Perhaps a place to begin a discussion of voting methods is to look into the difference between the terms “majority” and “plurality” in relation to voting.
Meriam-Webster defines majority as:
a number or percentage equaling more than half of a totalhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/majority
Plurality can be defined as:
the excess of votes received by the leading candidate, in an election in which there are three or more candidates, over those received by the next candidate or
more than half of the whole; the majorityhttps://www.dictionary.com/browse/plurality
So, one definition of plurality is “majority”. It can be confusing.
In reality, “majority” (when applied to voting) means more than 50% of the total votes cast and often is also expressed as the equation 50% + 1.
In America, the word plurality is seldom (if ever) used to describe our voting process or outcome. We invariably hear, for example that in a 3-way race, so-and-so received the “majority” of the votes even if that individual did not get more than half of all votes cast.
In the 2018 Florida contest for governor, there were six candidates running. The winning candidate received 49.6% of the vote. The second-place candidate had 49.2%. The remaining 1.3% of the votes were split among the rest of the challengers. Neither of the two top vote-getters received more than 50% of the votes. This is an excellent example of a “plurality vote”.
In the above example, more than 50% (the “majority”) of the voters did not vote for the winning candidate. Almost as many people preferred one candidate as preferred the other. In practice, with a plurality system, very often a majority (that over 50% number) of the voters cast their vote for someone other than the winner. The result is that someone who represents a district, state, or the nation did not receive the majority of the votes.
FPTP voting is the easiest, most basic form of voting. It works best for simple, one-of-two choice election, such as a 2-party political system. There are clear advantages to FPTP voting, such as simple and clear instructions, easy counting of the votes, and in determining a winner. But its disadvantages are clearly laid out as well, such as: here, here, and here.
This is a video describing FPTP voting……
The video mentions Ranked Choice Voting. We will discus this and provide links to resources to further illustrate the process later in this section.
But is FPTP fair? How can an orderly decision making process be maintained while ensuring that everyone is included; that everyone’s concerns are addressed?
Consider the case of the two separate proms. A small high school, planning their senior prom was deciding on the kind of music they would have. The music was selected democratically, that is, each student was asked to list their three favorite songs. The band would play the songs that appeared most often on the lists. A simple, FPTP process. Count how many times a song is listed, and the top vote getters win.
But this school was predominately white, and the Black kids objected to the selection since all of the winning songs appealed to only the white students. “For every vote we had, there were eight votes for what they wanted,” one of the Black students observed. The unfortunate solution was that the Black students held their own, separate prom, with their own music, food, and decorations.
(The Tyranny of the Majority, Guinier,1994 pg 2) & https://www.nytimes.com/1991/05/05/us/separate-senior-proms-reveal-an-unspanned-racial-divide.html
This article from the UK identifies problems with FPTP electoral system.
It’s clear there are many problems and concerns with FPTP voting. There are many other voting processes. Many may be better, more democratic, more inclusive, fairer methods that bring more people into the political process and lead to more comprehensive decision making.
We explore some of them here.