Endorsement of Range Voting by Guy Ottewell

Guy Ottewell is a writer and painter. He has also been a publisher, an inventor, and an astronomer, and he sells an annual "astronomical calendar." For our purposes, what is important is that Ottewell in 1968 appears to have been the first inventor of Approval Voting, a revolutionary voting system. Approval voting was invented by at least seven people independently during the late 1960s and early 1970s; its history was discussed by Brams and Fishburn in their book Approval Voting and later by the Wikipedia, which credited Ottewell as the first inventor, and finally and most comprehensively by Ottewell himself in a historical postscript updating his pamphlet. Better-known (within the academic political science community, at least), but later, inventors include S.J.Brams, P.Fishburn, and R.J.Weber.

Our opinion, however, is that range voting is a further advance, and that both of the key ideas in our range voting method that go beyond approval voting – namely

  1. allowing numerical ratings of each candidate, and
  2. allowing "intentional blank" scores which do not affect a candidate's rating,
constitute improvements. Ottewell told us he agrees with both (1) and (2) and gave us the following written endorsement:

I naturally still feel an attachment for Approval Voting as my brainchild (see my pamphlet "The Arithmetic of Voting," I didn't invent the term, but I had conceived the idea pretty early). It would be a radical improvement over the established methods; that is painfully clear to me at almost every election. But I can see that Range Voting takes the same basic idea and improves it, into something that would be history's first thoroughly accurate and fair way of measuring an electorate's wishes.

The cost in increased complication is minimal compared with that of many other systems seriously proposed, such as the "single transferable vote," IRV, Condorcet, and Borda. The key innovations are the graded ratings of candidates (instead of a mere "yes" or "no" to each of them), and the allowing of "blank" votes for candidates we are neither for nor against. It may be little exaggeration to say that this last will be to voting as the invention of the zero was to mathematics!

There are few ways we as individuals can work effectively against the widespread evils of the modern world. Helping to bring about really sound elections could be the most powerful.

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