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Can Approval Voting Change American Politics For The Better? With Aaron Hamlin Of The Center For Election

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Is it possible that the extreme divisiveness in our political choices can have a simple solution? In this episode, Corinna Bellizzi sits down with to Aaron Hamlin to discuss approval voting. Aaron is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Center for Election Science, a non-profit organization looking to improve the way Americans vote by implementing the approval voting method in cities nationwide. Voting is one facet of election reform where the power lies in the people. Why not create a better tool to help create a true choice of the collective? Aaron also discusses how approval voting can prevent extremism and get us closer to our ideal reality. Listen in for an insightful discussion and learn more about how our methods impact results as Aaron shares real world examples for the effectiveness of approval voting.

About Aaron Hamlin

Aaron Hamlin is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Center for Election Science, a non-profit organization looking to improve the way Americans vote by implementing the approval voting method in cities nationwide. In just the past two years, Aaron and his team have worked with the communities in St Louis and Fargo to enable them to vote using approval voting. They now have a campaign underway to get approval voting on the ballot in Seattle.

Website Links:
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronhamlin/
Guest Website: https://www.aaronhamlin.com/
 

Additional Resources Mentioned:
The Center for Election Science
Take Action
Discord – Election Science
AaronHamlin.com

Show Notes:
00:00-01:40 – Introduction
01:40-03:29 – Aaron Hamlin’s journey into politics
03:30-06:35 – How does approval voting get us closer to that reality?
06:36-08:25 – Voting method as election reform
08:26-09:15 – Municipalities where approval voting has already taken hold
09:16-13:13 – The California vote to recall Gavin Newsom
13:14-15:04 – How does approval voting guard against extremism?
15:05-21:40 – The 1991 gubernatorial election in Louisiana
21:41-23:23 – The power of the citizen
23:24-31:49 – The administration whiplash
31:50-34:10 – National presidential campaigns and voting done using approval voting?
34:11-35:16 – The downside of ranked-choice
35:17-36:51 – How you can get involved
36:52-39:47 – Conclusion

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Approval Voting: How It Can Positively Impact Politics In America With Aaron Hamlin Of The Center For Election Science

In this episode, we’re going to learn about approval voting and how it could change the face of politics in America. I introduce you to Aaron Hamlin, Executive Director of The Center for Election Science, a not-for-profit focused on empowering people with voting methods that strengthen democracy. He has written articles for Deadspin, Bust Magazine and the Telegraph, as well as many more. He’s been featured in Popular Mechanics and PR, Inside Philanthropy and has been around MSNBC as an expert on voting methods. Aaron, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Corinna.

I’m glad to have you here. I would love first to get to know what inspired you to dive into world politics and interest you in approval voting in the first place.

Initially, my first encounter with this was in grad school because before this encounter, a lot of folks didn’t recognize the voting method, like how we put information on the ballot and how that’s calculated. It came into play. In grad school, since I was around a bunch of friends, we were in the student group and we were talking about who we were going to vote for.

All my friends talked about voting for people I knew who didn’t align with their interests. They were even aligned with the actual reform for which we were in the student group. I found it bizarre. I was giving them a hard time about it. They were saying, “If we vote for the people who support this cause area, they’re not going to win anyway. We’re wasting our vote.” They were going for this long-term incremental approach.

I know I was put off by it. I left there thinking, “I could either maybe give my friends a hard time. They could be less of me throughout the rest of grad school, or maybe there’s something that’s going on here.” That’s when I cut the bug and started to think about voting methods and look at other ways that people could express information in terms of how they voted and have it calculated to appreciate each voter and what they’re trying to say. It’s unlike what we do now, which forces us in these weird situations where we vote expressly against our interests.

You’re voting for the lesser of evils because you think that your candidate doesn’t stand a chance of winning. You’re voting specifically against your interests because you’re concerned more with the what-ifs of what might happen if this other person was to take hold. We have key examples from this if you look at past presidential campaigns where people say, “I’m either going to choose not to vote because I don’t like either of these candidates or I’m going to vote for the person who I think will do less harm.” To me, it doesn’t sound like it’s something that will engage the populous like a large portion of people to vote and also do so with confidence that they’re doing. How does approval voting get us closer to that reality?

