Is a majority a majority?

Numbers aside (as unreal as this may be) If 1 million people vote for A and 1 million vote for B and one person votes for B, has the majority really decided or did one person decide the outcome for millions?

virtually yours, Virtually Yours

What’s to say? It would be simultaneously the case that a majority of voters voted for B, that B would not have won unless a majority of votes voted for B, that no one voter could force B to win on their own regardless of the choices of other voters, indeed no mere million voters could force B to win on their own if every other voter was opposed, and that if all other voters kept their votes the same but any one of the B voters in this scenario switched their vote to A, that would switch the winner to A.

There are many situations where [say] a two thirds majority is required to make some change in a democratic system.

In a first-past-the-post election, such as we have here in the UK, a candidate who polls one more vote that their nearest rival, wins the seat. You can be sure that the loser would challenge and demand a recount. “The record number of recounts is seven - This happened in Brighton, Kemptown, in 1964, when D.H. Hobden (Labour) won by seven votes; and in Peterborough in 1966, when Sir Harmer Nicholls won by three votes”. The ‘final’ decision rests with the Recorder who will eventually say that enough is enough.

This is not the end though as the loser can challenge the result on several grounds: fraud is the most common challenge, also illegal election expenses, but there are a number of other grounds for an appeal to the Election Petitions Office at the Royal Courts of Justice.


Can you answer which one of the 1,000,001 people decided the outcome? No. Even if you entered the votes chronologically, the last vote did not decide it any more than any of the other 1,000,000. Each was equally needed. Only the combination of the entire voting force decided the election.

Using a simpler example:

When a ballgame is decided by a final score of 3 to 2, which of the 3 scoring plays was the game winner for that side? The first, middle, or last? Or each of them equally?

Does it matter what the various intermediate scores were during the game? What if all 3 of the winning team’s points occurred after the losing team had scored their 2? What if all 3 came first?

When the OP can answer these questions and defend the answers, then we can talk about larger cases.

We have to use numbers to decide numerical majority.

The Founding Fathers purposely designed the Senate to avoid what they termed ‘the tyranny of the majority’, making it possible for a minority of the Senate to block legislation unless there were a two-thirds majority. Of course the majority still carries the day, it just has to be a big one.

Sometimes the system works well, sometimes not. For instance a minority of Southern Senators blocked Civil Rights legislation for over a century until the political genius of LBJ as Majority Leader pushed it through.

Why are you saying one person voted for B? According to your scenario, a million and one people voted for B. There’s no reason to single out one of them as having cast the deciding vote. That vote wouldn’t have been the deciding vote without the other million.

This is not true. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate only to pass Amendments (which holds for the House as well), to ratify treaties, and to confirm an Impeachment. If you’re thinking of cloture, that is only a Senate rule and could be revoked by Senate rule. In any case, that is currently 60 votes not two-thirds in the Senate

Just going to point out, in baseball in the bottom of the 9th a run scored which gives the home team one more run than the away team ends the game and is definitely known as winning run. In 1-0 game that one run is called the winning run also. The same kind of thing happens in timed games and sudden death football.

That has nothing to do with elections, those are just ball games, your analogy like most analogies is not perfect, which is fine. In the kind of elections we have, secret ballot, no counting until the election is over, and except for the tiniest local offices we don’t know how many votes will be cast, there is no single winning vote.

Even something like a congressional vote or committee vote where you know who can be casting a tie breaking vote isn’t casting the winning vote. You could say they are casting the decisive vote I guess, but that doesn’t change things for public elections, it’s only the total that counts.

So a baseball game is more like those states which don’t bother to count the mail-in ballots because there are not enough of them to change the result so far…

I mean one more person, so one million and one people voted for and one million people voted against, so technically that one person decided the vote.

No, technically, the million and one people decided the vote. Any other interpretation is a fallacy.

Bolding mine.

When you say “that one person”, which one are you talking about? The first voter, the last voter, or the 234,567th voter?

The votes aren’t counted in the order they’re made. So is the “first voter” the first one to stick a ballot in a box or the first one whose ballot is counted? Since all ballots are anonymous, how can we know who either of those people are?

The point, as the esteemed Exapno Mapcase says just above, is that it is meaningless to talk about one specific voter. All million and one of them, working together as an inseparable group, added up to a million and one votes. Had *any *of them voted otherwise the result would be different. Said another way, each of them equally was the one who made the difference. Each added 1/1,000,001-th of the effort to get to a win.

I disagree, if there was 1 million yay and 1 million nay, is the vote decided?
virtually yours

If there is 1,000,000 yay and 999,999 nay who decided? If there is a decision, everybody decided. If there is no decision you have a completely different question.

I point out that everybody here is disagreeing with you, mostly because you don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s fun to be one against the world, but the odds are 1,000,001 to 1 that you’re wrong.

ETA: I shoulda refreshed. Exapno rightly slipped in again.

If the vote is one to one (or 15 to 15 or …) and the polls are still open, is the vote decided? No.

If the vote is one to one (or 15 to 15 or …) with the polls closed and many ballots not yet counted is the vote decided? No.

The vote is decided when the last vote is tallied. And not before. At which point it was equally decided by all 1,000,001 votes that aggregate to the tally.

Anything else is ascribing specialness to one particular ballot of the 1,000,001. Until you can defend which particular ballot that must be and why the same logic cannot possibly apply to any other ballot, you’re just throwing a dart at the list of voters and randomly declaring that one of them as special.

Everyone’s assuming that the OP is asking about a secret ballot. What about an open vote, where the final person is aware of having the deciding vote?

That’s definitely going to make the deciding voter think a bit harder – or at least I hope it would – but when it comes down to it, whichever way the vote is cast, the majority wins.

Now go watch 1776 again.

No, and so what? What the hell does that have to do with the one million vs. one million and one that we’ve been talking about?

If one, and only one, person voted on an issue that affects millions, then that one person decided the outcome for millions. If more than one person voted, then no, one person did not decide the outcome.

And to answer the title question, I checked, and yes, a majority is indeed a majority. :wink: