A majority means that the majority of votes cast by a certain number of people are in the same direction, regardless of whether it is a vote against, in favor, or for a political party or candidate.
That there is a majority means that there is a proposal that receives more support than the others. Although, in addition, there are different types of majority. What all these types (simple, absolute, and qualified) have in common is that there is one option that is preferred over the rest.
When we say that the orientation of the vote does not matter, we mean that it makes no difference whether the vote is positive or negative, since the majority may be against something. But it is usually understood or used in its positive aspect, since the agreements are adopted if the majority accepts them by voting positively. If, on the other hand, the majority of the votes cast are against the proposal, it is not accepted.
As we have mentioned before, there are generally three types of majority:
The simple majority formula is widely used in all kinds of decisions. It consists in that the proposal with the most votes is the winner, regardless of the total result of the rest of the options. This means that a decision can be approved with, for example, 35% of the votes, as long as the rest of the proposals obtain less support.
Let’s see it with a simple but clarifying example. A family of ten members decides to paint their house, but there is a conflict over the color with which they are going to do it, so they decide to vote. The color white is supported by three members, two prefer red, two choose blue, two want pink, and one says brown. The white color prevails with only 3 of 10 votes, but since it is the most voted option, we say that it has obtained a simple majority. Very far from the 50%+1 demanded by the absolute majority.
Continuing with the previous example, to prevent the 30% from imposing their result on the rest, there are countries that establish a second round in their elections between the two most voted options. Another example, imagine that among four candidates, the most voted has obtained 35%, but in turn is the most hated by the entire population. A second vote between the two most voted would prevent him from governing, since the majority of the population would vote for the second candidate.
It is another option widely used in politics or other sectors such as the judicial or business. It consists in that the option adopted must have more than 50% of the votes cast. If a proposal receives the majority of the votes, but these do not reach 50%+1 of the total, said proposal will be understood as declined.
Let’s put another example of this, a hypothetical but real case. A country, whose assembly is made up of one hundred representatives, decides to vote on the repeal of the law that prohibits the use of soft drugs. Such is the importance of the issue, that the law that regulates it can only be modified through an absolute majority. The results are as follows: 45 people vote in favor of the repeal, 40 are against it, and 15 abstain. Well, the repeal of the ban does not prosper since, although the majority of people have voted “yes”, this represents only 45% of the votes cast (45/100). Therefore, by not reaching the required 50% + 1, the proposal is denied.
The qualified majority is one that needs the support of a number of votes greater than the absolute majority. This amount is set by law. It is used for very transcendental or vitally important proposals, such as the modification of a constitution, or the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary. This is so that such important decisions are not exclusively taken by one party in case of obtaining an absolute majority in the elections.
For example, in Spain, the members elected to the General Council of the Judiciary who depend on the Chambers, need the support of three fifths of them. The same support that the Constitution needs to be modified. Even for some more important aspects, the required majority is two-thirds.