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A majority, also known as a simple majority in the U.S.marker, is a subset of a group that is more than half of the entire group. This should not be confused with a plurality, which is a subset having the largest number of parts. A plurality is not necessarily a majority, as the largest subset may be less than half of the entire group. In British English, majority and plurality are often used as synonyms; it can also refer to the margin of vote separating the first-place finisher from the second-place finisher, so that a candidate who wins by 1000 votes may be said to have received "a majority of 1000 votes". The term overall majority is used in British English to refer to the difference between the number of votes cast for the winner and the total number of votes cast for all other candidates.The term absolute majority is used to indicate more than fifty percent of the vote.

For example, in a hypothetical group of 40 athletes there are:



In this group, a majority would consist of more than half the total number of athletes, or 21 athletes. The group of all ball sport players together (15 football players + 6 table tennis players = 21) comprise a majority. However, football players, 15 in number, comprise a plurality, not a majority. In British English usage, football players would be described as having a majority of 5 (15 - 10) over sprinters, no individual sport has an absolute majority or an overall majority, and ball players have an overall majority of 2 (21 - 19) over the other sports.

Parliamentary rules

In parliamentary procedure (the "rules of order" concerning the conduct of business in a deliberative body), the term 'majority' refers to "more than half." As it relates to a vote, a majority is more than half of the votes cast (noting that an abstention is simply the refusal to vote).

A common error is to list a majority as being "one more than half" or "fifty percent plus one". This is incorrect when there is an odd number of votes cast. When there are 51 votes cast, half is 25.5. Only 26 votes are needed, not 26.5 votes.

The definition of "majority vote" can differ, however, from one parliamentary authority to another. Robert's Rules of Order, (abbreviated RONR) defines a majority as being more than one half of the votes cast including votes cast for an ineligible candidate, or improper choice (e.g. a vote of "maybe" on a yes or no vote); these votes referred to as "illegal votes cast by legal voters." The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (abbreviated TSC) defines a majority as being more than half of the "legal" votes cast .

For example, assume that votes are cast for three people for an office, Mr. A, Ms. B, and Wimpy the Gerbil (who is ineligible). The vote totals are:
  • Total votes cast - 20
  • Mr. A - 9 votes
  • Ms. B - 8 votes
  • Wimpy the Gerbil (ineligible) - 3 votes


Using the definition in RONR, no candidate has a majority and no candidate is elected; 20 votes cast, a majority (in whole numbers) is 11 and no candidate received 11. Using the definition in TSC, Mr. A is elected; 20 cast, 3 illegal, 17 legal, with a majority of legal votes cast (in whole numbers) being 9.

In politics, political voting systems, and even in parliamentary procedure in some cases, there are several different popular concepts relating to a majority:

These concepts are not to be confused with the concept of a majority as understood in parliamentary procedure, which is a common error. While they do have counterparts in parliamentary procedure, in it they are undefined as termed, and their discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Comparison of 'simple majority' with other terms

A simple majority does not include abstentions or absent members. It is more strict than a plurality vote, but less strict than an absolute majority vote (which in countries other than the U.S. still simply means more than half, though the simpler American term "majority" is becoming increasingly popular). It is the most common requirement in voting for a measure to pass, especially in deliberative bodies and small organizations. In parliamentary procedure, the unqualified term "majority" has this meaning, and the usage "simple majority" is discouraged.

Examples

Consider three propositions: A, B, and C, that are proposed in a club of 100 members. In order for a proposition to be successful, a simple majority must agree to it. The results of the election are:

  • 30 votes for proposition A
  • 50 votes for proposition B
  • 10 votes for proposition C
  • 10 votes are blank


Since there are more votes for B than there are votes for both A and C combined, B has the simple majority, and so wins. That is, the votes for B make up more than 50% of the total counted votes (90). If all the votes were considered, including the 10 blank votes, as in an absolute majority vote, then B would not have a majority. Abstentions and non-voters do not affect a simple majority process, since they neither support nor oppose. They affect only an absolute majority.

In an election for president in the same club having candidates Jim, Bob, Sally, and Bridget, the results are as follows:
  • 20 votes for Jim
  • 20 votes for Bob
  • 40 votes for Sally
  • 2 votes for Bridget


In this election, no one has more votes than the combined votes of the opponents, so no one wins. Sally's 40 votes do not make up more than 50% of the total number of votes. In a case like this, most systems would either adopt a plurality rule or would have a second ballot with all of the candidates present, unless the organization's bylaws specify otherwise (as is commonly done to create a runoff election).

Tie votes do not meet simple majority because not more than half of the votes cast approve, so ties are classfied as failures.

References

  1. "With three-cornered contests as common as they now are, we may have occasion to find a convenient single word for what we used to call an absolute majority... In America the word majority itself has that meaning while a poll greater than that of any other candidate, but less than half the votes cast is called a plurality. It might be useful to borrow this distinction..." (Fowler, H.W. 1965 A Dictionary of Modern English Usage)
  2. Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition, 2000, pp. 387, 404
  3. The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th edition, 2001, pp. 134, 158-9


See also




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