City election panel considers changes

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Littleton’s election commission has agreed to consider enacting a new method of voting at the request of Frank Atwood, a Libertarian and Sunshine Boy activist.

“Initially, my motives were viability and visibility in all elections for minor parties,” Atwood wrote in his memo to the commission. “I now believe that major parties will benefit even more with fewer spoilers (such as Perot in 1992 and Nader in 2000) and less sabotage (recruiting a candidate to steal votes from the main opponent’s base is 10 times more cost effective than competing in the middle).”

He’s long been campaigning for “approval voting,” which would allow 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.

“With approval voting, voters can be more expressive and can vote more sincerely,” said Atwood.

Commissioner John Hershey noted that a likely result would be the person who wins wouldn’t be anybody’s favorite. Atwood said that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you believe it’s better for moderation to win than to have it split the vote for the extremes.

“Politics is compromise, and part of compromise is living with moderation,” he said.

“Isn’t the idea of democracy to have both ends of the spectrum on council so that you’re getting ideas from different perspectives?” countered Wendy Heffner, city clerk.

Atwood noted that, in essence, Littleton already utilizes approval voting by letting people vote for as many at-large candidates as there are open seats. If the commission decides to officially adopt the proposal, it would be the first governmental entity in the country to do so.

“Since the 1700s, we have been an experiment,” said Commissioner Mark Crowley.

Atwood suggests placing a “nonbinding resolution” on this year’s ballot so citizens can weigh in. If it passes, approval voting could be used beginning in the 2015 election.

Kristen Schledorn, assistant city attorney, said a resolution is unnecessary.

“This is totally in your authority,” she said. “You don’t need to consider what the majority of the people want. But we could have some options.”

The commission — made up of just Heffner, Crowley and Hershey — will need to decide by the end of August if they want to place the question on the ballot.

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