Limited votingElectoral methods
This series is part of the
Politicsand the Electionseries.
- Single member
- Plurality (first-past-the-post)
- Two-round system
- Exhaustive ballot
- Preferential systems
- Non-rank methods
- Proportional representation
- Semi-proportional representation
- Non-proportional multi-member
- Bloc voting
- Limited voting
- Random selection
Limited voting is a voting system in which electors have fewer votes than there are positions available. The positions are awarded to the candidates who receive the most votes absolutely. In the special case in which the voter may vote for only one candidate and there are two or more posts, this system is called the single non-transferable vote or sometimes the strictly limited vote.
- 1 Example
- 2 Practice and issues
- 3 History and current use
- 4 'Fixed Ratio' or 'Limited List'
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
Rory Red Red Party Rachel Red Red Party Barry Blue Blue Party X Beryl Blue Blue
Party X Borris Blue Blue Party
The voter has only two votes, which they have cast for Barry and Berryl Blue. They cannot cast a vote for the third available seat. Each vote counts as one towards the total for the candidate they have put their mark against.
Practice and issues
Although it frequently enables minority groupings to gain representation - unlike first past the post or bloc voting systems - it is not guaranteed to do this, since the effectiveness of a sectional vote may be altered depending on the number of candidates fielded.
For example, in Voterville 54% of electors support the Blue Party while 46% support the Red Party. Assuming an even distribution of support across the town, the Blue Party would win all three seats with either bloc voting or first past the post. With limited voting the Red Party would usually win one seat.
This is, however, complicated by the fact that it is possible for the Blue Party to overreach itself and win only one of the available seats. Since they have nearly 60% of the vote, they may be tempted to try and win all three seats for themselves. To do this, they need only to field three candidates. The Red Party, aware of the relative weakness chose only to contest two and thus to concentrate their vote.
Assuming 100,000 electors in the town casting two votes each, the results would, thus, be:Rory Red 46,000 votes Elected Rachel Red 46,000 votes Elected Barry Blue 38,000 votes Elected Beryl Blue 36,000 votes Borris Blue 34,000 votes
By fielding three candidates the Blue Party hopelessly split their vote, despite being the clear majority in the town.
As can be seen from this example, limited voting is not a proportional electoral system.
Conversely another way in which the system may fail to achieve its end of minority representation, is if the largest party is very well organised and is able to arrange the distibution of its supporters vote for maximum advantage. A historical example of where this was done successfully was the 1880 election for the three Members of Parliament for the English city of Birmingham. Electors could cast up to two votes.General Election 1880: Birmingham (3 seats) Party Candidate Votes % ±% LiberalPhilip Henry Muntz 22,969 24.27 N/A LiberalJohn Bright22,079 23.33 N/A LiberalJoseph Chamberlain19,544 20.65 N/A ConservativeF.G. Burnaby 15,735 16.63 N/A ConservativeHon. A.C.G. Calthorpe 14,308 15.12 N/A Turnout63,398 reg. 74.64 N/A
- Note: Turnout is estimated on the basis of dividing votes cast by two. To the extent that electors did not use both their possible votes, turnout will be underestimated. (Source: Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885).
Charles Seymour in Electoral Reform in England and Wales explained the reaction of the Liberals of Birmingham after the limited vote was enacted..
The Liberals of Birmingham realized that if they were to retain the third seat, their vote must be divided economically between the three candidates. To prevent waste of votes, an organization must be built up which could control absolutely the choice of the elector; and each elector must vote invariably as he was told. The success of the Birmingham organization, which soon became known as the Caucus was unbroken and no Conservative candidate was returned. It was copied in many other constituencies and inaugurated a new era in the development of party electoral machinery, the effect of which upon the representative system has been profound.
History and current use
It was also used in Italy at the end of the nineteenth century.
The limited vote has been used since the restoration of democracy to elect senators from the Spanish mainland. In the United States, it is used to elect most municipal offices in Connecticut, many county commissions in Pennsylvania, and some in other states. It has been adopted to resolve voting rights cases in more than 20 municipalities in Alabama and North Carolina, as detailed in Arrington and Ingalls' 1998 article "The limited vote alternative to affirmative districting" (Political Geography, Volume 17, Number 6, Aug 1998 , pp. 701-728).
It is used for elections in Gibraltar where electors have eight votes for the 15 seats.
'Fixed Ratio' or 'Limited List'
The electoral system whereby two seats are assigned to the leading party-list and one seat to the second-placed party-list normally has the same result as limited vote with two votes per voter for three seats. It is used for 96 of 128 seats of the Senate of Mexico, for the Senate of Bolivia and for the Senate of Argentina. A similar system was used for the Constituent Assembly of Bolivia elections of 2 July 2006) .
- A Handbook of Electoral System Design from International IDEA
- Electoral Design Reference Materials from the ACE Project