The term bloc voting (or block voting ) refers to a set of voting systems used to elect several representatives from one constituency. Although there are significant variations in types of bloc voting, they all allow voters to cast multiple votes for one or more candidates and have the potential to result in several officials being elected based on one specific distribution of voter choices. Among the variables associated with different types of bloc voting are the number of votes available to each voter, the possibility of candidate ranking, and the decision rule for determining winners (Farrell 2001). These variables have consequences with regards to the advantages and disadvantages experienced by different aggregations of voters (see the excellent essays in Grofman and Lijphart 1986).
In plurality bloc voting, all candidates compete with one another. Each voter is allowed to cast one vote per candidate. The total number of votes available to a voter is the same as the number of seats to be filled. The candidates who are victorious are those who receive the highest number of votes. In some systems with plurality bloc voting, voters are required to cast all five of their votes for any one of their votes to count. This is sometimes referred to as a full ballot requirement. Plurality bloc voting allows one majority of voters, if it has a consistent set of preferences, to select all candidates to office. Such voting can be especially detrimental to the interests of a minority of voters who have preferences different from those of the majority.
Preferential bloc voting is a system in which voters are required to rank candidates by first-choice preference to the n preference, with n referring to the number of positions to be filled. No two candidates can receive the same preference ranking from any one voter. Candidates who receive the smallest number of first-choice rankings are eliminated in the first round of counting. The second-choice preferences of these voters are then counted as their first-choice preferences and distributed to the relevant candidates. The process of elimination of the candidates with the lowest first-choice preferences continues until the top n redistributed first-choice candidates are identified.
Another type of bloc voting is referred to as cumulative voting. In this system, each voter is given a number of votes equal to the total number of positions to be filled. Voters, however, are able to express the intensity of their preferences for candidates by casting all of their votes for one candidate or otherwise distributing one, two, three, or four votes for one or more candidates. In such a system, tactical voting through strategic aggregation to enhance the probability that a voter’s first choice candidate(s) will be chosen is possible.
A related type of bloc voting is limited voting. In this system, voters are given a number of votes smaller than the total number of elected positions to be filled. Voters can either be required to cast one vote per candidate or group their votes as in cumulative voting. Among the identified advantages of limited voting is the way that it prevents one majority of voters from electing all of their highest-choice candidates to office. As a result, aggregations of voters with preferences distinct from this majority are guaranteed some success. Limited voting can result in a selection of officials that is more consistent with the proportional distribution of voter preferences.
Specific aggregations of voter choices, especially when two such groupings are in opposition to one another, are sometimes referred to as manifestations of a bloc vote. As discussed above, different types of bloc-voting systems can directly affect the chances that a specific type of block vote will appear.
SEE ALSO First-past-the-post; Plurality; Voting; Voting Schemes; Winner-Take-All Society
Farrell, David M. 2001. Electoral Systems: A Comparative Introduction. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Grofman, Bernard, and Arend Lijphart, eds. 1986. Electoral Laws and Their Political Consequences. New York: Agathon Press.
Luis Ricardo Fraga