Different uses for voting
need different types of voting.
The best voting rules are inclusive, yet well centeredand decisive.
They can make a group more popular, yet stableand quick.
voting-rule primerPrimerSee the merits of 4 great voting rules.
voting-rule workshopGames See the simple steps in each type of tally.
The free eBook quickly covers both and a bit more.
    El libro en español.     O para America del Norte.
    正确的 民主 Chinese.
    الكتاب الإلكتروني باللغة العربية Arabic.
Democratic Solutions
This site shows ways to help democracy in any size, from a classroom to a country, and at all steps from choosing nominees to setting budgets.
The tools and concepts build from one type of decision to the next:
Condorcet Electoral SystemsSingle-Winner ElectionCondorcet rules pick a widely-popular and central chairperson.
PR Representatives and DelegatesMulti-Winner ElectionProportional Representation builds a diverse and balanced council.
Board of Directors Sub-CommitteeMixed-Member CouncilThe chair and reps make a centered and balanced council.  New!
Condorcet Legislative RulesPolicy DecisionCondorcet and rules of order lead to a central policy.  New!
Fair Share VotingProject SelectionFair Share Voting lets all big groups choose projects. New!
Fair Share VotingBudget SettingFair Share Voting responsibly adjusts all agency budgets. New!

Tragedies of Democracy

plurality voting districts Old ways of adding up votes fail to represent large groups in many places. In the USA, North Carolina had enough black voters to fill two election districts. But they were a 25% minority spread over eight districts. So, for over 100 years they won no seats in Congress. As voters they were silenced —with tragic results.

plurality rule  The Northwestern U.S. was ripped apart for many years, as forestry policies were reversed again and again. Hasty logging in times of weak regulation wasted resources. Sudden limits on log­ging bank­rupted some workers and small businesses. If this policy pendulum swings, it cuts down forests and species, families and towns. What can big swings in other policies do?

These tragedies were caused by voting rules often used by nations and towns, co-ops and corporate boards.

plurality voting rule  Running for president in South Korea, the former aide to a military dictator faced two reformers. The two got a majority of the votes but split their supporters. So the aide won a plurality. (37%, 28%, 27%, 8%)

A plurality vote-counting rule elects whoever gets the most votes; a majority, 50% is not required. The winner claimed a mandate to continue oppressive policies. Years later he was convicted of treason in the tragic killing of pro-democracy demonstrators.

What's Wrong?
                after George H. Hallett Jr.

Our defective voting rules come from the failure to see there are different uses for voting, and these require different types of voting. “We try to carry over to more complicated situations a method which is only suitable in deciding the simplest sort of issue, that is, whether a question with only two possible answers shall be answered yes or no.” “For such an issue a simple majority election is, of course, sufficient.”

But as soon as three candidates run for one office, the race becomes more complicated. Then a yes-no vote is no longer suitable.

Sometimes what we want is not a solitary officer, but a council that represents all the voters. Then we do not need a system of dividing voters into winners and losers. Instead, we need a way of condensing them, in the right proportions, into their chosen leaders.

A soapbox supports the shoes of a speaker.

Eras, Election Rules and Typical Councils

A TV shows the face of a speaker.     

Humor for politicians: Who wrote, “He is a barbarian and thinks the customs of his tribe... are the laws of nature.”
1) George Bernard Shaw, 2) Voltaire, 3) Pat Robertson, 4) Le Pen ?

4 light reps stand left of center, 5 dark reps to the right.
Typical Council Elected by a Plurality Rule
The 1800s: Winner-Take-All Districts lead to Off-Center Councils.
Some English-speaking nations still use England's old plurality rule. It elects only one representative from a district, and winning it does not require a majority. It merely elects the one who gets the most 'yes' votes.

In a district where only the biggest party wins a rep, only two big parties thrive.  So the voters get only two real candidates; that is a very limited choice. Each district's bias tends to make its only seat 'safe' for one party. So most voters get no real choice. A few of those who do get choices can make majorities swerve from side to side. The council majority sets all policies (dark blue in picture) in another battle of winner take all.

1 rep stands far left, 3 left of center, 0 at center, 4 on right, 1 far right.
Typical Council Elected by a PR Rule    
1900s: Fair-Share Representation leads to Off-Center Majorities.
Proportional Representation (PR) was developed around 1900 to end some problems caused by plurality rule. Most democracies now use PR. It elects several people to represent each election district. PR can give a group that earns, say 20% of the votes, 20% of the council seats; thus PR always gives large groups their fair shares of seats.

It leads to broad representation of issues and opinions. But usually there is no central party (C in picture); and the two biggest parties rarely work together. So the side with the most seats (blue and black) forms the ruling majority — and then enacts policies skewed to one side.

1 rep stands far left, 2 on left of 2 at center, 3 on right, 1 far right.
Ensemble Elected by Central and PR Rules
2000s: Ensemble Councils lead to Broad, Centered Majorities.
New ensemble councils will elect most reps by PR, plus a few by a central voting rule (C in picture). The next page shows how a central rule picks winners with wide appeal and views near the middle of the voters. Its winners are thus near the middle of a PR council.  So they are the council's powerful swing votes. 

Most voters in the winners' wide base of support don't want averaged or centrist policies. They want policies to unite the best ideas from all groups.

