In some countries there is a big fear among voters of voting for a party that doesn't end up in the parliament because they didn't reach the minimum threshold of votes, making their votes go in vain. So voters are motivated to vote according to the preliminary polls and expected results, which puts smaller and new parties in a disadvantage and puts too much power in the hands of public media to shape the results and select the votable parties.

I came up with a system where everyone has two votes. One for their most favorite party (golden vote) and one for their second-most favorite party (silver vote). Only one of the votes gets counted. If the party with the golden votes gets into the parliament, then the golden vote of the voter gets counted. If it doesn't then the silver vote of the voter gets counted. And only when even the second party doesn't get into the parliament the vote goes in vain.

So people vote what they really want with the golden vote and at the same time can express who they want to support in case their top party doesn't make it.

According to my communication with a local politician this system supposedly exists somewhere in the world but she wasn't able to name a particular country.

So the main question is: does this system exist anywhere in the world and where?

EDIT: The question is about voting for parties, not for individuals. So the outcome is 100% distributed among the parties. Determining the number of chairs based on the percentages or determining people who get them is outside the scope of this question.

EDIT 2: The sole use case of the silver vote is when the party with the golden vote doesn't reach the electoral threshold. It's not for transferring the votes to someone else in case the golden party somehow has "enough", that would make no sense. No party can have "surplus" votes, getting more votes is always for better.

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    This sounds a lot like a ranked voting system. They are used in many countries and regions. Apr 18, 2021 at 15:43
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    Be aware that although you've "solved" the spoiler effect, you've introduced the center squeeze effect. Strategic voting is still useful, albeit in a way that's perhaps too complicated for an average voter to understand. It's impossible to offer a voting system where tactical voting is useless (assuming votes matter and that there are more than 2 candidates). That said, I still think "your" system is better.
    – Brian
    Apr 19, 2021 at 13:47
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    @SteveCox: That violates my, "assuming votes matter" rule. For reference, I was merely restating the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem in plain English. Also relevant is Arrow's impossibility Theorem.
    – Brian
    Apr 19, 2021 at 13:53
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    @Brian: Re Gibbard-Satterthwaite/Arrow: People always bring those out when non-FPTP systems are discussed, and frankly I find them rather tiresome. They are, obviously, mathematically true, but they're also sort of irrelevant. FPTP is objectively awful by any reasonable metric, and there are plenty of systems which are clearly much less bad than FPTP. The rest is just bickering over which set of compromises you want to make (STV is not a Condorcet method, Schulze is too complicated, Approval is not complicated enough, etc.).
    – Kevin
    Apr 20, 2021 at 1:05
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    @Kevin: I think your complaint is misguided. In my own experience, most people who bring up the flaws in non-FPTP rebut that FPTP is still worse (and rightly so!). However, this is no excuse for not bringing up the flaws at all. Personally, I find it rather tiresome how often people claim alternative voting systems have fixed the spoiler effect without acknowledging that this fix introduced new effects (though OP did so innocently). Understating the flaws in non-FPTP systems is the wrong way to go about arguing against FPTP.
    – Brian
    Apr 20, 2021 at 13:14

3 Answers 3


This sounds like a variant of the single transferable vote (STV) system, except you're only allowing one "backup preference"; quoting Wikipedia:

Under STV, each elector (voter) casts a single vote in a district election that elects multiple winners. Each elector marks their ballot for the most preferred candidate and also marks back-up preferences. A vote goes to the voter's first preference if possible, but if the first preference is eliminated, instead of being thrown away, the vote is transferred to a back-up preference, with the vote being assigned to the voter's second, third, or lower choice if possible (or under some systems being apportioned fractionally to different candidates). [...]

STV systems in use in different countries vary both as to ballot design and to whether or not voters are obliged to provide a full list of preferences. In jurisdictions such as the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland voters are permitted to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. Consequently, voters sometimes, for example, rank only the candidates of a single party, or of their most preferred parties. A minority of voters, especially if they do not fully understand the system, might even "bullet vote", only expressing a first preference. Allowing voters to rank only as many candidates as they wish grants them greater freedom, but can also lead to some voters ranking so few candidates that their vote eventually becomes "exhausted"; that is, at a certain point during the count it can no longer be transferred and therefore loses an opportunity to influence the result.

So basically if only one back-up is allowed, you are still having that issue that the vote may still be wasted as in the above discussion. (This STV variant is also called optional preferential voting (OPV) sometimes.) The alternative of requiring more may result in some cognitive overload and/or some random choices...

To prevent exhausted ballots, some PR-STV systems instead oblige voters to give a complete ordering of all of the candidates in an election (if a voter does not rank all candidates their ballot may be considered spoilt). However, when there is a large number of candidates that requirement may prove burdensome and can lead to random voting, or "donkey voting" in which a voter that has no strong opinions about their lower preferences simply chooses them in the given order. Some jurisdictions compromise by setting a minimum number of preferences that must be filled for a ballot paper to be valid (for example Tasmania, which requires five preferences).

