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Letter: Approval voting for Virginia

Letter: Approval voting for Virginia


Too often, our politicians do not truly represent us. Such a candidate would require a consensus among voters. Unfortunately our voting system is not designed to pick consensus candidates. Our "pick-one, most votes wins" system, known as plurality, is one of the simplest voting methods there is, but one of the worst. To achieve better representation we need to change Virginia's voting method to something better. The voting method that offers the greatest improvement for the least change is approval voting.

What is approval voting? Under approval voting, voters vote for all candidates they approve of; the candidate with the most votes wins. This minor change from "vote for one" to "vote for all you approve of" eliminates vote splitting/spoilers and allows voters to be more expressive, without adding any unnecessary complexity. With approval voting there is no longer any need to choose between voting for your favorite or for the compromise candidate. Because voters may approve/disapprove of each candidate on the ballot, rather than just for one candidate, a consensus is reached.

What about ranked choice voting? It is a step in the right direction, because it mitigates spoilers, but it is not sufficient to elect consensus candidates. Ranked choice will elect a candidate that is preferred by majority to another candidate, but not necessarily the most preferred candidate. "How can this be?" By only ever counting the top ranked candidate on a ballot, ranked choice ignores a lot of the information provided by the voter. Consider a ranked choice election where no candidate receives a majority of first round votes, and candidate B is ranked second by every voter. Despite clearly being the consensus candidate, candidate B will be the first eliminated. This would not be an issue under approval voting.

I encourage you to contact your state representative in support of Approval voting, and together we can elect more representative politicians.

Brian Stephenson, Salem


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