[EM] RE: Definition of preferential voting

Paul Kislanko kislanko at airmail.net
Thu Aug 19 16:52:05 PDT 2004

Ah, "preferential systems". 


Voting is the act of the casting a ballot. It is inherently preferential,
but has nothing to do with how the ballots are counted.  If they are talking
about differences in tallying methods, they shouldn't be calling them
"voting" systems. 


I am being a bit pedantic, but clarity is necessary here. A "voting system"
is a punched-card, a touch-sensitive CRT, paper with circles that require a
#2 pencil, or a gorgeous 1950s-era big box with lots of levers to play with
including the big ones that would automatically turn all the little ones for
the same party.


I think what we're talking about is "preferential vote-counting", which is
at honest. The same ballots give different results depending upon how
precisely the election method reflects the voters' preferences.



From: election-methods-electorama.com-bounces at electorama.com
[mailto:election-methods-electorama.com-bounces at electorama.com] On Behalf Of
Toplak Jurij
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 6:23 PM
To: Paul Kislanko; election-methods at electorama.com
Subject: Re: [EM] RE: Definition of preferential voting


You are not flippant.. you've made a good point. 

Recently, David Farrell and Ian McAllister have used the term 'preferential
voting' in the way that resembles your view. All the systems are
preferential, but, they say, some are more preferential than others -
assuming that 'preference' means 'choice'. Therefore, more choice means more
preference. This way they end up with the scale ranging from most
preferential to less preferential systems. The paper is available at


I don't mean to be flippant, but what voting as performed by a voter would
not be "preferential"? Any collection procedure that gives the voter a
choice asks for a preference. So "preferential voting" is a noise phrase
that doesn't mean anything at all since it applies to every method that asks
for voter input. 


I suppose you could make an argument that "preferential voting" is the
voters' act of voting for their preferences as opposed to voting opposite
their preferences (by any method), or that "preferential voting" is
"preferring to vote or preferring not to vote". 


But to quote the very wise HAL-9000 (somewhat out of context) "The phrase
does not admit an explanation." 


If I had to define it formally, I'd use:

Preferential voting; n. Example of a non-sequiter.



From: Toplak Jurij [mailto:jure.toplak at uni-mb.si] 
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 5:39 PM
To: Paul Kislanko; election-methods at electorama.com
Subject: Definition of preferential voting


During the last days the discussion on this list has focused primarily on
the terminology. Coincidently I am working on a paper that tries to define
"preferential voting". 


Literature offers numerous understandings and definitions:

- 'preferential voting' is often used as a synonim for Alternative Vote or

- 'preferential voting' is sometimes used as another name for STV

- 'preferential voting' is often used to denote 'ranking methods' (thus
including STV, AV, Borda, etc.)

- 'preferential voting is often used to denote a preference for a single
candidate within List PR (this definition is used mainly in Europe)

- mathematicians put first-past-the-post in the group of preferential voting
schemes, but approval voting is not a member of this group

- some authors put US primaries under 'preferential voting' (Katz, for


Is it possible to define preferential voting at all?

I'd be grateful for any comments.




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