How the Math of Approval Voting Could Change The U.S. Presidential Race

By Erin Lale

There is no reference to political parties anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. The existence of political parties is a result of the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly, but the participation by parties in choosing who you can vote for in the general election is not authorized by the Constitution. Whether in primaries or caucuses, whether self-funded or government funded, the system by which the voter does not get to choose from all candidates in the general election is not what America’s founding fathers set up in the Constitution.

What they did set up is the Electoral College, which is a system for circumventing democracy if the elites choose to do so, but not until the after the people have made their choice. There are many reasons why it might be
time for a Constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College, but it would not be a Constitutional amendment to do away with the primary and caucus systems by which Parties pre-select candidates before the voter is allowed to have a voice, because that system was not set up by the Constitution.

The dominance of two parties is not just a matter of media bias or money machines. It’s not even just the added push of the sort of annoying polls in which the public is presented with only two choices even when independent and third party candidates are running, or the even more annoying polls that present only two choices even when one of the parties has not officially voted on its nominee. It’s a matter of plurality voting. That is, voting for only one candidate per contest.

Plurality voting, “vote for only one,” encourages people to consider voting for a third party or independent candidate to be “wasting one’s vote.” Approval
voting, “vote for as many as you like” would break the dominance of two major parties and allow independent candidates to have a chance the way our Founding Fathers intended. If we changed to approval voting with
no other changes, it would be possible for voters in the general election to vote for both the Republican and Libertarian candidates, or for both the Democratic and Libertarian candidates, or for the Democratic, Libertarian, and Green candidates, or even for all five candidates.

If we changed to approval voting and did away with primary or caucus pre-selection of candidates, it would be theoretically possible for general election voters to vote for both the current Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, in addition to all the other choice permutations. Our current voting machine technology could handle this mathematical
change easily.

All that stands in its way is the entrenched interests of the two major parties and the will of the people to fight against those interests and make a change
in the law, just as the people struggled for and achieved voting rights for women about 100 years ago.