Normally, when we vote, we go into the voting booth and we look at the ballot. The ballots give us some explicit instructions. They tell you to choose one candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins. I think a lot of times, we don’t think about this very much because it’s the way that we’ve always seen it. It is bizarre because that’s the least amount of information you can provide, for one. Surely, when you look at that thought, you have opinions about multiple candidates, but you don’t get to see anything about that. Often choosing this one candidate can dis-incentivize you from learning about these other candidates.

If you’re going back to the thought process of like, “I don’t want to throw my vote away.” It’s like, “Why even waste your thinking time going through and looking at these other candidates anyway?” What approval voting does is it gives you flexibility in a way that you’ve never had before as a voter. When you’re looking at the approval voting ballot, it tells you to pick as many candidates as your proof. You’re not ranking or anything complicated. You’re selecting as many candidates as you want. The candidate with the most votes wins.

Approval voting does gives you flexibility in a way that you've never had before as a voter. Click To Tweet

This means when you’re looking at a candidate. Let’s say you like a particular candidate but say they’re a new or independent or third party or even someone that’s bringing in new ideas within the party that you align with. Under approval voting, you can support that candidate and not have to worry about anything. If you wanted to go ahead and say like, “I don’t know that they’re going to win,” you can mitigate against that and support another candidate or more than another candidate if you wish.

To say, “This is another candidate that I find acceptable. I would be comfortable if they won, but I also want this other candidate to win, even though I don’t know if they have a great shot.” If there were also a bunch of candidates that you like and you have maybe a hard time telling between them, you can support all of them in a way where previously, you would have to split your vote. Now, you can say like, “These are a bunch of candidates who I can get on board with. I’m going to support all of them and not worry about vote splitting.”

How would this change things like lobbying, for example, or would it, in your opinion?

I see the voting method as one facet of election reform. In my opinion, it’s probably one of the most core components. In terms of lobbying, legislators have their own challenges. I can imagine a few have an elected position and you’re expected to be an expert on everything. Sometimes, there are different interests, whether public advocacy groups or otherwise, that are communicating to push their interests overall. I don’t know that the lobbyist component would be as impacted.

Although, one thing to keep in mind is that there may be some interaction with looking at campaign finance as a component. For example, a lot of times, in the wonder or choose one method, we use some proxies for viability because if a candidate isn’t perceived as viable, we don’t want to throw our vote away or choose one election.

They also might not get funding. People might not give them money. If they ran and were able to show that they had a support base, then they could stand a better chance of getting more support the next time it was time to run for office, correct?

That’s right. Normally, when we think about viability issues, we think about like, “How popular is this candidate? What’s her name recognition? What does their war chest look like in terms of like funding that they have?” Under approval voting, you don’t have to worry about that because you don’t have to consider the viability question. All you have to look at is, “Do I like this candidate? Do I like their policies? Do I think they would do a good job in the office?” If you check yes on all these boxes, you can support that candidate. You don’t have to worry about any of that.

Is there a good example from a municipality within the United States where approval voting has already taken hold?

CMBB 89 | Approval Voting
Approval Voting: The ballots give us some explicit instructions. They tell you to choose one candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins. Often choosing this one candidate can dis-incentivize you from learning about these other candidates.

 

In 2018, we were able to implement approval voting with a local group in Fargo, North Dakota for the first time. Previous to that, it hadn’t been used before. We’ve been pushing this and pioneering this effort with local groups. We since implemented it in Fargo, North Dakota, in 2018. After that, St. Louis, Missouri and we have a campaign in Seattle, Washington. We’re expected to be on the November ballot of 2022. We’ve seen some interesting campaigns play out so far with these approval voting. That’s separate from passing over the ballot initiative.

This reminds me a little bit of what we see when we’re voting in primaries as an example, though you might only send select one candidate, you’re at least able to vote from an entire field. I wonder if there is also some element of this or if some element of approval voting went into play during the California vote to recall Gavin Newsom. Would you consider that approval voting?

