Littleton Election Commission rejects 'approval voting'

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approval voting, littleton election commission, rep.

By Ramsey Scott

Littleton’s Election Commission has decided to pass on implementing “approval voting” starting in the city’s 2015 elections.

The Election Commission voted 2-1 against the change. Yet despite the “no” vote, the commission left open the possibility of revisiting the issue in the future. 

Unlike the current system, in which a voter can choose only one candidate, “approval voting” allows endorsement of one, some or all of the candidates. The candidate with the most total votes still would be the winner.

The goal is to prevent contested election results and what Littleton resident Frank Atwood, who has been leading the charge for the switch to approval voting, called “spoiler” candidates who siphon off votes from a more electable choice. Atwood used the cases of Ross Perot in 1996 and Ralph Nader in 2000 in those presidential elections as examples of spoilers. 

Atwood also said approval voting would help decrease political partisanship in elections. Littleton’s City Council elections are nonpartisan. 

When asked why Littleton should make the change, Atwood said it needs to start somewhere, and he decided to focus on where he lives. 

State Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, spoke in favor of the change, saying it would be a valuable tool for politicians because the final vote total would better reflect their constituencies.

Also, instead of asking supporters of a third-party candidate to choose between throwing away a vote on their ideal candidate or voting for the major-party candidate, that person could vote for both. 

Conti said approval voting in 2008 would have prevented Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from winning the Republican Party’s nomination, because the more conservative candidates wouldn’t have taken away one another’s votes. 

While Election Commission members said they were interested in the process, they thought it would not be a good idea for Littleton to be the first government to implement approval voting. City Clerk Wendy Heffner said the state legislature needs to address the issue first before Littleton considers it.