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Election Nerds Feud Over Whether or Not Approval Voting Violates Voting Rights

By March 3, 2022News

For more on the fight for fair districts for communities of color, check out our partner organization, Washington for Equitable Representation.


The Seattle Approves campaign team is on the ground, clipboards in hand, with the goal of collecting the 26,000 signatures needed to put approval voting on the ballot in the 2022 general election. Even in this early phase of the initiative, election nerds are at each other’s throats, arguing whether or not the voting system is even legal.

“Does approval voting violate federal or state law? Maybe. Maybe not,” said George Cheung, director of More Equitable Democracy, which advocates for ranked-choice voting. “But it certainly runs counter to the intent of the laws, which is to provide opportunities for communities of color to be meaningfully represented.”

Kamau Chege, the director of Washington Community Alliance, which also lobbies for ranked-choice voting, once likened the system to choosing a pizza order for a group of friends. To come up with a pizza that everyone is okay with, eventually you will settle on a bland, cheese pizza, Chege said. If you’re the only one who likes pineapple on pizza, then tough luck. If you’re vegan, starve.

…In a city that is mostly white, Cheung and Chege argued that approval voting could lead to minority groups getting stuck with a less-than-ideal candidate that the majority likes.

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