I can describe it too for people just so we get a quick one-two punch. What happened is that we received ballots in the mail that we were supposed to first vote, yes or no if Gavin Newsom should keep his job. If yes, then nothing would happen to his role if 50% or more said, “Okay, he’s going to keep his job.” If 50% or more said, “No, he shouldn’t keep his job,” then this next page came into effect where you had a field of about 30 different candidates to choose from. I think you could choose as many as you wanted, if I recall correctly. It might’ve been 3 or 5. I honestly don’t remember, but you could choose multiple candidates. With that in your mind, be approval voting at least on that back page, so to speak?

I can’t remember that. My recollection of that one is that you couldn’t choose more than one for the second part, even though there were many candidates. That’s pretty common, unfortunately. You would think like, “We’ve got like 30 or 50.” When you increase the number of candidates, the odds go up that you like more than one of those candidates as a logical matter. The issue there comes up a lot when you have multiple candidates in an election. That’s a great example.

Also, looking at local mayoral elections, there are many cases where you could have 8, 10 candidates. This is not uncommon. When you look at those and when you’re looking at a primary or general election, it is ridiculous that we’re being forced to choose one because we can like more than one candidate. It’s almost nonsensical to expect us to like only one in that case.

When we like more than one or there are a bunch of candidates that share some similarity, we should be able to support multiple of them so that we don’t have our votes split. Otherwise, what happens is if there is some other candidate that has some amount of support, but they don’t have a bunch of candidates that look like them, they don’t split their vote, even though that other candidate block may have shared a lot of popular opinion among the electorate.

Maybe the most popular ideology overall, but for the mere fact that they had more candidates running, that ideology could wind up losing even though it represents the electorate much better. Being able to avoid some of this vote-splitting occurring is a real issue that we need to address because when that does happen, you can also have issues for extremism. Our choose one method, particularly when you’re dealing with primaries, you can have a lot of the vote splitting occur around the center. It can allow more extreme candidates to come in.

That’s something else that approval voting guards against this. These are more extreme candidates, particularly when you’re talking about crowded primaries. The way that we look at it, it’s not so much that we should reduce the number of candidates. You want a healthy field of candidates with new ideas and exciting approaches to the problems that we face within our cities, states and country. The issue is making sure that voters themselves can express themselves in a way wherein the aggregate, we get a clear picture of what we want and making sure that’s expressed. We can select someone who ultimately is able to make good decisions that are representative of the population itself.

Voting method is one facet of election reform. Click To Tweet

How does approval voting guard against extremism? To me, I’m not 100% clear on that. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This is a little bit more technical in terms of like how it works out. Maybe I’ll share the technical part and then give you an example of a very weird election. There are two weird elections. We can think about political ideology polling across a normal distribution where we have a cluster of people falling in the center. It’s going down for the extremes on either the left or the right if we want to simplify this. If there’s a candidate in the middle and you can only choose one candidate, all the folks that also supported the candidate on the left or the right could only choose one of those.

As a result, that candidate in the middle has their vote split with the candidate to the left of them and to the right. They get fewer of those selections, whereas candidates on more of the extreme don’t have boats spreading from either end like the candidate in the center does. They only have votes spreading more towards the center. They only have that vote-splitting on one side. They’re able to pick up more votes because they get the rest of the tail end of the voting population. We can see that play out in interesting ways. Sometimes, people look at issues like this and they think like, “You do a runoff.” That solves all of this. You don’t have to worry about any of this if you do an off.

That’s the second time of voting.

They could say like, “We can do a runoff.” Other folks would look at that and say, “It seems a little resource-intensive. Maybe a little bit wasteful. Maybe we can simulate a runoff with a ranking ballot.” There are different approaches to this, but both of them have their own issues. For example, one famous election with an open primary, and then the top two went on to the general election, was the 1991 gubernatorial election in Louisiana. This was a crazy election. There was an incumbent governor. Buddy Roemer is a moderate. There were two other candidates who were weird. One was David Duke, who was a Grand Wizard for the Ku Klux Klan,  very outwardly racist. The other person was a Democrat but he was caught up in a lot of like corruption issues.

