"Approval voting" is a voting method in which voters vote for all candidates they approve of, and the candidate with the most votes wins.
Its primary advantage over our current "simple plurality" voting method is that because it allows voters to indicate support for multiple candidates, it eliminates vote splitting.
This is best demonstrated in elections with candidates who overlap ideologically, such as in partisan primaries. This happens simply because there is greater opportunity for vote splitting.
In a general election between a Democrat, a Green and a Republican, Republican voters aren't exactly torn between who to support.
Up until the most recent election cycle, Virginia Democrats and Republicans had both used plurality voting for their primaries. The 2017 Republican primaries for governor and lieutenant governor each included three candidates, and the winner from each won with about 43% of the vote and a margin of <3% .
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While it is possible that only about 43% of voters supported those candidates, but it is impossible to know for sure. Had approval voting been used, the approval percentages would be much closer to the true level of support for each candidate.
An accurate measure of support is only possible with a voting method that eliminates vote splitting.
What do the results of an approval voting election look like? St. Louis uses approval voting in a nonpartisan primary for their mayor. In the most recent election, the two finalists were Jones with 57% and Spencer with 46.4% support.
You may notice that the percentages sum to over 100%. This is normal under approval voting. It indicates that some voters approved of both Jones and Spencer.
I encourage the Democratic and Republican parties of Virginia to consider using approval voting in their upcoming primaries, especially where three or more candidates are vying for the same seat.
Brian Stephenson, Salem