Nanson's method

The Borda count electoral system can be combined with an instant-runoff procedure to create hybrid election methods that are called Nanson method and Baldwin method. Both methods are designed to satisfy the Condorcet criterion, and allow for incomplete ballots and equal rankings.

Nanson methodEdit

A ranked ballot with incomplete preferences, as illustrated by Nanson.[1]:37

The Nanson method is based on the original work of the mathematician Edward J. Nanson in 1882.[1]

Nanson's method eliminates those choices from a Borda count tally that are at or below the average Borda count score, then the ballots are retallied as if the remaining candidates were exclusively on the ballot. This process is repeated if necessary until a single winner remains.

If a Condorcet winner exists, they will be elected. If not, (there is a Condorcet cycle) then the preference with the smallest majority will be eliminated.[1]:214

Nanson's method can be adapted to handle incomplete ballots (including "plumping") and equal rankings ("bracketing"), though he describes two different methods to handle these cases: a theoretically correct method involving fractions of a vote, and a practical method involving whole numbers (which has the side effect of diminishing the voting power of voters who plump or bracket).[1]:231, 235 This then allows the use of Approval-style voting for uninformed voters who merely wish to approve of some candidates and disapprove of others.[1]:236

The method can be adapted to multi-winner elections by removing the name of a winner from the ballots and re-calculating, though this just elects the highest-ranked n candidates and does not result in proportional representation.[1]:240

Schwartz in 1986 studied a slight variant of Nanson's rule, in which candidates less than but not equal to the average Borda count score are eliminated in each round.[2]

Baldwin methodEdit

Candidates are voted for on ranked ballots as in the Borda count. Then, the points are tallied in a series of rounds. In each round, the candidate with the fewest points is eliminated, and the points are re-tallied as if that candidate were not on the ballot.

This method actually predates Nanson's, who notes it was already in use by the Trinity College Dialectic Society.[1]:217

It was systematized by Joseph M. Baldwin[3] in 1926, who incorporated a more efficient matrix tabulation,[4] extending it to support incomplete ballots and equal rankings.

The two methods have been confused with each other in some literature.[2]

Satisfied and failed criteriaEdit

The Nanson method and the Baldwin method satisfy the Condorcet criterion.[2] Because Borda always gives any existing Condorcet winner more than the average Borda points, the Condorcet winner will never be eliminated.

They do not satisfy the independence of irrelevant alternatives criterion, the monotonicity criterion, the participation criterion, the consistency criterion and the independence of clones criterion, while they do satisfy the majority criterion, the mutual majority criterion, the Condorcet loser criterion and the Smith criterion. The Nanson method satisfies and the Baldwin method violates reversal symmetry.[5]

Both the Nanson and the Baldwin methods can be run in polynomial time to obtain a single winner. For the Baldwin method, however, at each stage, there might be several candidates with lowest Borda score. In fact, it is NP-complete to decide whether a given candidate is a Baldwin winner, i.e., whether there exists an elimination sequence that leaves a given candidate uneliminated.[6]

Both methods are computationally more difficult to manipulate than Borda's method.[7]

Use of Nanson and BaldwinEdit

Nanson's method was used in city elections in the U.S. town of Marquette, Michigan in the 1920s.[8] It was formerly used by the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne and in the election of members of the University Council of the University of Adelaide. It was used by the University of Melbourne until 1983.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Nanson, E. J. (1882). "Methods of election". Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. 19: 197–240.
  2. ^ a b c Niou, Emerson M. S. (1987). "A Note on Nanson's Rule". Public Choice. 54 (2): 191–193. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/BF00123006. ISSN 0048-5829.
  3. ^ Baldwin, J. M. (1926). "The technique of the Nanson preferential majority system of election". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. 39: 42–52.
  4. ^ Hogben, G. (1913). "Preferential Voting in Single-member Constituencies, with Special Reference to the Counting of Votes". Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 46: 304–308.
  5. ^ "Re: [Election-Methods] Borda-elimination, a Condorcet method for public elections?". Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  6. ^ Mattei, Nicholas; Narodytska, Nina; Walsh, Toby (2014-01-01). "How Hard is It to Control an Election by Breaking Ties?". Proceedings of the Twenty-first European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. ECAI'14. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Netherlands: IOS Press. 263 (ECAI 2014): 1067–1068. doi:10.3233/978-1-61499-419-0-1067. ISBN 9781614994183.
  7. ^ Davies, Jessica; Katsirelos, George; Narodytska, Nina; Walsh, Toby; Xia, Lirong (2014-12-01). "Complexity of and algorithms for the manipulation of Borda, Nanson's and Baldwin's voting rules". Artificial Intelligence. 217: 20–42. doi:10.1016/j.artint.2014.07.005. ISSN 0004-3702.
  8. ^ McLean, I. (2002). "Australian electoral reform and two concepts of representation" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)