I’m not familiar with Approval or Score, so I shall refrain from commenting on them.
The point you made about ranked ballots is quite right. It depends on how how many spots a voter is given to fill in. If an American voter is given only two spots to rank his favorites — and if that voter’s preferences are for fringe parties (not the D’s or R’s), than that vote is effectively wasted.
But most likely, an American utilizing a two-spot ranked ballot would put his favored fringe party first, then the D’s or R’s, whoever is closer aligned to that fringe party. It may be a few election cycle before three credible fringe parties form.
But that could be solved by having three spots on the ballot to indicate preferences. Unfortunately, that complication will cause confusion with some voters. Too many confused voters tend to discredit the electoral process.
While I would prefer western democracy (when first-past-the-post systems are employed) to go the way of a ranked ballot, I think we need to really re-think democracy to a system with no political parties.