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    My current city of residence (Cambridge, MA, USA) uses this for it's city council. Apr 19, 2021 at 1:26
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    In Ireland, there are often multiple seats to fill a constituency (so quota to be elected is (eligible votes / seats) + 1). Single transferrable vote also alleviates people worried about 'wasting' a vote by voting for the most popular candidate — e.g. "I won't vote for Alice, because she's likely to get elected with 10,000 votes so my vote won't matter" — as any surplus votes above the quota are also transferred to other candidates pro rata Apr 19, 2021 at 16:36
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    @DavidApltauer You're way overestimating how complicated ranked choice voting is. Why do you think the average citizen couldn't handle it? Countries like Australia demonstrate that isn't true. 30 parties can be an issue, but only when a voting system is multi-member/proportional. If you're voting for one representative Duverger's law means there will rare be more than about 5 parties. Apr 19, 2021 at 23:26
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    Most implementations of ranked choice voting I've heard of, there's no requirement to order ALL the candidates. If you only want to vote for one or two of them, you can do that, just know that your vote will be wasted if those candidates doesn't get enough. You can usually vote for as many or as few as you want. Apr 20, 2021 at 14:50
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    @DavidApltauer: Your description from your last comment isn't exactly clear; perhaps you're thinking of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_list PR. But it's not clear at all how votes can wasted in such a system, except at the electoral threshold (i.e. parties not getting into the assembly at all). So in that case it's not exactly clear what the 2nd/silver vote is for. Unless one votes for a minuscule party (that is below the electoral threshold) with their 1st/golden vote, the 2nd/silver vote won't matter. Apr 27, 2021 at 6:02

Assuming the two votes are collected at the same time, this precise system will be used in the UK in May to elect mayors (including the London Mayor) and police commissioners under the name the supplementary vote. I'm not immediately aware of any time that the supplementary vote changed the result of a election compared to the first round, but there is some evidence it encourages voting outside the perceived top two.

The more general version with votes/rankings form with N-1 votes/rankings for N candidates is known variously as Instant run off, ranked choice voting, preferential voting or the alternative vote this has seen wider use including at the national level in various countries. Literal two round voting, which would often (but not always) lead to the same result is also used nationally in various countries, the difference being that here voting for the second round doesn't happen until after the result of the first choice is known.

  • The general version you referenced is actually another specific evaluation method. Actual general ranked choice voting encompasses several evaluation metrics (STV, IRV, Copeland, Kemeny–Young, Schulze). All of these methods use the same ranked ballot, but have differen benefits and drawbacks: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/….
    – Steve Cox
    Apr 19, 2021 at 13:44
  • I don't necessarily think the purpose is to change the result, but it gives more power to your vote. Say, if Labour wins London, but 25% of the people voted Greens first, Labour would have strong political pressure to work in ecologic issues. Not that this is the topic of the question, but just as a caveat to your comment. Apr 20, 2021 at 14:05
  • @AnderBiguri For London election probably not. The second vote has always been between Labour and Conservative, Most UK Greens probably would prefer Labour so no extra pressure there. The pressure is to get more of the centre parties to choose Labour so Labour would be better to choose some centre non green policies
    – mmmmmm
    Apr 30, 2021 at 17:09

The U.S. Constitution originally gave electors two votes on the same ballot for presidential elections

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons ... they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; ... The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President ... In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. (Article II, Section 1, Clause 3)

While this isn't directly applicable in a single-seat race, it actually bears considerable resemblance both to Approval Voting and to your described method, in that it mitigates spoilers by hedging one's bets. The number of seats is of course fixed and does not change based on the votes.

This was replaced with single-winner first-past-the-post when the presidential and vice-presidential races were split into distinct ballots via the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1804.

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    And it was a later step in an election with the voters making their votes to elect the electors who then made a choice to vote for president and vice president. It should also be noted that this system no longer exists and in fact it was changed in 1803 and was only used for a total of 4 presidential elections before it got scrapped.
    – Joe W
    May 26, 2023 at 0:45
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    Giving electors two votes accidentally created an incentive for each political party to nominate two candidates for president, and instruct their electors to vote for both of them, so that if the party wins a majority of the electors, they take both the presidency and the vice-presidency. (This couldn't happen with a one-vote system, because of vote-splitting.) This strategy worked a bit too well for Jefferson and Burr in 1800, as they won the election but tied each other, necessitating a tiebreaker vote in the House of Representatives.
    – dan04
    May 26, 2023 at 1:15
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    @JoeW What do you mean by "it was a later step"? It is what the Constitution originally specified. I have already duly noted the termination year of the original system.
    – pygosceles
    May 26, 2023 at 1:35
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    @JoeW: Also "The question is about voting for parties, not for individuals." Still this is perhaps a somewhat informative answer, even for the OP, because they didn't seem to know any examples, past or present. A more substantive reason why this is not what the OP is asking for is that there was no ranking specified in the vote itself, in the pre-12-Amendment system. The two votes of each elector had equal power/preference, whereas the OP wants each voter to submit a "gold" and "silver" votes. May 26, 2023 at 6:52
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    The situation that @dan04 describes ("This strategy worked a bit too well for Jefferson and Burr in 1800, as they won the election but tied each other, necessitating a tiebreaker vote in the House of Representatives.") is basically a side-effect of the fact that both votes of each elector had equal power/preference. May 26, 2023 at 6:59

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