Fargo residents are being asked to change the city's election system to approval voting, to which I say...
- I strongly approve! The current system is broken. The majority of Fargo voters are not electing who they want. In the last two city elections, city commissioners were elected even though two-thirds of the votes went to other candidates.
With approval voting, you can vote for as many candidates as you want. There would still be only two city commissioners elected. It guarantees the winners will receive a larger percentage of the vote, likely at least 50 percent. Candidates with similar appeals would no longer split the vote and defeat each other. This would be much more fair, more democratic, and better represent the desires of the voters.
Some say approval voting violates the one person, one vote rule. Perhaps you didn't notice in the last election you could vote for two city commissioners and five school board members.
Some say it's never been used before. Actually, it's been used by political parties, the United Nations and to elect popes.
Some say this is some crazy out of state liberal idea. Actually, it came from the Fargo Elections and Governance Task Force, comprised of Republicans and Democrats. The task force was chaired by former Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness, a Republican, who supported approval voting.
In fact, approval voting almost became state law in North Dakota in 1987. It was approved by the Senate, but defeated by the House. If passed, all local nonpartisan elections from city and county commissioners to school and park boards would have used approval voting. Republican Senator Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks supported approval voting then, and he supports it now.
"The outcome in an approval voting system more accurately reflects the desires of the voters than the current system," Holmberg said.
Some say no other government entity uses this system. True, but they have primaries or runoffs to narrow the field. Also, North Dakota is the only state without voter registration, and that's been very popular. Someone has to go first, just like the U.S. was the first country with its unique Constitution and form of government.
If you're still not convinced, consider this: Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney will not be running for re-election in four years. That undoubtedly means there will be a large field of candidates running for mayor. That means the new mayor could be elected with just 15 percent of the vote. That means some nutcase fringe and/or racist candidate could be our next mayor. However, with approval voting that won't happen because the winner will need a much higher percentage of the vote. It is crucial that approval voting become a reality, so most Fargo voters can elect candidates they really want.
- From Shirley MacLaine: It's useless to hold a person to anything he says while he's in love, drunk or running for office.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. He can be heard Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., on 970 WDAY AM radio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org