Pros and Cons of Plurality Voting System: Increased Transparency or Distorted Democracy?
The plurality voting system is the second most widely used voting system in the world, and interestingly, most former British colonies incorporate this system in their voting structure.
Plurality voting is a system in which the candidate grabbing the most votes ends up on the winning side.
Looking at state-level politics, the plurality voting system in the US portrays that if a candidate wins a majority of the vote in any state, he/she bags all the electoral votes of that region.
However, the same is not true at the federal level, where, despite getting more votes nationwide, a presidential candidate can suffer a loss.
What are the pros and cons of the plurality voting system? Let’s see.
Pros of Plurality Voting System
Reduces Legal Complexities in the Process
There are no complexities involved which could, later on, create legal challenges. For example, in the 2020 presidential elections of the United States, the voter fraud rhetoric emerged in the wake of elections, but the simplicity of the process did not allow anyone to rob the votes.
The most popular candidate in any state won all electoral votes in that state, except for Nebraska and Maine, under a winner take all system.
The plurality voting system at the nationwide elections is what can be considered to be the real voice of people.
For instance, consider a presidential election where presidents are elected based on who grab the most votes nationwide.
Reduces Procedural Costs Heavily
Plurality voting is less expensive as compared to other electoral processes. In 2020 Congress provided $805 million, most of which was to be spent on security for state and local elections. Half of the money was returned unspent.
In the last general elections of India, the government allocated $7 billion, which is a lot less to be spent in an electoral system duration spanning over a week in the second-most populous country and the largest democracy in the world.
In the United Kingdom’s 2019 parliamentary and general elections, the government spent nearly $131 million.
In the UK and US, most of the money is spent to ensure safety from cyber attacking and the usage of technological instruments in the process.
Discourages Tribal Politics
There is also an argument that the plurality voting system encourages broad-crunch centrist policies while discouraging extremist perspectives.
A candidate has to win the majority to become successful and therefore has to appeal to every type of voter.
This is an exception in states where there is a majority of people that belong to the same ideological group.
In India, for instance, there is a tradition of family politics where people of a specific caste vote for the candidate who belongs to their own caste or social group.
This highly influences the electoral process, but plurality voting ensures that such traditions are not encouraged as the candidate has to win diverse kinds of voters.
Cons of Plurality Voting System
But Plurality voting comes with its own cons.
May not Reflect People’s True Intent
In this system, the size of the winning margin is of no concern, as the candidate only has to secure one more vote to carry the district.
Consider a scenario where one candidate wins one million votes, and the other gets just one extra vote. The candidate with an extra vote will be victorious.
This surely does not translate the true concept of democracy as this small winning margin does not replicate voters’ true intent.
For this purpose, many states in the US have introduced the idea of runoff elections, where a candidate has to get at least 50 percent of the votes even after getting the majority.
Results in Stunted Growth of Backward Regions
Plurality voting ignores the geographically less populated areas, which can result in the stunted growth of those regions in the country.
This was also the biggest concern of the electoral college, as political parties mostly direct their energies towards states having more electoral votes.
The same stands true for south Asian countries where heavily dense regions become the actual decision-makers within the country’s politics.