Favorability Voting is the Best Electoral Method

Favorability voting — or combined approval voting — has a perfect balance of simplicity and expressiveness that no other electoral method can rival. Furthermore, it’s the best electoral method for third parties and Independents.

Under favorability voting, voters can vote for or against any number of candidates, with the option to abstain. This naturally elects the candidate the most voters will be happy with.

Comparing Electoral Methods

First-past-the-post, where each voter chooses only one candidate, has the highest simplicity of any electoral method — so simple a child could understand it — but that comes at the cost of having the lowest level of expressiveness.

Since voting third-party or Independent has a chance to split the vote and help the major party candidate you like the least, FPTP creates a two party system where voters are forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

Ranked-choice voting — or instant runoff voting — is much more complicated, but only provides slightly more expressiveness, as explained in my previous article. In this system: voters rank candidates in order of preference. The worst performing candidate is eliminated, and their votes redistributed, until one candidate gets a majority.

There are two problems with RCV: first, third parties tend to be eliminated in the first few rounds, meaning your vote will eventually be re-allocated to a major-party candidate in most cases, and second, most voters won’t know each candidate well enough to properly rank them.

Electoral systems chart

A similar method is score voting, where voters assign each candidate a score — usually between zero and five or zero and nine — and the score is tallied to decide the winner. This provides more expressiveness than RCV, as each voter gets to weigh in on every candidate, but is still too complicated.

An electoral system nearly as simple as FPTP is approval voting, where voters can vote for more than one candidate. It’s less expressive than score voting, but more expressive than FPTP.

Favorability voting builds upon approval voting by adding the option to vote against candidates. This provides much more expressiveness while still being simple enough for most voters to understand. Furthermore, it doesn’t penalize lesser-known candidates.

What About Proportional Representation?

Proportional representation, where political parties get a number of seats equal to their share of the vote, is the dominant system in Israel and Brazil. It might seem like a different electoral method at first glance, but it’s really just proportional first-past-the-post.

Any of the electoral methods above can be made proportional; proportional ranked-choice would let you choose backup parties in case your first choice doesn’t meet the thresh-hold, while the rest would use the total score as a divider in order to end up with a percentage for each party that could then be used to allocate seats.

For example: party A gets 60%, party B gets 50%, and party C gets 40%. The total is 150%. 60 / 150 = 40%, 50 / 150 = 33.33%, and 40 / 150 = 26.67%. Using largest remainder with a seat count of one-hundred: party A gets 40 seats, party B gets 33 seats, and party C gets 27 seats.

Voter Happiness

Favorability voting, by design, elects the candidate the most voters will be happy with, since voting for a candidate indicates you’ll be happy if they win, voting against a candidate indicates you’ll be unhappy if they win, and abstaining indicates you don’t mind either way.

If you don’t mind, that doesn’t hurt or help the candidate; if you dislike them: that hurts the candidate, and if you like them: that helps the candidate.

Regular approval voting effectively forces you to vote for or against each candidate, hurting candidates you don’t have an opinion on, while score voting can lead to arbitrary scores if a particular voter isn’t well informed about every candidate.

Better Representation

Since the most favorable candidate is elected and third parties are more capable of winning: favorability voting will result in better representation. It may not correlate to the percentage of people who identify with each party, but not everyone is a staunch Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian — most people are in between.

Furthermore, with more parties in government, they’ll be forced to co-operate and form coalitions to get anything passed, meaning they’ll have to listen to Libertarians, Progressives, and Paternalistic Conservatives.

Less Polarization

FPTP is inherently polarizing, as voters are forced into two camps: left-wing or right-wing. Ranked-choice voting only slightly alleviates this, since third parties get eliminated in earlier rounds.

Approval, favorability, and score voting can help ease polarization, as not only can third parties more easily win elections, but voters aren’t force to pick sides — they can support a Democrat and a Republican, or they can support multiple third parties!

No More Tactical Voting

Tactical voting is impossible under FV, since voting for or against any candidate will never change the score of another, unlike in FPTP. This holds true for every cardinal voting system, such as score and approval voting.

A candidate can tell their supporters to vote against every other candidate, but willingness to comply is a sign that anyone who goes through with it will only be happy — or significantly more happy — if their candidate is elected.

Conclusion

Favorability voting clearly comes out on top over first-past-the-post, ranked-choice, score, and regular approval voting, allowing voters to express themselves without having to know everything about every candidate. It will result in more happiness, better representation, and less polarization.

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