What Is A Preferential Ballot?

March 2, 2022

A preference ballot is one where the voter ranks the choices of candidates in terms of partiality. It is considered one of the best ways of ensuring that the most popular candidate wins by a majority vote. One of the reasons it has this design is that it is essential to gather a group consensus in most decision-making situations.

Another, more straightforward way of looking at this form of preferential voting is through our daily lives—when friends decide which movie to watch, when a company picks which product design to go with, or when a democratic country elects its leaders.

Understanding The Preferential Ballot

People have grown accustomed to choice because everyone likes to have options. After all, they tend to equate them with freedom. Unfortunately, when it comes to federal elections, most people will tell you that the first-past-the-post voting system is very rigid for today's society. 

Furthermore, you can only vote for one candidate and for one particular position at a time, which is one of the main reasons some electoral professionals developed an alternative approach, which we now call preferential balloting.

When looking at how preferential voting works, we must first understand that its primary goal is always to develop an outcome that reflects the citizens' preferences in the fairest way possible. 

And even though most of us can agree that the basic idea or concept of voting is universal, the method to determine a winner can vary. So, it is also vital that one knows what the three different types of voting systems are.

For instance, amongst a group of friends, you can decide which theater to go to by voting for all the ones you are familiar with, and the one with the most votes is where you will finally go. 

Another way to look at preferential ballots is if a company decides to eliminate unpopular designs. They may choose to revote the remaining ones to come up with a final pick, which is the same way a country can use the preferential ballot to elect a candidate with a majority of the votes.

The preferential voting system also allows governments and institutions to run an election using platforms such as online voting to pick a winner from several candidates vying for particular seats. 

Election officials can also monitor polls and votes in real-time through an online management dashboard that breaks down each preference round until a winner is declared.

Preferential Balloting Process

The preferential ballot enables voters to rank candidates vying for particular seats in order of preference. They do this by putting down a number against the candidate of their choice. 

For instance, if there are three candidates on the ballot, the voter will mark one beside their first choice, two beside their second preferred candidate, and three next to their third choice. This process of elimination continues until one candidate secures an absolute majority.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Preferential Ballot

According to its proponents and detractors, here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of the preferential vote.


  • It helps ensure that the candidate who wins receives support from an absolute majority of the electorate, helping to eliminate the possibility of a minority winner. Another way to view it is that the winning candidate is the most preferred or least disliked by the voters.  
  • It provides voters with a system to support minor parties and independent candidates. Therefore, such ballots can have proper consideration.
  • The preferential ballot allows parties that harbor like-minded philosophies or concepts to exchange preferences to assist each other in winning.
  • The preferential ballot helps promote a robust two-party system, thereby ensuring stability in the government.


  • Some people find it more complicated and challenging to count than other voting systems.
  • It has the potential to produce a higher level of informal voting.
  • Some of the system's detractors claim that the preferential ballot promotes a two-party system, which is to the detriment of independents and minor parties.
  • Preferential balloting forces voters to choose candidates they may not necessarily wish to support.

In Conclusion

With each passing day, election experts continue to develop new, more inclusive processes to represent the will and wishes of citizens. However, like with most other things, change is hard, and the shift to preferential balloting is no exception.

It has become vital for people to understand that every voting system has advantages and disadvantages. As more cities and states adopt new means of voting, such as the preferential ballot, critiques of the process will naturally pop up. Therefore, the goal is to balance inclusiveness and effective representation.

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