International support for approval voting?


Article about an approval voting poll and whether approval voting should be used in mayoral elections in Taiwain’s capital city Taipei:

It was translated in google translate so the translation may be off…

Based on this, after all the embarrassment of this election process, in addition to reviewing the election work, it is perhaps necessary to rethink the necessity of the reform of the system. Looking at the foreign electoral system, the “Approval voting” that allows voters to sort all the options, or the “Borda count” that allows voters to score for the candidates, can be Participation options.

I’m glad to hear that approval voting is gaining some international support.

Also, I’m not sure if this is just a fluke but according to google trends approval voting is really popular in Latin American countries:,%2Fm%2F03w7t,%2Fm%2F06ggy,%2Fm%2F0c3lc,%2Fm%2F01bm3

The reason I think that this is probably a fluke is because

  1. “Approval voting” translated into Español and then back into English is “voting approval”, which means something totally different.
  2. I tried changing by google search results settings by changing my country on the settings to many of those Latin American countries and I couldn’t find any article advocating opposing or even just talking about the potential use of approval voting in one of those countries. Searching for anything about approval voting in one of those countries was how I found that Taiwanese article I mentioned earlier.


Somewhat connected to this, Taipei resident Tien Shang Chang is on Facebook promoting an international movement for a particular voting system that is balanced or almost balanced. Approval is balanced, and I suspect that those systems that share that key feature are almost as good as Approval when it comes to resistance to two-party dominance.

In regard to Approval Voting and Spanish-speakers, I wonder if there is a standard translation of the concept into that language, as Score Voting is called Voter par Note in French.


He calls it Negative Voting and it’s just FPTP with the option to vote against a candidate instead of for a candidate, so it has all the same fundamental problems of vote splitting etc as FPTP.


The Negative Vote is almost vote-for-or-against. But the extra twist that it has is that if no candidate nets a positive total, the election is thrown.

If it didn’t have that twist, it would be balanced. That is, whatever vote you could cast, I could cast one that counters it. So, the would-be splitters wouldn’t have more power than the anti-split factions, if the twist weren’t included.


That system with the twist is still balanced. Say X has +1 vote and everyone else is negative. If you vote against X and that causes X to fall to 0 votes and end up with no winner, then I can vote for X and have X rise to 1 vote again, and we still have a winner.


In a 3-candidate election, negative voting is equivalent to Approval Voting on the subset of elections that return a winner.


It’s not a matter of power; it’s a matter of electing a candidate who is not a good representative of the people, because the best representative got squeezed out by vote-splitting between similar candidates.

Any such method must allow a voter to express an opinion about every candidate. Only allowing to express an opinion about one candidate is junk


I’m not at all sure that I agree. I suspect that power is key. I don’t claim to be able to prove it. I offer a partial argument that falls short of proof. In FPtP, the possibility of vote splitting leads the rational and interested voter to consider, not just the merits of the candidates, but also their popularity with the other voters. I see this as seeking after power. A voter perceives that a vote for an unpopular candidate lacks power, regardless of how good that candidate is and how bad the others are. So the voter seeks to influence the lesser-evil part of the election because that is where the voter’s only power lies. From the example of FPtP, I suggest a generalization, that a voting system that gives each voter equal power to that voter’s exact opponents, i. e. the voters with the exact opposite position on the candidates, that system takes away the incentive to seek power rather than merit.

Let’s say the candidates are Trump, HRC, and Stein. I don’t much like HRC and I fear Trump as I would Mussolini. If the system is “vote for or against one”, I can weigh whether the best use of my voting power is to support Stein, or to oppose Trump. Given that this is a three-candidate example, it’s not a good enough example to expose the difference between “vote for or against one” and Approval.

Therefore, let’s look at a four-candidate example, the smallest set of candidates where would-be Approval voters could be cheated by being constrained to “vote for or against one”. Say the candidates are Gandhi, Mumia, Mussolini, and Hitler. If you support Gandhi and Mumia, you feel cheated because the system does not let you express your position. However, your opponents who support Mussolini and Hitler are equally cheated. So they don’t have a better chance of beating you than they would have in full Approval. And when I say “chance”, I mean count of people on their side vs. count of people on your side, your co-factionalists.

