A voting system which dates back as far as the thirteenth century, where it was used in Venice for the selection of magistrates. In approval voting, voters cast one vote for every candidate they approve of, instead of casting only a single vote for the one candidate they feel is most qualified. The total votes for each candidate are then added up, and the winner is the one with the most votes.

Advocates of approval voting point out that no vote is ever "wasted" using this technique, as may happen when three or more candidates are running in an election and voters may favor more than one. In a two-party system, approval voting would give other political parties a much better opportunity.

Contrast with the Borda count, another voting system designed to take third parties into account.

Same as: nominal ballot

The "normal" voting that we're all used to, often called "first past the post", names as the winner the candidate who got more votes than any other.

We grew up with it, and it seems reasonable. But it has spawned a monster: every candidate's primary aim is to not come in second. And the tribalism that has overtaken our country means that voters vote against the man they detest rather than for their actual choice.

This has also entrenched the two main parties. A "third party" candidate doesn't have a chance, even if everybody likes him, because of the fear of a "split vote" electing the unacceptable man.

But there are other ways. One is called approval voting. It's simple: you vote for everybody on the ballot whom you wouldn't mind winning, and don't vote for anyone you can't abide. Declaring a winner is just as easy: he got more votes than anyone else. It means that people can vote for both the "lesser of two evils" and "who I really want to vote for".

There are other methods; the most popular (for some reason) is called "ranked choice voting", or "preference voting". As with approval, you can vote for as many candidates as you want, but you also have to order them: your first choice, your second choice, etc.

I think that RCV would confuse many voters — who would continue to select only one — but it has for some reason taken hold in several U.S. municipalities that have tried change. And it has problems: the complicated, multiple rounds required to count means that current machines cannot be used, and all ballots must be gathered in one place. (Approval elections can still be counted in each precinct and the tally sent to the higher level to be combined.)


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