The Difference Between Cumulative Voting Vs. Straight Voting

February 18, 2022

Most people understand the importance of the right to vote. After all, how else will those in power hear the opinions and wishes of those they are supposed to serve?  Yet, voting and elections are more than simply choosing a leader from two candidates. Voting and elections can declare winners in many different scenarios. For example, there are often elections with several candidates running from various political parties. And sometimes elections are held to fill more than one spot on a board of directors.

Here, we look at how straight or cumulative voting can help implement the wants of a voting body. We identify when you should use a straight vote, when you should use a cumulative voting calculator and which form of voting is better suited to different situations. Understanding the differences between the two methodologies will allow you to choose a voting system that best suits your purposes. 

What Is Straight Voting?

In straight voting, an individual gets one vote. The single-vote system can be used in a political race, for a referendum, or voting about a company's policy change. For example, a voter gets one vote per share when weighing in on organizational issues. In this case, a majority shareholder will have a great deal more influence on the outcome of elections than a minority shareholder. 

Minority shareholders, unless they agree with majority shareholders, will always be outvoted and never be represented on a board of directors. The same holds true of a straight vote in politics. Minority groups have a far less collective say about who gets voted into power in those instances. The disadvantage of straight voting, therefore, may deter minority shareholders from investing in a company in the first place. 

Straight voting is also known as statutory voting; the terms can be used interchangeably.

What Is Cumulative Voting?

Cumulative voting is an alternative to straight voting and gives people more than just one vote. Cumulative voting does this two ways: the equal-and-even method or the points system. For example, in the equal-and-even practice, a person may get three votes, each having equal weight. The voter can spread however many of their points they want to any candidate in a points system.

The advantage of cumulative voting is that it’s a reliable system that helps implement proportional representation. As opposed to the simple majority elections common in many political races, cumulative voting means there is less of a chance of someone coming to power who did not receive the most votes. Instead, cumulative voting allows the views and opinions of minority groups to come to the forefront, as each individual has more voting power. When taken together with other individuals within the same minority group, they can significantly influence the outcome of an election. 

The disadvantage of cumulative voting is it is a more complicated system than straight voting. A more complex system means that implementing and making sure it is accurate and efficient is trickier. Without a dependable system, it is possible that the entire vote will be thrown into question. That’s why a cumulative-voting calculator is often used to determine election results.

When To Use Cumulative Voting

Shareholder voting is often done under a cumulative-voting system. Formulas determine how many votes a shareholder needs to elect a director. Shareholders can then decide whether to allocate all their votes to one nominee or distribute them over several options.

When To Use Straight Voting

Straight voting can be used in corporations to elect directors, but it is more commonly used in political races. Straight voting assigns each person within an electoral body an equal vote. Each voter has equal representation, making straight voting highly effective as each person holds the same power. As a result, the voices of less influential individuals can be more pronounced in cumulative-voting elections.

Comparing Cumulative And Straight Voting

Understanding the pros and cons of each type of voting system will help you pick the one that best suits your needs. Whichever one you choose, be sure to implement it properly. If a voting system is prone to error, the election outcome could be deemed unreliable. And when people question elections, trust in the system deteriorates, eroding stability and delaying essential changes within governing bodies.

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