What happened here was Buddy Roemer did not make it to the runoff. He was a bit more in the center and the vote split between the Democrats and him and the Klansmen. What’s interesting here, as you would think, “Maybe Buddy Roemer wasn’t all that popular,” but we know that he was in this election. It was only because of the votes splitting.

We know that because of the polling. Between Romer and the Democrat, Roemer won. If you looked at them, it was head to head. If you looked at Roemer versus the Klansman, Roemer also won one there head-to-head. This is merely a product of vote splitting that we’re seeing in a way that’s not super obvious either. We only know this because of the polling that happened in addition to the election itself. When you look at the election itself, it’s hidden because you don’t have the information to be able to see what happened. As a consequence, you had these two terrible candidates, the corrupt Democrat, his name was Edwin Edwards.

Edwin Edwards and Dave Duke, both had double letters for their initials. It’s crazy in multiple ways.

CMBB 89 | Approval Voting
Approval Voting: When you increase the number of candidates, the odds go up that you like more than one of those candidates as a logical matter.

 

The election had folks who would write around with bumper stickers that would say, “Vote for the Lizard, not the wizard.” The lizard was Edwin Edwards because he’s a terrible person. You’d have these weird bumper stickers. Talk about voting for the lesser of two evils here. What ended up happening was Edwin Edwards wound up winning the election. He wound up going to prison afterward for felonies that he committed while in office after winning that election.

This was a real horror show overall. This is what we invite ourselves into when we do this choose-one-voting method, even when we add a runoff into it. That’s what the traditional runoff. I think what a lot of people would say like, “You got this issue. Throw runoff in there and you get a good winner.” Not really.
Other folks were looking at this and say like, “It seems wasteful to do that whole runoff process. Maybe we’ll simulate a runoff by giving people ranked ballots to start with.” We can use those ranked ballots to infer what the runoff would be by knocking people out who had the fewest first-choice votes and transferring their choice preference over to the next candidate. That method is called rank choice voting and that’s used in a number of cities and a couple of states.

One interesting election with ranked-choice voting was in 2009 in Burlington, Vermont. That’s the city that elected Bernie Sanders as their mayor before. It’s a super liberal place and they had implemented ranked-choice voting. I think they were still calling it instant runoff voting. It’s the same thing. What folks were told was that, “We’re going to give you this ballot and you’re going to rank your candidates.” When you do this, they are told like, “Don’t worry about ranking your favorite first. That’s fine. You can do that.”
Even in Burlington, Vermont, they were conservatives in Burlington, Vermont. They have a Republican candidate that runs and this selection was no different. They had a progressive candidate who does a reasonable job because it’s Burlington, Vermont, a Democrat candidate and a Republican candidate. Conservatives are told, “You can rank your favorite as first, even though you live in Burlington, Vermont. Things will be okay,” and so they did. A lot of the conservatives ranked the Republicans first. What happened there was, again, this weird vote-splitting from the middle.

The Democrat candidate got the fewest first-choice votes in that election. Those candidates like the Democrat candidate, the folks who ranked that candidate first, their next choice preference was for the progressive candidate because Democrat was getting eliminated. The progressive candidate wound up winning. Interestingly, if you do that same thing as we did in the lizard versus wizard election in Louisiana, we said, “What about if some of these folks went head to head? What would happen?”

In this election, the Democrat candidate would have beaten the progressive candidate head to head and the Democrat candidate would have beaten the Republican head to head. The Democrat was the best candidate despite having the fewest first-choice votes. The progressive candidate won in that election. The other thing that’s interesting here is the Republican candidate and the conservatives that voted for that Republican candidate, interestingly, had those conservatives instead dishonestly ranked their favorite as a Democrat candidate.

They would have gotten the Democrat candidate to win because, after all, once the Democrat candidate gets eliminated and goes over to the progressive candidate. All these folks who voted for the Republican, they didn’t get anything like that. All that information is being ignored. Had those conservatives ranked the Democrat candidates first? The Democrats would have won. They’re not going to party over the Democrat candidate winning like the conservatives and this is deep, but that certainly would have been a better outcome for them instead of getting.

