Difference Between Plurality And Majority Voting Systems

January 27, 2022

Democracy is a fantastic theoretical idea successfully implemented by many societies across the globe. To put it in place, though, you need to guarantee that you can run a fair election first, regardless of your intention or purpose. From voting for the president of the United States to voting for the chairperson of your local parents’ association, the systems used to vote must be efficient and effective.

Two standard voting systems in use worldwide are plurality voting and majority voting. But knowing how plurality vs. majority voting systems compare to each other is crucial if you want to use the most appropriate system for your needs. Additionally, knowing what the difference is between a plurality voting system and a majority voting system can mean you fully understand the vote-counting process in any circumstance. 

Here, we look at what the two voting systems mean and their differences. Considering the advantages and disadvantages of both systems allows you to make the most informed decision possible for which is the most beneficial if you are running an election. 

What Is A Plurality Voting System?

A plurality voting system is where people cast their vote for one of the available nominees. The winner in such an election is the individual or entity that receives the most votes compared to other runners. Many well-established democracies use plurality voting systems. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and India all use it to reflect the political wishes of their population. 

What Is A Majority Voting System?

A majority voting system is very similar to a plurality voting system. All electorates have one vote to cast on a nominee of their choice. However, there are only winners if they have attained more than fifty percent of the vote. 

In some elections, election leaders may decide to run a supermajority voting election. A successful nominee needs to win more than fifty percent of the vote in such instances. The election’s decision-makers determine what that amount or proportion of the vote needs to be beforehand. 

If no one gets the required proportion of the vote to all-out win, it is common for one of two things to happen. Firstly, there can be a run-off election. A run-off election is when the two most popular choices from the initial election go head to head. Voters cast their choice again, and, as there are only two options, a majority win is always achievable. 

In some countries that require a majority vote in their general elections, it is possible to form a coalition party. A coalition party will still need to add to more than fifty percent of the vote. While that can mean another election is not required, as is the case of a run-off secondary election, coalition governments are historically less effective at driving change.  

The Big Difference In Plurality And Majority Voting Systems

The main difference between plurality and majority voting is that there is a winner only when a nominee receives more than half of the votes in majority voting systems. In plurality voting systems, there is a winner when they have the most votes. 

So, why use plurality voting systems? After all, if plurality voting systems can be employed to find a winner straight away, why would an electorate demand that a winner must always have more than fifty percent of the vote? 

The answer to that highlights one of the disadvantages to the plurality voting system. While it may be quick and efficient, more people can vote against the eventual winner than vote for them. That can have negative ramifications in politics and lead to a disenfranchised electoral population. 

It also can make it difficult for political parties to push through change if they do not hold the majority when in power. If they have more adversaries than supporters, it is challenging to get political support behind new initiatives and modify old laws.

However, majority voting is not always a quick way of finding an overall winner. When there are three or more nominees, a nominee’s chances to attain more than half of the vote is that much more difficult. While it does happen, it is also common to hold a subsequent run-off election or form a coalition party. Both events have downsides. 

A run-off election results can spend time in limbo—leaving countries or entities without a leader until officially deciding the outcome of the secondary election. A coalition, as previously stated, can be inefficient in making legislative progress. 

Final Thoughts On Plurality Voting Vs. Majority Voting 

Understanding the critical difference between plurality and majority voting is vital when choosing between them, making it likely you select the most appropriate system for your needs by fully grasping that one requires a much higher vote proportion than the other. 

Consider your unique scenario carefully before choosing which voting system is right for you. It could be that not having an all-out majority is adequate, making a plurality system appropriate. In contrast, your situation may be one where more than half the voting community must choose the eventual winner. No matter your choice, one of these popular voting systems will undoubtedly work for you.

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