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'Approval Voting' Campaign Gets Boost in WA

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Thursday, February 25, 2021   

SEATTLE -- An effort in Washington's largest city aimed at making elections better reflect the will of voters is getting some new funding.

The Center for Election Science is making a $70,000 grant to Seattle Approves, and four other groups around the country.

Seattle Approves wants to change the city's primary elections so that voters select all the candidates they support, rather than just one.

Logan Bowers, a former Seattle city council candidate, saw voters struggle with a crowded field of candidates, and thinks approval voting would make the process easier.

"If there's two candidates that have similar views, they don't have to worry that their vote is going to be split, and then both candidates will lose," Bowers explained. "And so, the net result of that is, the candidates who make it through tend to be favored or approved by more voters than the current system."

The grants are being made to groups to fund polling and legal services for potential campaigns. Voting reform groups were also chosen in the San Francisco Bay Area; Austin, Texas; Missouri and Utah.

Troy Davis, a volunteer for Seattle Approves, said the group will see if the City Council is willing to pass the reform. If not, they could gather signatures to put approval voting on the ballot next year.

Davis argued the change would make elections more democratic.

"It's the most effective, easiest to adopt, lowest-cost; really one of the only, few things we can do to make a huge impact for essentially no trade-offs," Davis contended. "If we were designing elections today, this would already be the case."

Debra Morrison, another volunteer for the group, said she doesn't like to choose favorites.

"For me as a voter, it's much easier for me to say, 'Well, I like these three people. I don't necessarily have a strong opinion about which one I like the best or the second-best,'" Morrison pointed out.

Seattle is ripe for election reform.

In 2015, it became the first city to create a "democracy voucher" program, which allots voters four $25 vouchers they can give to any eligible candidate in municipal elections.

Disclosure: Center for Election Science contributes to our fund for reporting on Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol, Civic Engagement, and Civil Rights. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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