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Plurality voting is an electoral system in which each voter is allowed to vote for only one candidate, and the candidate who polls the most among their counterparts (a plurality) is elected. In a system based on single-member districts, it may be called first-past-the-post (FPTP), single-choice voting, simple plurality or relative/simple majority. In a system based on multi-member districts, it may be referred to as winner-takes-all or bloc voting. The system is often used to elect members of a legislative assembly or executive officers. It is the most common form of the system, and is used in most elections in the United States, the lower house (Lok Sabha) in India, elections to the House of Commons and English local elections in the United Kingdom (although in the UK proportional or preferential voting is now used for elections to the Scottish and European Parliaments, Welsh, N Irish and London Assemblies, for mayors and Scottish and N Irish and some Welsh local elections) and Canada.
An electoral system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by governments, while non-political elections may take place in business, non-profit organisations and informal organisations.
A plurality vote or relative majority describes the circumstance when a candidate or proposition polls more votes than any other, but does not receive a majority. For example, if 100 votes were cast, including 45 for Candidate A, 30 for Candidate B and 25 for Candidate C, then Candidate A received a plurality of votes but not a majority. In some votes, the winning candidate or proposition may have only a plurality, depending on the rules of the organization holding the vote.
A single-member district or single-member constituency is an electoral district that returns one officeholder to a body with multiple members such as a legislature. This is also sometimes called single-winner voting or winner takes all. The alternatives are multi-member districts, or the election of a body by the whole electorate voting as one constituency.
Plurality voting is distinguished from a majoritarian electoral system, in which, to win, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of votes, i.e., more votes than all other candidates combined. Both systems may use single-member or multi-member constituencies. In the latter case it may be referred to as an exhaustive counting system: one member is elected at a time and the process repeated until the number of vacancies is filled.
In some jurisdictions, including France and some of the United States including Louisiana and Georgia, a "two-ballot" or "runoff election" plurality system is used. This may require two rounds of voting. If on the first round no candidate receives over 50% of the votes, then a second round takes place, with just the two highest-voted candidates in the first round. This ensures that the winner gains a majority of votes in the second round. Alternatively, all candidates above a certain threshold in the first round may compete in the second round. If there are more than two candidates standing, then a plurality vote may decide the result.
Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Georgia is the 24th largest in area and 8th-most populous of the 50 United States. Georgia is bordered to the north by Tennessee and North Carolina, to the northeast by South Carolina, to the southeast by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by Florida, and to the west by Alabama. The state's nicknames include the Peach State and the Empire State of the South. Atlanta, a "beta(+)" global city, is both the state's capital and largest city. The Atlanta metropolitan area, with an estimated population of 5,949,951 in 2018, is the 9th most populous metropolitan area in the United States and contains about 60% of the entire state population.
The two-round system is a voting method used to elect a single winner, where the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. However, if no candidate receives the required number of votes, then those candidates having less than a certain proportion of the votes, or all but the two candidates receiving the most votes, are eliminated, and a second round of voting is held.
In political science, the use of plurality voting with multiple, single-winner constituencies to elect a multi-member body is often referred to as single-member district plurality or SMDP.This combination is also variously referred to as winner-takes-all to contrast it with proportional representation systems. This term is sometimes also used to refer to elections for multiple winners in a particular constituency using bloc voting.
Political science is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, and political behavior.
Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. If n% of the electorate support a particular political party as their favorite, then roughly n% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result—not just a plurality, or a bare majority. The most prevalent forms of proportional representation all require the use of multiple-member voting districts, as it is not possible to fill a single seat in a proportional manner. In fact, the implementations of PR that achieve the highest levels of proportionality tend to include districts with large numbers of seats.
Plurality voting is used for local and/or national elections in 43 of the 193 countries that are members of the United Nations. Plurality voting is particularly prevalent in the United Kingdom and former British colonies, including the United States, Canada and India.
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.
In single winner plurality voting, each voter is allowed to vote for only one candidate, and the winner of the election is whichever candidate represents a plurality of voters, that is, whoever received the largest number of votes. This makes plurality voting among the simplest of all electoral systems for voters and vote counting officials. (However the drawing of district boundary lines can be very contentious in this system.)
