Plural voting is the practice whereby one person might be able to vote multiple times in an election. It is not to be confused with a plurality voting system which does not necessarily involve plural voting. Weighted voting is a generalisation of plural voting.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, up to 1948, people affiliated with a university were allowed a vote in both a university constituency and their home constituency, and property owners could vote both in the constituency where their property lay and that in which they lived, if the two were different. In 1892 George Shaw-Lefevre MP stated:

I have myself five votes for five different constituencies—not that I have sought the votes by purchasing property for that purpose; but they have come to me accidentally on account of holding property in different places. Two are occupation votes, two freehold votes, and one is for a University. But I know many who have a great many more votes than five. I think it was Sir Robert Fowler, a late Member of this House, who used to boast that he had no fewer than thirteen votes in different constituencies, and that he was able at one General Election to record them all. Then there is the well-known case of the Oxford tutor—a man who had eighteen different qualifications, and, at the Election of 1874, voted in respect of these different qualifications eighteen times. But this case pales before one I heard of recently. A clergyman of the Church of England, who has a hobby for acquiring qualifications in different constituencies, has been able to obtain fifty votes in different places, and I was informed that at a certain General Election he contrived to vote in no fewer than forty different places.[1]

The Representation of the People Act 1918, Section 8(1), provided that "a man shall not vote at a general election ... for more than one constituency for which he is registered by virtue of other qualifications [than a residence qualification] of whatever kind, and a woman shall not vote at a general election ... for more than one constituency for which she is registered by virtue of any other qualification [than a local government qualification]." As a result, no-one could vote more than twice at a general election. After 1910, the Liberal government was intent on passing a Plural Voting Bill that sought to prevent electors who appeared on the electoral register more than once from voting more than once. Liberal and Unionist headquarters were in agreement that 29 seats were won by Unionists in December 1910 because of plural voting.[2][full citation needed] However, before the bill could pass through Parliament, the Great War started and the bill was shelved. These practices were finally abolished for parliamentary elections by the Representation of the People Act 1948, which first applied in the 1950 General Election. However, plural voting for local government elections continued until it was abolished, outside the City of London, by the Representation of the People Act 1969.[3][4] It still exists in the City of London.

Northern Ireland

Until the Electoral Law Act 1968 took effect in 1969,[5] the Queen's University, Belfast constituency was retained in the Parliament of Northern Ireland and owners of businesses were allowed to cast more than one vote in parliamentary elections. Tim Pat Coogan wrote on this subject:

Limited companies and occupiers of premises with a rateable valuation of £10 could appoint nominees—as could companies for each £10 of their valuations—under a system of plural voting, which even allowed such votes to be cast in another constituency...[6]

Plural voting also existed in local government elections in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom (see above).


In Belgium, voting was restricted to the wealthy tax brackets from independence in 1830 until 1848, when it was expanded to include a somewhat larger number of voters. The restriction on voting was abolished in 1893 after the first general strike in Europe and replaced with plural voting.[7] This was applied for elections from 1894 to 1919 as a way to limit the impact of universal suffrage. The system was unpopular and two more general strikes were held in 1902 and 1913 demanding it to be abolished.

Every male citizen over 25 got one vote for legislative elections, but some electors got up to two supplementary votes according to some criteria:[8][9]

For municipal elections, a fourth vote was granted to family heads who paid a fixed level of electoral tax, or whose cadastral income was at least of 150 francs.


Plural voting for Dáil elections was abolished by the Electoral Act 1923: electors could be registered in only one constituency: the constituency in which he or she was ordinarily resident; the constituency in which he or she occupied business premises; or one of two university constituencies.[10] University constituencies were abolished at the 1937 general election. University constituencies were recreated in 1938 for the Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas (the Irish legislature). Graduates of Dublin University and the National University are entitled to vote in these constituencies in addition to exercising their normal vote for Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, and may vote in both constituencies if entitled.

The Local Government (Dublin) Act 1930, passed by the Cumann na nGaedheal government, provided that Dublin City Council would comprise 30 popularly elected "ordinary members" and five "commercial members" elected by business ratepayers (individuals or corporate persons). The commercial members were elected by single transferable vote in a single five-member constituency, with each elector casting between one and six ballots depending on the rate they paid.[11] The commercial members were abolished in 1935 by the Fianna Fáil government.[12]

Inland fisheries boards prior to 2010[13] were elected by holders of fishing licences, who until 1980[14] had varying numbers of votes depending on the cost of their licences.[15]

New Zealand

Plural voting, also referred to as "dual voting", was abolished in New Zealand in 1889 for general elections. Hower, it is still permitted in some local elections, such as Auckland Council.[16][failed verification]

Contemporary theory

Philosopher Thomas Mulligan has proposed a system of plural voting which uses a mathematical algorithm to determine voters' ability[clarification needed] and then gives higher-ability voters more votes.[17]

Yulia Latynina proposes to offer money to voters who agree to sell their voting right.

Nevil Shute's In The Wet

Nevil Shute's 1953 novel In the Wet offers a system of up to seven votes for a person based on their achievements (although it would be technically very difficult for one individual to achieve all seven votes).

See also


  1. ^ George Shaw-Lefevre (18 May 1892). "Plural Voting (Abolition) Bill (No 42)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. col. 1184.
  2. ^ Ian Packer, Lloyd George, Liberalism and the Land
  3. ^ Halsey, Albert Henry (1988). British Social Trends since 1900. Springer. p. 298. ISBN 9781349194667.
  4. ^ Peter Brooke (24 February 1999). "City of London (Ward Elections) Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. col. 452.
  5. ^ "Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1968". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  6. ^ Tim Pat, Coogan (1987). "16". The IRA (12 ed.). Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Ltd. p. 442. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  7. ^ Maurice Vauthier (Dec 1894). "The Revision of the Belgian Constitution in 1893". Political Science Quarterly. 9 (4): 704–729.
  8. ^ L'évolution du droit de vote Archived 2007-12-15 at the Wayback Machine, (official Belgian Portal)
  9. ^ Marie-Thérèse Bitsch, Histoire de la Belgique de l'Antiquité à nos jours, Bruxelles, Editions Complexe, 2004, ISBN 2-8048-0023-7
  10. ^ Electoral Act 1923, s. 1: Dáil franchise (No. 12 of 1923, s. 1). Enacted on 17 April 1923. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 31 May 2021.
  11. ^ "Local Government (Dublin) Bill, 1929 – Committee Stage (Resumed)". Dáil Éireann Debates. Oireachtas. 10 April 1930. Vol. 34 No. 7 p. 10. Retrieved 3 February 2017.; "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930". Irish Statute Book. §§31(1), 34, 35. Retrieved 3 February 2017.; "Electoral (Dublin Commercial) Act, 1930". Irish Statute Book. Schedule 1, §§13–14, Schedule 2. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Local Government (Dublin) Bill, 1933 – Second Stage". Dáil Éireann Debate. 17 May 1933. Vol. 47 No. 10 p. 23. Retrieved 3 February 2017.; "Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1935, Section 2". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Inland Fisheries Act 2010, §§12, 48". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Fisheries Act, 1980, §12(2)(a)". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  15. ^ Fisheries (Ireland) Act 1848, §9; Fisheries Act 1925, §8; Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959 §24(2). electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Key dates in New Zealand electoral reform". Elections New Zealand. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  17. ^ Mulligan, Thomas (2018). "Plural Voting for the Twenty-first Century". The Philosophical Quarterly. 68 (271): 286–306. doi:10.1093/pq/pqx046.