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In voting, a plurality is the largest number of votes to be received by any candidate or referendum.[1] It is contrasted with a majority, which is over half of the votes.[1] For example, in a plurality election, the candidate with the most votes wins, while in a majority election, a candidate can only win if they also receive over half of the votes. When no candidate receives a majority in the first round of voting, a two-round system or preferential voting system can be used to choose a winner. When there are only two choices, the plurality choice is also the majority choice.

Systems allowing plurality election are more vulnerable to corruption using the spoiler effect than systems which require a majority.[2]

In British English

In British English, the word majority can often be used as a synonym of plurality, with the term overall or absolute majority being used to refer to the narrower North American meaning.[3]

For example, an election of three candidates where 100 votes are cast, with Alice winning 40 votes, and Bob and Carol winning 31 and 29 votes respectively. A Briton might say "Alice won with the majority of votes", whereas a Canadian wishing to express the same sentiment would say "Alice won with a plurality." The Canadian would only describe Alice as winning with a majority if Alice won with at least 51 votes.

The term relative majority is a synonym for plurality, that can also be used if necessary to distinguish that kind of 'majority' from an overall majority.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Robert, Henry M. "Introduction to Robert's Rules" Robert's Rules of Order Revised. 4th ed. 1915. RulesOnline.com
  2. ^ Pounstone, William (2008). Gaming the vote: why elections aren't fair (and what we can do about it). Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0809048939.
  3. ^ As Fowler (1965) notes: "With three-cornered contests as common as they now are, we may have occasion to find a convenient single word for what we used to call an absolute majority... In America the word majority itself has that meaning while a poll greater than that of any other candidate, but less than half the votes cast, is called a plurality. It might be useful to borrow this distinction..." (Fowler, H.W. 1965 A Dictionary of Modern English Usage)
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