In an election for a legislative body, with single-member seats, each voter in a given geographically-defined electoral district is entitled to vote for one candidate from a list of candidates competing to represent that district. Under the plurality system, the winner of the election then becomes the representative of the entire electoral district, and serves with representatives of other electoral districts.
In an election for a single seat, such as for president in a presidential system, the same style of ballot is used and the winner is the candidate who receives the largest number of votes.
In the two-round system, usually the two highest polling candidates in the first ballot progress to the second round Run-off ballot.
In a multiple member plurality election, with n seats available, the winners are the n candidates with the highest numbers of votes. The rules may allow the voter to vote for one candidate, or for up to n candidates, or maybe some other number.
Generally plurality ballots can be categorized into two forms. The simplest form is a blank ballot where the name of a candidate(s) is written in by hand. A more structured ballot will list all the candidates and allow a mark to be made next to the name of a single candidate (or more than one, in some cases); however a structured ballot can also include space for a write-in candidate.
The United Kingdom, like the United States and Canada, uses single-member districts as the base for national elections. Each electoral district (constituency) chooses one member of parliament, i.e. the candidate who gets the most votes, whether or not they get 50% or more of the votes cast ("first past the post"). In 1992, for example, a Liberal Democrat in Scotland won a seat with just 26% of the votes. This system of single-member districts with plurality winners tends to produce two large political parties; in countries with proportional representation there is not such a great incentive to vote for a large party, and that contributes to multi-party systems.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use the first past the post system for UK general elections, but use versions of proportional representation for elections to their own assemblies and parliaments. All of the UK has used a form of proportional representation for European Parliament elections.
The countries that inherited the British majoritarian system tend toward two large parties: one left, the other right, such as the U.S. Democrats and Republicans. Canada is an exception, with three major political parties consisting of the New Democratic Party which is to the left, the Conservative Party which is to the right and the Liberal Party which is slightly off center to the left. A fourth party that no longer has major party status is the separatist Bloc Québécois party, which is territorial and concentrated in Quebec. New Zealand used the British system, and it too yielded two large parties. It also left many New Zealanders unhappy, because other viewpoints were ignored, so its parliament in 1993 adopted a new electoral law, modelled on Germany's system of proportional representation (PR) with a partial selection by constituencies. New Zealand soon developed a more complex party system.
After the 2015 Elections in the United Kingdom, there were calls from UKIP to change to proportional representation after receiving 3,881,129 votes but only 1 MP.The Green Party was similarly under-represented. This contrasted greatly with the SNP in Scotland who only received 1,454,436 votes but won 56 seats, due to more concentrated support.
Imagine that Tennessee is having an election on the location of its capital. The population of Tennessee is concentrated around its four major cities, which are spread throughout the state. For this example, suppose that the entire electorate lives in these four cities and that everyone wants to live as near to the capital as possible.
The candidates for the capital are:
The preferences of the voters would be divided like this:
|42% of voters|
(close to Memphis)
|26% of voters|
(close to Nashville)
|15% of voters|
(close to Chattanooga)
|17% of voters|
(close to Knoxville)
If each voter in each city naively selects one city on the ballot (Memphis voters select Memphis, Nashville voters select Nashville, and so on), then Memphis will be selected, as it has the most votes (42%). Note that this system does not require that the winner have a majority but only a plurality. Memphis wins because it has the most votes, even though 58% of the voters in this example preferred Memphis least. This problem does not arise with the two-round system, in which Nashville would have won. (In practice, with FPTP, many voters in Chattanooga and Knoxville are likely to vote tactically for Nashville: see below.)
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To a much greater extent than many other electoral methods, plurality electoral systems encourage tactical voting techniques, like "compromising". Voters are under pressure to vote for one of the two candidates most likely to win even if their true preference is neither, because a vote for any other candidate is unlikely to lead to the preferred candidate being elected, but will instead reduce support for one of the two major candidates who the voter might prefer to the other—the minority party will simply take votes away from one of the major parties, potentially changing the outcome while gaining nothing. Any other party will typically need to build up its votes and credibility over a series of elections before it is seen as electable.
