Bucklin Voting

Overview

Bucklin voting is a single-winner voting method. It is named after its original promoter, James W. Bucklin of Grand Junction, Colorado, and is also known as the Grand Junction system.

Voters are allowed rank the candidates in order of preference (first, second, third, etc.). First choice votes are first counted. If one candidate has an absolute majority, that candidate wins. Otherwise the second choices are added to the first choices. Again, if a candidate with an absolute majority vote is found, the winner is the candidate with the most votes accumulated. The subsequent tier of preferences are added until either a candidate has an absolute majority, or the rankings are exhausted.

U.S. Cities Where Formerly Adopted

Cities that used Bucklin voting

Criticisms

Some criticisms of the Bucklin system were analyzed in a 1915 article titled “The Preferential, Non-Partisan Ballot“, written by Mayo Fesler, Secretary of the Civic League of Cleveland.

Opponents of the preferential ballot raise several common objections:

  • (a) It is too complicated for the average elector to vote intelligently.
  • (b) It confuses the counting and takes too much time to secure returns.
  • (c) The average voter nullifies the system by not exercising his second or other choices.

Fesler's Counter: Second Choice Votes

Fesler cites a number of results which contradict this assessment:

Fesler's counter data

Fesler elaborates:

"Third charge-—'Do the voters exercise the right of a second or third choice?' Here again experience is the only answer. In the two states above mentioned, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the people were unacquainted with the principle involved and where only first and second choices were to be expressed, the people, it seems, did not in any considerable number exercise the second choice. But in the cities where the full preferential system was adopted by a vote of the people after an educational campaign, the number of second and other choices has been large. In Spokane, Washington, in the first election in 1911, 35% of the voters cast second choice votes; in 1913, 54%, and in 1915, 61%. In the one election in Duluth in 1913, 65% cast second choice votes, and 82% cast other choice votes for mayor. In Portland, Oregon, in the first election, 51% voted second choice and 35% voted a third choice.

"In the first election for mayor in Cleveland, there were only three candidates, and only two of these were given general consideration; the third, the Socialist candidate, was a negligible quantity, so that the preferential ballot was not really given a fair test. Yet 27% of the voters expressed second and other choices. In wards where there were six or more candidates for the council the second and other choice votes amounted to from 40% to 47% of the total vote cast. In one ward where there were nine candidates, the second and other choice votes totaled 56% of the total.

"In the last election in Cleveland, there were six candidates for mayor. A total of 103,229 first choice, 33,585 second choice, and 15,404 third choice votes was cast. The second and other choices which determined the election reached 47% of the total. In the wards the average of second and other choice votes was approximately 51% of the first choice. In Columbus 59% cast second choice and 71% cast other choices.

"These figures from the several cities, it seems to me, refute the charge that the voter does not use the second choice votes. When the voters are aroused they do not fail to use this additional instrument for regulating the choice of competent officials. If they do not use it, then the voting is the same as under the single choice. If they do use it, they have more fully and completely expressed their opinion. Experience shows that the percentage of second and other choice votes cast has generally increased with each election. It is an effective tool to have in reserve for exceptional occasions, especially when its non-use does not retard the ordinary method of selecting public officials."

 

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