Commentary & Analysis

Donor Spotlight: Better Voting in Government and Business

Growing up in Ithaca, New York, Nathanael Nerode first learned about approval voting at a young age. A lifelong science fiction fan, his first use of the voting method came while attempting to solve his science fiction club’s debates over which show to choose for their weekly viewing party.

“Approval voting was able to cut through hours of debate and provide a clear procedure that everyone immediately recognized as a fair method,” he shared. It was also able to simultaneously eliminate disputes over voting results, drastically increase how many people would stay for the full viewing, and even raise club attendance. 

Coming from a business background, Nathanael feels that one of approval voting’s greatest qualities is its simplicity. It is for this reason that he believes approval voting is superior to ranked choice voting

Nathanael argues that approval voting is not only a good solution to classic problems in democratic voting but can also be used to solve a variety of procedural issues. “I would really like to see approval voting developed as a staple practice in business procedure,” he said. He cites many cases during business meetings where approval voting can vastly increase the efficiency of procedures, something which Nathanael says is desperately needed.

Particularly, he thinks approval voting has the ability to reduce voting corruption which is typically produced by manipulating the procedure of a meeting. He argues that this is even more rampant in business procedure than it is in politics. Nathanael said that in his experience, clever business people are often able to get their way by changing voting order and meeting procedure to get away with a result that only a tiny portion of the group actually want. 

“Elections would be better seen as popularity contests. We don’t have real elections under plurality voting,” Nathanael argued.

When applied to political voting reform, Nathanael sees the upside of approval voting as its ability to promote trust and verify election results as legitimate. By providing a system that cannot be easily exploited, approval voting can regain the legitimacy that our political system and plurality voting has lost.

Once put into practice, Nathanael believes approval voting can and will prove itself. “It was incredible how once we started using approval voting [in our science fiction club], all the disputes and complaining about election results stopped immediately,” he recalled. “No one could dispute that approval voting was fair.”

Nathanael was thrilled to see CES bring approval voting to Fargo, North Dakota last fall and is excited to see the organization continue to work with more cities and possibly even states. “I’ve always been a big fan of approval voting, so when I found out about CES, I thought, this is perfect,” he said. Most recently, he made a significant investment to conduct a poll in St. Louis, Missouri to learn more about what voters there already know about approval voting.


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