[EM] One man, one vote and Approval: Pragmatic Approach

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Sat Jul 27 09:24:37 PDT 2002

It has been argued that, since people who approve m candidates may be
exercising a different amount of voting power than those who approve n=/=m
candidates, Approval fails to give all voters equal power.

Those making the argument are underwhelmed by my assertion that "one man,
one vote" simply means my approval of candidate X should carry the same
weight as somebody else's approval of candidate X (a criterion flunked by
the electoral college, among other non-proportional institutions).

So, if (for the sake of argument) we assume that "one man, one vote"
requires equal voting power per individual, consider this circumstance:

Let us make the reasonable prediction that in most approval elections
there will be two or three serious front-runners.  In the case of 2
front-runners, and assuming all voters can find the polling data in the
newspapers, all voters will approve only one of the two serious
candidates, and hence all voters will have exercised equal voting power. 
Those who also approve a fringe candidate have failed to exercise any
additional voting power (for instance, I acknowledge that I exercised no
voting power whatsoever in November of 2000 when I voted for Harry Browne.
 I knew what the real contest was and I opted out.).

Now, suppose that there are 3 front-runners.  With 3 serious candidates
Approval Voting is formally equivalent to Negative Voting, where you can
either vote for a candidate or vote against a candidate.  In Negative
voting all voters essential have one vote, to be cast for or against one
candidate, and hence all voters have equal power.  Or, to go back to the
perspective of Approval Voting, voting for m of the n candidates gives a
voter the same power as voting for n-m of the candidates.

Either way, in most elections I suspect that approval voting will give all
strategies equal power.  Of course, this will not hold with 4 close


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