Commentary & Analysis

Approval Voting is the Reform the Latine Population Needs


That’s how many votes popular State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez lost by in his 2020 bid for re-election in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables. Miami recently made national news when it was uncovered that Rodriguez’s razor thin margin of defeat was made possible by a form of election fraud called shadow candidacy. Rodriguez’s opponent, named Alex Rodriguez, was picked by a political operative to confuse voters who only knew Senator Rodriguez’s last name. The ploy tricked enough voters to defeat the former State Senator and flip the seat. Even though the election has resulted in arrests and charges of fraud, the results of the election still stand. In a minority-majority city that frequently falls victim to targeted political disinformation campaigns, it’s becoming clear that the political voices of our Latine population are being manipulated and disenfranchised–on purpose. 

As a Native Miamian and the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, I understand the inherent skepticism many of our communities have for governments. So many of our family members fled dictatorships where everything was corrupt, so seeing ripples of that same current here seems almost natural, expected. But before we let our skepticism turn into cynicism and we lose the will to participate in our Democracy altogether, we need to reassert our voice. We must fight for reform, and an almost deceptively easy first step is to create a more equitable way for us to cast our vote and have our voices heard.

Approval voting is a voting reform method that’s as easy to implement as it is for voters to grasp: you simply pick all of the candidates in a race who you approve of. The candidate with the most approval wins. Most ballot machines can already implement this process (several school board races already use similar methods), and the system is transparent and easy to audit. It’s becoming more obvious that our choose-one voting system is being manipulated to split our votes and shove in candidates who people didn’t actually vote into office. With voting reform, we can fix this manipulation, have greater trust in our vote, and greater trust in the outcomes of elections that we participate in.

Unlike other voting methods, approval voting is straight-forward and accessible for our multi-generational families. My abuelita would be much less likely to trust any reforms that make things more opaque–she would want to see where her vote goes because of a well-earned distrust of governments. My not-so scientific survey of 5 friends who immigrated to the U.S. as children, some of whom still have visas, all told me the same thing: voting reform needs to be transparent and votes need to be easily accounted for without any form of calculation or specialized knowledge. I have a first-generation friend who is heavily involved in politics and she even said, “the more complicated, the more opportunity for manipulation without accountability.” 

The Latine community is growing in America, and in order to make sure our votes and our voices are fairly and proportionally represented, we need to fix the problems in our political sphere before they break completely. We owe it to the generations who arrived here before us, and we owe it to the generations to come.