What Makes A Voting Method Good?

Aaron Hamlin
9 min readOct 1, 2018

You’re probably familiar with voting methods generally; that is, how voters add information to their ballots and how that information is calculated. Right now, our main voting method has us choose one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. This is called plurality voting or first-past-the-post voting but here, we’ll refer to it as our current “choose-one” voting method.

However, this is not the only way to vote. Some voting methods have us score, rank, and even approve multiple candidates. That information can be used to calculate average support, simulate sequential runoffs, translate rankings to point values, or run pairwise comparisons between candidates like a round-robin tournament.

Given all the possible voting methods with their infinite iterations, how do we know whether a particular one is any good?

Here are some guidelines.

A Good Winner

What’s a “good winner”? Here’s one definition: A good winner is the candidate who makes the most voters happy.

You can measure this directly in polls by asking respondents to use an honest assessment scale that has them…