One of America’s Most Famous Towns Becomes First in the Nation to Adopt Approval Voting

Created: 06 November, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

FARGO, N.D. - There probably isn’t a small town in America with a more identifiable name than Fargo, North Dakota — though the Academy-award winning movie Fargo and the related TV series on FX are mostly set in other cities. Still, people know the name.

Yet, Fargo is making a new name for itself as the first jurisdiction in the US to adopt Approval Voting for use in elections. Voters approved a ballot initiative to implement the alternative voting method with 64% of the vote.

Jed Limke, founder of the group, and about 30 volunteers worked diligently to educate voters on the alternative voting method and its benefits. They were able to garner approximately 2,000 signatures to qualify the proposal for the ballot, several hundred more than needed.

Reform Fargo also received support from groups like The Center for Election Science, studies and advocates for better voting methods -- most notably, Approval Voting.

“Fargo voters have chosen a practical solution to the plights that come with our terrible choose-one voting method. They are armed against vote splitting and spoilers. And they've equipped themselves with a tool to elect strong candidates, encourage diverse ideas in campaigns, and permit support for favorite candidates without worry over viability,” said Aaron Hamlin, executive director of Approval Voting.

Approval Voting is arguably the easiest new voting method to understand and implement. Voters select as many candidates as they approve of or wouldn’t mind seeing elected, and the candidate with the highest vote count wins.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Advocates say the reform completely eliminates what politicos call the “spoiler effect” and strategic voting (more commonly known as voting for the “lesser-of-two-evils”) that puts voters in a position where they feel they have to surrender their vote to prevent their least preferred candidate from winning, instead of voting their conscience.

The “spoiler effect” was on display in high-profile races across the country in the 2018 midterms. In several races, independent and third party candidates were either forced out of the election because they were pressured to do so or they were treated like unwelcome additions to the election.

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Advocates of alternative voting methods to the choose-one system used in most elections in the US say reforming how voters cast their ballots can eliminate this barrier for candidates outside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

More than that, though, alternative voting methods like Approval Voting are designed to empower voters at the ballot box. Voters want to feel like their vote actually matters, and states, counties, and cities across the country are being used as laboratories of democracy to give people a system that puts their interests first, increases accountability, and creates a healthier political process.

Advocates of Approval Voting say the voting method does exactly that.

Photo Credit: atdr / shutterstock.com

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