Introduction: Overview of the Problem and Its Solution



This chapter is deliberately written to provide a stark contrast with the formality of much of the rest of the book. It could well be the last chapter, offering a wrap-up summary and some examples that illustrate the main points of the analysis. (Several of these examples are analyzed in greater detail later.) We might say these things in a lecture or conversation about approval voting, and some people will have no need or desire to hear more.1 Those who do can go on, but those who do not will be able to get the gist of our general arguments in the next few pages.


Vote System Approval Vote Republican Party Plurality Vote Exit Poll 
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Footnotes to Chapter 1

  1. 1.
    In fact, these things have been said in a few informal surveys. See “One Voter, Two Votes... or Three, or Four...,” Research for Managers at Penn State (University Park, PA: College of Business Administration, Pennsylvania State University, 1978), pp. 22–23; Steven J. Brams, “Approval Voting: A Practical Reform for Multicandidate Elections,” National Civic Review 68, 10 (November 1979), 549–553, 560; S. J. Brams, “One Candidate, One Vote,” Archway: The Magazine of Arts and Science at New York University 2 (Winter 1981), 10–14; S. J. Brams, “Approval Voting in Multicandidate Elections,” Policy Studies Journal 9, 1 (Autumn 1980), 102–108; S. J. Brams, “Approval Voting: One Candidate, One Vote,” in Representation and Redistricting Issues in the 1980s, edited by Bernie Grofman, Arend Lijphart, Robert McKay, and Howard Scarrow (Lexington, MA: Lexington, 1982), pp. 137–142; S. J. Brams, “Is This Any Way to Elect a President?” in Selection/Election: A Forum on the American Presidency, edited by Robert S. Hirschfield (Hawthorne, NY: Aldine, 1982), pp. 173–177; Barbara J. Heil and S. J. Brams, “Approval Voting: How to Improve DC’s Crazy Elections,” DC Gazette 13, 220 (May 1982), 2–4; and S. J. Brams, “Approval Voting: A Better Way to Elect a President?,” Annal of the Science and Public Policy Section, New York Academy of Sciences (forthcoming). Some of these publications give citations to the technical literature, which we shall not give in this chapter but mention in later chapters, wherein the academic fine points are discussed. The National Civic Review article generated an exchange of letters between S. J. Brams and George H. Hallett and Harold M. Olmstead, published in the following issues of the Review: 69, 1 (January 1980), 10–13; 69, 5 (May 1980), 247;and 69, 8 (September 1980), 425–426, 434. Hallett and Olmstead defend single transferable vote, which we discuss in Section 1.2.6 and also in Section 7.5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Based on an exit poll of 2,637 voters directed by Steven J. Brams, Arnold Urken, Douglas Muzzio, and George Sharrard and supported by The Fund for New Jersey. For more information on the results of this poll, see Arnold Urken, “Two from Column A...,” New Jersey Reporter, June 1981, pp. 9–12; and Gerald de Maio, Douglas Muzzio, and George Sharrard, “Approval Voting: The Empirical Evidence,” American Politics Quarterly (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Warren Weaver Jr., “New System Urged in Presidential Primary Voting,” New York Times, April 13, 1979, p. A15; and Malcolm W. Browne, “Can Voting Become Safer for Democracy?” New York Times, June 1, 1980, p. E7.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Samuel Merrill, “For Approval Voting,” New York Times, July 20, 1979, p. A25. See also S. J. Brams’s letters in New York Times (New Jersey section), January 11, 1981, p. 28; New York Times Magazine, March 22, 1981, p. 130; and New York Times, July 25, 1982, p. 18E.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bud Lembke, “A Proposal for Legal Ballot-Box’ stuffing,’” Los Angeles Times (Orange County section, Part 2), May 12, 1979, p. 13.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Stephen Hess, “Approval Voting,” Baltimore Sun, May 8, 1981, p. A23.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Martin Gardner (written by Lynn Arthur Steen), “Mathematical Games (From Counting Votes to Making Votes Count: The Mathematics of Elections),” Scientific American (October 1980), pp. 16ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Henry Teune, Morton Lustig, Jack Nagel, and Oliver P. Williams, A New Government for Atlantic City: A Strong Mayor-Strong Council Plan(Philadelphia: Government Study Group, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, 1979), pp. 3, 28–31, and 75–78. Although we are not aware of its use in any public elections, approval voting has been used in several universities, including New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, University of New Hampshire, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, College of the Virgin Islands, and University of Saskatchewan, where it was used to help select a university president. It is also used in the election of a Secretary General in the United Nations Security Council, as reported by Bernard D. Nossiter, “U.N. Security Council Fails to Agree on Waldheim,” New York Times, October 28, 1981, p. A14; in the selection of Fellows of the Econometric Society, as reported in Julie P. Gordon, “Report of the Secretary,” Econometrica 48, 1 (January 1981), 232; in the selection of members of the National Academy of Sciences at the stage of final balloting, as reported in National Academy of Sciences: Constitution and Bylaws (April 28, 1981), 33; and in the selection of members of the Council of the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications. In seventeenth century Massachusetts and Connecticut, a limited form of approval voting was used, with voting for each candidate in sequence. However, negative votes could be cast against a candidate, and only those candidates who had more approval than disapproval were elected. See Cortlandt F. Bishop, History of Elections in the American Colonies (New York: Burt Franklin, 1968; originally published in 1893), pp. 142–143, 150–151. We are grateful to Duff Spafford for this reference.Google Scholar

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