregated." The majority is disaggregated both because the threshold for participation and representation is lowered to something less than 51 percent and because minorities are not simply shunted in "their own districts." These changes would encourage and reward efforts to build cross-racial electoral alliances. A Vision for the Future

The principle of proportionality, or "political fairness," is molded by the hope that a more cooperative political style of deliberation and ultimately a more equal basis for preference satisfaction is possible when community-based minority representatives are reinforced by structures to empower them at every stage of the political process. Ultimately, however, representation and participation based on principles of political fairness are also an attempt to reconceptualize the ideal of political equality, and so the ideal of democracy itself.

The aim of that reconstruction should be to re-orient our political imagination away from the chimera of achieving a physically integrated legislature in a color-blind society and toward a clearer vision of a fair and just society. In the debate over competing claims to democratic legitimacy based on the value of minority group representation, I side with the advocates of an integrated, diverse legislature. A homogeneous legislature in a heterogeneous society is simply not legitimate.

But while black legislative visibility is an important measure of electoral fairness, taken by itself it represents an anemic approach to political fairness and justice. A vision of fairness and justice must begin to imagine a full and effective voice for disadvantaged minorities, a voice that is accountable to self-identified community interest, a voice that persuades and a voice that is included in and resonates throughout the political process. That voice will not be achieved by majoritarian means or by enforced separation into winner-take-all racial districts.

For in the end democracy is not about rule by the powerful -- even a powerful majority -- nor is it about arbitrarily separating groups to create separate majorities in order to increase their share. Instead, the ideal of democracy promises a fair discussion among self-defined equals about how to achieve our common aspirations. To redeem that promise, we need to put the idea of proportionality -- meaning political fairness and the notion of taking turns -- at the center of our conception of representation.

Lani Guinier is a professor law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a former attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. This article is adapted from an essay that originally appeared in The Boston Review. For more on Professor Guinier's ideas, see her book The Tyranny of the Majority (Martin Kessler of the Free Press).

"With cumulative voting, any substantial minority, by casting all its votes for a single candidate, might win a representative. But a smaller ethnic, religious, political or geographic minority would have an incentive to find allies and build coalitions. . . . . Cumulative voting may not be a panacea for the knotty problem of giving minorities -- any minorities -- representation. But it's worth exploring." Ä Don Noel (Hartford Courant political columnist), Hartford Courant, June 30, 1993

"Disagreements over the Voting Rights Act are more than arguments over principle. They are also intensely political. Republicans are coming to believe the act enhances their prospects by safely concentrating minority voters in a few districts, thereby minimizing their influence elsewhere. Meanwhile, Democrats are discovering that well-regarded white liberals are redistricted out of office to make way for minority politicians.

"There is, however, a new approach that could defuse much of this conflict. The Voting Rights Act might be amended to encourage use of a practice known as cumulative voting. This practice would achieve the goals of the act just as effectively, while addressing the concerns of its detractors." Ä Richard Pildes (University of Michigan Law School professor), New Republic: "Gimme Five: Non- Gerrymandering Racial Justice," March 1, 1993. Table of Contents

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