Voting is a method for a group, such as, a meeting or an electorate to
make a decision or express an opinion, usually following discussions,
debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high
office by voting. Residents of a place represented by an elected
official are called "constituents", and those constituents who cast a
ballot for their chosen candidate are called "voters". There are
different systems for collecting votes.
1 In politics
1.1 Electoral systems
1.3 Fair voting
1.4 Negative voting
1.5 Proxy voting
Voting and information
1.8 Religious views
2 Meetings and gatherings
Voting methods in deliberative assemblies
4 Vote collection methods
4.1 Paper-based methods
4.2 Machine voting
4.3 Online voting
4.4 Postal voting
4.5 Open ballot
4.7 Other methods
5 See also
7 External links
In a democracy, a government is chosen by voting in an election: a way
for an electorate to elect, i.e. choose, among several candidates for
rule. In a representative democracy voting is the method by which the
electorate appoints its representatives in its government. In a direct
democracy, voting is the method by which the electorate directly make
decisions, turn bills into laws, etc.
A vote is a formal expression of an individual's choice for or against
some motion (for example, a proposed resolution); for or against some
ballot question; or for a certain candidate, selection of candidates,
or political party. Many countries use a secret ballot, a practice to
prevent voters from being intimidated and to protect their political
Voting often takes place at a polling station; it is voluntary in some
countries, compulsory in others, such as Australia.
Part of the Politics series
None of the above
Open ballot system
Paradox of voting
Voting system and Election
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In Switzerland, without need to register, every citizen receives at
home the ballot papers and information brochure for each voting (and
can send it by post). Switzerland has a direct democracy system and
votes are organised about four times a year.
Different voting systems use different types of votes. Plurality
voting does not require the winner to achieve a vote majority, or more
than fifty percent of the total votes cast. In a voting system that
uses a single vote per race, when more than two candidates run, the
winner may commonly have less than fifty percent of the vote.
A side effect of a single vote per race is vote splitting, which tends
to elect candidates that do not support centrism, and tends to produce
a two-party system. An alternative to a single-vote system is approval
To understand why a single vote per race tends to favor less centric
candidates, consider a simple lab experiment where students in a class
vote for their favorite marble. If five marbles are assigned names and
are placed "up for election," and if three of them are green, one is
red, and one is blue, then a green marble will rarely win the
election. The reason is that the three green marbles will split the
votes of those who prefer green. In fact, in this analogy, the only
way that a green marble is likely to win is if more than sixty percent
of the voters prefer green. If the same percentage of people prefer
green as those who prefer red and blue, that is to say if 33 percent
of the voters prefer green, 33 percent prefer blue, and 33 percent
prefer red, then each green marble will only get eleven percent of the
vote, while the red and blue marbles will each get 33 percent, putting
the green marbles at a serious disadvantage. If the experiment is
repeated with other colors, the color that is in the majority will
still rarely win. In other words, from a purely mathematical
perspective, a single-vote system tends to favor a winner that is
different from the majority. If the experiment is repeated using
approval voting, where voters are encouraged to vote for as many
candidates as they approve of, then the winner is much more likely to
be any one of the five marbles, because people who prefer green will
be able to vote for every one of the green marbles.
A development on the 'single vote' system is to have two-round
elections, or repeat first-past-the-post. The winner must receive a
majority, which is more than half. If subsequent votes must be
used, often a candidate, the one with the fewest votes or anyone who
wants to move their support to another candidate, is removed from the
An alternative to the Two-round voting system is the single round
instant-runoff voting system (Also referred to as Alternative vote or
Preferential voting) as used in some elections in Australia, Ireland
and the USA. Voters rank each candidate in order of preference (1,2,3
etc.). Votes are distributed to each candidate according to the
preferences allocated. If no single candidate has 50% or more votes
than the candidate with the least votes is excluded and their votes
redistributed according to the voters nominated order of preference.
The process repeating itself until a candidate has 50% or more votes.
The system is designed to produce the same result as an exhaustive
ballot but using only a single round of voting.
