Minor political parties in the United States, such as the Libertarian and Green parties, are largely dismissed due to the chokehold created by the winner-take-all voting system. This system forces voters to
vote strategically choosing the candidate they think has the best chance of winning rather than the candidate that best represents them.
This system also enables gerrymandering, or when state governments draw legislative district borders benefitting their party. It also reduces representation by wasting all votes not cast for the winner and creates a spoiler effect for minor parties. The result of all these effects is the creation of the two major political parties, also known as the political duopoly.
The Democratic and Republican parties are well aware of the shortfalls of our system and abuse them to their benefit. Individuals associated with a party see massive shifts in values and priorities over time that they are stuck with because the other option is so far away on the spectrum.
Americans are not satisfied with our existing system of democracy. While two-thirds of U.S. citizens agree that democracy is the best form of government overall, three-fifths are dissatisfied with American democracy. The majority of Americans believe a third party is needed to represent the country.
If the two parties are not doing an adequate job, and people want the option of a third party, we need to implement a system that enables minor parties to compete. This is where approval voting comes into play.
Approval voting is different in that voters choose all candidates they approve of instead of choosing one individually. The candidate with the most yes votes wins.
It allows voters to have more legitimate options and safely vote for who best represents them. For example, a politically left voter can approve of a Green Party candidate and a Democratic candidate instead of having to choose between one or the other. This completely removes the spoiler effect, properly gauging support for minor parties and allowing them to succeed.
This system does have its opponents, but it will create higher satisfaction, as voters will always be able to cast a vote for their preferred candidate and will not have to split their vote. Voters will also have more options from increased candidate visibility. As of 2020, there are two cities in the U.S. using approval voting for local elections. In both St. Louis, Missouri and Fargo, North Dakota citizens brought approval voting to the city themselves through voter-led initiatives.
Minor party candidates would have an actual chance at winning under this system, allowing voters to have more choices for party affiliation and better representation of their values. Having multiple viable parties also fills the partisan divide between the two major parties. A more diversely represented political spectrum will ensure that there are options all over instead of the political duopoly deciding where our politics go.
We do not have to live under the false premise that there are only two paths where our country has to go. Approval voting would allow minor parties to compete, give voters more options, create candidates that align with more people’s values and strengthen our democracy.
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