Borda Count

A rarely used points based electoral system.

Borda Count

What is the Borda Count?

The Borda Count is named after the 18th-century French mathematician Jean-Charles de Borda, who devised the system in 1770. It is used or the election of seats reserved for ethnic minorities in Slovenia and in a modified form in Nauru with constituencies that elect more than one MP.

How to vote with the Borda Count

On polling day, voters get a single ballot paper with a list of candidates. The voters put a number next to each candidate, with their favourite at number one.

How it’s counted

The points are converted into points with the candidates ranked last scoring one point, two for being next-to-last and so on. The counters add up all the points each candidate receives and the one with the most points is the winner.

Eurovision uses a variation of this system, with only the top 10 countries receiving points.

Effects and features

A candidate that is everyone’s third choice can beat someone who the majority put in first place. As such the system can elect broadly acceptable candidates over the preferences of the majority.

The system is open to tactical voting and encourages voters to not complete their ballot in their true preferential order. If a voter wished to help remove the incumbent for instance, they would put the candidate most likely to remove them at number one, their true preferred candidate at number two and the incumbent last, below candidates they may think are actually worse then the incumbent MP.

It also encourages a strategic approach by parties to nominations. Adding extra candidates increases the number of points available in the election. While your last candidate will always get one point, your first will get as many points as there are candidates. This alters the gap between the candidates. A minority faction, by standing more candidates, can prevail over a majority.

It can also be hard for voters as the points you have to give to your least favourite candidate can be the ones that end up beating your first choice.