When we're thinking about the people who we are electing for office, we don't want these wild swings. We want policies. We want good policies to be implemented and we want them to last. Click To Tweet

In a case like this, you might say the progressive candidate was quite pleased with the outcome. Therefore, they would support this rank choice voting at least in that jurisdiction because it worked in their favor. What you’re also saying is that it could play exactly the opposite way and we could end up with an extremist on the other side of the equation. That’s not what the voter populace wants.
It sounds like what you’re advocating for is for the will of the people to be heard and for our voting rights to represent what our choices would be as a populous as opposed to something that gives ultimately special treatment to one group or the other based on the arrangement in that particular city or a municipality.

When we’re thinking about the people who we are electing for office, we don’t want these wild swings. We want policies. We want good policies to be implemented and we want them to last. We don’t want them merely overturned by the next administration, who has a polar opposite ideology.

It’s very costly. It’s costly to the people because every time you change something, there are costs associated with that change.

It’s so weird. There are so few times when, as a citizen, we can’t be ignored and one of those few times is when we vote. We get this tool to be able to say, “Who sits in those offices that decides the policies, the governor’s day-to-day lives, or spend a large amount of tax dollars.” We only get one chance to do that and we’re given this highly ineffective tool. When we look at this problem, we say, “We want to arm you with a better tool that gets you the outcomes your community deserves.” That’s the way that we look at this problem. Arming voters with the tool that gives them a way to have their government aligned with their interests and not these wild swings.

You said something specifically about wild swings, which I have agreed with for a long time. In high school, I had a Political Science professor, Mr. Booth, who had a very different political ideology from my own. He was very conservative and I was very much not right. He said one thing that has been proven true time and again. He said, “It’s a difficult situation in America when we can’t keep our president in office for more than one term. When we have the volatility where we’re running from one party to the next, to the next, the people who pay are the American people.”

Regardless of the fact that we would probably vote differently from one another in every single election, in fact, there’s very little we agreed on in that realm, but I still never forgot those words. When we have a situation where we have wild swings and continual wild swings, we’ve got whiplash from one administration to the next. We also have a situation in which our politicians are less likely to collaborate. We’ve seen that play out over the course of the last several administrations where they’re becoming more diametrically opposed and less willing to collaborate on anything aside from, “It looks like COVID.”

That’s the one thing that they could seem to agree on and get some as immediate as a possible relief for the American people. Still, there are many that don’t agree with a lot of changes. As a for instance for me, I was not given a choice as to whether I would receive a child tax credit multiple times over the course of 2021. I smartly put that money in a savings account because I knew I was going to have to pay the government back. I was going to have to pay them back when tax time came.

CMBB 89 | Approval Voting
Approval Voting: It is ridiculous that we’re being forced to choose one because we can like more than one candidate. It’s almost nonsensical to expect us to like only one in that case.

 

It still didn’t affect the fact that it hurt more in 2022 to file for my taxes than prior years because the money that I would have had sitting aside in the government’s hands was given back to me and now, I had to account for that. I imagine many people in our lives that are experiencing the same thing, like, “Now, I have to pay this back.” It wasn’t relief from COVID. I wonder what your thoughts are about the decisions that are being passed through the present administration, as they might reflect the walk backs from the prior administration. Is there something that you think we should all be more aware of than we perhaps are?

This whiplash that you described is all too common. There’s one comic strip I remember seeing where there’s this political cartoon where they had this car that was stuck in this alley. There were Democrats plastered on one side of the wall, then Republicans on the other. They were crashing towards the front of their car. They said, “This isn’t working. Back it up again.” You would see both parts of this car being wrecked on either side from going back and forth with no real progress at all. It goes back to the idea of there’s no sustainability with this approach.

It’s a lot of waste. It’s most visible when we look at what happens with the presidential office because every time there’s a change, you’re talking an entire staff transition. There are very few people that rest from one administration to the next. Even anybody in the world of business will understand. It’s costly to hire. It’s costly to train. Each of these things takes a lot of effort. You have to get a prize of where everything is politically. What are the goals that we’re working to push through? What are the sorts of things that we’re hoping to prevent?

