Ross: Seattle may get to see ‘approval voting’ in action

Jan 24, 2022, 5:34 AM | Updated: 10:13 am
Seattle election results, voting...
A King County ballot drop box. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

According to an article on MyNorthwest, there is now some real money behind the latest attempt to reform primary elections in the city of Seattle.

It’s a system called “approval voting,” which I hadn’t heard about before, but it’s interesting to me because it’s easier to understand than ranked-choice voting, which is another reform that’s been proposed.

Approval voting simply changes the directions at the top of your ballot: Instead of saying vote for one candidate, the ballot says vote for as many candidates as you approve.

All your votes are counted, and the candidate with the most approval votes wins. Again, this would only be for the primary.

So why do this?

The argument is that right now in primary elections, you can have a long list of candidates. In the primary election for Seattle mayor, there were 15 candidates. And when the vote is split among all those candidates, the top two who go on to the general election could get there with a very small number of votes.

Another argument in favor of this is that people who want to give encouragement to a long-shot candidate have to essentially sacrifice their one vote to do it. But with approval voting, they could vote for a mainstream candidate – AND the long shot.

You can also vote more honestly. I know that typically in a primary there’s more than one candidate I consider qualified. So why not vote for both? It increases the chance that if my first choice doesn’t get to the general election, there’ll still be someone I can tolerate.

But my favorite feature is – since you can vote for all the candidates you consider to qualified, there is theoretically no point in candidates trying to slime their opponents. So, a lot of the campaign nastiness should disappear.

Of course, it would come roaring back in the runoff, which would be conducted in the traditional way …

But in any case, the group pushing for approval voting, called “Seattle Approves,” has collected about $193,000 to put it on the November ballot this year in Seattle, so we may get to see it in action.

You can check out the concept for yourself at SeattleApproves.org, which includes a link to arguments both for and against the idea.

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Ross: Seattle may get to see ‘approval voting’ in action