Absolute Voting Rules

55 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2005

Date Written: August 2005


A fully specified voting rule must state both a multiplier (for example, a majority or a supermajority) and a multiplicand (for example, a majority of the votes cast or a majority of all members eligible to vote in the institution). The theory of voting rules developed in law, political science, and economics typically compares simple majority rule with alternatives such as supermajority rule. This sort of comparison picks up variation in the multiplier alone. In this paper, by contrast, I consider variation in the multiplicand. The focus is on absolute voting rules, whose multiplicand is all members eligible to vote in the institution. I compare absolute voting rules to voting rules that use a standard multiplicand, under which only those present and voting are counted. The thesis is that under a range of circumstances, absolute voting rules prove normatively superior. Absolute voting rules can insure majorities against strategic behavior by minorities, combine supermajoritarian effects with majoritarian symbolism, and liberate voters from accountability when it is socially desirable to do so.

Keywords: Voting, voting rules, legislatures, legislation, majority rule, supermajority rule

Suggested Citation

Vermeule, Adrian, Absolute Voting Rules (August 2005). ; U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 257. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=791724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.791724

Adrian Vermeule (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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