Understanding the Cumulative Voting Formula

February 18, 2022

Running elections is more than announcing the most popular nominee as the winner. There are, in fact, several ways that you can count votes to determine an election outcome. Straight and cumulative voting are two examples. You can also calculate elections using plurality versus majority voting methods. 

Cumulative voting is a commonly used procedure that relies on the cumulative voting formula. A cumulative voting calculator can help determine the final numbers and outcomes to make coming to a final decision more accessible. 

What Is Cumulative Voting? 

First, before going into the details of how cumulative voting works and its formula, you need to understand the basics. It can be helpful to compare it to other forms of voting to gain a deeper understanding of the method. 

Cumulative voting is when a voter can vote more than once in the same election—even for the same candidate. All votes are worth the same in equal-and-even cumulative voting. However, there is another option called the points method. In this form of cumulative voting, voters can allocate their votes in points.

How Does Cumulative Voting Work? 

Given that there are the two types, cumulative voting can work in a couple of ways. For the points system, voters get a certain number of points, and it is up to them to distribute those points to candidates as they see fit. The nominee with the most votes wins. 

In some elections, particularly corporate ones, it is not always the case that every voter will have the same number of points. In this scenario, some voters can have more sway over the final results than others.

In equal-and-even cumulative voting, voters can use their votes however they wish, but each vote is worth the same. For that reason, it is less flexible because voters cannot assert a greater amount of support to their favored candidate. This method is still worthwhile in some situations, though, as it can ensure voters do not waste votes. Instead, they can vote for specific candidates to make it more difficult for others to win. If there is a polarizing candidate in an election, this method can ensure that they do not become the overall winner. 

Cumulative voting can be a powerful tool. Therefore, equal-and-even or the points method is used for smaller groups to gain representation in an election. By coming together and having more than one vote, minority groups have more power (political or otherwise) to ensure representation. That’s because voting for only a few candidates makes it more difficult for another candidate to win via an all-out majority. In the case of political elections, it gives minority groups a greater ability to make their votes count where they previously were underrepresented in governments or councils.

What Is A Cumulative Voting Formula? 

Larger companies owned by shareholders often use cumulative voting. Using the following formula prevents majority shareholders from always being able to choose directors based solely on the large amount of shares they hold.

Cumulative voting is calculated as: (the number of shares voting in election) x (number of empty director spaces) / (the number of nominees for the positions + 1).

When written down in a mathematical formula as above, you can see why having more voting rights dramatically impacts your ability to elect directors you want to see heading a company. However, it does still give minority shareholders a say in the outcome.

The Math Behind Cumulative Voting

Whether voting in a corporation at the board level, voting for something on a much smaller scale, or voting on a national scale in a political stage, cumulative voting makes it possible for one voter—or a whole group of voters—to have a real say in an election. 

The alternative is straight voting. For corporate elections, straight voting is when each share is worth one vote. The problem with this method is that major shareholders will effectively choose the winning directors of a board at each election. Such a voting system may deter many potential shareholders from investing in a company. That’s because a straight voting system creates a governance structure that is too dogmatic and dependent on just a handful of people.

With cumulative voting, people can work together to tactically vote to make sure that their views align with their preferred nominee. This method may deter investors who want more control, as cumulative-voting elections ensure that the people vote into power someone who represents all of them, not a select few. Voters can use their votes more effectively to sway election decisions through the cumulative-voting formula, the points method, or the equal-and-even method.

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