In the Tennessee example, if all the voters for Chattanooga and Knoxville had instead voted for Nashville, then Nashville would have won (with 58% of the vote); this would only have been the 3rd choice for those voters, but voting for their respective 1st choices (their own cities) actually results in their 4th choice (Memphis) being elected.
The difficulty is sometimes summed up, in an extreme form, as "All votes for anyone other than the second place are votes for the winner", because by voting for other candidates, they have denied those votes to the second place candidate who could have won had they received them. It is often claimed by United States Democrats that Democrat Al Gore lost the 2000 Presidential Election to Republican George W. Bush because some voters on the left voted for Ralph Nader of the Green Party, who exit polls indicated would have preferred Gore at 45% to Bush at 27%, with the rest not voting in Nader's absence.
This thinking is illustrated by elections in Puerto Rico and its three principal voter groups: the Independentistas (pro-independence), the Populares (pro-commonwealth), and the Estadistas (pro-statehood). Historically, there has been a tendency for Independentista voters to elect Popular candidates and policies. This phenomenon is responsible for some Popular victories, even though the Estadistas have the most voters on the island. It is so widely recognised that the Puerto Ricans sometimes call the Independentistas who vote for the Populares "melons" (in reference to the party colors), because the fruit is green on the outside but red on the inside.
Because voters have to predict in advance who the top two candidates will be, this can cause significant perturbation to the system:
Proponents of other single-winner electoral systems argue that their proposals would reduce the need for tactical voting and reduce the spoiler effect. Examples include the commonly used two-round system of runoffs and instant runoff voting, along with less tested systems such as approval voting, score voting and Condorcet methods.
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Duverger's law is a theory that constituencies that use first-past-the-post systems will have a two-party system, given enough time.
First-past-the-post tends to reduce the number of political parties to a greater extent than most other methods do, making it more likely that a single party will hold a majority of legislative seats. (In the United Kingdom, 21 out of 24 general elections since 1922 have produced a single-party majority government.)
FPTP's tendency toward fewer parties and more frequent one-party rules can also produce government that may not consider as wide a range of perspectives and concerns. It is entirely possible that a voter finds all major parties to have similar views on issues and that a voter does not have a meaningful way of expressing a dissenting opinion through his vote.
As fewer choices are offered to voters, voters may vote for a candidate although they disagree with him, because they disagree even more with his opponents. Consequently, candidates will less closely reflect the viewpoints of those who vote for them.
Furthermore, one-party rule is more likely to lead to radical changes in government policy even though the changes are favoured only by a plurality or a bare majority of the voters, whereas a multi-party system usually require greater consensus in order to make dramatic changes in policy.
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Wasted votes are those cast for candidates who are virtually sure to lose in a safe seat, and votes cast for winning candidates in excess of the number required for victory. For example, in the UK General Election of 2005, 52% of votes were cast for losing candidates and 18% were excess votes—a total of 70% wasted votes. This is perhaps the most fundamental criticism of FPTP, that a large majority of votes may play no part in determining the outcome. Alternative electoral systems attempt to ensure that almost all votes are effective in influencing the result, and vote wastage is consequently minimised.
Because FPTP permits a high level of wasted votes, an election under FPTP is easily gerrymandered unless safeguards are in place. In gerrymandering, a party in power deliberately manipulates constituency boundaries to unfairly increase the number of seats it wins.
In brief, suppose that governing party G wishes to reduce the seats that will be won by opposition party O in the next election. It creates a number of constituencies in each of which O has an overwhelming majority of votes. O will win these seats, but a large number of its voters will waste their votes. Then the rest of the constituencies are designed to have small majorities for G. Few G votes are wasted, and G will win a large number of seats by small margins. As a result of the gerrymander, O's seats have cost it more votes than G's seats.
The presence of spoilers often gives rise to suspicions that manipulation of the slate has taken place. The spoiler may have received incentives to run. A spoiler may also drop out at the last moment, inducing charges that such an act was intended from the beginning.
