Significant Approval Voting Pros And Cons

February 16, 2022

Approval voting is a single-winner voting system that enables voters to cast their ballot for any number of candidates, and the one with the most votes wins. However, no system is infallible, so we can expect approval voting to have its own set of pros and cons.

Understanding Approval Voting Within The Electoral Process

As mentioned earlier, with approval voting, eligible individuals cast ballots for all their preferred candidates. The one with the highest numbers at the end of tallying is declared the winner. One of the primary benefits of this system is that it is relatively simple, especially when you look at ranked choice vs approval voting. The instructions to every voter are to vote for one or more candidates. All the existing voting equipment can also accommodate this kind of election process.

According to various election pundits, both instant-runoff and approval voting help to improve on the misgivings of plurality and runoff elections. Nonetheless, Dr. Kenneth Arrow managed to win a Nobel Prize for proving that there is no perfect voting system in existence. This means that all of them have their kinds of flaws and can sometimes lead to outcomes that violate people’s shared notions of fairness. For instance, if two popular candidates manage to split the majority vote in plurality voting, the candidate vehemently opposed by the majority of voters could be elected. This, in turn, can violate the basic principles of majority rule.

One must also remember that with plurality voting, two serious flaws arise. The first is the lack of majority rule, and the second is the spoiler problem. In the latter case, a significant number of voters get the incentive not to vote for their favorite candidate since doing so might lead to the election of their least favorite candidate. As a result, some voters choose not to vote for their favorite candidate but instead for a lesser preferred one who has a more reasonable chance of winning.

With that said, the following are some of the significant pros and cons associated with approval voting.

Pros of Approval Voting

Promotes Honest Voting

Under the current first-past-the-post plurality voting system, citizens who prefer a third-party or lesser-known candidate are highly motivated to vote for their preferred front-runner candidate instead of their long-shot favorite to avoid wasting their vote.

People can go for their preferred front-runner and the long-shot candidate with approval voting. If their favorite doesn’t stand much chance of winning, then a vote for them will not cause any harm to their preferred front-runner. If a voter’s favorite candidate does indeed stand a good chance of winning, then one would probably vote for them. Regardless, a person can always vote honestly for their favorite aspirant.

Cost-Effective To Implement

Because approval voting is similar to the current voting system, but without the restriction on the number of votes allowed, it requires no significant or costly upgrades to the existing voting machines or other forms of tabulation software currently in use.

It Is More Expressive

As opposed to voting only for one candidate, approval voting allows citizens to vote for as many candidates as they wish.                

It Partially Eliminates The Issue Of Vote Splitting And Spoilers

Under the regular plurality vote, the more similar two candidates seem, the more likely they will split up the vote that would otherwise go to one of the other aspirants. This is known as vote splitting. With approval voting, people can approve all of the candidates they like, thereby eliminating the issue of having similar candidates in a race.                               

Cons of Approval Voting

Voters Could Struggle With Determining An Approval Threshold

With approval voting, individuals must decide where to set the approval threshold. This means deciding if they should vote for only one, all but one, or something in the middle. For some voters, this can be quite a challenging concept or undertaking.

Some Can View It As Being Less Expressive

Approval voting means voters can only express approval or disapproval for each candidate. This means that it is more expressive than other forms of voting like plurality voting but still less expressive than other methods like STAR or Ranked-Choice Voting.

Has The Potential To Challenge Our Notions Of Majority Rule

The adoption of approval voting can cause the defeat of a political aspirant. For instance, one who has been deemed the favorite with 51% of the voters. However, some experts believe that the system would most likely be repealed by those in charge in that jurisdiction. 

Forces Voters To Cast Equally Weighted Votes

Approval voting means that voters cast equally weighted votes for their preferred candidates. This means they cannot indicate a strong preference for one particular candidate and a lesser preference for another.

For some people, this is an issue, especially when you consider that voters almost always have varying degrees of support for different candidates.

In Conclusion

As we can see from the information provided, it is clear that no election process is flawless. Each one has its pros and cons for the candidates and the voters. Approval voting is no exception to this fact. That is why it is continuously being studied and analyzed to understand its potential impact on the overall voting system fully.

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