[EM] Approval-Runoff

Jameson Quinn jameson.quinn at gmail.com
Sat Mar 10 15:59:20 PST 2012

2012/3/10 Andy Jennings <elections at jenningsstory.com>
> Story about Approval-Runoff:
> I actually met with some state legislators last year and got one of them
interested in approval voting.  He was willing to introduce a bill allowing
cities to try approval voting.  (Arizona is at a disadvantage to other
states, in terms of voting reform, because state statute currently forces
cities to use top-two-runoff for their local elections.)
> But the Arizona Constitution _requires_ a "primary" of some kind.  So,
rather than seek a constitutional amendment, we decided to go for approval
runoff.  We ran a bill this year that would allow cities to use
approval-runoff in their local elections.  (It was purely permissive.  That
is, even if it passed we still would've had the difficult job of convincing
a city to try it.)
> Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it's dead.  I won't go into the politics
here, but here are some other relevant notes:
> - All city elections in Arizona (except for one city) are nominally
non-partisan.  In my city (Mesa), they really are non-partisan (probably
because nobody but a Republican could ever win) and I think approval-runoff
would work very well.  I've heard that in other cities, there are no
parties listed on the ballot but everyone knows who is the Democrat and who
is the Republican.
> - As someone pointed out, having an extra runoff at the end is not such a
bad thing.  It shouldn't make the outcome worse, right?  I'm hoping it
could be sold as a safety valve, (i.e. "Try this new system, approval
voting, and we'll have a runoff election just to make doubly sure the
voters feel like they chose the right person.")
> - It's a pity that it wouldn't save money.  I've heard that if I could
pitch something to city managers and clerks that would save money, then
they would be really excited.  But I don't see how to do that in Arizona.

The approval round is the extra balloting, right? I mean, it is during
"primaries", while the runoff is concurrent with other stuff like municipal
bond issues or whatever? The reason I ask is that if there were a unique
majority in the first round, the second round could be skipped, or even
have that one candidate running unopposed against write-in... maybe in that
case there could be savings on voter info mailings, but if there are other
issues then that would be microscopic.
> - As someone pointed out, for a city currently using Top-Two Runoff, it
is just an incremental change.
> - I think it mostly eliminates approval voting's biggest weakness, the
Chicken Dilemma.  Voters will be thinking much less strategically in the
first round.
> - If two clones do make it into the final round, then yes, there will be
criticism that "this stupid voting system didn't give me any choice  in the
general election."
Remember, there's still write-in. Also, the more I think about it the less
likely I think this is, especially as a result of deliberate cloning where
the clone is a predetermined loser.
> - I like Abd's suggestion for extending it to partisan elections (each
party only gets one slot in the approval round), but how are you going to
do that?  A party primary before the approval round?  Maybe you could say
that only the Republican who collects the most signatures gets on the
ballot (plurality in the petition phase).  You could let voters sign as
many petitions as they want, then you have approval voting in the petition
If i were designing this, I'd let the top 5 sig-getters, or anyone higher
than #4 for the same office last time, get into the approval round. Each
signer could write their current party affiliation, and the one with the
most Republican sigs would get the Republican label(for instance). You'd be
free to change what party you put between elections but not for the same
> ~ Andy

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