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Approval Voting: How it Works

Vox the Vote logoThe phrase "Vote early, vote often" may have shady origins, but in the matter at hand for Dartmouth alumni—speaking up on behalf of the alumni candidates for a place on the Board of Trustees—it's an idea that's surprisingly appropriate.

Approval voting, the electoral system employed by the Dartmouth Association of Alumni, asks the voter to consider, one by one, each candidate's merits and his or her suitability for the position he or she is seeking. For each candidate, the voter asks, "Do I believe this person is fit to hold this office?" If the answer is "yes," the voter marks the ballot in favor of that candidate. And then—the crucial element of approval voting—the voter repeats the same process for each subsequent nominee. In this current election, Dartmouth alumni may cast as many "yes" votes—up to four, one for each of the nominees—as needed to express the extent of their support across the roster of candidates. The candidate with the largest number of votes, which is to say the individual most approved of by those voting, wins the election. As directed by the association's constitution, the official election of the alumni Trustee rests with the Board of Trustees itself.

The Association of Alumni has used approval voting to select among nominated candidates since 1991. "Approval voting isn't a method usually employed in elections for public office," notes Professor of Government John Carey. "It's more commonly adopted by organizations. Approval voting is praised by electoral theorists on a number of points, including its ability to identify a candidate most widely accepted by the electorate, and for allowing voters to express a range of opinions. It's also unlikely to produce ballots that are unusable because they've been incorrectly filled out."

And the "Vote early" part? Balloting opens April 1, 2007, and closes May 15. Whether you choose to submit your opinion online or by mail (all alumni will receive a paper ballot), now is the time to vote.

By KELLY SEAMAN

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Last Updated: 5/30/08