Voice Votes Don't Work: Study

Loudest people, not the most people, win
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2014 1:17 PM CST
Delegates cheer at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC in this Sept. 6, 2012 file photo.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – Let's say you've got 22,000 people in a room, and you need them to quickly decide on something. What do you do? Well, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the chairman used a practice common at all levels of government: a voice vote. It's a simple process: Voters simply say "yea" or "nay," and a chairman judges by response. There's just one problem: Voice votes are great at determining who's the loudest, but lousy at determining majority opinion, a new study concludes.

Researchers ran a series of test votes, and found that unless one side had at least a 60% majority, it was impossible to determine the winner. What's more "the vote is very, very biased toward loud voices," lead researcher Ingo Titze says. The findings suggest it takes at least 40 normal voices to balance out one loud one if trying to establish a two-thirds majority, according to Phys.org. That's what the DNC was trying to do, and the result was a disaster; after three utterly inconclusive votes, chair Antonio Villaraigosa simply said the measure passed. "In a house like that, I don't think there is an alternative," Titze tells Inside Science. "You can't pass out pieces of paper to 5,000 to 10,000 people." (Read more voice vote stories.)

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