Originally published in The Salt Lake Tribune | Public Forum | Dec. 7, 2021
I was discouraged to see a disingenuous take in a recent letter on the action by legislators to knock down adding approval voting to the municipal alternative voting methods pilot project, which is testing methods to inform a conversation on the best method for the state to use.
The letter goes on to describe an inaccurate critique of approval voting, detailing that it ‘assumes’ voters feel equally about all candidates. This is an easily defeated critique when you understand how expressiveness, the value the author is pointing to, really works in voting methods. In ranked-choice, a voter may be able to rank their preferences, but it frequently occurs that votes after your first preference are not counted when your next preferences get eliminated first. Take Sandy for example, instead of a true majority, almost 4000 voters’ preferences weren’t considered in the final results! How is this exclusion of voter preferences expressive?
With approval voting, voters are able to determine where their preference line is. If there are two strong frontrunners, neither of which are your favorite, you can approve both your favorite and your preferred frontrunner without fear of helping your least favorite win. In the same race, another voter could also dislike both frontrunners and select only the candidates they like. Due to the comparably unproblematic calculation of approval, the results actually end up being more representative, which is what we’re after with a voting method.
To say that we should not try this method on the basis of this easily defeated argument would be a travesty to the conversation on improving our election system. Both Weber and Davis county clerks have stated there are potentially 30 cities who want to try approval! Why shouldn’t we let them?
Nate Allen, Clinton