This category is for articles about voting methods. Articles about specific voting methods should be moved into sub-categories that describe their properties.
Voting systems or election methods are abstract methods for groups of people to select one or more options from many, taking into account the individual preferences of the group members. Voting is often seen as the defining feature of democracy, and is best known for its use in elections — but it can also be used to award prizes, to select between different plans of action, or as a means for computer programs to evaluate which solution is best for a complex problem. A key property of voting systems is that, because they are algorithms, they must be formally defined. Consensus, for example, which is sometimes put forward as a voting system, is more properly a broad way of working with others, analogous to democracy or anarchy.
Aspects of voting systems
Different voting systems have different types of ballots for allowing individuals to express their preferences. In ranked ballot or "preference" voting systems, like Instant-runoff voting or the Borda count, voters order the list of options from most to least preferred. In Cardinal Ratings, voters rate each option separately.
District (constituency) size
A voting system may select only one option, in which case it is called a "single winner system", or it may select multiple options, for example candidates to fill an assembly or alternative possible decisions on the measure the ballot posed. Some countries, like Israel, fill their entire parliament using a single multiple-winner district (constituency), while others, like Ireland or Belgium, break up their national elections into smaller, multiple-winner districts, and yet others, like the United States or the United Kingdom, hold only single-winner elections. Some systems, like the Additional member system, embed smaller districts within larger ones.
In party-list proportional representation systems, candidates can be aligned with, or nominated by, political parties, and the party's list of candidates plays a functional role within the system. These parties may in turn be aligned with other parties, to form coalitions, which can play roles beyond those played by the party. These systems are designed to ensure proportional representation, the idea that the candidates selected from a given party (or, in non-party-list systems, informal grouping) should be in proportion to the votes cast for that party. Some of these systems, however, have election thresholds--minimum numbers of votes cast for a party to win any seats. The purpose of an election threshold is generally to keep very small parties from participating in a parliament, in order to maintain stability of governments.
None of the above and write-ins
In some voting systems, voters may choose to select none of the candidates (or poll options), by voting for a "None of the above" option. If this option wins, the election fails, all candidates or poll options are excluded from a subsequent election. Alternately, some elections allow voters to write in the name of a person (or of the poll option) not on the ballot as their option.
Candidate Withdrawal option
Allows candidates to withdraw from contention after the votes are cast, to avoid being spoilers or to foil manipulative voting strategies. See Candidate withdrawal option.
Criteria in evaluating voting systems
Various criteria are used in evaluating voting systems. However, it is impossible for one voting system to pass all criteria in common use. For example, Arrow's impossibility theorem demonstrates that many desirable criteria are mutually inconsistent.
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