Plural voting is the practice whereby one person might be able to vote multiple times in an election.

It used to exist historically (see Wikipedia) but was generally abandoned. It seems that modern political thinkers uniformly consider it a bad idea, from left to right, from most libertarian to most totalitarian/statist.

What are the main arguments against Plural voting in light of the fact that we already, in pretty much every political system that exists, do not have a strict 1-person-1-vote rules?

To paraphrase R.A. Heinlein, every society in history limited the franchise to some effect – for example, most modern democratic societies restrict franchise from persons underage, or frequently persons convicted of crimes.

Therefore, conceptually, if two people already – as universally supported – don't necessarily have the same voting weight (you can have a vote taken away from you for presumably doing wrong to society), what is the moral/philosophical argument against having select people being given additional votes for presumably doing more than average for society? Merely "everyone has the same weight" doesn't pass intellectual muster due to existing situation where that is already not true.

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    @Dunk - all men in USA are already not equal as spelled out in the question. You don't get a vote if (insert a # of conditions).
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 12:17
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    @DVK Do you want to give the vote to 18 month old babies too? If not where do you draw the line with regards to sufficient maturity to be able to form an opinion based on the available facts as to who should govern within a democracy? It's currently set at 18, some feel that may not be correct, whatever it's set at will no doubt upset some section of society. That's not with-holding a vote due to them not being equal, it's not issuing a vote due to their perceived maturity. There's lots of laws I don't agree with I still have to live by. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 16:44
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    @spiceyokooko - withholding a vote from someone based on their age without any actual test of maturity seems a lot worse discrimination to me than granting someone an extra vote if they have more maturity than an average adult genius who tends to vote for taller, better looking candidates.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 16:54
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    What you're really saying here is: I don't agree with this arbitrary law. And as I said, there's many laws I don't agree with either but I, as well as you, have to accept the laws as handed down by the democratic governments elected to set them. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 16:59
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    @gerrit - voting was compulsory in USSR. You HAD to vote. Of course, you only had one choice of whom to vote. But vote you did. :)
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


There is nothing wrong with plural voting, other than the fact that all historical occurrences of it on a national elections scale were designed to favour certain groups on questionable bases (white male property owners, for example). The concept of "one person, one vote" is a reaction to the unbalances of plural voting, and it's both a simpler and a fairer approach. The crucial difference between the two systems is that it is a lot easier for a society to judge whether a voter has been harmful to the society than to ascertain whether a voter is more valuable than average.

Let's assume a simple election model, where citizens:

  • Get one vote at age 18, and
  • Are excluded from voting if incarcerated.

The age requirement is an arbitrary limit, that has been challenged since at least the early 20th century. Demeny voting, if established, would be a very interesting mixture of the two systems, as at one hand minors would get a vote, furthering the "one person, one vote" concept, while at the same time their parents would get more than one vote. In any case, I'll ignore it as it was present, in one form or another, in all examples of plural voting, and it's not really a trait that separates the two systems.

This leaves us with only one requirement for political franchise, a requirement that is very close to being objective, assuming of course we trust our model society's justice system. And if we don't, I think it's fair to say that the whole discussion is moot, we have bigger problems than our voting system. Similarly to a trusted justice system, other requirements that are commonly present in "one person, one vote" systems are based around trusted institutions, for example excluding mentally unstable citizens from voting would require that the population generally and overwhelmingly trust the society's health system.

Now, imagine that our model society is trying to move on to plural voting, who'd get a second (or third or fourth) vote? If you manage to define "doing more than average for society" in a way that will be as clear as a trusted justice system and will not have certain groups of people calling for your head (on a platter), congratulations, we've successfully moved on to plural voting. Expect a riot in 6-8 weeks.

Everyone having the same weight is a naive goal, "one person, one vote" is more a system of minimizing the potential for abuse than one of idealistic equality. I don't think plural voting would be considered a less democratic system, if we were able to come up with a balanced (or at least apparently balanced) and (mostly) frictionless way of determining who gets the extra votes, similarly to how forms of weighted voting are not generally considered undemocratic and are practised and widely accepted in several democratic countries and institutions. It's not an inherently wrong system, it's just unrealistic to believe that a society will overwhelmingly accept any method of measuring one's contributions to it.

  • "Expect a riot in 6-8 weeks." - +1 for channeling Atwood
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 12:13
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    What does "incancerated?" mean? Subjected to compulsory chain-smoking? :)
    – user285
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 22:46
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    "One man; one vote. The Patrician is the man: he gets the vote."
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 18:45

Plural voting, where everyone gets the same number of votes (but that N≠1), just makes things more complicated without good reason. Sometimes, there is a good reason.

For instance, you could have a vote where you live and another vote where you work (which vote you exercise in your home if you don't have an external occupation).

This would have very little effect on national elections, but a huge effect on local ones; there are an awful lot of people who commute into major cities, use many local services, but have no influence over any local policies where they work.

  • This is nice and good, but it's totally not an answer to this question.
    – o0'.
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 19:51
  • What Lohoris said; as a separate note, see the example of the City of London on my separate "examples of plural voting" question for just such an arrangement
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 13:06

The answer to this question boils down to fundamental philosophy.

The purpose of giving everyone the ability to vote is to give people who otherwise wouldn't have much influence some power over how they themselves are governed. allowing plural voting completely undermines that goal.

Also, as far as groups not having voting rights, all children will eventually become adults, and WILL be able to vote, and the ability of felons to vote varies from state to state, and that issue is far from settled at that.

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    How does it "completely" undermine that goal? if you give a small minority of people a second vote (Say, inventors, or National medal of Honor recipients), that won't materially affect the influence of everyone else with 1 vote.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 23:06
  • @DVK So your argument is that if you do a small amount of plural voting than it will have a small effect? hard to argue with that Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 23:13
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    my argument is that claiming that plural voting in general (in ANY implementation) will somehow undermine the ability for less affluent to have some influence is incorrect, since some implementations would have no measurable detrimental impact from that point of view. The question was about opposition to ANY and ALL plural voting, even non-impactful (e.g., as a random example, a semo-serious proposal to give extra vote for $1mil paid in taxes - there aren't really all that many people paying >$1mil in taxes that those extra votes would be anything but symbolic)
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 1:00
  • The question is not about America.
    – Iota
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 2:25

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