In a voting system that uses a multiple vote, the voter can vote for
any subset of the alternatives. So, a voter might vote for Alice, Bob,
and Charlie, rejecting Daniel and Emily.
Approval voting uses such
In a voting system that uses a ranked vote, the voter has to rank the
alternatives in order of preference. For example, they might vote for
Bob in first place, then Emily, then Alice, then Daniel, and finally
Ranked voting systems, such as those famously used in
Australia, use a ranked vote.
In a voting system that uses a scored vote (or range vote), the voter
gives each alternative a number between one and ten (the upper and
lower bounds may vary). See cardinal voting systems.
Some "multiple-winner" systems may have a single vote or one vote per
elector per available position. In such a case the elector could vote
for Bob and Charlie on a ballot with two votes. These types of systems
can use ranked or unranked voting, and are often used for at-large
positions such as on some city councils.
Most of the time, when the citizens of a country are invited to vote,
it is for an election. However, people can also vote in referendums
and initiatives. Since the end of the eighteenth century, more than
five hundred national referendums (including initiatives) were
organised in the world; among them, more than three hundred were held
Australia ranked second with dozens of referendums.
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Results may lead at best to confusion, at worst to violence and even
civil war, in the case of political rivals. Many alternatives may fall
in the latitude of indifference—they are neither accepted nor
rejected. Avoiding the choice that the most people strongly reject may
sometimes be at least as important as choosing the one that they most
There are social choice theory definitions of seemingly reasonable
criteria that are a measure of the fairness of certain aspects of
voting, including non-dictatorship, unrestricted domain,
non-imposition, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant
Arrow's impossibility theorem
Arrow's impossibility theorem states that no voting
system can meet all these standards.
Main article: Disapproval voting
Negative voting allows a vote that expresses disapproval of a
candidate. For explanatory purposes, consider a hypothetical voting
system that uses negative voting. In this system, one vote is allowed,
with the choice of either for a candidate, or against a candidate.
Each positive vote adds one to a candidate's overall total, while a
negative vote subtracts one, arriving at a net favorability. The
candidate with the highest net favorability is the winner. Note that
not only is a negative total possible, but also, a candidate may even
be elected with 0 votes if enough negative votes are cast against
Under this implementation, negative voting is no different from a
positive voting system, when only two candidates are on the ballot.
However, in the case of three or more candidates, each negative vote
for a candidate counts positively towards all of the other candidates.
Consider the following example:
Three candidates are running for the same seat. Two hypothetical
election results are given, contrasting positive and negative voting.
Both polling accuracy and voter turnout are assumed to be 100 percent.
Current standing in the polls
Election results after positive voting
Election results after negative voting
Election results with positive voting:
A-voters, with the clear advantage of 40%, logically vote for
Candidate A. B-voters, unconfident of their candidate's chances, split
their votes exactly in half, giving both Candidates A and C 15% each.
C-voters, also logically vote for their candidate. A is the winner
with 55%, C at 45% and B 0%.
Election results with negative voting:
A-voters again, with the clear advantage of 40%, logically vote for
Candidate A. B-voters again, split exactly in half. Each B-voter
decides to vote negatively against their least favorite candidate,
with the reasoning that this negative vote allows them to express
approval for the two other candidates. C-voters also decide to vote
negatively against Candidate A, reasoning along similar lines.
Candidate B is the winner with 0 votes. Enough negative votes were
cast against Candidate B's opponents, resulting in negative totals.
Candidate A, despite having polled at 40%, winds up with -5%, offset
due to the aggregate 45% of negative votes cast by B and C voters.
Candidate C ends up with -15%.
Main article: Proxy voting
Proxy voting is the type of voting where a registered citizen who is
able to vote passes on his or her vote to a different voter or
Main article: Abstention
In South Africa, there is a strong presence of anti-voting campaigns
by poor citizens. They make the structural argument that no political
party truly represents them. For instance, this resulted in the "No
Land! No House! No Vote!" Campaign which becomes very prominent each
time the country holds elections. The campaign is prominent
among three of South Africa's largest social movements: the Western
Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, Abahlali baseMjondolo, and the Landless
Other social movements in other parts of the world also have similar
campaigns or non-voting preferences. These include the Zapatista Army
of National Liberation and various anarchist-oriented movements.