Of course I join you in preferring Approval to a more-constraining even if balanced system. But I’m saying the latter is likely substantially better than you think. I think we should embrace the advocates of balanced systems and say we have a lot in common with them. And I suspect that taking the step from unbalance to balance will substantially defeat the two-party blackmail system.


And exactly the same thing happens under Negative Vote.

Good, but Approval is just as “balanced” as Negative Vote, without the vote-splitting problems.

Someone voting Approve/Approve/Disapprove exactly counteracts someone else voting Disapprove/Disapprove/Approve.

Nah, we should call out half-baked junk voting methods and convince people to adopt better voting methods that actually work.


I said, “In FPtP, the possibility of vote splitting leads the rational and interested voter to consider, not just the merits of the candidates, but also their popularity with the other voters.” And you responded:

Can you give an example where such a phenomenon would help the major parties squeeze out everyone else? Can the DINOs still blackmail voters by saying (correctly under the system) that supporting their candidate is the only way to avoid electing Hitler?


If all major candidates are struggling to stay above zero, then that leads to the possibility of an unknown write-in winning, thus encouraging people to avoid using the negative option, essentially turning it into a plain plurality election.


I’d just like to add my view, which is that the only system that can be equal/balanced without requiring voters to strategize using candidate popularity is Asset Voting (candidates trade votes). Only the candidates have to strategize to get the best outcome possible using their votes; the voters can pick anyone regardless of popularity.


Interesting point. I’ll go argue it with the chief advocate. Of course he may say that there are no write-ins and it should be made relatively easy to get on the ballot. But then we could say that with a plethora of candidates that voters oppose, their vote against them is split. So even then, I think you’re right, it’s effectively vote-for-one. So if I remain convinced of that for the next 10 minutes, I have to go bug Frohnmayer and the rest of the STAR advocates about how insufficient the balance constraint is. This rocks my world, as I had been very convinced that balance was so key as to mean almost everything by itself.


Your point argues against “vote for or against one”. What about “Vote for one and against another”? Does that suck just as hard? I guess so, because you still have that a plethora of bad candidates would split everyone’s “against” votelet when in reality all the bad candidates deserve maximum opposition.


I understand that Asset is being considered for multiwinner elections. I see no reason to think about it for the single-winner case.


Do you have other systems you prefer for single winner?

Single-winner Asset

Yes, Approval Voting.


Borda is balanced (reversed rankings counter each other), but its poor response to manipulation can essentially turn it into a guessing game, making it unusable in the real world. So balance isn’t enough.
Actually, for and against has similar issues: if one faction runs a number of candidates, they are best served by piling their '+1’s onto the candidate who has the fewest '-1’s. An opposing faction is best served by piling their '-1’s onto the candidate with the most '+1’s. Each faction’s best strategy is to play 3-card monte with the other.


I think Asset in the single winner case has the advantage of simplicity over Approval. Voters only have to pick their favorite, with all the political calculations happening at the candidate level. In Approval, you’d have to think about which candidates are centrist, disregarding the ones you truly like, which doesn’t seem quite as interesting for the voters.

Single-winner Asset (Election Theory)

Approval as a method is about as simple as you can make a voting method. The only rules are:
The candidate chosen by the most voters wins.
A voter cannot choose the same candidate more than once.

Asset introduces more unfamiliar concepts than Approval (like the negotiation process), so getting to a point where Asset is politically viable is going to be a much longer term project than doing the same for Approval. Perhaps in places with parliamentary systems where coalitions are the norm, you might have an easier time, although even then you’ll have to overcome the ‘backroom deals’ objection, which a comparison to a coalition government won’t help to dispel.

Also, conducting multiple asset elections simultaneously will probably lead to getting the same result over and over again, or something close. If you elect the executive (probably single-winner) and the legislature (probably multi-winner) at the same time, and use Asset for both, the people who pick the legislature and the executive will be pretty much the same, effectively coupling the branches. Again, nothing that foreign to people who live in places with parliamentary systems, but probably a non-starter in the US.

Single-winner Asset