Ultimately, it’s like a complete changing of the guard and when it’s happening every four years, the cost of the public has quite high. I’ve often felt like there isn’t even a situation where we have a lesser of evils when it comes to our national voting because we essentially are given to candidates. If we were lucky, the one we liked made it there, but most people are not at that level of satisfaction. You’re ultimately sitting in a spot where the candidate you would have liked to see in the White House or pushing policy forward that could affect more people positively didn’t get that shot. They were left on the chopping floor months before after a straw poll in Ohio.

There’s this one interesting component. We also do a lot of research within our organization. We did polling looking at the 2016 election. We also did polling looking at the 2020 Democratic primary. The way that we do this is a bit different. We’re interested in voting methods. There are all kinds of different voting methods. In our conversation, we talked about our choose one method, also called proudly voting your first as opposed. We talked about ranked-choice voting, also called instant runoff voting. We’ve talked about approval voting.

There were some other ones out there as well. When we do this research that involves polling, what we’ll do is we’ll ask each respondent how they would vote under each of these different voting methods for a particular election. We do something a bit unique, things that are a bit novel for this research. What we did was we asked people a control measure question. We would say, “We want you to be honest here. Tell us how much you would like this particular candidate to hold this seat on a scale of 0 to 5?”

We did that in addition to how would you vote under each of these different voting methods. When we did that for the Democratic primary, what we saw was that both Sanders and Warren did significantly better than they did under or choose one method during that whole primary. Even some of the other folks, there are a lot of folks out there that liked Yang a lot. Even with approval voting, he got 30% versus 10%. Of course, 30% didn’t put him in the front of the pack, even with approval voting but a significantly different amount in a way that you possibly wouldn’t have been marginalized to the same extent that he was.

Looking over at Warren and Sanders, I think a lot of folks will look at them and say like, “I think they may be too liberal for the party. They may not represent the party’s values in terms of people who are registered as Democrats.” What one of the things approval does is it gets past what we perceive as being politically acceptable. If you look at some of them, for instance, some of the policies that they ran on. When you pull on them on their own, some of these policies do pretty well, looking at different aspects of like healthcare reform, for instance, different types of tax policies.

There are so few times when, as a citizen, we can't be ignored and one of those few times is when we vote. Click To Tweet

Even though some folks in the Democratic party may look at this and say like, “I think those are two extremes,” we don’t have to always listen to what the media or the party itself tells us as far as what’s acceptable. When you have a voting method that goes through that, you can get that information directly in a way where previously these candidates would have been marginalized or you would have been told like, “They lost was because their ideas were too extreme.” Rather than like, “Maybe there was a lot of vote splitting going on.”

Going back to that control measure, one of the ways that we empirically know that approval voting does a good job capturing the support to the degree that it overlaps with this control measure, any audience can go to ElectionScience.org and look up the Democratic primary on our site. You can see how well this control measure mimics the approval voting votes as well.

You see these a lineup well whereas when you look at it with say our choose one method or even the ranking method for that matter. There’s a lot more in terms of discrepancy. It goes back to the idea of when we dismiss certain candidates or ideas out of hand. We need to reflect on that and think like, “Is it that these ideas are that far out there or that we have a terrible voting method that doesn’t pick up on it and we need to use a different one that does?”

What do you think our chances of getting to a spot where our national presidential campaigns and voting are done by using approval voting instead of other methods?

When getting into this space, it was clearly a big hurdle overall. When we were looking at this before we got our initial funding at the very tail end of December of 2017, approval voting was looked a lot at in academia. It hadn’t been used for government offices. It has been used in different organizations, often in math and statistics organizations, even though it’s a simple voting method. We had to look at this and say, “We have to be able to show proof of concept. We have to replicate and we have to be able to scale.” We’ve started with cities starting with Fargo for about 120,000 people, then St. Louis with 300,000.

Now, looking at Seattle with 750,000, next, we’re transitioning into states. We haven’t announced a state campaign yet, but that’s where we’re moving. What we do is pass a ballot initiative in the state. We don’t ask the people who are elected themselves to pass this legislation because they have a conflict of interest. We asked the voters and it’s been popular. It’s a very simple method. It doesn’t require anything complicated in terms of infrastructure. I think that’s what helped us pass in Fargo by 63% and in St. Louis by 68%.

