Group Decision - Secure Transparent Online Electoral Process
Voting Systems
First Past the Post

House of Commons, England, 1851

Description:  In this option, you (the election coordinator) choose the possible voting options.

The voter can choose only ONE option from the list of options.

Votes are tallied for each option. The option with the highest number of votes is declared the winner.

Also known as:

  • plurality voting
  • winner take all
  • single-member district plurality (SMDP)
  • relative majority voting.

This is a voting system where multiple options can be presented. Each voter has one vote (usually represented as a cross or tick against the option they prefer). The option with the highest number of votes is the winner.

There are significant disadvantages to this method most notably because it is possible for a decision to be made with less than 50% approval.

Commentary:  Its a very simple system, and this is one of its biggest advantages.

However it is often criticized becuase it fails to meet the "minority" criterion whereby the option with the highest number of votes may actually be dissaprooved of by more than 50% of the voters.

This makes is a good guide of "positive" preference, but it completely ignores "negative" preference.

The "negative preference" is where the electorate does not get to say who they "LEAST" prefer. In a complex society this has the effect of actively denying the existence of discontent.

By only allowing dialogue about what people "like" you are denying dialogue about what people "hate". This has the effect of sugar coating your decision making process.

Another obvious flaw is what to do in case of a draw. Whilst in a large electorate (number of voters) this is unlikely to occur, using this system for smaller groups of voters can present a serious consititutional issue. A draw is usually resolved by a random process.

History:  Named "first past the post" in reference to a horse race, for people with no background in voting theory, this is usually seen as the most agreeable method of voting, largely becuase of its simplicity.

Examples:  The British House of Commons elects all it members using a First Past the Post system with single member districts (Burrows).

The US president is elected using a two tiered variation of a First Past the Post system. The first tier involves the Electoral College where each state has a number of reps proportional to the population of the state. The presidential candidate with the highest number of votes will get all the Electoral College votes for the state (winner take all). California is the largest with 47 college votes. If the Democratic candidate wins California then these 47 college votes are added to the tally of college votes for the democratic presidential candidate. The Candidate with the highest number of college votes overall wins the election. Of course all sorts of problems arise when a third horse enteres the race. This has the effect of splitting the vote for one of the two major parties thus reducing their chance of winning the overall election. This again highlights the inadequacies of the system.

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