Post navigation

Prev: (12/14/20) | Next: (12/14/20)

Capitol Hill Community Post | It’s time for better, more democratic elections in Seattle

From Logan Bowers

As we’ve been gripped by national politics, we’ve seen just how important it is to elect the right leaders—and how disastrous it can be when someone unqualified holds office. Seattle isn’t immune, as any of us who watched the turmoil unfold in the city this summer. But this year, St. Louis showed us how we can make Seattle’s elections fairer, more democratic, and select better leaders. St. Louis voters overwhelmingly chose, with 68+% of the vote in favor, to change their elections to use Approval Voting. We need to follow their lead, and so we formed Seattle Approves to bring this reform to the ballot.

Approval Voting is a really simple change to our elections. Instead of being forced to pick one voter in the primary election, pick as many as you want. Each candidate you pick gets one vote. The top two still advance to the general election as they do today.

Seattle primaries regularly have over a dozen candidates. Under the current system, if you and other voters like two candidates, they’ll split those votes and both will lose—even though they had popular support. We saw this in action where city council candidates were winning 2019 primaries with less than 25% of the vote. When you can pick multiple candidates, your vote is never wasted, your ballot more accurately reflects your preferences, and the candidate with the most voter support prevails.

Seattle Approves is a grassroots effort to bring Approval Voting to Seattle. We’re working to bring the same system St. Louis just passed to Seattle through a city initiative. We need your help. Visit http://seattleapproves.org and use our 1-question survey to tell us what you think. And if you too would like to see better, fairer elections in Seattle, join our mailing list to receive updates. We’re entirely volunteer run, and you can help make it happen by joining our Discord channel and volunteering.

We’ve seen over the last four years that elections matter. Getting the best candidates into office matters. With your help and support, we can build on the success of Democracy Vouchers and take the next step, so that Seattle holds the fairest, most representative, and most democratic elections in the United States.

Logan Bowers is a D3 Seattle resident, software engineer, and small business owner of Hashtag Cannabis. He ran for Seattle City Council in 2019. 


HELP KEEP CHS 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' FOR EVERYONE -- SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.


Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
14 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Adam Rakunas
Adam Rakunas
1 month ago

Ranked Choice Voting for GTFO.

Adam Rakunas
Adam Rakunas
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam Rakunas

“…*or* GTFO.”

Brad
Brad
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam Rakunas

What are your arguments for RCV over approval voting? Pretty much any analysis I read says approval voting is superior.

rac
rac
1 month ago
Reply to  Brad

There is no question that RCV will yield a more precise result. Because approval <> indifference.

However, as I understand it the question comes down to whether the additional precision merits the perceived complexity for voters (which could depress turnout or lead to ballot errors) and the actual complexity for tabulation.

In an ideal world I think you’d use approval voting in primaries to narrow the field and RCV in voting in the final election.

Either method would be an improvement.

Debra
Debra
1 month ago
Reply to  loganbowers

YES to what loganbowers says. As a voter I can pretty easily choose my favorite 3-5 in our crazy primaries, but I can’t really rank them in a very meaningful way after the first 2 or 3. Also, it’s WAY easier for elections officials to just count votes for each candidate, using the same tabulation machines that we use now, AND, AND, AND, it’s way more transparent for voters to see whose numbers are bigger with Approval voting!

Clay Shentrup
Clay Shentrup
1 month ago
Reply to  rac

> There is no question that RCV will yield a more precise result. Because approval <> indifference.

You’re wrong. You’re making the expressiveness fallacy.

https://electionscience.org/library/expressiveness-in-approval-vs-ranked-ballots/

tl;dr approval voting is more accurate because even though the ballots convey a bit less information, the ranked voting tabulation algorithm discards a lot of useful data, and incentivizes distortionary strategies (like ranking your favorite in 2nd to prevent getting your 3rd). This is all quantified via voter satisfaction efficiency.

https://electionscience.github.io/vse-sim/vse.html

Brendan Sweeney
Brendan Sweeney
30 days ago
Reply to  Brad

Approval voting makes you try to game the system. If I vastly prefer A over B, and vastly approve B over C, ranked choice voting makes this very easy. A=First choice, B=Second choice, C=Third (or none).
Nothing else needs to factor into my decision.
How does that work in approval voting? Do I say yes to A and B? Well, if I think the race is mostly between A and B, then I’d be better off just saying yes for A. But if the people that prefer B >> A >> C think the same way, now A and B are splitting the vote. Suddenly, the race might actually be between A and C, or B and C, so should I have instead voted yes for A and B??

Any system that requires the voter to guess at how the rest of the populace will vote is a bad system. If the majority of people would prefer A OR B over C, it shouldn’t be a game of chicken between which group will withhold the approval vote from their second choice, risking C triumphing over a split majority.

Clay Shentrup
Clay Shentrup
28 days ago

You have this precisely backwards. Let a guy who did his math PhD thesis on voting methods explain.

See this explained by a math PhD who did his thesis on voting methods and co-founded the Center for Election Science.

Approval voting is better and more resistant to strategy.

Michael Calkins
Michael Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam Rakunas

The simplicity of approval voting is an incredibly appealing feature to a broad voter base.

CES has done a write up on this.
https://electionscience.org/library/approval-voting-versus-irv/

Clay Shentrup
Clay Shentrup
1 month ago

Not only the simplicity, but the fact that it leads to a more accurate reflection of voter sentiment, despite the naive intuition that ranking should convey more precise information (which is theoretically true, but technically false because of how inefficient the IRV tabulation algorithm is).

Clay Shentrup
Clay Shentrup
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam Rakunas

Approval voting is simpler and better in every measurable way.

https://electionscience.org/library/approval-voting-versus-irv/

Michael Calkins
Michael Calkins
1 month ago

Love this! Approval voting is simple and super easy to implement!
They cover it on Center for Election Science’s website https://electionscience.org/approval-voting-101/

Bobby
Bobby
1 month ago

I liked this write up on voting systems. https://ncase.me/ballot/