Is the Cincinnati City Council Election "Approval Voting"


The nine-member city council is elected at-large in a single election in which each voter chooses nine candidates from the field. The nine top vote-getters win seats on the council for a four-year term.

This wouldn’t technically be considered approval voting, would it?


Each voter has to choose 9, so it’s right?


Good god that’s a shitty system.


Pretty sure that PAL/MNTV, which is a reasonably common method, I’m sad to say. My original hometown used that method for City Council, and while it’s roughly comparable to Multi-seat Approval (with some of the same problematic strategies [such as disingenuous bullet voting]), and while Multi-Seat Approval (not using something like Thiele’s Method/PAV or Phragmén’s Method) still has its problems with blatant majoritarianism, at least Multi-Seat Approval negates the problem of vote splitting (which MNTV merely mitigates).


Doesn’t that spoil your ballot?


In Maryland the instructions for PAL elections say “Vote for up to n candidates”, so in my experience no, but it could work differently elsewhere.


Democratic convention delegate and electoral college elector elections in Washington state use PAL. It’s the variety where undervotes are a spoiled ballot.

Imagine sitting on high school gym bleachers for eight straight hours, listening to a hundred delegate candidates give one-minute speeches and having to select precisely 11 delegates—gender balanced, so 5 men, 5 women, with the bonus one up to you—or your ballot is spoiled. I took pages of notes to try to remember my 4-5 star delegates so I could go back, narrow down, and approve them at the end. Much more straightforward to just approve all good candidates on the spot as they speak.

Oh, and it also means the tally committee has extra work to do to check for spoiled ballots.

God awful. A couple of Counted folks are working on getting approval voting for the King County Democrats executive officer elections this weekend (they use rounds of runoffs right now and that meeting also lasts at least 8 hours). If that proposal gets adopted and goes well, we should be in a decent position to push for approval instead of PAL for the 2020 Washington Democratic convention and delegate selection cycle.


Depending on the rules, maybe, maybe not. In my hometown growing up, you were allowed to vote for any number of candidates up to the number of seats

As far as I can see it, your options are

  1. Require exactly S candidates be marked
  2. Allow up to S candidates to be marked
  3. Allow any number of marks (Approval)

If a bullet vote spoils your ballot, that means you’re working option #1, which I find problematic, because it precludes an honest ballot marking fewer than S candidates.

I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it (preventing the strategy of disingenuous bullet voting, increasing the likelihood of majority support [on paper] for all seated candidates), but I’m not comfortable with it, because I suspect it would be likely to result in a pathology analogous to the Dark Horse +3 problem that Borda has.

Specifically, I’m concerned that if you have to vote for S candidates, and a given voter approves of X<S candidates, voters might additionally include disingenuous approvals of (X-S) “Worst option(s) available” candidates, to prevent other candidates from replacing their preferred candidate. In aggregate, that could end up with one or more “worst candidate” being elected, which is how Borda ends up with negative VSE under 100% strategy.

If there are enough acceptable candidates, that wouldn’t happen, sure, but if there are enough acceptable candidates, you don’t need to require a minimum number of approvals.


(they use rounds of runoffs right now and that meeting also lasts at least 8 hours)

Using Approval after one-minute speeches, followed by longer speeches or a debate between the top few candidates, and then a final Approval/Score election seems like an efficient way to weed out the best candidate when information is low like that.


That’s great news - who in Counted? @Sara_Wolf is this you?


Ben Berry, Michael VanBemmel, and I are leading the charge. The KC Dems didn’t go for it this time—the state party blocked it with a last-minute misunderstanding of what approval is and how it works with their other rules—but we’ve got a few supporters on the state committee now who are going to help us take it up with the state party.


Not me. Counted is led by Clay Shentrup, with Ciaran and Liz.