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Voting systems




Three candidates are running for Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). The end polling is that candidate A got 40% of the vote, while candidate B got 35% of the vote and candidate C got 25% of the vote. Candidate A should get the MoFA position, yes? Think again.

The vast majority of voting in CN, whether with in-game senator elections, or alliance elections for a candidate run into this problem, whether players recognize it or not. Let us take the following situation, and use it to explain the above results, and how they could come out differently. Let's have 20 people voting in this election, coupled with an order of their preferences for candidates:

D [A, C, B]

E [A, C, B]

F [A, C, B]

G [A, C, B]

H [A, C, B]

I [A, C, B]

J [A, C, B]

K [A, C, B]

L [b, C, A]

M [b, C, A]

N [b, C, A]

O [b, C, A]

P [b, C, A]

Q [b, C, A]

R [b, C, A]

S [C, B, A]

T [C, B, A]

U [C, B, A]

V [C, B, A]

W [C, B, A]


A plurality is defined as winning the most votes, regardless of whether or not it is the majority. Therefore a candidate can win by plurality by winning only 40% of the votes. It's relatively efficient for picking out a quick winner, but as we will see in other systems, it can have some problems.

In this example, in a "plurality wins" system, players D-K would vote for A, players L-R would vote for B, and players S-W would vote for C, and we can get the same result as before (A: 40%, B: 35%, C: 25%), and A would win. But we are not taking in all of the possibilities into account.


In order to ensure that a candidate can win by getting the majority of votes, some alliances will have a "runoff" between the top two contenders. In this example, since C is already knocked out of the race, players S-W will vote on their second choice, player "B." The end result? Player A would get the same 40% of the vote, but now player B would get 60% of the vote, so hence a different result.

Rank ordering:

Yet, there is a third option. Unfortunately, the third option would mean that straightforward polls could not be used. Imagine if every player could rank each of their preferences, 1 through 3, and to accommodate for this, we weight each preference by points. So the first choice would get three points, second choice would get two points, and the last choice would get one point. Again, using the above example, we get the following:

  • A: 36 points
  • B: 39 points
  • C: 45 points

The winner we have now, is player C.

Multiple voting:

Now, suppose that players can vote for two candidates, without a ranking system. The result is that C has 50% of the vote, B has 27.5% of the vote, and A has 22.5% of the vote. Again, slightly different results.

Immediate conclusions:

Initially, we thought that candidate A was the best because he was the most popular, or that he gained the most votes. However, as we can see in the different systems, that is not necessarily the case. Depending on an individual's knowledge of public opinion, a person can hypothetically determine the outcome of an election by mandating one voting system over another. However, given that knowledge of public opinion can be difficult to gather, the discussion moves to, "what system is best." The answer depends on the question being asked. In the above example, let's say that candidates A and B represented two extreme points of view, whereas candidate C represented some middle ground. If you want a more moderate MoFA, then go with multiple voting or rank ordering. However, C might also be unpopular because C might be relatively inexperienced, so the even though he is more moderate, he might not be as capable. I personally think that the systems that work the best are the ones that take all of the possibilities into account, but given that rank ordering is difficult to implement for most discussions, I would go with multiple voting (for the cases where there are more than two candidates running for a position).

Applications to CN:

Alliances, when thinking about how to determine the outcome of an election, should certainly take these systems into account, depending on their needs, and their patience to put up with the relative inefficiency of the more complicated systems. However, we can also think about how this might apply to in-game cybernations, in regards to Senate races. As is, we essentially go with a plurality system, with the top three candidates. However, the results could change, at least to some extent if the system was changed.


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Someone just read up on electoral systems :awesome: Nice write up, though. Electoral systems and psephology are two areas I've studied quite extensively, and it's pleasing to see there's at least one other person perhaps interested in those areas.

Personally, I don't see the game of Cyber Nations as complex enough (and thus the demands of an elected position), or alliance elections large and infrequent enough, to warrant applying electoral system theory and implementing complex and time-consuming systems. If alliances aren't content with first-past-the-post, then a run-off vote system would offer an adequate alternative. Moving beyond that takes you to territory where elections become a serious pain in the $@!, as we're all relying on forum software rather than secret ballots and ballot boxes.

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