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What Voting Methods Are Used Today?

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Election Integrity for America

What Voting Methods Are Used Today?

Various voting methods were employed around the world for different types of elections (e.g., for single-winner offices, multiple-winner offices, or referenda). These methods can have significant effects on election outcomes and strategic voting. Some of the most commonly used and discussed methods include:

  1. First Past the Post (FPTP): Also known as Plurality Voting, this is the simplest method. Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins, even if they don't have a majority. This method is used in the United States for most elections and in the United Kingdom for general elections.

  2. Two-round system (TRS): If no candidate achieves a majority in the first round, a second round of voting is held between the top two candidates. This method is used in France for its presidential elections and in many other countries.

  3. Instant-runoff voting (IRV): Also known as Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in some places like the US, voters rank their preferences. If no candidate has a majority of first preferences, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes are reallocated to the next preferred candidate on each ballot. This process continues until a candidate has a majority. It's used for parliamentary elections in Australia and some local elections in the US.

  4. Proportional representation (PR): This method aims to make the number of seats won by a party proportionate to the number of votes received. There are many forms of PR, but some of the most common are:

    • List Proportional Representation: Voters vote for a list of candidates representing a party, and seats are allocated to each party based on the proportion of votes they received.

    • Single Transferable Vote (STV): Voters rank candidates, and candidates are elected if they reach a specified vote threshold. Excess votes are then transferred based on voters' next preferences until all seats are filled.

  1. Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP): This is a hybrid system where voters cast two votes: one for a candidate (using FPTP) and one for a party list (using PR). This method is used in Germany and New Zealand.

  2. Block Vote: Voters have as many votes as there are seats to be filled, and they vote for individual candidates. The candidates with the most votes fill the available seats.

  3. Party Block Vote: Voters vote for a party instead of individual candidates, and the party with the most votes wins all the seats.

  4. Borda Count: Voters rank candidates. Points are awarded based on the position in which a candidate is ranked on a ballot, and the candidate with the most points overall wins.

  5. Approval Voting: Voters can vote for as many candidates as they approve of, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

  6. Score Voting: Voters give each candidate a score, often between 0 and a maximum (e.g., 10), and the candidate with the highest average score wins.

  7. Condorcet Methods: Candidates are ranked by voters, and the winner is the candidate who would win a head-to-head contest against every other candidate.

  8. Referenda and Initiatives: These aren't methods for selecting representatives but are direct voting methods where the populace votes on a specific proposal or law. The method of tallying votes (e.g., simple majority, supermajority) can vary.

Different countries and regions may employ different systems or variants of these methods, and the method chosen can influence the strategic behavior of voters, the outcomes of elections, and the behavior of elected officials. Some methods aim to produce more proportional outcomes, while others emphasize stable governance or local representation.

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