Donate
News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
MOST READ
Voting
True
John Moore/Getty Images

"Approval voting can be conducted with no major changes to voting machines or counting procedures," argues Clay Shentrup.

Actually, approval voting beats RCV. (A rebuttal.)

Shentrup is an independent voting methods researcher and activist.

In his Dec. 12 opinion piece for The Fulcrum, "Why RCV beats approval voting," Lee Drutman gets one thing right: America currently uses the world's worst voting method. But his comparison between approval voting and the ranked-choice system called "instant runoff voting" gets the major points wrong. Approval voting beats this form of RCV in every way we can measure.

It's unfortunate to see conflict among those who want to improve the way we vote. Ultimately we're allies pulling toward the same goal of a more fair and just democracy. At the same time, it's important to understand how the voting methods compare.

My aunt favors Elizabeth Warren but will vote for Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary because of concerns over electability versus President Donald Trump. Her nightmare is that Warren clinches the nomination, but loses the general election to Trump, leaving her to wish she had strategically voted for Biden in hindsight.

Now imagine we switch to instant runoff voting — the RCV method adopted in Maine in New York City — and dispense with the need for a primary. Drutman argues this eliminates strategic voting. But this is not so; it punishes voters for supporting their honest favorite candidate. Under the rules of IRV, my aunt's strategic choice of Biden would be analogous to misordering the candidates, marking Biden as her first choice instead of Warren in order to help Biden (in her view the strongest candidate) make the final round against Trump. That is, she would promote Warren's early elimination in order to help the stronger candidate, Biden, run against Trump.

Keep reading... Show less
News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.