It is possible to make a blank vote, carrying out the act of voting,
which may be compulsory, without selecting any candidate or option,
often as an act of protest. In some jurisdictions, there is an
official none of the above option and it is counted as a valid vote.
Usually, blank and null votes are counted (together or separately) but
are not considered valid.
Voting and information
Modern political science has questioned whether average citizens have
sufficient political information to cast meaningful votes. A series of
studies coming out of the
University of Michigan
University of Michigan in the 1950s and
1960s argued that voters lack a basic understanding of current issues,
the liberal–conservative ideological dimension, and the relative
Studies from other institutions have suggested that the physical
appearance of candidates is a criterion upon which voters base their
Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Old Order Amish, Rastafarians,
the Assemblies of Yahweh, and some other religious groups, have a
policy of not participating in politics through voting. Rabbis
Jewish denominations encourage voting; some even consider it
a religious obligation.
Meetings and gatherings
Whenever several people who do not all agree need to make some
decision, voting is a very common way of reaching a decision
peacefully. The right to vote is usually restricted to certain people.
Members of a society or club, or shareholders of a company, but not
outsiders, may elect its officers, or adopt or change its rules, in a
similar way to the election of people to official positions. A panel
of judges, either formal judicial authorities or, say, judges of a
competition, may make decisions by voting. A group of friends or
members of a family may decide which film to see by voting. The method
of voting can range from formal submission of written votes, through
show of hands, voice voting or audience response systems, to informal
noting which outcome seems to be preferred by more people.
See also: Majority, Supermajority, and Unanimity
According to Robert's Rules of Order, a widely used guide to
parliamentary procedure, the bases for determining the voting result
consist of two elements: (1) the percentage of votes that are required
for a proposal to be adopted or for a candidate to be elected (e.g.
more than half, two-thirds, three-quarters, etc.); and (2) the set of
members to which the proportion applies (e.g. the members present and
voting, the members present, the entire membership of the
organization, the entire electorate, etc.). An example is a
majority vote of the members present and voting.
The voting result could also be determined using a plurality, or the
most votes among the choices.
In addition, a decision could be made without a formal vote by using
Part of the Politics series
Single non-transferable vote
Plurality-at-large (block voting)
Instant-runoff (alternative vote)
Condorcet methods (Copeland's, Dodgson's, Kemeny-Young, Minimax,
Nanson's, Ranked pairs, Schulze)
Oklahoma primary electoral system
Preferential block voting
Multi-winner approval voting (Proportional, Sequential proportional,
Party-list (Open lists, Closed lists, Local lists)
Highest averages (D'Hondt, Sainte-Laguë, Huntington-Hill)
Largest remainder (Hare, Droop, Imperiali, Hagenbach-Bischoff)
Single transferable vote
Single transferable vote (CPO-STV, Gregory, Schulze STV, Wright)
Fair majority voting
Mixed member proportional
Additional member system
Parallel voting (Mixed member majoritarian)
Alternative vote plus
Dual member proportional
Other systems & related theory
Random selection (Sortition, Random ballot)
Comparison of electoral systems
Social choice theory
Public choice theory
This article is about the physical means of casting ballots. It is not
to be confused with details of voting theory, for which see Electoral
A voting method is the way in which people cast their votes in an
election or referendum. There are several different methods in use
around the world.
Voting methods in deliberative assemblies
Voting methods in deliberative assemblies
Deliberative assemblies – bodies that use parliamentary procedure to
arrive at decisions – use several methods of voting on motions
(formal proposal by a member or members of a deliberative assembly
that the assembly take certain action). The regular methods of voting
in such bodies are a voice vote, a rising vote, and a show of hands.
Additional forms of voting include a recorded vote and balloting. The
assembly could decide on the voting method by adopting a motion on it.
Legislatures may have their own voting methods.
