Majority Rule Standard

Hugh R. Tobin htobin at
Mon Nov 18 21:26:41 PST 1996

Mike Ossipoff frequently writes:

>If a full majority of all the voters indicate that they'd rather
>have A than B, then, if we choose A or B, it should be A.

I think I understand what is meant, but I also believe it could be
expressed more precisely.  In particular, how is "voters" defined?  It
could mean (a) registered voters; (b) those who vote in any election
that is on the same ballot with the A vs. B race; (c) those who vote in
any pairwise race on that ballot for the office for which A and B are
contending; or (d) those who vote in the race A vs. B.  I believe (c) is
intended, but "all" might make a case for (b), if not (a).  I am not
sure what "full" adds to the statement. I admit that the version with
definition (c), as a standard independent of that with definition (d),
does not strike me as an intuitively compelling standard.  If both
versions appear to be violated in an election (due to a Condorcet
circular tie), I won't feel much better about it just because enough
absentee ballots turn up that express no preference between A and B to
reduce A below a "full majority" under (c). Should I feel relieved in
that case, more than if those absentees had not bothered to vote in the
race at all?

-- Hugh Tobin

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