Approval voting sparks debate as the initiative makes Seattle’s Nov. 2022 ballot

Jun 22, 2022, 4:29 PM
King County Elections worker Jules James locks the ballot drop box with a closed sign blocking the ...
King County Elections worker Jules James locks the ballot drop box with a closed sign blocking the slot at the Seattle Public Library - Ballard branch on November 3, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Voting in Washington state ended at 8pm tonight. Washington state is on track to set a record for voter turnout this year. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The city of Seattle will decide whether to adopt a new voting style that would allow voters to choose as many candidates as they like in future local elections.

The proposal, called “approval voting,” allows voters to select every candidate they approve in primary elections. The two candidates with the highest number of votes would advance to a general election, which voters would then be allowed to choose between the two.

Group seeking to change how Seattle voting works builds large early war chest

“It makes sense to me. I like it. Certainly, it’s not something that we would do in the general election,” Travis Mayfield, the guest host for the Gee and Ursula Show, said on KIRO Newsradio. “But in the primary, I like the idea of being able to register more options because I like ranked-choice voting. It’s sort of like a way to eliminate the candidates that I don’t want. I actually have to really think about which of the candidates I really want and listen to their platforms versus being faced with two candidates in the general where one is just clearly the wrong answer.”

The group behind the initiative, Seattle Approves, submitted just over the 26,520 signatures necessary to qualify the measure for November’s ballot, according to King County Elections.

Seattle Approves believes a number of things can occur if this bill passes. According to the organization, the bill could eliminate endemic vote-splitting as similar candidates will no longer be able to “split the vote” and turn every election into an honest measurement of how many voters support each candidate.

The group also believes it could make politics less divisive as campaigns won’t fight each other over voters — they’ll instead fight for wider support.

“If you’ve ever thought, “I’d like to vote for that candidate, but I’d be throwing away my vote,” you’ve experienced how our current system doesn’t accurately measure voter support,” Seattle Approves’ website reads.

“Voting bloating, this is a horrible idea. Horrible idea. And the reason I feel this way is I like ranked voting. I like when you choose the top three candidates,” Spike O’Neill, guest host of the Gee and Ursula Show, said on KIRO Newsradio. “But if you just have to pick who you like, and as many as you want, you don’t have to become informed about anybody’s position. I think you’re going to let people who are not qualified get through. Oh, man, the stripper is running in this term. That’s funny. Let’s all vote for the stripper, enough people do that, and that stripper makes it through the primary. I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it eliminates informed vote.”

The city of St. Louis adopted an approval voting system during its November 2020 election after using a similar initiative petition campaign. The measure — Proposition D — got the support of more than 68% of voters.

St. Louis saw an effort launched earlier this year to repeal the nonpartisan approval voting system after its initial use in last year’s city election.

“I would love a better choice between Loren Culp and Jay Inslee. Inslee wasn’t my favorite to vote for, but I was like, I can’t vote for this lunatic,” Mayfield said. “I felt I had no choice versus if we had [approval voting] in the primary and had multiple candidates, I could have voted for multiple people. I can have lots of opinions. I can rule out the bad ones. But, when it comes to legitimately electing somebody, that’s where you got to pick one between the two.”

Approval voting, under I-134, will be on the November 2022 ballot after receiving the necessary amount of signatures.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Approval voting sparks debate as the initiative makes Seattle’s Nov. 2022 ballot