A partial glossary of voting systems

August 11, 2015

Approval voting: Vote for as many as you like and the one with the most votes wins. Prone to ties when used for declared candidates, but already in use by organizations where no one campaigns to be the leader.


Borda count: Rank candidates in order of preference. Each 1st place is worth the most points; 2nd place worth one less point, etc. The one with the most points wins.


Bucklin method: Rank your favorites by preference. The candidate with the highest median wins. Not to be confused with the average (or “mean”), the median is the actual center when ordered from highest to lowest.


Copeland method: Rank your favorites by preference. Each candidate’s total is matched up against every other candidate’s total. The one who would win the most match-ups wins the election. Already used in sports.


Kemeny-Young method: Starts out like the Copeland method, but then every possible matched-up pair is ranked again as a pair to determine the winner.


Minimax: Same as the Copeland method, except the winner is determined by who loses the fewest match-ups rather than who wins the most match-ups.


Mixed-member proportional voting: You get to cast two votes—one for a candidate and one for a party. Winners are chosen the same as in plurality, but seats are allocated in proportion to the number of votes per party.


Point system: Instead of ranking the candidates, assign each a number that reflects the strength of your preference. The one with the highest average wins.


Plurality: This is what we have now. Pick one and the candidate with the most votes wins. A “plurality” occurs when the winner did not get 50 percent of the total votes, which can result in the least popular candidate winning because the majority all voted for somebody else.


Proxy voting: Your vote is delegated to a representative and the candidate with the most representatives wins. The Electoral College is a form of proxy voting.


Random ballot: Everybody votes and the winner is determined by drawing one ballot like a raffle.


Ranked-choice voting: Rank your favorites (usually up to three, though in some systems there is no limit). If no one gets 50 percent of first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Those who ranked the eliminated candidate first now have their second choices added in. This continues until somebody gets 50 percent or until only two candidates are left.
 

Ranked pairs: Same as Kemeny-Young, except factor in how much better each possible match-up did proportionally, compared to every other possible match-up.


Runoff voting: Same as plurality, except if no one gets 50 percent, there’s a second election between the top two. Ranked-choice is sometimes called “instant runoff,” however an actual runoff can produce different winners. Our local primaries function like a runoff.


Schulze method: Same as the Copeland method, except you can leave some candidates unranked, give the same ranking to more than one candidate if you prefer them equally, and/or use non-consecutive numbers to indicate the strength of your preference.


Single transferable vote: Can only result in multiple winners. Candidates are ranked and winners are chosen when they surpass a predetermined threshhold. Once your first choice is elected, your second choice comes into play. Often confused with ranked-choice voting.


Sortition: The winner is chosen randomly from among declared candidates or from the adult population at large. Similar to how we already select jury pools.

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