Fargo Success with first modern Approval Voting election in the US

Congratulations to Fargo ND on its great success in the first Block Approval Voting election in the US.

As you can see from the results, there were 16968 ballots and 38877 votes, meaning 2.3 votes per ballot on average. In recent elections there were 1.82 (2018) and 1.9 (2016) votes per ballot, so people did make use of the option to support their favorite, even if they were afraid their favorite might be a spoiler.


Thanks to the many people who campaigned for the initiative that led to the new method, as discussed at:

Note my use of the term “Block Approval”, because it was for City Commissioners, and there were two winners. It would be better to use a system that provides Proportional Representation, like Proportional approval voting or Sequential proportional approval voting so that the pair of winners does the best possible job of representing the electorate. There is interest in moving further towards proportional representation in Fargo, but they can already be very proud of this accomplishment.


It would be better to use a system that provides Proportional Representation

I won’t belabor this point, but I just want to voice my concern that I think this is highly speculative and we really won’t know which is more optimal until many years of empirical data can be recorded, with regard to life expectancy, infant mortality, GDP, etc.

For one, I think the political fringes in our system are extremely detrimental to good policy making, and also add massive inefficiencies to lawmaking. I think Fargo will see a highly accountable and likeminded city council, efficiently rowing in sync like a flock of birds or a school of fish.

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100% agree. There are three ways to slice it:

  1. Do we want the best winners because the role is basically about performance?

  2. Does the district have geographically diverse needs so that 2 regional districts is better

  3. Does the district have politically diverse needs so that a system with justified representation or some version of solid or stable coalition criteria is better

As @ClayShentrup mentions this is really mostly an empirical question. I would think that you could know this in advance though. In the situation of only 2 winners then choice 1 is the most likely solution.

In the case where there are actual political parties then you can use proportional representation for number 3. I am not sure if this is the case in Fargo but most cities I know of do not have parties.

I agree with @Nealmcb that a proportional system would be better; but the system they’re using now is a huge leap forward. Approval voting is better at measuring breadth of support rather than depth of support.

It’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out in Fargo. As it turns out, last night I had just finished making it easier to link to the relevant part of electowiki: https://electowiki.org/wiki/Fargo#Elections . I’ll quote that section of the page:

The first election to use approval voting occurred in 2020,[5] as two commissioners’ terms expire in June 2020.[6] The terms of the current mayor and the other two commissioners expire in June 2022.[6] The current municipal judge was elected in 2012 and serves four-year terms.[7]

So it would seem that we probably don’t need to worry too much about proportionality. With only two seats at a time, a proportional system is likely to select a left-leaning candidate and a right-leaning candidate in the district in question. In the approval system used by Fargo, it seems likely to elect two “centrists” (for whatever the center of the political spectrum is in Fargo).

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in Fargo these next two years.

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I agree with @Nealmcb that a proportional system would be better;

But it’s just speculation. We don’t have the data.