Updated 6/19/2022

Adding options to improve Approval Voting:
Majority Reject (always first)
Instant Primary
2nd-Favorite / Choose-two
Majority Winner
Approval (always on last ballot)

Favorite-Approval Grading is several expressive Approval Voting methods that add concepts from Choose-one and Ranked Choice, designed to avoid the worst flaws of each. For example, a statewide hand recount of a close Ranking election would require labor-intensive, repeated checking of ballots, while coordinating across multiple counties. But to recount an Approval-based Grading method would require reading each ballot only once, tallying with simple addition, and each county reporting its summed totals one time. This makes Grading an appealing idea for multi-county or statewide districts.

This article recommends a few different ways of using Grading, starting with single-ballot, and moving on to a few two-ballot variations. For a quick summary, there is a black-and-white chart (2 copies) near the end that outlines the three practical variations, and points out some of the basic election principles involved.

Single-ballot Election, Instant Primary

(Good for local, regional, or lesser statewide offices such as state assembly, or state treasurer)
A = Favorite (limit 1)
C = Basic Approval (unlimited)
F = Disqualify (limit 1)

  1. Majority Reject: An option to eliminate a candidate that has F grades from over half of the voters. This discourages objectionable candidates, and can serve as an intelligent term limit.
  2. Reduce the field according to A grades. Eliminate a maximum of half of the remaining on-ballot candidates, as well as the write-in candidates who have as few A grades, but keep a minimum of three candidates. So each finalist should be the Favorite of a significant number of voters.
  3. The finalist with the most A+C grades is the winner. This produces an Approval winner, one who has broad support.

This single-ballot election will not necessarily reward a majority winner, because it may be best to avoid the majority criterion on the first ballot. A party, believing its leading candidate has a chance of winning a majority, might discourage challengers from running, when voters should be given the choice.

When there are many candidates, a slightly more complex version could be used to fairly narrow the field. Add a grade of B, representing a voter’s one second-choice. So A grades (Choose-1) could eliminate 1/3, A+B (Choose-2) could eliminate another 1/3, and A+B+C (Approval) determines the winner from the final third. Or, use a limit of 8 finalists, so A grades eliminate all but 16, A+B eliminate 8, and always using Total Approval in the final.

(I’ve mentioned 4 grades, A, B, C, and F. There is actually one more rating that needn’t be considered in the evaluation, but voters will use it: the rating of “unmarked,” or a virtual D grade. So we’ll have 5 rating options, though the unmarked one can be safely ignored.)

Below is a one-ballot A-C-F election example, that shows in the picture an unlikely, worst-case scenario. This may be an ugly win, but it still works as intended, to produce a consensus winner who is not majority-rejected, and not last-place in 1st-choice votes:

W, despite all the love, is disqualified by a majority, 18 of 35 voters.
V is eliminated by a lack of A grades, to avoid an accidental winner.
Z clears all hurdles, and wins the Approval final.

Senator, Governor, Top-4
Two-ballot Election

Blanket primary, for Congress, Governor, and President
  • The Top-4 Blanket Primary is Choose-two, with grade A for Favorite, B for 2nd-Favorite, and F to Reject (limit 1 each).
    A majority of F grades may eliminate one.
    Four candidates having the most A+B grades advance.
  • General election uses these grades:
    A = Favorite (limit 1)
    C = Basic Approval (unlimited)
  1. A Majority Favorite may win outright. If none have over 50% of A grades, go to step 2.
  2. Reduce the field to three, by eliminating candidate(s) according to A grades. This excludes the one with the fewest Favorite votes.
  3. Total Approval (A+C grades) determines the winner of the three finalists.
    A grades can also be used to break a tie.
General election, 4 candidates for Senate or Governor.
Representative will be three candidates.

Representative, Top-3 (Not pictured)

  • Blanket Primary is similar to the senate primary, also check for majority reject, but advance the three candidates having the most A grades. It’s A grades only, to prevent one majority party from picking all three. B is on-ballot just for breaking ties, and for gathering data for election science and for campaigns.
  • General election also checks for a majority favorite, but if there is none, it’s straight Approval of the top three, using A+C grades. The primary using Choose-one, and the general using Approval, provides balance.

President – Or High Office

This one is unlikely due to an entrenched national system, and would possibly require a constitutional amendment. And national parties currently control their own nomination process, though each state could pass laws to run their own nonpartisan nominations.

  • Blanket Primary, same as senator and governor, A-B-F.
    The top four in each state will advance to that state’s general election.
A very accurate general ballot for high office.
But having to make 9 marks could turn off voters.
3 finalists would require just 3 matchups, and 5 marks at most.

The Presidential general election will use these grades to evaluate the four qualifiers:
A = Favorite (limit 1)
C = Basic Approval (unlimited)

  1. A majority winner can win outright.
  2. The candidate with the fewest A grades is eliminated.
  3. Reduce the field to two, using A+C grades.
  4. Head-to-head Runoff
    For special accuracy, the two finalists will be compared separately.
    A second section of the ballot will list all six possible combinations of two.
    Voters may choose one in each possible matchup.
    The one Head-to-head matchup that includes both finalists will, with precision and clarity, determine the winner of the state, district, “elector,” or whatever state law says.

It has come to my attention that a simpler ballot could work practically the same as this “Presidential” two-section ballot. It would use ranking, with multiple candidates allowed on every rank below 1st, and voters would be advised that every rank also counts as a vote of Approval. Majority check (maybe Condorcet check too), then Favorite and Approval reduce the field to two, and ranks would show which of the two is preferred on more ballots. One disadvantage would be counties having to do extra coordination on the final ranked ballot check.

(Winner-take-all is the worst thing about the electoral college system, it’s worse than the small state advantage, it’s just very inaccurate. So please, let’s use something proportional. Your state could throw the runner-up voters a bone, such as the average of {% of the vote won} and {% of all registered voters won}. Or multiply the winner’s percentage by 1.3, and divide the remaining electors proportionally among the losers. We need to do something different.)

So that’s my good Grading proposal. Approval plus options. It will produce a winner as good as any other method about 100% of the time.
I said “about.”
But really, for simplicity of voting, simplicity of evaluation, expressiveness, and fairness, it will work wonderfully, especially as a first step away from awful, horrible, Choose-one, one-winner elections.

Grading Method Chart, showing Top-4, Top-3, and Single-ballot.

What could have happened in a real election where ranked choice failed:

In the real election, Kiss won the Instant Runoff,
while Montroll would have beaten anyone
head-to-head, but came in 3rd.
Montroll would win this A-C Grading method.

A link to facebook, for more details concerning the Burlington election:

Same as the previous chart,
with black and white reversed.
Looks cool. Don’t print this one.

One thought on “GRADING METHOD

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