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Election Reform

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 pages of the Single-Winner Pamphlet and Multi-Winner Pamphlet brochures.

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.

For more information, please review:

LWVCO Voting Methods Position

Voting Methods Study Packet

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