I'm excited to share a special opportunity to create a systemic impact: a statewide approval voting ballot initiative in Missouri. This would affect all elections throughout the state including federal and presidential. Approval voting favors consensus candidates and a more accurate representation of the public's support. This is critical if we want a government to behave in our interests on policies that concern our well-being.

The organization leading this charge is Show Me Integrity, where I'm currently doing a fellowship and assisting with fundraising efforts. Show Me Integrity has successfully passed a ballot initiative before, showing their ability to succeed on this kind of scale. They also successfully ran the ballot initiative for approval voting in St. Louis.

Why is this important?

Approval voting is a method that allows voters to select as many candidates as they want; still, most votes wins. Approval voting, an easy-to-implement system, can greatly improve our current plurality-based approach to electing Federal and state-level positions. If you’ve read my writing on this before, you’ve seen me make that case. And this is much more effective and lasting than putting money behind individual candidates. This opportunity may not come around again.

The Impact

This initiative is not just about changing the voting method; it's about transforming how we elect individuals to government office, from local to federal positions, in the 19th largest state of over 6 million people. This includes influencing presidential electoral votes. This is the first statewide ballot initiative for approval voting, making it a pioneering effort with potentially far-reaching implications.

The Ask

We are currently in the signature-gathering phase, a crucial step that requires initial funding. The cost for signature gathering is around $4M, with an additional $9M needed later for campaign execution. Yes, it's expensive, but the potential impact justifies the investment.

About Show Me Integrity

Show Me Integrity has a history of successfully implementing ballot initiatives, including a statewide initiative and passing approval voting in St. Louis. Their experience and proven success make them an ideal organization to lead this initiative. There is no better opportunity.

Logistics and Challenges

There are some challenges to be aware of. The competition for signature gathering means that costs could increase if we can't secure initial funding soon. This could also necessitate the use of different firms, which may not have the same quality. With timely funding, we can overcome these hurdles. Additionally, while the initial polling is over 60% even with opposition messaging, this support can change. Ballot measures can be risky.

A Matching Opportunity

To encourage donations, a generous donor is currently offering a match of $600K. This match may end soon, but there's a possibility of an extension. This is a true match, meaning the donor will only match funds that can meaningfully kickstart the signature-gathering process. $100K of this match is already being met by other donors.

Your Chance to Make a Difference

This is a rare opportunity to contribute to a significant societal change. If you, someone you know, or an institution is interested in supporting this initiative, please reach out to me at aaronhamlin@gmail.com. [Please do not use my old CES email.]

Thank you for considering this opportunity. Your support could help transform our democracy and create a lasting impact.

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6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:23 AM

I think it's a great project. Approval voting both reduces the potential that establishment politicians feel getting primaried by extremists and thus take more extreme positions themselves as well as giving independent candidates that have broad public approval a better chance. 

It's bad for culture war extremists on either side, but I think given the choice to do something that affects both sides equally, it should be acceptable to most people. Especially, everyone who has a sincere belief in democracy. 

Having approval voting also for the presidential election in one state seems to be great to regularly give it press coverage. 

Great cause, godspeed!

Interestingly it appears Show Me Integrity and Missouri Agrees have rebranded approval voting as freedom voting. 

https://www.showmeintegrity.org/freedomvoting 

https://www.missouriagrees.org/learn-more

Or if the rebranding already existed elsewhere, I'm idly curious about its origin. No mention yet in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Approval_voting 

If I understand their draft language it looks problematic. It seems like they designed it so that people who lose primaries generally have no chance to appear on the ballot. I don't see a good reason to give political parties that much power over ballot access. 

Having a system where an incumbent who loses a primary can't appear on the ballot means that the benefit of protecting incumbents from extremist primary challenges disappears.

Another alternative would be to allow the top two candidates from each party primary ballot access for the general election. 

I guess you're commenting on https://www.sos.mo.gov/cmsimages/Elections/Petitions/2024-110.pdf

It seems like a very useful improvement over what I presume is current election law in Missouri. If there's any existing mechanism for a primary loser to get on the general election ballot (as an independent?) I don't see how this initiative overrides that. What am I missing?

Yes, that document.

I agree that's an improvement about the status quo, but I think it leaves some possible advantages on the table that people might expect with approval voting. 

If there's any existing mechanism for a primary loser to get on the general election ballot (as an independent?) I don't see how this initiative overrides that. What am I missing?

As far as I can see you need to register to be an independent before the primary ends and gather 10,000 signatures. 

If you have first-past-the-post I can see why you might not want to let someone register as an independent after the primary is over, but I see no good reason for that in approval voting. 

I also see no reason why the incumbent shouldn't just be able to appear on the ballot. If a majority of people want to reelect the incumbent they should be able to do so even if the incumbent is not the most popular candidate in his own party. Allowing for that makes bipartisanship easier. 

Of course it leaves things on the table. Presumably the authors judged that it'd be infeasible to directly attack party authority. If you're going to have party primaries (never mind first past the post), it makes some sense for them to have consequences. Approval/freedom voting ought to allow for dispensing with primaries altogther, but I totally respect that is likely too big of a bite right now.

For my future reference: I don't see the rules you cite in the section of the Missouri constitution that the initiative would amend https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/Publications/CurrentMissouriConstitution.pdf?v=202212#page=124 so it must be in the statues; I see the 10k (for statewide offices) signature requirement for independent candidates in https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=115.321&bid=6088 winner of party primary to be only candidate of that party in general https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=115.343&bid=6100 and I'm not sure I see the requirement to register as an independent before the primary ends, but likely I'm just overlooking that, or it is implied by the various timing requirements? https://revisor.mo.gov/main/PageSearch.aspx?tb1=independent%20candidate&op=and&tb2=&idx=2&chapter=115