Study Abstract : Voting

Groups of people often have to decide among a number of alternatives; usually this is done through some method of voting. We hold elections to select the president, senators, governors, etc. In the United Nations, groups such as the General Assembly and the Security Council decide issues affecting the whole world. Coaches and sportswriters rank the best college football teams in the country, and sportswriters also elect baseball players to the Hall of Fame. People in the movie industry vote on who should get the Oscars. On a smaller level, families have to decide where to go on vacation.

Among these examples, many different rules for making the final decision are used. Some elections, like those for senators, are quite simple - the candidate with the most votes wins. Electing the president is complicated by our electoral college system. The rules for voting in the U.N. Security Council distinguish between permanent and temporary members. Football polls must decide not only a first place team, but also second, third, etc.

In the lessons which follow, we will look at several commonly used voting methods, and also see how the choice of voting method may change the outcome of the election. We will see how elections can sometimes be manipulated to produce a desired outcome, and we will look for a "best" voting method.

Concept Lesson One: Introduction and Plurality