The spoiler effect is the effect of vote splitting between candidates or ballot questions with similar ideologies. One spoiler candidate's presence in the election draws votes from a major candidate with similar politics thereby causing a strong opponent of both or several to win. Smaller parties can disproportionately change the outcome of an FPTP election by swinging what is called the 50-50% balance of two party systems, by creating a faction within one or both ends of the political spectrum which shifts the winner of the election from an absolute majority outcome to a simple majority outcome favouring the previously less favoured party. In comparison, for electoral systems using proportional representation small groups win only their proportional share of representation.
In August 2008, Sir Peter Kenilorea commented on what he perceived as the flaws of a first-past-the-post electoral system in the Solomon Islands:
An[...] underlying cause of political instability and poor governance, in my opinion, is our electoral system and its related problems. It has been identified by a number of academics and practitioners that the First Past the Post system is such that a Member elected to Parliament is sometimes elected by a small percentage of voters where there are many candidates in a particular constituency. I believe that this system is part of the reason why voters ignore political parties and why candidates try an appeal to voters' material desires and relationships instead of political parties. [...] Moreover, this system creates a political environment where a Member is elected by a relatively small number of voters with the effect that this Member is then expected to ignore his party’s philosophy and instead look after that core base of voters in terms of their material needs. Another relevant factor that I see in relation to the electoral system is the proven fact that it is rather conducive, and thus has not prevented, corrupt elections practices such as ballot buying.
The United Kingdom continues to use the first-past-the-post electoral system for general elections, and for local government elections in England and Wales. Changes to the UK system have been proposed, and alternatives were examined by the Jenkins Commission in the late 1990s. After the formation of a new coalition government in 2010, it was announced as part of the coalition agreement that a referendum would be held on switching to the alternative vote system. However the alternative vote system was rejected 2-1 by British voters in a referendum held on 5 May 2011.
Canada also uses FPTP for national and provincial elections. In May 2005 the Canadian province of British Columbia had a referendum on abolishing single-member district plurality in favour of multi-member districts with the Single Transferable Vote system after the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform made a recommendation for the reform. The referendum obtained 57% of the vote, but failed to meet the 60% requirement for passing. An October 2007 referendum in the Canadian province of Ontario on adopting a Mixed Member Proportional system, also requiring 60% approval, failed with only 36.9% voting in favour.
Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand are notable examples of countries within the UK, or with previous links to it, that use non-FPTP electoral systems (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales use FPTP in United Kingdom general elections, however).
Nations which have undergone democratic reforms since 1990 but have not adopted the FPTP system include South Africa, almost all of the former Eastern bloc nations, Russia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Countries that use plurality voting to elect the lower or only house of their legislature include:
The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat organizations or constituencies. Under STV, an elector (voter) has a single vote that is initially allocated to their most preferred candidate. Votes are totalled, and a quota derived. If their candidate achieves the quota, they are elected and in some STV systems any surplus vote is transferred to other candidates in proportion to the voters' stated preferences. If more candidates than seats remain, the bottom candidate is eliminated with their votes being transferred to other candidates as determined by the voters' stated preferences. These elections and eliminations, and vote transfers if applicable, continue until there are only as many candidates as there are unfilled seats. The specific method of transferring votes varies in different systems.
In political science, Duverger's law holds that plurality-rule elections structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system, whereas "the double ballot majority system and proportional representation tend to favor multipartism". The discovery of this tendency is attributed to Maurice Duverger, a French sociologist who observed the effect and recorded it in several papers published in the 1950s and 1960s. In the course of further research, other political scientists began calling the effect a "law" or principle.
Single non-transferable vote or SNTV is an electoral system used in multi-member constituency elections.
The additional member system (AMS), also known as mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) outside the United Kingdom, is a mixed electoral system with one tier of single-member district representatives, and another tier of ‘additional members’ elected to make the overall election results more proportional.
Mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation is a mixed electoral system in which voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party. Seats in the legislature are filled firstly by the successful constituency candidates, and secondly, by party candidates based on the percentage of nationwide or region-wide votes that each party received. The constituency representatives are elected using first-past-the-post voting (FPTP) or another plurality/majoritarian system. The nationwide or region-wide party representatives are, in most jurisdictions, drawn from published party lists, similar to party-list proportional representation. To gain a nationwide representative, parties may be required to achieve a minimum number of constituency candidates, a minimum percentage of the nationwide party vote, or both.
