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The approval cutoff or neutral preference level is an option that may be used with a ranked ballot.

Specifying a neutral preference level indicates that candidates above a certain rank have positive preference, while candidates below that rank have negative preference. Positive preference is equivalent to an approval vote, while negative preference receives no approval vote.

When a method uses a ranked ballot with approval cutoff, the usual procedure is that the neutral preference level is set below all ranked candidates, and above unranked candidates.

A voter can set the approval cutoff above the default level by ranking an extra "Neutral Preference" candidate.

A voter may decide to set the neutral preference level between some ranked candidates in order to indicate that

  • among the non-approved candidates, some are more preferred than others.
  • the ranking of candidates above and below the line is not as important as having a candidate above the line defeat all candidates below the line.