As we look into states, you also get to control how federal seats are elected. You’re talking about US Senate seats, US house seats and also electoral votes so you can control how presidential elections are administered in that state. You can have it administered by approval voting within the state that has passed as well. That’ll control the electoral votes for that state because it’s up to the states how they assign their electoral votes. If you pass an initiative that states that says, “This is how we vote for presidential elections using approval voting,” that also controls how their electoral votes are assigned.

I’m encouraged. I’d like to see a simpler system enacted. I personally found this when I was reviewing ranked-choice voting. It’s sometimes difficult to choose who you would put first because that’s more weighted. It’s almost like you’re in the same boat you started in.

CMBB 89 | Approval Voting
Approval Voting: With ranked-choice voting like the feasibility of ranking, often people will admit more candidates, which means that they lose information.

 

It can also be challenging there when you have a longer candidate list. With ranked-choice voting like the feasibility of ranking, often people will admit more candidates, which means that they lose information. We know from research that a Canadian Mathematician, Mark Kilgore, identifies that when voters don’t put as much information down on ranking ballots, they can fail to identify the correct winner.

The other component is that when you have a longer candidate list because ranked-choice votings are more complicated with its ballot design, it may not be feasible to even allow voters to rank all the candidates that they wish. You’re again getting back into that issue of voters not being able to provide the information that they wanted, then that resulting in not being able to identify the correct winner.

How can our audience get involved and push for this new method of voting if they agree with our discussion thus far and if they think this sounds like a good thing? How can they get involved?

We have an awesome director of campaigns, Chris Raleigh. What he’s done is he’s worked to set up a nationwide chapter system, which is how these chapters develop into campaigns. What you can do is you can go to our website at ElectionScience.org. You go up to the menu at the top, Take Action. You can sign up for our newsletter. You can join our Discord and that’s how we work to start these chapters. We provide logistics support for being able to help these chapters graduate into campaigns.

We’ve identified all the ballot initiative states. We’ve also pulled on all of the ballot initiative states identifying the best language reach state. The reason we have that information is because of our new director of research, Whitney Hua. She’s figured out through a sophisticated polling approach the best language in each respective state.

We have a lot going for you in terms of like joining one of these chapters and moving it into a campaign. It’s daunting to try to do on your own. What we’re here is to help communities with the support that they need to be able to arm themselves with this voting method, this tool to get the government to respond to their interests.

Thank you so much, Aaron, for joining me. I’ve enjoyed this conversation. I’ve learned a fair amount too. I want to thank you for taking the time. Is there a question that I haven’t asked that you wish I had or perhaps, a thought that you’d like to leave our audience with?

I think a lot of times, we look at things like a broken government. It can seem so daunting sometimes. It’s a rare instance where a solution for this scale of a problem is so straightforward as saying like, “Maybe you can pick as many as you want instead of one.” It’s very rare that a solution can be so simple and this is one to take advantage of. I encourage the audience to jump on board and get involved. It’s an exciting journey to take back what’s ours, our democracy.

I think that’s perfect. Thank you, Aaron, so much for joining us.

For everyone reading, the link to Aaron’s website is AaronHamlin.com and ElectionScience.org on our website. We have a five-step guide to unleash your inner activist. If you’re itching to get involved and be a change that you want to see in the world, then sign up for our newsletter and it will be your welcome gift in your inbox moments later.

As you consider what we’ve covered in this episode, I want you to think about how you vote when you choose a lesser evil as you make your voting decisions. If we’ve had a better way of voting, how might we change how we vote? Would you engage more? Would you be more interested in what’s happening in our political world? If we had approval voting, how might your voting habits change?
I invite you to lean into discovery and stay curious and hopeful. Ask questions. Consider joining one of those chapters and let’s build that better world together. Thank you, now and always, for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. We can even overhaul the way we vote. Thank you.

 

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Guest

  • Aaron Hamlin is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Center for Election Science, a non-profit organization looking to improve the way Americans vote by implementing the approval voting method in cities nationwide. In just the past two years, Aaron and his team have worked with the communities in St Louis and Fargo to enable them to vote using approval voting. They now have a campaign underway to get approval voting on the ballot in Seattle.

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