A “centrist policy” enacts a narrow point of view; it excludes other opinions and needs. A “one-sided policy” also ignores rival ideas. A “compromise policy” tries to negotiate rival plans, but opposing plans forced together often work poorly.

In contrast, a “balanced policy” unites compatible ideas from all sides. This process needs advocates for diverse proposals. And more than that, it needs  powerful moderators. 

A broad balanced majority works to enact broad balanced policies — which give the greatest chance for happiness to the greatest number of people. Excellent policies are a goal of accurate democracy. Their success is measured in a typical voter's education and income, safety and freedom, leisure and health.

Old tally rules often cause one-sided results and tragedies. An ensemble is inclusive; yet it is strongly centered and decisive. So it can make the organization popular, yet stable and quick. The best rules for spending and policies follow this pattern...

...as you can see on the quick graphic tour of the best voting rules.

The primer and games show why and how:
Different uses for voting need different types of voting.
The best voting rules strengthen the ballots for voters.
So they strengthen the mandates for winners.
That means they lift the proven support for:

Center  a Chairperson from a plurality to a majority of voters,
Full Rep  a Council from a plurality to over three quarters,
Budgets  a Budget from a few power blocs to all members,
Center  a Policy from a one-sided to an over-all majority.

Power is more principled when we tally
fair shares for seats or spending and a
true majority for a president or policy.

Next: the voting-rule primer

  A Map to Accurate Democracy

      Six practical uses for voting shape this ebook.
  You may read the introductions to the tasks to see their variety.
  The concepts build from one use of voting to the next.

Choice ballots
Tally pictures
Tally table
Instant Runoff
Other rules
Voting tactics
Voting districts
Merits of PR
Women in PR
STV for PR
Visual STV
Graphics 2
2D charts
PR ballots
Merits 2
Other rules
Other rules
$ Follies
Other rules
HZ Points
Condorcet's rule fills chapter 1 on electing a chairperson. Chapter 4 on setting a policy looks at it more deeply. Chapters 3 and 5 also use it.
Transferable votes are introduced by IRV and STV in chapters 1 and 2. Chapters 5 and 6 show how they can fund projects and departments.
The key terms of this ebook (fair shares, mandates, transferable votes and Condorcet tallies) occur in almost every chapter. So the Table of Contents may help more than a search. Printouts.

español español.

Search only Accurate Democracy
The voting simulation shows the character of each rule.
But it requires a basic knowledge of voting rules.
The free software for voting does too.
PoliticalSim political simulation research

NEW!  The presentation about Fair Share Voting
from the 2012 Participatory Budgeting Conference!
English: Open Office slide show, Printout (PDF).
Español: Open Office diapositivas, impresora.
中国版 Chinese: Open Office 幻灯片, 打印 (PDF).
 comodo_secured_site_sealWe welcome questions, comments and corrections:
voting - site at g m a i l. No dashes or spaces.

© 1996-2016 AccurateDemocracy Next: the voting-rule primer

Yes Sim Candidate 1YesSim Candidate 2 Yes

Irish playwright G. B. Shaw satirized chauvinist pride
and ignorance in some leaders of the British Empire.

Back to humor question 1

Searching for more? This discipline is fractured by many synonyms.  Even its title varies: some call it public choice; others prefer social choice.  College courses that look at voting theory include economics and comparative politics or comparative government.  The table below has many terms that can help you find similar web sites.

You will find most of these terms include topics other than methods for calculating winners from ballots.  Searching for "voting systems" will bring you most often to sites that sell voting equipment.  So will "election systems" and "ballot systems". "Election rules" bring up ballot access, campaign funding, media regulation and other laws while missing legislative voting. "Voting procedures" or "methods" suggest instructions for casting ballots. "Tally rules" is good but may neglect ballots or mean tallies of things other than votes. "Voting rules" is a simple term for ways of casting and counting votes.

  Search Terms  
Nouns Voting Election Tally Ballot
Rules voting rules election rules tally rules ballot rules
Systems voting systems election systems tally systems ballot systems
Methods voting methods election methods tally methods ballot methods
Procedures voting procedures election procedures tally procedures ballot procedures

The election chapters' terms for electing, nominating or selecting a:
1) chairperson, chair, chairman, chairmen, chairwoman, chairwomen; president, prime minister or judge;
2) representative, rep, senator, congressman, congresswoman, minister, member, MP or delegate -- representatives, reps, senators, congressmen, congresswomen, ministers, members, MPs or delegates;
3) council, legislature, parliament, house of commons, senate, congress, house of representatives, assembly, meeting, convention, board of directors or sub committee;

The legislation chapters' terms to enact, set, pass, fund or budget:
1) policies, programs, laws, rules or regulations;
2) projects, grants, earmarks or proposals;
3) budgets, departments, agencies or programs;

Please try PoliticalSim tm (political sim), a free open-source political simulation game for Windows, and SimElection tm, electoral simulation software for Macintosh, for interactive simulations of approval voting, Borda rule, Condorcet rules (Minimax or Copeland), instant runoff voting (IRV, alternative vote, Hare), majority rule, plurality rule (aka first past the post, FPTP), proportional representation (list PR, full representation, proportional voting), single transferable vote (STV, choice voting), cumulative vote, limited vote, bloc vote and other voting rules.

Humor question 1        More humor questions        Next pages