& Outcomes
Not So Simple
Examples Sources
Voting Rules and Election Outcomes

Elections are complex events. We often assume that simple majority rule is a simple approach to popular democratic government. But, as this chapter shows, many forces can affect election outcomes. Election results can be shaped by almost everything – from the partisan leanings of voters to candidates' qualities to campaign issues and advertising to voter turnout to election administration.

The voting rule used also affects election outcomes. In its simplest sense a voting rule is the minimum number of members of a group who must agree on a candidate or course of action to select it for the group. Examples include:

  • Unanimity: choose the option all group members prefer
  • Simple majority rule: choose the option at least one half plus one group members prefer
  • Dictatorship: choose the option a single person in the group prefers

A rule of unanimity is extremely difficult to satisfy most of the time. Dictatorship unchecked is undesirable. Simple majority rule seems the most workable and fairest choice for popular elections.

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