Approval voting in the first four USA presidential elections – Executive summary

  1. The first four USA presidential elections (1788-1800) were conducted using a variant of approval voting.
  2. Each elector could approve either 0, 1, or 2 candidates (3 or more forbidden, thus deviating from normal approval-voting rules, but this may not have made a big difference in practice in most of these elections; also note 0 approvals, while allowed, would be strategically stupid).
  3. Most-approved candidate wins presidency.
  4. Second-most-approved candidate wins vice-presidency. (This, while comparatively unimportant, was a big design mistake, since often the P and VP would hate one another – not a good working relationship!)
  5. The last time this system was used was in 1800, when it yielded an exact tie between T.Jefferson and A.Burr. After that, the 12th amendment changed the presidential election system. Its current rules, while little known and actually quite bizarre, unfortunately are a variant of plurality voting.

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