.  Home

.  Speeches and
    Press Releases

.  Activate
   Your College

.  Motivate
   Your High School

.  Issues
   . Ballot Access Reform
   . Candidate Debate Reform
   . E-Democracy
   . Voting System Reform

About Us .Join Us .Links

Reform America, Inc.

Voting Systems

Approval Voting: A Flawed Single Seat Election Method

There are people who continually try to promote some so called `Elegant' election method that is supposed to be better than Instant Runoff Voting aka Irving aka IRV aka Alternative Vote. These people fail because their methods are flawed. In order to help you understand why these methods are flawed, I would like to give you two guidelines.

One: None of your lower choices are to be used in the tally while your first choice is still a contender. This is covered by the `Golden Rule of Preference', which states: Late preferences cannot help nor harm earlier preferences. I did not write this Golden Rule.

Two: The total number of lower choices used by a method must be less than the number of top choices. The logic of this rule is that top choices are more important, more valuable than lower choices. They are the more informed choices, so it follows that they shall be the majority of all choices used by a method.

Most of these Flawed Methods can be divided into two groups, the Plurality Group and the Condorcet Group.

The Plurality Group:
1) Approval Voting:
2) Borda Count aka Approval Count:
3) Bucklin:

The Condorcet Group:
1) Plain Condorcet aka PC aka Condorcet
2) Schulze's Method
3) Smith-Condorcet-Tobin
4) Runoff plus Candidate Withdrawal
5) Condorcet using rated, not ranked, ballots
6) Smith//Plain Condorcet aka Smith-Condorcet
7) Smith-Condorcet using rated, not ranked, ballots

I am not going to write about every one of these, that would be a waste of our time. I am going to write about one of them:

Approval Voting - A Flawed Single Seat Election Method:

It is the worst, for it has the most flaws, but the other methods in these groups are still unacceptable.

Promoters tell us: Approval Voting "..happens to have excellent properties." I don't know what they consider to be `excellent', but I would like to reveal some not so excellent properties of Approval, as follows:

1) It has our lower choices helping to defeat our first choice.
2) It will use trickery to allow a small party to falsely win.
3) It can cause a majority winner to lose.
4) It will not allow us to have a most preferred choice.

It is easy to see how Approval Voting would be best for a small third party, the small party has nothing to lose, it can only go up in votes because Approval will help it to receive undo extra votes, but it cannot be shown how Approval will be best for the rest of the voters.

A best method should be the best for all the voters.

1) It has our lower choices helping to defeat our first choice:

Suppose you have a top choice in an Approval election. If you were to also select one of the small third party candidates as a choice along with your top choice, you would have raised that candidate up equal to your top choice in the election as far as your vote is concerned. You would have cancelled any difference you may have rated your top choice vs that candidate.

If enough of the supporters of the two top candidates foolishly mark that same candidate after marking their favorite, that candidate would end up with the most votes, and that is the light that Approval promoters see at the end of their dark and dirty tunnel. Their hope is that if the people have more than one choice in their hot hands that most of the people will mistakenly think they are merely ranking the candidates 1-2-3 when they carelessly give choices to smaller third party candidates, but instead they may be giving one small third party candidate more votes than any other candidate. This is one of Approval's not so excellent properties, the property of bottom choices helping to defeat top choices.

This happens because Approval Voting counts all your choices as equal votes and counts them together at the same time. Irving will never use two or more of your choices at the same time.

2) It will use trickery to allow a small party to falsely win:

The election of a small third party candidate will depend on the voters having a moment of stupidity. These voters would not elect that candidate otherwise. Most of the people that might mark that candidate as a choice will be thinking that it is their second or lower choice, but you should know that any lower choice for any candidate is as good as a first choice for the candidate in an Approval election.

This my friend is the attraction of Approval Voting to supporters of small third parties. They see Approval as the method to propel their candidate up and alongside the front running candidates of the larger parties. In that position a small third party candidate has a chance to win. This is what I regard as being elected thru the back door. Approval Voting is looked to as a magic method that will be able to leverage a third candidate's few votes into a win. Approval promoters are con men, they want their loser candidate to win even if it takes dishonesty to make it happen.

