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Approval Voting Rocks

In 1951, Kenneth Arrow proved that Plurality Voting (aka First Past the Post, FPTP, aka Winner Take All, aka SMD) is a particularly bad election design. Unfortunately, Plurality is also particularly good at allowing incumbent parties to remain in power, so they have no interest in fixing it. Nevertheless, I dream of a better tomorrow...

Plurality (Inferior)

Vote for one:
Alice
Bob
Carol
Dave

Approval (Improved)

Vote for any:
Alice
Bob
Carol
Dave

Preferential (Complex)

Rank the candidates:
Alice
Bob
Carol
Dave

Approval Voting was invented in 12th Century Venice, then rediscovered by Bob Weber et al, in the 1970s. It removes several flaws from FPTP, while adding no new drawbacks (unlike the various numerical ranking algorithms).

Other sites that approve of Approval:

Numerous large organizations currently use Approval Voting successfully, including the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the National Academy of Sciences, the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and the United Nations.



Bonus Track: What's Wrong with IRV

Instant Runoff Voting, aka Single Transferrable Vote (STV), aka Preferential Voting, aka Hare Method, is currently the most popular contender to supercede bad old Plurality Voting. While I support that goal, I cannot endorse IRV. It's got some nasty mathematical flaws. In fact, by Arrow's criteria it's probably worse than FPTP!

Scenario: Green Day

Let's imagine that the Bush and Inhofe families are secretly invading aliens who intend to use global warming as a weapon to destroy the human race. Luckily they are exposed by a courageous Charlie Sheen, and the resulting political backlash leads to a huge rise in the popularity of the Green Party. Here's the election results using IRV:

37% G,D,L,R
32% D,G,R,L
27% R,L,D,G
04% L,R,G,D
eliminate L (4%)
37% G,D, ,R
32% D,G,R, 
27% R, ,D,G
04%  ,R,G,D
eliminate R (31%)
37% G,D, , 
32% D,G, , 
27%  , ,D,G
04%  , ,G,D
Democrat victory 59%

Now let's kick it up a notch. What if there's a hit Schwarzenegger movie just before the election, and a few people decide to switch back to Republican? Here's what would happen using IRV:

33% G,D,L,R
32% D,G,R,L
31% R,L,D,G
04% L,R,G,D
eliminate L (4%)
33% G,D, ,R
32% D,G,R, 
31% R, ,D,G
04%  ,R,G,D
eliminate D (32%)
33% G, , ,R
32%  ,G,R, 
31% R, , ,G
04%  ,R,G, 
Green victory 65%

Look at that: Green won because they got fewer votes! This is known as non-monotonicity and insincerity; extremely bad things for a voting system.

IRV would certainly be better than Plurality, but in practice it does not work well in true multi-party elections. IRV's main effect is to trick 3rd party advocates into supporting one of the top-two parties, while never actually giving their own candidate a chance to win.

With Approval Voting, there is never a reason to vote against your favorite candidate. There would be no such thing as "spoiler" votes. It makes voting more fair and more honest. So tell your politicians: "I approve of Approval Voting!"

Creative Commons License Verifiable Voting in Maryland
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