Republican state Rep. Kathleen Conti joined Libertarian Frank Atwood in front of Littleton’s election commission June 26 to herald Atwood’s proposal to implement approval voting, but the members still rejected it 2-1.
At first, it seemed the three-member panel might make Littleton the first governmental body anywhere to employ the method, which allows people to vote for as many candidates as they want instead of just one. As a result, they wouldn’t have to choose between the one they like and the one they think is electable. Alternately, they could vote for all candidates except the one they like the least, effectively casting their vote against that person instead of for the others.
Conti threw out the example of the relatively moderate John McCain winning the Republican nomination for president in the 2008 election.
“The conservative voters ended up splitting their votes, and guess who slips through the cracks,” she said.
She thinks it would allow elected officials to represent their constituents better by giving them a better idea who they are and what they value.
“It allows greater freedom for the true intentions and true desires of the voters,” she said.
Asked how it would benefit the nonpartisan city council elections, Atwood pointed to local factions like the Sunshine Boys and Citizens for Littleton’s Future, which are often at direct odds with each other.
“Do not make the mistake to think that voters do not know the party affiliation of the candidates that are running,” added Conti.
Atwood believes approval voting would lead to less mud-slinging.
“You’d be less trying to portray your opponent as an extremist and yourself as a centrist, and more debating the issues themselves rather than trying to destroy your opponent,” he said.
Commissioners Mark Crowley and John Hershey both seemed to be leaning favorably to the proposal.
“There are a lot of apathetic voters who look at a ballot and see the top two candidates, but they want number four, and they know it doesn’t matter, because there’s no possible way that guy’s going to win,” said Crowley.
City Clerk Wendy Heffner is the third member of the commission and the city’s election director, and she worries the process would be confusing for voters. She thinks any change in voting procedures should come through the Legislature and the secretary of state’s office, even though Littleton is a home-rule city and could decide on its own.
“I would like to be invited if they have any discussion at the state level. I want to see where they’re going to take it,” Heffner said. “I’m just thinking about the voters of Littleton, because they’re my responsibility. But it is an interesting idea.”
Hershey ultimately cast the only yes vote.
“I think it’s an interesting idea and definitely has some advantages to it,” he said. “I think this will sort of keep the issue alive.”
He urged Atwood to bring it back after the next legislative session, during which state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Boulder, is expected to introduce a bill regarding approval voting.