POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Cumulative Voting

The term cumulative voting refers to the Latin word cumulus, which translates to accumulate. In electoral law, the term describes a specific form of voting in which the voter can cast multiple votes for one candidate.

Cumulative voting is often used in open list elections or simple candidate elections. Voters are allocated multiple votes which they can distribute between candidates as they see fit.

There are several ways to include cumulative voting in an election. One option is to include multiple check boxes per candidate on the ballot. Another option is to allow the voter to write the number of votes per candidate in a single check box.

Types of cumulative voting

  1. Complete cumulative voting: the voter can cast all votes for a single candidate.
  2. Limited cumulative voting: the voter can cast a limited amount of votes for a single candidate.
  3. Pre-cumulative voting: in some cases candidates appear several times on one list. If a voter casts a vote for an entire list, the candidate will receive multiple votes based on how often he or she is listed.

By allowing voters the option to pool all their votes towards a single candidate,  minority voters are more likely to have their interests represented on the governing body or board. Hence, cumulative voting encourages the election of a more proportionally represented body.

In elections where cumulative voting is possible, panachage is often allowed as well. 

See also: List election, Proportional representation, Majority vote, Online voting

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