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Voting is usually the final step of a meeting's decision making. Alternatives include consensus decision making, which avoids votes where dissent is substantial, and betting as in an anticipatory democracy.

In a democracy, voting most commonly implies election, i.e. a way for an electorate to select among candidates for an office. In politics voting is the method by which the electorate of a democracy appoints representatives in the government.

A vote, or a ballot, is the individual's acts of voting, by which he or she express support or preference for a certain motion (e.g. a proposed resolution), a certain candidate, or a certain list of candidates. A secret ballot is seen as the standard way to protect voters' political privacy.

Table of contents
1 Standard vote types
2 More esoteric vote types
3 Issues

Standard vote types

Different voting systems use different types of vote. Suppose that the options in some election are Alice, Bob, Charlie, Daniel, and Emily

In a voting system that uses a single vote, the voter can select one of the five that they most approve of. First past the post uses single votes. So, a voter might vote for Charlie. This precludes him voting for anyone else.

In a voting system that uses a multiple vote, the voter can vote for any subset of the alternatives. So, a voter might vote for Alice, Bob, and Charlie, rejecting Daniel and Emily. Approval voting uses such multiple votes.

In a voting system that uses a ranked vote, the voter has to rank the alternatives in order of preference. For example, they might vote first for Bob in first place, then Emily, then Alice, then Daniel, and finally Charlie. There are a great many voting systems that use ranked votes. See preference voting.

In a voting system that uses a scored vote (or range vote), the voter gives each alternative a number between one and ten (the upper and lower bounds may vary). See range voting.

More esoteric vote types

More complicated methods have also been proposed, principally as a theoretical tool. For example, one method would make an average vote look like the following:

Alice > Charlie >>> Bob >> Emily > Daniel

This can interpreted to mean: "Alice is my favourite, followed by Charlie, Bob, Emily, and Daniel, in that order. I am willing to compromise on Charlie if it allows me to avoid Bob, Emily, or Daniel being elected. If Alice and Charlie are eliminated, then I'll vote for Bob. In such a circumstance I am not willing to compromise on Emily to avoid Daniel being elected."

One reason for preferring complex voting systems that may allow for these statements is to deal with the need to accommodate expressions of both tolerances and preferences in voting.


A vote is an expression of willingness to participate in a common process with some shared outcome. Those who feel that they were unable to express their limits or boundaries of tolerance in a voting system may be more likely to resist or fight or fail to support decisions made through it (more or an issue with parties or policies). Those who feel that they were unable to express their real preferences may lack all enthusiasm for the choices or eventually chosen leader. Any vote is a balance of both kinds of considerations.

One common issue, especially in first past the post systems, is that of the protest vote: one might "waste one's vote" on a minor party to send a signal of strong preference for a candidate or party that cannot win, or of intolerance for the "more mainstream" options. However it is difficult to tell from the vote alone whether one was positively inclined to the minor party or negatively inclined to the major party. Russia offers its electors a "None of the Above" option, so that protest votes can be properly tallied. AWS2004A14.

Also, it is often not clear whether the voter really understands how his or her vote is counted in the voting system, especially with the more complex types. This often leads to issues with the results. Ballot design and the use of voting machines are of particular importance, given this issue. It is very important that the results, especially of a political vote, be seen as fair, as resistance to its results leads at best to confusion, at worst to violence and even civil war, in the case of political rivals.

In an effort to make balloting cheaper and more transparent, Argentina has introduced electronic voting in an upcoming gubernatorial election to be held on 14 September 2003. The pilot test will involve 500,000 voters distributed among 20 constituencies in the eastern Argentine province of Buenos Aires.

See also: Suffrage, Referendum