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What is a "simple" majority


Schroeder

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I have heard the phrase simple majority tossed around at various meetings and I am not sure as to its meaning. I see no reference in Roberts Rules. I always thought a majority was a majority, simple being an irrelevant term. Is my thinking correct? I look forward to feedback. Thank you.

 

In RONR, (OED notwithstanding) a majority has but one meaning:  More than half.  Modifiers are usually avoided.  The question that arises most is not what sort of majority (there is but one kind) but rather "a majority of what?"

 

Absent any language to the contrary, the assumption is: a majority of those present and voting.

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It has been my experience that the term "simple majority", although not used in RONR, is commonly used to distinguish between a "majority vote" and a "two thirds vote" and sometimes between a "majority of those present and voting" versus "a majority of members present" or "majority of the entire membership".  I find myself using the term sometimes, but, as others have pointed out, it is not used at all.. not once.... in RONR.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First, I want to thank everyone who provided answers on the related topic I posted a couple weeks ago. Very helpful.

 

But I'm back to the issue. I understand the issue of majority v. plurality vote, that is not the issue. RONR says a plurality cannot be used to determine an election with three or more candidates, unless there is a previously adopted rule in the bylaws. Does the fact that the bylaws state that an election is determined by simple majority (this is the actual phrase used) meet this threshold? Or does there have to be a more specific rule, especially since RONR does not refer to simple majority in any way?

 

I appreciate your feedback.

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That is ultimately up to you all to determine for yourselves.  However, I think it would be reasonable to argue (absent some compelling reason to believe otherwise) the intent of the assembly was not to equate "simple majority" with "plurality vote."  Generally speaking, the members will say what they mean even though the language they use may end up meaning something other than what they mean.  While they might not use the term "plurality vote" they would probably spell out what they mean in lay terms.

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I certainly understand the caveat that the organization must interpret its own bylaws. But I would be extremely hard pressed to come up with a sensible argument in favor of interpreting "simple majority" to mean "plurality" instead of "(simple) majority"

 

And by extremely, I mean incredibly unbelievably impossibly...

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Well, the Oxford Dictionary thinks it means that the highest number of votes exceeds the second highest but not so much that there is an absolute majority. As far as I know, RONR always requires an absolute majority, though an organization's bylaws may only require a simple majority.

 

 

First, I want to thank everyone who provided answers on the related topic I posted a couple weeks ago. Very helpful.

 

But I'm back to the issue. I understand the issue of majority v. plurality vote, that is not the issue. RONR says a plurality cannot be used to determine an election with three or more candidates, unless there is a previously adopted rule in the bylaws. Does the fact that the bylaws state that an election is determined by simple majority (this is the actual phrase used) meet this threshold? Or does there have to be a more specific rule, especially since RONR does not refer to simple majority in any way?

 

I appreciate your feedback.

 

I would like to see some real-world evidence for the Oxford definition. There is certainly nothing in RONR to support such a definition, and since RONR does define the word "majority" to mean "more than half," I would not interpret "simple majority" to mean "plurality."

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Apparently another example of two countries separated by a common language.

I don't know what's common in Britain, but in the U.S., I've never heard of "simple" majority being held to mean anything more (or less) than simply a majority, i.e., more than half. Redundant, surely; deprecated by parliamentarians, absolutely, but synonymous with plurality? Not-so-much.

If you dig into the footnotes for that and related entries in the online OED, they are thoroughly confused and self-contradictory. A good reason to avoid the term in bylaws.

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I've never heard of "simple" majority being held to mean anything more (or less) than simply a majority, i.e., more than half. 

 

I've often heard it being held to mean the barest majority possible (i.e. just more than half). As opposed to a super-majority (e.g. a two-thirds majority) which is a lot more than just more than half.

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Again, thanks to all for the thoughtful responses to my questions. But I am still not clear as to the last question I asked. I apologize for belaboring the point but I am trying to make sense of the rules. RONR states: "A plurality that is not a majority never chooses a proposition or elects anyone to office except by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. If such a rule is to apply to the election of officers, it must be prescribed in the bylaws." I added the emphasis.

 

Since the bylaws state that the outcome of an election is to be determined by simple majority, could this be considered the special rule previously adopted that is in the bylaws? And thus, could simple majority be interpreted as plurality in determining an election?

 

Or am I just looking at this too hard and the simple answer is that a simple majority can mean nothing other a majority, case closed.

 

Thanks again for all your help.

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Again, thanks to all for the thoughtful responses to my questions. But I am still not clear as to the last question I asked. I apologize for belaboring the point but I am trying to make sense of the rules. RONR states: "A plurality that is not a majority never chooses a proposition or elects anyone to office except by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. If such a rule is to apply to the election of officers, it must be prescribed in the bylaws." I added the emphasis.

 

Since the bylaws state that the outcome of an election is to be determined by simple majority, could this be considered the special rule previously adopted that is in the bylaws? And thus, could simple majority be interpreted as plurality in determining an election?

 

Or am I just looking at this too hard and the simple answer is that a simple majority can mean nothing other a majority, case closed.

 

Thanks again for all your help.

 

Yes, you're making it too hard on yourself.  See Mr. Gerber's response in post #11, particularly his last sentence.    

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