Troubleshooting Your Voting Method

Your choice of voting method for your ballot question impacts two vital parts of your election:

  1. How your voters vote; and,
  2. How the votes are tallied.

Electionbuddy offers multiple voting methods to meet your election needs. To be sure that you're picking the right one for your election, this article will compare and contrast some of our voting methods to help guide you to the right choice:

Referendum vs. Approval

The Approval voting method is the most commonly misused voting method on our site. The Approval voting method is NOT the same as approving a bylaw amendment/budget/candidate. It cannot be used to do those types of elections.

Referendum Approval
  • Used to "elect" a single option.
  • Options are mutually exclusive; you are choosing between options and can only cast one vote.
  • Designed for "Yes/No" situations. Examples include:
    • Passing a bylaw amendment
    • Ratifying a budget or contract
    • Acclaiming a single candidate for an executive position
  • The option with the most votes at the end of the election wins. If you're just doing a referendum with two options, this will naturally be the option with the majority (i.e. the option with greater than 50% of the votes).
  • Used to elect a single candidate for a position.
  • Candidates are not mutually of each other; you may select (vote for) as many of the listed options as you like. This means that it inherently cannot work for a "Yes/No" situation because voters can vote for both "Yes" AND "No" options.
  • Can be used as an alternative to plurality in any single-winner candidate scenario, such as:
    • Board member elections (where there is only one vacancy on the board available)
    • Executive member elections (for example: President, Vice-President, etc.)
    • Also excellent for voting on winners for awards
  • The candidate with the most votes at the end of the election wins.

For more specifics on these voting methods, please visit our Referendum voting method page and our Approval voting method page.

Plurality vs. Cumulative

Plurality Cumulative
  • Used to elect single or multiple candidates for a position.
  • The number of votes you can cast is equal to the number of vacancies for the position; however, you can only vote for a specific candidate once.
  • It is the voting method used in North American political elections, and is also commonly known as "First past the post".
  • Often is used for electing:
    • Board members
    • Executive members (for example: President, Vice-President, etc.)
    • Committee members
  • The candidate(s) with the most votes at the end of the election wins. If running a plurality with a single vacancy and two candidates, the winner will hold the majority (i.e. received greater than 50% of the votes).
  • Used for electing multiple candidates for a position.
  • The number of votes you can cast is equal to the number of vacancies for the position. 
  • Can distribute your votes to the candidates as you see fit:
    • You can give all your votes to a single candidate;
    • You can give some votes to one candidate and some to another; or
    • You can give a single vote to each of your desired candidates.
  • Legislated as the mandatory voting method in Californian Homeowners' Association elections.
  • Is not the same as a weighted ballot because all voters receive the same number of votes to distribute across candidates, whereas weightings can be different for each voter. Additionally, a weighted ballot does not allow you to distribute votes across candidates.
  • Can be used for electing:
    • Board members
    • Executive members (for example: President, Vice-President, etc.)
    • Committee members
  • The candidates with the most votes at the end of the election wins.


For more specifics on these voting methods, please visit our Plurality voting method page and our Cumulative voting method page.

Preferential vs. Scored

Preferential Scored
  • Used to elect single or multiple candidates for a position.
  • Instead of selecting options on a ballot, you rank candidates in order of most preferred to least preferred.
  • Not all candidates need to be ranked, but rankings can only be used once (for example, two candidates cannot receive a ranking of "1").
  • Can be used for electing:
    • Board members
    • Executive members (for example: President, Vice-President, etc.)
    • Committee members
  • Votes are assigned to candidates based on voter preference (i.e. a candidate who received a "most preferred" rank will receive one vote from that voter).
  • When multiple vacancies are available for a position (i.e. multiple candidates are being elected), Single Transferable Vote (STV) is used to calculate the vote redistribution through rounds.
  • The candidate(s) with the most votes at the end of the election wins.
  • Used to elect a single candidate for a position.
  • Can also be used to run rating scale questions where there is no winner elected (i.e. you are running a survey).
  • Instead of selecting options on a ballot, you score/rate candidates/options on a given scale.
  • All candidates/options must be scored/rated, but the same scores/ratings can be used more than once (for example, two candidates can receive the same score of "1"). 
  • Can be used for:
    • Electing board members (where there is only one vacancy on the board available)
    • Electing executive members (for example: President, Vice-President, etc.)
    • Running surveys
    • Collecting feedback
    • Approving new members into your organization
  • When being used to elect a winner, the candidate with the highest average score is the winner. 
  • When not being used to elect a winner, the total vote breakdown is displayed for your interpretation.


For more specifics on these voting methods, please visit our Preferential voting method page and our Scored voting method page.

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