[EM] RE: Definition of preferential voting

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Fri Aug 20 02:07:24 PDT 2004

Paul Kislanko > Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 12:52 AM
> 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.

Here in the UK we would normally refer to the equipment and its use as the "voting method" and the
way votes are cast ("X" for one candidate, "X" for one party, "1, 2, 3 ...") and the way those votes
are counted as the "voting system".  Thus First-Past-The-Post (simple plurality) or Condorcet or IRV
would be a 'voting system".  Paper ballots or punched cards or postal ballots or telephone voting or
SMS-Text voting would all be 'voting methods'.  I suppose it doesn't really matter which you call
what, just so long as you define your terms  -  and understand that they will mean the exact
opposite in some other part of the world.

Just for the record, to return to the original topic in the Subject box, here in the UK,
"preferential voting" would include only those voting systems (as defined above!) in which the voter
marks candidates in the order of his or her preference ("1, 2, 3, ...").  It is true, in the more
general sense, that FPTP (simple plurality) is an example of "preferential voting" in that the voter
expresses a preference for one candidate over all others, but in discussions on voting systems the
term "preferential voting" is used only in the more narrowly defined way.

Incidentally, plain text message format (except when essential) and deletion of all unquoted
(irrelevant) text from reply messages on this List would be much appreciated.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list