What are we all about?

Bart Ingles bartman at netgate.net
Thu Jul 25 00:34:02 PDT 2002

James Gilmour wrote:
> While I can see merit in an open discussion of voting systems, I have great difficulty in understanding the attraction of Approval
> Voting.  If I've got it right, Approval Voting breaks the first and most fundamental rule of democratic representation: "one person,
> one vote".

Approval voting is "one person, one candidate, one vote."

Each voter gets exactly the same number of votes: one per candidate.  A
vote can be to either approve or not approve.  All votes are counted
equally.  By convention, the approvals are usually tallied directly
(disapprovals for any candidate can be determined by subracting
approvals from total ballots), but you could just as easily start by
counting disapprovals and inferring approval totals.  Both procedures
are equivalent.

As to equality among voters:  if you approve only one candidate in a
five-way election (thus disapproving the remaining four), you are
exercising exactly the same nominal voting power as a voter who approves
four candidates and disapproves one.  You do not gain more influence
simply by approving more candidates.

By contrast, [Hare | alternative vote | instant runoff] doesn't treat
all ballots the same.  For some voters, multiple choices will be
counted, while for others only the first choice will be counted.  Hare
advocates often make the false argument that one-person-one-vote is
preserved on the idea that only one choice is counted at a time-- try
that one out on your stockbroker or insurance salesman.  "I would like
to purchase 1,000 shares of WorldCom.  If the company folds, I would
like instead to apply the full purchase price toward T-bills."

The Hare/IRV voter suffering the greatest insult will be the one whose
first choice happens to be the top runner-up.  When this candidate
loses, the voter doesn't get to have his vote switched to any other
candidate.  This seems unfair when compared to the other voters, who may
have had several choices counted.

Of course there are other reasons for supporting Approval Voting.  It
isn't biased toward the two-party system the way single-winner Hare/IRV,
first-past-the-post (FPP), and top-two runoff are.  And in computer
models, Approval elects candidates who are dramatically and constently
more popular than Hare and FPP winners.  Approval voting also holds up
better under large candidate fields.  Hare/IRV tends to become erratic
with more than seven or so candidates in the race, particularly when
some of the candidates are ideologically similar.

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