An initiative designed to change the way voters select candidates in Seattle has qualified for the November ballot.
Initiative 134 aims to bring “approval voting” to the primary ballots in Seattle, where rather than just one candidate, voters would select as many as they approve. Just like today, the two candidates with the most votes would still go through to the general election
I-134 was filed in January by Seattle Approves, a campaign led by several veterans of Seattle’s tech scene. They had to collect more than 26,000 signatures in the first half of the year.
Approval voting is already in use in St. Louis and Fargo, ND In St. Louis, the system was adopted in November 2020 with support from 68% of voters and successfully used four months later.
According to Seattle Approves, the approval vote elects more representative leaders than our current voting system. It also eliminates split vote and allows voters to be more honest about their true support for each candidate.
“If you’ve ever debated voting for a candidate you really like and another you don’t like but who has the big bucks to win, you’ve experienced the problem with our existing election,” says Logan. Bowers, a Seattle Approves employee. -chair.
Bowers, a startup founder and former Amazon employee who ran for Seattle City Council in 2019, added that “the money flowing into the election, coupled with the flaws in our current voting system, means our elections won’t being an honest assessment of what voters want. Too often voters feel compelled to vote strategically based on who they think can win.”
Troy Davis, another tech veteran and founder of the Seattle Approves campaign, said if I-134 is passed in November, it could even take effect in time for the 2023 elections.
“I’m thrilled to see that ordinary people can actually improve the system,” Davis said. “We’re not political insiders or special-interest staffers, we’re just average voters who want Seattle to prosper for the next 20 years.”
The technical backgrounds of the Seattle Approves leaders have influenced the way they approach electoral reform.
“For me, that background has encouraged me to think about the bigger picture of how systems work,” Evan Radkoff, a former Amazon engineer, previously told GeekWire. “We are used to community involvement that only works towards the next election cycle. But how do we want elections to be held on the scale of decades?”
Davis thinks the rest of the country is starting to gain attention and that approval voting could become the new norm.
“Because this change is very easy to implement and good at understanding voter preferences, it’s likely that city and county councils across the country will consider making the same change,” Davis said. “In most jurisdictions, a board can just pass it — no need to wait for an initiative, wait for a lengthy implementation process, or even change their charter.”