A first-past-the-post electoral system is one in which voters indicate on a ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins. This is sometimes described as winner takes all. First-past-the-post voting is a plurality voting method. FPTP is a common, but not universal, feature of electoral systems with single-member electoral divisions, and is practised in close to one third of countries. Notable examples include Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as most of their current or former colonies and protectorates.
Parallel voting describes a mixed electoral system where voters in effect participate in two separate elections for a single chamber using different systems, and where the results in one election have little or no impact on the results of the other.
BC-STV is the proposed voting system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in October 2004 for use in British Columbia, and belongs to the single transferable vote family of voting systems. BC-STV was supported by a majority (57.7%) of the voters in a referendum held in 2005 but the government had legislated that it would not be bound by any vote lower than 60% in favour. Because of the strong majority support for BC-STV, the government elected to stage a second referendum in 2009, but with increased public funding for information campaigns to better inform the electorate about the differences between the existing and proposed systems. The leadership of both the "yes" side and the "no" side were assigned by the government. The proposal was rejected with 60.9% voting against, vs. 39.1% in favour, in the 2009 vote.
Historically, the single transferable vote (STV) electoral system has seen a series of relatively modest periods of usage and disusage throughout the world; however, today it is seeing increasing popularity and proposed implementation as a method of electoral reform. STV has been used in many different local, regional and national electoral systems, as well as in various other types of bodies, around the world.
There are a number of complications and issues surrounding the application and use of single transferable vote proportional representation that form the basis of discussions between its advocates and detractors.
Plurality-at-large voting, also known as block vote or multiple non-transferable vote (MNTV), is a non-proportional voting system for electing several representatives from a single multimember electoral district using a series of check boxes and tallying votes similar to a plurality election. Multiple winners are elected simultaneously to serve the district. Block voting is not a system for obtaining proportional representation; instead the usual result is that where the candidates divide into definitive parties the most popular party in the district sees its full slate of candidates elected, resulting in a landslide.
Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a type of ranked preferential voting method used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates. Instead of indicating support for only one candidate, voters in IRV elections can rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are initially counted for each voter's top choice. If a candidate has more than half of the vote based on first-choices, that candidate wins. If not, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The voters who selected the defeated candidate as a first choice then have their votes added to the totals of their next choice. This process continues until a candidate has more than half of the votes. When the field is reduced to two, it has become an "instant runoff" that allows a comparison of the top two candidates head-to-head. Compared to plurality voting, IRV can reduce the impact of vote-splitting when multiple candidates earn support from like-minded voters.
Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:
Dual-member proportional representation (DMP), also known as dual-member mixed proportional, is an electoral system designed to produce proportional election results across a region by electing two representatives in each of the region’s districts. The 1st seat in every district is awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes, similar to first-past-the-post voting (FPTP). The 2nd seat is awarded to one of the remaining district candidates so that proportionality is achieved across the region, using a calculation that aims to award parties their seats in the districts where they had their strongest performances.
A mixed electoral system is an electoral system that combines a plurality/majoritarian voting system with an element of proportional representation (PR). The plurality/majoritarian component is usually first-past-the-post voting (FPTP), whereas the proportional component is most often based on party list PR. A distinguishing characteristic of mixed systems is the fact that every voter can influence both the plurality/majoritarian and PR aspects of an election. In a hybrid system, by contrast, different electoral formulas are used in different regions of a country.
The Italian Electoral law of 2017, colloquially known by the nickname Rosatellum bis or simply Rosatellum, after Ettore Rosato, the Democratic leader in the Chamber of Deputies who first proposed the new law, is a parallel voting system, which act as a mixed system, with 37% of seats allocated using a first past the post electoral system and 61% using a proportional method, with one round of voting. The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies did not differ in the way they allocated the proportional seats, both using the largest remainder method of allocating seats.
The Provincial Assembly is the unicameral legislative assembly for a federal province of Nepal.
The fatal flaws of Plurality (first-past-the-post) electoral systems - Proportional Representation Society of Australia