Voting procedures: Part 1

Voting defined for better understanding of parliamentary procedure.

Many questions about parliamentary procedure are directed to Michigan State University Extension on a regular basis. One recent question was regarding voting. Members of professional and government organizations often are confused over majority, two-thirds, and plurality voting.

A majority vote, normally required to adopt a motion or to elect an office, means more than half of the votes cast by persons entitled to vote, excluding abstentions or blanks.

Mastering Council Meetings: A Guidebook for Elected Officials and Local Governments by Ann G. Macfarlane and Andrew L. Estep highlights the example:

  • 100 people voting (51 in favor)
  • 50 people voting (26 in favor)
  • 10 people voting (6 in favor)
  • 5 people voting (3 in favor)

A two-thirds vote is required in particular circumstances, most notably to suspend rules, or to close, limit, or extend debate. It is defined as “at least two thirds” of the votes cast by persons entitled to vote excluding blanks or abstentions.

Mastering Council Meetings: A Guidebook for Elected Officials and Local Governments once again highlights the example:

  • 100 people voting (67 in favor)
  • 50 people voting (34 in favor)
  • 10 people voting (7 in favor)
  • 5 people voting (4 in favor)

A plurality vote, which is the largest number of votes (which may be less than a majority) when there are three or more alternatives. It might also be helpful to think of it simply as the person or proposal with the most vote “wins.”

The example from Mastering Council Meetings: A Guidebook for Elected Officials and Local Governments includes:

Total votes cast = 135            

Candidate A    (30 votes received)     (22 percent received)

Candidate B    (45 votes received)     (33 percent received)

Candidate C    (20 votes received)     (15 percent received)

Candidate D    (40 votes received)     (30 percent received)

The winner is candidate B even though they did not receive the majority of votes.

The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. The Michigan State University Extension Government and Public Policy team also offers professional training in parliamentary procedure. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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