Are We Looking at the First City to Make History with Approval Voting?

FARGO, N.D. – Fargo, North Dakota may soon make history. City voters will decide in November whether or not it will become the first jurisdiction in the US to adopt Approval Voting — an alternative voting method that allows voters to choose as many candidates on the ballot as they want.

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The nonpartisan group, Reform Fargo, submitted approximately 2,000 signatures to get Approval Voting on the November ballot, about 600 more than the group needed. The signatures were officially certified this week, marking another historic moment in election reform efforts in 2018.

“We’re really excited. We worked really hard. We built from the ground up, and we’re going to keep working at it to get it passed,” said Jed Limke, founder of Reform Fargo.

Approval Voting is arguably the simplest of all the new voting methods being proposed in the US. Voters receive a ballot and they select or bubble in as many candidates as they approve of or wouldn’t mind winning the election. The candidate with the most votes wins.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Advocates say the reform completely eliminates the spoiler effect and strategic voting (commonly known as the “lesser-evil” mentality) that results in “vote splitting” under the choose-one voting method used in most elections in the US.

In other words, many voters don’t have to feel like they have to ditch their preferred candidate because voting for that person might cause the candidate they least want elected to win. Sound familiar?

This not only discourages voter participation, but candidate participation as well.

“Our current voting method is the least constructive method of voting and the most common,” says former Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness.

The push to get Approval Voting on the November ballot began with a task force, on which Reform Fargo Founder Jed Limke served. The task force recommended Approval Voting to improve city elections, yet the City Commission refused to put the reform on the ballot.

Limke then formed Reform Fargo, and with the help of about 30 volunteers working at community events to educate voters on the benefits of Approval Voting, the group was able to garner enough support to let voters have a say in November.

Aaron Hamlin, executive director of The Center for Election Science (CES), says he is optimistic Fargo will be the first jurisdiction in the US to adopt Approval Voting. His organization studies and advocates for better voting methods — chief among them being this reform.

“Approval voting holds a nice balance of favoring candidates that strike the tune of the people while also making sure new voices are heard. That balance is good because we need thought from all sides to move forward. Like a market, democracy necessitates free entry of ideas so everyone has a chance to succeed or fail. Approval voting can help us get there,” says Hamlin.

Fargo citizens will vote on Approval Voting on November 6.

Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com