Simple Majority System | Definition, Features, Pros & Cons

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Simple Majority (Plurality) System | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits

Simple Majority (Plurality) System | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits
Simple Majority (Plurality) System | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits

The simple majority means that the candidate with the largest number of votes wins the election. For example, five candidates (A, B, C, D and E) contested election in a federal constituency. Their respective votes are as follows.  

Sample of Simple Majority System of Voting
Name of Candidates Number of Votes Result
A 30,000 —–
B 55,000 —–
C 70,000 Winner
D 15,000 —–
E 10,000 —–
Total Votes 180,000  

In the above table, candidate C with 70,000 votes win the election by a simple majority. In this example, Candidate C is elected even though his total votes represent less than 50% of the total votes which are 90,000.

Features of Simple Majority

The simple majority electoral system of voting has the following features.

  1. The simple majority is sometimes called the plurality system or first-past-the-post system.
  2. A candidate must obtain plurality of votes to be elected. That is, he must have obtained most votes than any other candidate in the election.
  3. The system is most suitable for two party system.
  4. The simple majority is based on the single-member constituencies. The single member consistency is a geographical system of representation in which the state or country is divided into constituencies or districts which usually contain, under ideal conditions, an equal number of people who choose one representative. Countries like Britain, France, Ghana, Nigeria and United States operate this system of representation.

The single-member constituencies or district system has certain advantages. First, simple and easy to understand. Second, it enables the voter to know the candidate he is voting for. Third, it allows the representation of minorities. Finally, it provides for a stable government.

Its disadvantages include the following: first, the small size of the district may allow the government to manipulate elections to its own advantage; second, the majority party, through a process of gerrymandering, may redraw the boundaries of the constituencies; third, it leads to the election of people who regard themselves as representing local rather than national interest and finally, inadequate attention may be given to the Redesign of constituencies, a neglect that continues the dominance of a sectional or economic interest which may have ceased to be a majority.

Advantages of Simple Majority

The advantages of the simple majority are similar to those of the single-member constituencies itemized above.

  1. It provides a stable government and a well-defined opposition.
  2. It is easy to operate especially in a two party system.
  3. It provides a clear majority.
  4. The system helps to avoid the emergence of a coalition government.

Disadvantages of Simple Majority

The simple majority has the following disadvantages.

  1. Since the votes scored by the elected representative maybe less than 50% of the total votes cast, then he cannot truly represent all the major interests in the constituency.
  2. There is usually no correspondence between the votes cast at the election and the number of seats won by a party in the legislature.
  3. Gerrymandering is an evil which may wreck a system.
  4. It does not work well in multi-party states because the voters tend to operate under the impression that if they vote any party other than the two most powerful ones, their votes are wasted.
  5. There is the existence of strong and continue local minority parties which may be based on religious, ethnic or linguistic sentiments.
  6. The geographic distribution of the votes and the division of the constituencies may lead to a situation in which some parties become almost permanently under-represented or over-represented in the legislature.
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