Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Irony: Aspen To Use Approval Voting... Once

In 2009, Aspen, Colorado voters chose to begin using instant runoff voting in some elections. They were, apparently, less than satisfied with it, and are now working out their options for replacing it. Aspen Daily News describes how the choice will be made:

Aspen voters will be asked if they support the winner-take-all system that was used through 1999, and one that requires a majority for council members and the mayor, which was used through 2007.

Both options will have their own “yes” or “no” question on the ballot. Whatever receives the most support will become the new voting method...

Does this sound familiar to you at all? It should, because this is approval voting! Each option can be approved or disapproved of independently, and the most-approved option is the winner.

There is one hitch though:

If neither method gets a majority, IRV will remain.

For this to be a proper approval voting election, the un-stated third option in favor of the status-quo ought to also be on the ballot. After all, it is possible that both replacement options will get more than 50% support but that an even greater percentage would approve of keeping IRV. (I didn't say likely, I said possible.) Or, conversely, that both alternatives could get less than 50% but that even fewer voters would want to keep IRV. Leaving one of the options unstated leaves open these possibilities. Imagine if this near-approval format were used when two challengers faced an incumbent office-holder; you wouldn't want the incumbent off-ballot and to make these sorts of assumptions about how the voters truly judge them!

Thankfully, Ward Hauenstein, a member of the city's election commission, has suggested precisely this; although his reasoning was due to the possibility of voter confusion. Either way, it's not clear if the people in charge of the ballot will take him up on the idea.

So, Aspen will be using approval voting (or at least something close to it) this one time; but they will be using it to decide which less-effective-than-approval voting method to use for future votes. Come on Aspen, you're so close!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is so unfortunate. To be that close to adopting such a profoundly superior method like Approval Voting, and then not to do it.

    I hope some smart activists in Aspen use this to promote Approval Voting somehow.