Voting Rules in International Organizations

28 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2014

See all articles by Eric A. Posner

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Alan Sykes

Stanford University - Law School

Date Written: January 21, 2014


International organizations use a bewildering variety of voting rules — with different thresholds, weighting systems, veto points, and other rules that distribute influence unequally among participants. We provide a brief survey of the major voting systems, and show that all are controversial and unsatisfactory in various ways. While it is tempting to blame great powers or the weakness of international law for these problems, we argue that the root source is intellectual rather than political — the difficulty of designing a voting system that both allows efficient collective decisions and protects the legitimate interests of members. We show how a new type of voting system — quadratic voting — could in theory resolve these problems, and while it may be too new or unusual to implement any time soon, it provides insights into the defects of the existing systems.

Suggested Citation

Posner, Eric A. and Sykes, Alan, Voting Rules in International Organizations (January 21, 2014). University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 673, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 458, Available at SSRN: or

Eric A. Posner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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Alan Sykes

Stanford University - Law School ( email )

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Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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