Plurality Voting – Definition

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Plurality Voting Definition

A Plural Voting system, as opposed to a single winner electoral system, is one in which each voter casts one vote to choose one candidate amongst many, and the winner is decided on the basis of the highest number of votes garnered by a candidate. It’s also known as winning by a ‘relative majority’ when the winning candidate receives the highest number of votes cast but doesn’t account for more than or equal to 50% of the total votes cast. It works best in a two party system.

A Little More on What is Plurality Voting

It is a common system of voting used to choose candidates for the lower house – Lok Sabha, in India, members of parliament in the United Kingdom, Canada, and United States of America.

Advantages of a Plurality Voting System

  1. It’s an easy system of voting.
  2. Doesn’t require complicated repeat voting procedures to declare a winner.
  3. People understand and navigate the system with ease.
  4. Requires fewer operational and monetary resources to hold and execute than other systems of voting.

Disadvantage of Pluraity Voting

When the number of candidates is more than two, or much higher, the winning candidate might secure his victory by a very small margin of votes, reflecting poorly on the choice of the people. The ‘Absolute Majority’ and ‘Proportional Representation’ alternatives are employed as devices to overcome the disadvantages of Plurality Voting Systems.

Plurality Voting isn’t limited to polling for governments, it’s also used to select directors, board members, officers, trade union leaders, etc., in large organisations, corporates, and professional associations.

How is Plurality Voting different from a Majoritarian System?

In an electoral process with majoritarian voting system, a candidate or government needs to secure more than 50% of the total polls, votes cast, or total seats contested over, to emerge as a clear winner. If no clear majority is won by any of the contesting parties or candidates, a second Plural Vote is held between the top few candidates with the highest votes, in order to establish a clear majority. This is repeated until one candidate emerges as the clear winner with more than 50% of the total votes cast.

In a Plurality Voting system, a candidate with the highest number of votes cast, even if it’s only one more than another candidate, is the clear victor.

Process of Plurality Voting

  • Voters cast their vote to elect a candidate amongst many.
  • The candidate with the highest number of votes wins.

An Example of Plurality Voting in Action

A group of friends is trying to decide upon their next traveling destination. 5 friends are in favour of going to Paris, 8 cast their vote for a trip to Rome, and 6 cast their ballots for Amsterdam. In this scenario, Rome is the winner and their next destination. Rome wins not by securing more than 50% or a majority of the vote, it wins based on Plurality Voting – by bagging the highest number of votes.

References for Plurality Voting

Academic Research on Plurality Voting

Convergence to Equilibria in Plurality Voting., Meir, R., Polukarov, M., Rosenschein, J. S., & Jennings, N. R. (2010, July). In AAAI (Vol. 10, pp. 823-828). This article discusses the factors influencing equilibrium in a Plurality Voting system with focus on convergence.

Performance analysis of pattern classifier combination by plurality voting, Lin, X., Yacoub, S., Burns, J., & Simske, S. (2003). Pattern Recognition Letters, 24(12), 1959-1969. This paper presents a theoretical analyses of Plurality Voting in pattern recognition, discusses the results, pain points, and solutions.

Equilibria of plurality voting with abstentions, Desmedt, Y., & Elkind, E. (2010, June). In Proceedings of the 11th ACM conference on Electronic commerce (pp. 347-356). ACM. This paper sheds light on characterisation of Nash equilibrium in Plurality Voting by analysing simultaneous and sequential voting outcomes.

Expected plurality voting equilibrium and social choice functions, Denzau, A. T., & Kats, A. (1977). The Review of Economic Studies, 44(2), 227-233. This review discusses the mathematical models of Plurality Voting systems to explain expected equilibrium and the probability functions of social choice.

Plurality voting-based multiple classifier systems: statistically independent with respect to dependent classifier sets, Demrekler, M., & Altinçay, H. (2002). Pattern Recognition, 35(11), 2365-2379. This paper sheds light on the different classification systems in Plurality Voting and analyses the difference between multiple classifier sets and statistically independent classifier sets.

Evaluating correct classification probability for weighted voting classifiers with plurality voting, Levitin, G. (2002). European journal of operational research, 141(3), 596-607. This paper studies different classification methods in Plurality Voting and tries to evaluate the correct way of approaching classification.

Threshold voting is fundamentally simpler than plurality voting, PARHAMI, B. (1994). International Journal of Reliability, Quality and Safety Engineering, 1(01), 95-102. This paper proves with the help of a mathematical model that Plurality Voting gets more complex with the increase in number of choices to vote for, and that Threshold Voting is relatively much simpler fundamentally.

The welfare consequences of strategic behaviour under approval and plurality voting, Lehtinen, A. (2008). European Journal of Political Economy, 24(3), 688-704. This paper sheds light on the results of Plurality Voting and Approval Voting on welfare and utilitarian efficiency.

Computer simulations of approval and plurality voting: the frequency of weak Pareto violations and Condorcet loser choices in impartial cultures, Nurmi, H., & Uusi-HeikkilÀ, Y. (1986). European Journal of Political Economy, 2(1), 47-59. This paper studies the results of computer simulations of a Plurality Voting system to shed light on Condorcet loser choices and Pareto violations under unbiased assumptions culture.

Cumulative and plurality voting: an analysis of Illinois’ unique electoral system, Kuklinski, J. (1973). Western Political Quarterly, 26(4), 726-746. This journal analyses Plurality Voting and cumulative voting in the unique electoral scenario of Illinois.

Plurality voting-based multiple classifier systems: statistically independent with respect to dependent classifier sets, Demırekler, M., & Altınçay, H. (2002). Pattern Recognition, 35(11), 2365-2379. This paper sheds light on the classification problem in Plurality Voting and posits that use of multiple classifiers greatly improves performance.

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