Vote collection methods
The most common voting method uses paper ballots on which voters mark
their preferences. This may involve marking their support for a
candidate or party listed on the ballot, or a write-in, where they
write out the name of their preferred candidate if it is not listed.
Ballot letters in Israel
An alternative paper-based system known as ballot letters is used in
Israel, where polling booths contain a tray with ballots for each
party contesting the elections; the ballots are marked with the
letter(s) assigned to that party. Voters are given an envelope into
which they put the ballot of the party they wish to vote for, before
placing the envelope in the ballot box.
Voting machine and Electronic voting
Machine voting uses voting machines, which may be manual (e.g. lever
machines) or electronic. In Brazil, voters type in the number of the
candidate they wish to vote for and then confirm their vote when the
candidate's photo is displayed on screen.
In some countries people are allowed to vote online. Estonia was one
of the first countries to use online voting: it was first used in the
2005 local elections.
Many countries allow postal voting, where voters are sent a ballot and
return it by post.
In contrast to a secret ballot, an open ballot takes place in public
and is commonly done by a show of hands. An example is the
Landsgemeinde system in Switzerland, which is still in use in the
cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus,
Grisons and Schwyz.
Blockchain-based voting is similar to cryptocurrency blockchains, in
that, the verification process prevents fraud by having public records
all the way back to the genesis block (first vote). Each voter would
have a unique voter ID.
Gambia voting is carried out using marbles, a method introduced in
1965 to deal with illiteracy. Polling stations contain metal drums
painted in party colours and emblems with candidates' photos attached
to them. Voters are given a marble to place in the drum of
their chosen candidate; when dropped into the drum, a bell sounds to
register the vote. As a result, bicycles are banned near polling
booths on election day. If the marble is left on top of the drum
rather than placed on it, the vote is deemed invalid.
A similar system used in social clubs sees voters given a white ball
to indicate support and a black ball to indicate opposition. This led
to the coining of the term blackballing.
Ranked voting systems
Voting methods in deliberative assemblies
Right of expatriates to vote in their country of origin
^ (in French) Bruno S. Frey et Claudia Frey Marti, Le bonheur.
L'approche économique, Presses polytechniques et universitaires
romandes, 2013 (ISBN 978-2-88915-010-6).
^ "The 'No Land, No House, No Vote' campaign still on for 2009".
Abahlali baseMjondolo. 5 May 2005.
^ "IndyMedia Presents: No Land! No House! No Vote!". Anti-Eviction
Campaign. 12 December 2005. Archived from the original on 25 April
^ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Summary)
^ Kesten C. Greene and J. Scott Armstrong and Randall J. Jones, Jr.,
and Malcolm Wright (2010). "Predicting Elections from Politicians'
Faces" (PDF). CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ Andreas Graefe & J. Scott Armstrong (2010). "Predicting
Elections from Biographical Information about Candidates" (PDF).
^ Leibenluft, Jacob (2008-06-28). "Why Don't
Jehovah's Witnesses Vote?
Because they're representatives of God's heavenly kingdom".
^ "Ask the Rabbis // Voting." Moment Magazine. May–June 2016. 10
^ Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011).
Robert's Rules of Order
Robert's Rules of Order Newly
Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 402.
^ Robert 2011, pp. 404–405
^ Robert 2011, p. 54
^ Illiterate voters: Making their mark The Economist, 5 April 2014
Voting methods in Estonia: Statistics about Internet
^ Meylan, Phillip (2018-01-16). "Blockchains Will Change the Way the
World Votes". Center for Strategic & International Studies.
^ a b c Gambians vote with their marbles BBC News, 22 September 2006
Gambia vote a roll of the marbles The Telegrapgh, 29 November 2016
Gambia election: Voters use marbles to choose president BBC News, 30
Look up vote or voting in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Voting.
A history of voting in the United States from the Smithsonian
A New Nation Votes: American Elections Returns 1787-1825
Can I Vote?—a nonpartisan US resource for registering to vote and
finding your polling place from the National Association of
Secretaries of State.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization — A History of the Vote in
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Vote". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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