Better Voting Methods

Our current plurality voting method works well when there are only two candidates for one position. However, when there are more candidates, the plurality method limits the voice of the voter and can allow for a “spoiler” candidate.  Plurality is also called the “first-past-the-post” or “winner-take-all” method.

There are two main categories of more expressive voting methods: rating and ranking.

In a rating method — for example, score and approval — voters get to rate all the candidates.  Most people are familiar with score voting from Amazon or Yelp’s star ratings.  People give higher scores to the options they like than the ones they don’t. Different options can receive the same rating. Approval voters also rate all the candidates, but there are only two possible scores: X for approve and leave blank for disapprove.

In a ranking method — for example, instant-runoff voting (IRV) — voters order the candidates according to their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd (and sometimes more) choices. Voters may only select one candidate for each rank.  If a voter’s first choice is eliminated, then their vote is transferred to the voter’s second choice.

See ballot examples on the second page of LWVBC tri-fold brochure on Problems with Plurality Voting

Colorado has been on the forefront of more expressive voting methods for more than 100 years.  Ranking methods were used in the first half of the 20th century in many communities, including Pueblo, Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Boulder.  More recently, local governments have implemented more expressive voting methods — Basalt, Aspen, Telluride, and student elections at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Legislation allowing a ranking method in local elections passed in the Colorado state legislature in 2008.  Legislation allowing a rating method (approval) voting in local elections has been introduced three times since 2013–so far without success.

No voting method is perfect. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Although plurality voting is very simple to understand and implement, there is a general consensus among voting experts that plurality voting is the worst voting method.


LWVCO Voting Methods position

LWVBC 2017 Voting Methods Report


Election Reform

Abolish Electoral College or Adopt National Popular Vote Compact

The League of Women Voters of Colorado supports the direct popular vote method for electing the president and vice-president.

Americans elect all officials, from mayors to governors and state legislators to U.S. senators, via popular vote, except two—the President and Vice President of the United States.

The LWVCO believes it is time electors are awarded based on the majority of Americans who agree on the person who should lead the nation. Acting in concert with the electoral system, we are working to educate the public and legislators about the benefits of legislation that would instruct our electors to vote for the Presidential candidate who captures the most votes in all 50 states. The League of Women Voters has supported direct election of the president since 1970, believing that popular vote is essential to representative government.

The main issue with Presidential elections today is the “winner-take-all” practice, in which the person who wins the most votes in a state gains all of the electoral votes for that state. This system does not appear in the Constitution, was not used in the first Presidential elections, and was established by 48 states throughout the 1800s.

“Winner-take-all” has created so-called “battleground states” or “swing states” which are neither reliably Republican nor Democratic. The voters in these 12 or so states, representing a small percentage of Americans, determine the selection of President. Voters in the remaining states (even the big ones like Texas and California) are ignored by candidates who realize their state’s winner-takes-all electors are not going to be swayed by presidential campaigns.

Fortunately, the Constitution contains the means by which the winner-take-all system can be replaced to ensure ALL Americans count. States are granted exclusive control by the Constitution over national elections and can choose ANY method of instructing their electors how to vote (in fact, 2 states, Maine and Nebraska, chose methods other than ‘winner-take-all”). No Constitutional amendment is required for a state to change their method of instructing electors—just state legislation.

A growing number of states are now passing state legislation to instruct their electors to vote for the person who wins the national popular vote. This state legislation – called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — is an agreement among states to award their electors based on whoever gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC. It will take effect only when enough states have signed on to the compact to represent more than half of the electoral votes. Two-thirds of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the national popular vote have been secured. Connecticut enacted such legislation in 2018. Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico joined the compact in 2019 and many other states are considering joining.

National popular vote state laws provide the only system that: • Works within the Constitutional framework established by the Founders. • Does NOT require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution • Makes every vote, in every state, count equally • Guarantees the candidate with the majority of popular votes nationwide wins the presidency, thus reducing cynicism • Ensures candidates campaign to every voter no matter where they live • Honors the will of the American People as a whole • Pools Colorado’s voters with all of America, so that all Colorado votes will be in the total count

Enacting the national popular vote in enough states to replace the ‘winner-take-all’ system would ensure that the voices of Coloradans are just as important as the votes of every other American in all future Presidential elections.

NPV update 4.4.19

Proportional Representation Would Eliminate Gerrymandering

In the United States we use a single-member district, winner-take-all system for our elections. The United States, Canada, and Great Britain are the only Western democracies that continue to use this arrangement. Other democracies use Proportional Representation.


PR systems are used only when electing multiple candidates in a single district.

Then PR systems divide up the seats in these multi-member districts according to the proportion of votes received by the various parties or groups running candidates.

For example:  When electing members of the US House of Representatives, Colorado can be viewed as a single district. Using the following hypotheticals Colorado would award its seven representatives in the following manner:

  • If Party A received 60% of the vote it would get 4.2 members, rounded to 4
  • If Party B received 30% of the vote it would get 2.1 members, rounded to 2
  • If Party C received 10% of the vote it would get .7 members, rounded to 1

Proportional Representation can be tailored to meet the preference of the electorate. Download a brief explanation for a description of the two most commonly used methods.


After each census, each state is responsible for drawing the boundaries of districts for its own legislature and for U.S. Representatives from that state. This process is called redistricting.

When districts are drawn to favor a specific party or incumbent, it can be called gerrymandering.

In Colorado the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting of U.S. congressional districts. The districts for state representatives and senators are drawn by an independent Reapportionment Commission, which LWVCO helped to establish in 1974. For more information, visit the Redistricting in Colorado page on Colorado’s Official State Web Portal.

League of Women Voters National Work on Redistricting

The League has fought for decades for fair districts in each state, recently winning court cases in Florida and North Carolina challenging gerrymandered districts. To assist the state Leagues, a national Redistricting Task Force has been created.

LWV Colorado Position on Redistricting:

Support of measures to establish an agency other than the General Assembly to redistrict the Colorado General Assembly and the Colorado Congressional Districts.  Support of redrawing the districts of both houses of the state legislature and the Colorado U.S. congressional districts based on specific criteria:

  • Each district should have a population as nearly equal as may be required by the Constitution of the U.S., but in no event shall there be more than 5% deviation between the most populous and the least populous district.
  • Each district shall be as compact an area as possible and the aggregate linear distance of all district boundaries shall be as short as possible.
  • Except when necessary to meet equal population requirements, no part of a county shall be added to all or part of another county in forming districts. Within counties whose territory is contained in more than one district, the number of cities and towns whose territory is contained in more than one district shall be as few as possible.
  • Consistent with the preceding criteria, communities of interest including ethnic, cultural, economic trade area, geographic and demographic factors shall be preserved within a single district wherever possible.

Money in Politics

LWVUS Position for Action on Campaign Finance:

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should:

  • Enhance political equality for all citizens;
  • Ensure maximum participation by citizens in the political process;
  • Protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns;
  • Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices;
  • Ensure transparency and the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections;
  • Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office;
  • Ensure that candidates have sufficient funds to communicate their messages to the public; and
  • Combat corruption and undue influence in government.

Click to read the League’s complete position on Money in Politics

Options for Reforming Money in Politics outlines:

  • legislative approaches, such as requiring more transparency about donors
  • regulatory approaches, such as the Federal Election Commission enforcing existing campaign finance laws
  • other approaches, such as amending the U.S. Constitution

Local League Action

The Campaign Finance Reform committee of the LWV of Boulder County has put together a toolkit  of slide shows, handouts and other tools to educate people about the issue.