Supermajority Voting Rules

33 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2004

See all articles by Richard Holden

Richard Holden

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2004


The size of a supermajority required to change an existing contract varies widely in different settings. This paper analyzes the optimal supermajority requirement, determined by multilateral bargaining behind the veil of ignorance. The optimum is determined by a tradeoff between reducing hold-up power of small groups and reducing expropriation of minorities. We solve for the optimal supermajority requirement as a function of the distribution of voter types, the number of voters and the degree of importance of the decision. The findings are consistent with observed heterogeneity of supermajority requirements in different settings and jurisdictions.

Keywords: Supermajority, majority rule, qualified majority, special majority, constitutions, social contract, incomplete contracts

JEL Classification: D63, D72, D74, F34, G34, H40

Suggested Citation

Holden, Richard, Supermajority Voting Rules (June 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Richard Holden (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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