Your student government: CUSG spring elections and 'approval voting'

March 15, 2013

By Lora Roberts, CUSG director of communication

Each year, the University of Colorado Student Government holds two elections, one in the fall and one in the spring. Previous elections have followed a system very similar to the voting system on the national level, in which voters could only vote for the same amount of people as spots open. However, CUSG has chosen to go another route this election season and implement an entirely new voting system called "approval voting."

Approval voting is a voting method that allows people to vote for any number of candidates that they “approve” of. While approval voting is not used widely in the United States, there are many benefits to the system. One benefit is that it eliminates the need to choose between the “lesser of two evils.” This means that people can honestly vote for who they believe would be good in office, and not vote depending on who is a part of a large party. Because approval voting allows for a more honest vote, it gives third party candidates more of an opportunity to win, and helps the election avoid turning into a popularity contest. 

A common misconception is that Approval Voting gives more weight to voters who vote for more candidates. To see why this isn’t the case, imagine a tied election between a liberal and two conservatives. Chip casts a vote for the liberal, while Ralphie casts an opposing vote for the two conservatives. After Chip and Ralphie have voted, the election is still tied. Chip and Ralphie have an opposite but equal effect on the election. Another way to think of it is that if you vote for all candidates, that has the same effect as not voting at all. The key here is that no voter has an unfair advantage. Effectively, every voter casts an “aye” or “nay” vote for every candidate.

Approval voting is also currently a relevant topic in the state of Colorado. In January 2013, a bill was introduced in the state of Colorado General Assembly that would adopt approval voting for non-partisan elections. Because this is such a relevant topic in the world of elections today, it makes it even that more impressive and special that CU’s Student Government chose to enact approval voting this spring.

CUSG spring elections are April 8-11, and voting occurs on MyCUInfo. Vote for all the candidates that you “approve” of, and help the University of Colorado elect some amazing new student leaders.

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