The reality is, the public is not that stupid. There is no reason for any voter of the two front running candidates to make any lower choices in Approval, nor in Condorcet, that is the reality. The supporters of the major factions will have no interest in deciding which of the lower candidates should be last. On the other hand, the voters of the lower candidates will make lower choices because they will be interested in having a vote in deciding which candidate should be first. The people will soon learn this reality. Then, most of the people will offset the flawed method by not making any more than one choice, which will cause the Approval method to be reduced down to a form of Irving. If all roads lead to Rome, then all methods lead to Irving.

3) It can cause a majority winner to lose:

Suppose an election with the following count of the first choices:

51 A
30 B
19 C

If we were to go by the rules of Plurality, the winner would be candidate A. Candidates B and C would have no chance of winning.

If we were to go by the rules of Irving, the winner would also be candidate A. Again, candidates B and C would have no chance of winning.

But, if we were to go by the rules of Approval Voting, all three candidates will have a chance of winning, and I mean a chance of winning even after one already has a majority on the first count of the ballots.

This is another one of the not so excellent properties of Approval Voting, the property of defeating the majority winner of the first choices.

4) It will not allow us to have a most preferred choice:

When you are considering the candidates in a coming election, do you select one as your most preferred choice? If so, you are like me, but Approval Voting will not allow us to have a top choice. This is because, in Approval Voting, all choices are counted as first choices. We can have a top choice if we only make one choice, but then if our top choice loses we will have no second choice to become our top choice.

Besides, is the method still Approval Voting if people only make one choice?

The Trump Card that Irving holds over Approval and Condorcet:

In spite of the flaws of the Approval and Condorcet Groups, you should have no fear of any of these methods. If and when Approval Voting or Condorcet are ever imposed on the people, these methods will change automatically into Irving, as a result of the way the people will vote and/or not vote. This is the Trump Card that Irving holds over Approval Voting and Condorcet. For that reason, I have no fear of these two methods, if they are installed, so what, the people, when in the election booth, will change the election into an Irving election as they refuse to make more than their one top choice.

Request for results from a real Approval election in the real world:

If anyone has access to results from a real Approval election, I would like to have a copy of them.

I would not need all the ballots, just the vote combinations. For example, a four candidate race could have 15 possible combinations as follows: A, B, C, D, AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD, ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD, and ABCD.

I am on the Election Methods list and we have discussed Approval Voting without any reality. Results from a real election in the real world would be a great help and may even help to resolve the dispute.

For this favor from you I will favor you with a tip on how to vote in an Approval election: If your candidate is a possible winner, instruct your faction to only vote for your candidate, not to make any other selections.

The different random combinations of choices that the other voters make will cancel each other out and make all candidates, including your candidate, about equal. But, the votes from your faction will act as a pedestal for your candidate to stand on, head and shoulders above the other candidates. This will give your candidate an edge, maybe a large enough edge to win.

I know you are interested in real election reform and I know what you may be thinking: If there is a best method out there somewhere, you want to promote this best method. I know you do and I have good news that will save you five years of searching. You will be promoting the best method when you promote Irving. As for those people who bad mouth Irving, "There are always going to be yapping dogs nipping at the heels of people who are trying to do good. Best to shoo them off and go about your business."

As for those of you who do not believe Irving is the best method, below is the trash heap of Failing Flawed Election Methods, feel free to pick your next favorite method.

THE TRASH HEAP of Failing Flawed Election Methods:

People continually try and fail to create a method better than Irving. These people are actually creating a pile of rubble which can be regarded as a monument to Irving, because when the dust settles, Irving remains standing, therefore Irving must be the best.

The more of these so called `Elegant' methods they create the higher the monument becomes.

Below is a trash heap of these flawed methods, each of which was someone's favorite at one time or another. Anyone is free to search the pile and pull out one that looks promising to them, dust it off, and put it on a pedestal or hold it to their breast as their favorite.

Or, they could create a brand new method, the choice belongs to them.

You can try your luck, but I warn you, Irving has always prevailed in the past and there is no reason to think that it will not prevail in the future.

Smith - Random
Approval Voting
Double - Complement
Runoff without Elimination
Borda Count aka Approval Count
Runoff plus Candidate Withdrawal
Plain Condorcet aka PC aka Condorcet
Condorcet using rated, not ranked, ballots
Smith//Plain Condorcet aka Smith-Condorcet
Smith-Condorcet using rated, not ranked, ballots

(Constructed out of failed `Elegant' methods)

Reform America, Inc.