Let’s Work Together to Change The Way We Vote

By Allison Sardinas, National Campaigns Manager, Center for Election Science

Allison Sardinas is the National Campaigns Manager for the Center for Election Science. As a Cuban American woman from Miami, she has been involved in political activism and the world of politics in order to try to make the world a more equitable place.

Another election cycle has passed and many voters—especially Gen Z voters—are disillusioned.  A 46% voter turnout for the second most important election in the country is only the most recent testament to voters’ disdain for the current state of American politics. Even though Gen Z were hailed as saving the election with their historically high (but still relatively very low) turnout numbers, many have been left thinking “how long do I have to pick between the lesser of two evils to save democracy?” So many voters are told that their favorite politicians have ‘no shot at winning’ and they’re simply ‘wasting their vote’ if their one vote isn’t cast for a candidate with enough money, clout, or name ID. Unfortunately, it seems most voters feel obligated to strategically cast their ballot to avoid a catastrophe rather than voting with confidence and hope for a better future. The result? The majority of voters don’t truly support the winning candidates; they settle for them. We can change this. 

Currently, people are stuck between a rock and a hard place when voting – particularly in crowded elections which are becoming more common. We want to vote for our preferred candidate, but if the opposing candidate gets enough votes – even if their total is less than 50% of the votes cast – our vote doesn’t matter. 

For democracy to function effectively, we should be able to cast our vote for the candidates we truly support rather than defensively voting against the candidates we oppose. This defensive voting is called ‘tactical voting.’ Tactical voting has become increasingly common and fails to reflect true voter preferences. It needs to stop. But how can we make this happen? Approval voting is the answer.

Approval voting is a simple, low-cost, and swiftly-implementable solution to current voter frustration and fatigue.  Approval voting uses the same ballots currently in use, but voters can pick as many (or as few) candidates as they like. Votes are tallied the same way too–no complicated ranked-choice system or numerous rounds of vote counting needed. By allowing voters to pick all the candidates they like, approval voting spurs enthusiasm and motivates a broad range of voters thereby increasing voter turnout across political parties. Overall, approval voting is a better measure of broad voter support than plurality (single-choice) voting because it frees a voter to express support for all candidates they find acceptable. Bottom line: Voters pick all the candidates they like, and the candidate with the most votes wins

Not only does approval voting change the way voters cast their ballots, it shifts the way candidates run their campaigns. With approval voting, candidates who adjust their campaign tactics to seek broad voter support across political and demographic divides are rewarded because approval voting winners are the candidates with the broadest voter support. As a result, candidates will be less likely to engage in the mudslinging and fear-mongering tactics that voters despise.

For most voters, young and old alike, representation is a critical consideration when voting. Disillusionment results when a candidate takes office who doesn’t speak to their concerns. Approval voting means that more constituents’ voices are heard and considered by candidates since they know the ultimate goal is to receive the most widespread support. Voters then become more engaged and arrive at the polls confidently supporting one or more candidates. 

Recent history shows that it works. Approval voting was recently used to elect officials who are most aligned with the majority of constituents in cities like St. Louis and Fargo. Isn’t this how our democracy should function? 

When the focus of a campaign shifts to tangible policy positions rather than partisan personality-driven battles, you end up with fewer fringe politicians. The result? Citizens see considerable action on the issues that matter most, causing them to regain faith in the government and overall political system. Approval voting helps remediate the political situation in America, but how do we implement it?
Change starts through knowledge. Most voters don’t even know there’s a solution to this problem. They don’t realize that we can empower voters with a system that weighs their vote fairly and doesn’t threaten to split their voice and dilute their voting power. Approval voting needs proponents who can create ballot initiatives, lobby their legislatures, and create a community that cares about having our voices heard. Learn how simple and inexpensive implementation is. The status quo doesn’t change readily, but it can and must.