Originally published in The Salt Lake Tribune | Public Forum | Feb. 14, 2021
With our country deeply divided over politics, we need to reward leaders who avoid divisiveness and extremism. Unfortunately, our current electoral system rewards extremists who grab attention and promise to fight their political adversaries. One simple change in how we vote could change this dynamic and reward bridge builders: approval voting. Approval voting allows voters to select all the candidates that they approve of in each race, rather than just one. This makes it safe for every voter to vote for their favorite candidate, even if that candidate has little chance of winning, allowing more candidates to run for office without risking “spoiling” the election. Approval voting also rewards pragmatic centrists who avoid extremist policies. This method of voting was recently implemented in St. Louis, Missouri, and is used in Fargo, North Dakota.
Currently, the Utah legislature is considering a bill that would allow cities to experiment with approval voting. Rep. Robertson’s bill, HB174, would give municipalities the option of using approval voting to conduct local elections. Approval voting is easy to implement and does not require any new vote-counting equipment. This would allow municipalities to implement a change that elects consensus candidates that would rebuild the political center and help us avoid the divisiveness that we find in current-day politics.
Ben Lariviere, Salt Lake City