Types of Voting Systems
Organizations involve people investing their time, effort, and creativity to make things happen. When it comes to making decisions, the best way to ensure everyone is heard and is committed to organizational goals is by taking a vote. This can happen anywhere from a church board meeting to a shareholder meeting within a corporation. Voting can help organizations function with fairness to its members.
Whether voting on an issue or electing officers, organizations can use a few different voting systems. In this blog, we'll break down each common voting method used in election systems and the reasons to use — or avoid — each.
First Past the Post
First Past the Post (FPTP) is generally seen as the simplest and clearest voting system. As in a race, the first racer past the post wins. FPTP is straightforward: the person or idea with the most votes wins. By FPTP rules, even if the lead only secures two votes, if it's more than any other candidate or option secured, it counts as victory.
FPTP has a clear advantage: transparency. Every vote counts and every vote is worth the same amount. In an election involving various factions, FPTP allows individuals to vote for the candidate they think is the best fit, regardless of their faction. It also has the benefit of being easy to understand and carry out.
However, FPTP also has potential downsides. One issue that frequently arises with FPTP voting systems is minority representation. For example, if a church is mostly white, then even if all black voters are in agreement, through FPTP they may still be vastly outvoted. In the past, FPTP has often been used to uphold old prejudices, keeping women and minorities from having a voice because most of the people who were able to vote were majority voices. FPTP can also leave people feeling that voting for a less popular candidate or position is hopeless, and they may decide not to vote at all. Because of this, FPTP can end up strengthening the majority status quo in an organization rather than leading to any change.
FPTP voting can be a great way to vote on issues facing an organization so that you get a vote for each member's opinion. In cases of voting for candidates, such as appointing someone to an executive board, it may unintentionally end up keeping the same people in power.
Proportional representation is a voting system in which representatives are elected or appointed for factions or parties within the organization. These representatives make decisions for the organization going forward, such as creating bylaws or establishing new procedures. Representatives are then given seats or votes proportionate to the number of votes that were cast for their party.
For instance, let's say there are two parties in a particular vote, and the vote is split 60/40 between the two opposing sides. The majority representatives would make up 60% of the seats, and the minority would get 40% of the seats. This way, even the party that "lost" the election still has a voice going forward, even if it's not the majority voice.
That is the main benefit of proportional representation: everyone is represented among the decision-makers for the organization. It also gets rid of the idea of "wasted" votes because every vote does actually count. Proportional representation also typically opens the floor for more than just one or two prevailing parties or candidates. Even a party that only wins 10% of the vote will still earn 10% of the representation, giving that long-shot party a voice in proceedings.
The main disadvantages are that it can lead to a lack of consensus or compromise. If every party has a voice, they may be unwilling to bend on their own goals and perspectives, leading to many split votes. It can also allow extreme or fringe perspectives to get a say in organizational decisions.
Overall, proportional representation is a great option if you have a large organization and a number of factions of shareholders or decision-makers. However, when using proportional representation, you may need to take care to ensure that the different voices are still going to be willing to work together and compromise. Otherwise, very little is likely to be achieved.
Ranked-choice voting is a bit more complex than the first two voting systems. Instead of simply voting for one party, one shareholder, or one side, you rank your top choices. The first-place choices are then tallied up. Whoever receives the majority of first-place votes wins the election. But here's where it gets tricky: if no one has the majority of first-place votes (over 50%), then any ballots for the last-place candidate go to the second choices of the voters, and the process starts again. This continues until there is finally a majority vote.
One of the advantages here again is that there is no wasted vote. In fact, even secondary options are taken into account. Ranked choice is also an excellent voting system if you want to hold a vote but don't want there to be any resentment, because there is a built-in process to find common ground. It also gives minority voices more of a chance, since if a minority voice is a second choice for most voters and the first choice doesn't reach a consensus, they stand a greater chance of winning.
On the other hand, ranked-choice voting can be complicated and a bit of a headache. Voters have to make an informed choice on not one but multiple voting options. Those counting the votes could be at it for hours trying to go down the list until they find a candidate who has a majority of votes. If the vote is being conducted from a customer survey, ranked voting often leads to less engagement with the vote.
Ranked choice is a more modern option that can serve you well if you have a number of options to vote on and if you want to settle a vote without too much animosity. It works less well on smaller, more divisive issues.
Mixed-member voting is a type of proportional representation vote that crosses with FPTP. This focuses on electing representatives to have a decision-making seat while also casting a vote for the overall party. In some cases, mixed-member voting systems give two votes: one for the representative and one for the party. In other cases, the vote for the representative counts as the vote for the party. The representative is elected via FPTP, while the party or decision is elected in a more proportional representation fashion.
Mixed members are great for organizations that like proportional representation but want a little more individualized choice. However, like ranked choice, it can be complex, and some voters may prioritize one vote over the other in terms of their research.
Voting System Modifiers
In any voting system, modifiers may be added to help perfect the system or make it fit your situation more clearly. One popular modifier is anonymous voting, which ensures that the identity behind each individual vote is not revealed. Proxy voting can occur when one person gives written consent for another to vote on their behalf. In shareholder meetings, weighted voting is also often relevant. The parties that own the most shares often carry a more weighted vote than the others, since it is a stronger financial investment for them.
Find the Right Voting System for You With VPOLL
VPOLL can facilitate the vote for your next board meeting, religious convention, and more. You can log into our secure, encrypted system from any device and navigate easily to cast ballots through any of these voting systems, as well as create custom ballots that fit your organization. Want to learn more? Contact us today to book a free 30-minute demo.
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