2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government

Voting is a method of decision making wherein a group such as a meeting or an electorate attempts to gauge its opinion—usually as a final step following discussions or debates. Alternatives to voting include consensus decision making (which works to avoid polarization and the marginalization of dissent) and betting (as in an anticipatory democracy).

Reasons for voting

In a democracy, voting commonly implies election, i.e. a way for an electorate to select among candidates for office. In politics voting is the method by which the electorate of a democracy appoints representatives in its government.

A vote, or a ballot, is an individual's act of voting, by which he or she express support or preference for a certain motion (e.g. a proposed resolution), a certain candidate, or a certain selection of candidates. A secret ballot, the standard way to protect voters' political privacy, generally takes place at a polling station. (Compare postal ballot). The act of voting in most countries is voluntary, however some countries, such as Australia, Belgium and Brazil, have compulsory voting systems.

Though voting is usually recognized as one of the main characteristics of democracy, a country's having an election featuring the populace casting votes does not necessarily mean the country is democratic. Many authoritarian governments have "elections" but the candidates are pre-chosen and approved by elites, there is no competition, voter qualifications are restrictive, and voting is often a sham.

Some people think that whenever votes are recorded in a medium which is invisible to humans, electors lose any possibility to verify how their votes are collected and tallied up to produce the final result, thus they need to have an absolute faith in the accuracy, honesty and security of the whole electoral apparatus. This is said to be particularly true for electronic elections because, for people who didn’t program them, computers act just like black boxes and their operations can truly be verified only by knowing the input and comparing the expected output with the actual output , but under a secret ballot system, there is no known input, nor is there any expected output with which to compare electoral results . On the other hand, this is a problem to some degree with every form of a secret ballot; it is impossible for an individual voter to personally follow the custody or his or her vote once it is placed into the ballot box.

Types of votes

Different voting systems use different types of vote. Suppose that the options in some election are Alice, Bob, Charlie, Daniel, and Emily.

In a voting system that uses a single vote, the voter can select one of the five that they most approve of. First past the post uses single votes. So, a voter might vote for Charlie. This precludes him voting for anyone else.

In a voting system that uses a multiple vote, the voter can vote for any subset of the alternatives. So, a voter might vote for Alice, Bob, and Charlie, rejecting Daniel and Emily. Approval voting uses such multiple votes.

In a voting system that uses a ranked vote, the voter has to rank the alternatives in order of preference. For example, they might vote for Bob in first place, then Emily, then Alice, then Daniel, and finally Charlie. Many voting systems use ranked votes. See preference voting.

In a voting system that uses a scored vote (or range vote), the voter gives each alternative a number between one and ten (the upper and lower bounds may vary). See range voting.

Fair voting

Kenneth Arrow lists five characteristics of a fair voting system. However, Arrow's impossibility theorem shows that it is impossible for any voting system to have all 5 characteristics at the same time.

Casting a vote expresses an implied willingness to participate in a common process with some shared outcome. Those who feel unable to express their limits or boundaries of tolerance in a voting system may be more likely to resist or fight or fail to support decisions made through it (more of an issue with parties or policies). Those who feel unable to express their real preferences may lack all enthusiasm for the choices or for the eventually chosen representative or leader. Any vote balances both kinds of considerations.

One common issue, especially in first-past-the-post systems, is that of the protest vote: one might "waste one's vote" on a minor party to send a signal of strong preference for a candidate or party that cannot win, or of intolerance for the "more mainstream" options. However it is difficult to tell from the vote alone whether one is positively inclined to the minor party or negatively inclined to the major party. Russia offers its electors a " None of the Above" option, so that protest votes can be properly tallied. Other jurisdictions may record the incidence of (apparently deliberately) spoiled ballot papers.

Also, it is often not clear whether the voter really understands how his or her vote is counted in the voting system, especially with the more complex types. This often leads to issues with the results. Ballot design and the use of voting machines have particular importance, given this issue. Optimally participants in a vote should perceive the results, especially of a political vote, as fair. If fairness appears lacking, resistance to the results may lead at best to confusion, at worst to violence and even civil war, in the case of political rivals.

In an effort to make balloting cheaper and more transparent, Brazil introduced electronic voting in all levels of elections, gradually since 1994. By 2002 general elections, all voting in Brazil was cast on electronic system, with paper ballots being used only in last case emergencies (such as black-outs). Argentina followed in 14 September 2003, for a gubernatorial election. This pilot test involved 500,000 voters distributed among 20 constituencies in the eastern Argentine province of Buenos Aires.

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