Voting Methods

Approval Voting Coming to Portland

Originally published by The Outpost

Update: Funding push put on hold.

It appears that for the second time in Oregon history an election will be held using approval voting. This time for the purposes of selecting a Portland street maintenance funding mechanism.

In summary, approval voting where each “candidate” (or in the case of the PDX vote, each funding proposal) is treated as a separate question, “Do you approve of this funding mechanism?” approval voting lets each voter indicate support for one, some, or all proposals. All votes count equally, and everyone gets the same number of votes: one vote per candidate, either for or against. Final tallies show how many voters support each candidate, and the winner is the proposal that most voters support.

We wrote recently about approval voting using a detailed example of how it could work in practice.

Approval voting has been a passion for many election reformers in Oregon as well as nationwide. Mark Frohnmayer wrote it into the initial drafts of primary election reform ballot initiatives he drafted in 2014. However the initiative with approval voting didn’t make the ballot. Instead a top two primary election reform initiative without approval voting was backed by the financiers of reform. That initiative made it to the ballot as Measure 90, and was soundly defeated in November.

While the vote is non binding, the city has indicated that it will also adopt the funding option that had the most approval votes.

This is a grand experiment in election science that could shine some light on how to reform our elections in Oregon so that voters are allowed to select the most overall satisfying candidate, rather than in some elections at least, having to settle for the least bad candidate.