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Module 9

Mathematics in the Social Sciences

Mathematical theory and tools have become valuable in the social sciences, notably
in the fields of economics, demography, psychology, and political science, among
others. Computational methods and modern technology such as geospatial
information systems are now routinely used to study and simulate social behavior
and social systems.

Mathematics helps us understand and examine many social issues. Consider these
questions for example:

• In the Philippine Congress, how is the number of seats for a given region
• Who controls power among shareholders in a company?
• How is the US President elected?
• Are voting systems fair?

In this module we will discuss how mathematics can help answer these questions in
a more informed and scientific way. The mathematics related to these topics
involves elementary concepts only but arriving at “answers” to these questions can
be complicated, as we shall see.

Learning Outcomes
After studying this module, you should be able to:

1. Voting Systems and the Mathematics of Social Choice

Mathematics in the Social Sciences

• Apply four different methods of voting to determine the winner of a

ranked election.
• Discuss the concept of principles of fairness in voting and define at
least 5 of these principles.
• Create a hypothetical preference schedule that produces different
winners using different voting methods.
• Reflect on the implications of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem.

2. Weighted Voting Systems and the Measurement of Power

• Identify winning and losing coalitions and critical players in a weighted

voting system.
• Compute the Banzhaf power distribution given a weighted voting
• Clarify distinctions between dictators, dummies, and players with veto
• Reflect on the power relations in the Philippine Lower House and
Senate in terms of coalitions and bloc voting.

3. Fair Division and Apportionment

• Differentiate between quota and divisor methods.

• Apply the quota methods of Hamilton and Lowndes given an
apportionment problem.
• Apply the divisor methods of Jefferson, Adams and Webster given an
apportionment problem.

1.0 Voting Theory and the Mathematics of Social Choice

One of the cornerstones of a democracy is the right of citizens to participate in
elections. Voting might appear to be a simple activity, and producing the winner of
an election, just a matter of counting the votes correctly. But there is more behind
election exercises and many experts devote their professional careers to this field of
study. We will examine the mathematics of voting guided by the following key

• Is there a best way to conduct an election? That is, what is the fairest way to
transform a set of individual preferences (votes) into a single societal
preference (the winner)?
• How can we use mathematics to design, analyze and compare different
election methods?
• How can we use mathematics to say what “fair" means?

1.1 The Mathematics of Voting

Voting theory falls under the area of Social Choice theory, which deals with the
process by which varied and conflicting choices (as in elections) are consolidated

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into a single choice of the group (or society) that reflects the desires of each
individual as much as possible.

In 1952, the mathematical economist Kenneth Arrow wrote a seminal paper titled
“Social Choice and Individual Values” that examined the fundamental concepts of
this theory. In particular, Arrow proved an important result that addresses the
question: “Is there an ideal voting system?”

The mathematical concept underlying voting systems is that of order. There is an

area of mathematics called Order Theory that studies ways in which objects can be
ordered, from simple ordering of integers from smaller to bigger, or ordering of
subsets of a set via inclusion, to more complicated relations. In daily life, without
order, it would be very difficult for example to find our friend’s phone numbers in our
mobile phone directory.

Voting Systems

A voting system is a way for a group to select one (winner) from among several
candidates. If there are only two alternatives, choosing is easy: the one preferred by
the majority wins. If there is only one person doing the choosing, things are again
easy (but this option is probably undesirable). When several people choose from
among three or more alternatives, the process is trickier.

Consider this: In a certain election with 8 candidates, three individuals garnered

most of the votes. Using the plurality method (or pataasan), candidate Tito was
declared the winner.


TITO 36.99%

VIC 34.39%

JOEY 28.09%


Given that the winner obtained only about 37% of the votes, how sure are we that
the voting system produced an outcome that reflected the will of the voters? Is Tito
really the best? Let’s consider some scenarios.

Scenario 1: Supporters of Vic and Joey had Tito as their second choice. In this
scenario, perhaps Tito indeed is the best candidate, as 99% either preferred Tito in
the first or second position.

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Scenario 2: Supporters of Vic and Joey liked Tito the least among all 8 candidates.
Maybe in this case Tito is not the best representative of the society’s preference.

Scenario 3: One of the 5 others may be perfectly satisfactory to all the voters,
including the supporters of the top 3 candidates. That one person may even be the
second choice of all. Maybe that candidate should have been the winner.

Ranked Voting Systems

We may obtain more information on the individual choices if we also know how the
voters rank the candidates. When the voting system asks for a ranking, such as in a
survey of preferences, the voting system is called a ranked (or preferential) voting
system. We will focus on such systems in this module. To simplify our analysis, we
now assume that all voters will rank all candidates in order of preference, and ties
will not be allowed.


There are some conditions or features that we want voting systems to satisfy. The
first assumption that we impose on our voting systems is transitivity. Individual
preferences are assumed to be transitive in this sense: if a voter prefers candidate
X to Y and Y to Z, it is reasonable to assume that the voter prefers X to Z.
Transitivity means that relative preferences are not altered by the elimination of one
or more candidates.

There are also principles that involve “fairness” of the voting method. These are
desirable conditions that make the elections “fair” or positive from the point of view
of the voters. In designing a voting system, we will try to impose these desirable
“fairness conditions or principles”.

When we study the math behind the method, remember that we are not dealing with
external issues like cheating or manipulation.

Example 1: Non-transitivity can cause problems!

Leni is choosing from among 3 suitors: Alex (A), Billy (B), and Carl (C). She ranks
the suitors according to three attributes: intelligence, looks, and income.

intelligence looks income

Rank 1 A B C

Rank 2 B C A

Rank 3 C A B

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Taken in pairs, observe that Leni prefers A to B (with A ranking higher in intelligence
and income), B to C, and C to A. But this non-transitive situation is problematic.
Which suitor to choose? Of course, there may be other ways to resolve this
impasse. For example, the girl may consider other attributes (such as personality) or
the attributes may be given different weights.

The example above may be too simple, but let’s translate it to a larger population.
Consider an election with 3 candidates A, B and C. The voters are asked to rank the
3 candidates and three distinct rankings are produced.

1/3 of voters 1/3 of voters 1/3 of voters

Rank 1 A B C

Rank 2 B C A

Rank 3 C A B

Taken in pairs, 2/3 of the voters prefer A to B; 2/3 of the voters prefer B to C; and
2/3 of the voters prefer A to C! As before, it seems that no candidate stands out.

1.2 Voting Methods

The term “voting method” refers to the mathematical process, algorithm, or manner
in which individual votes are counted and consolidated to produce a winner. It
does not refer to voting machines, polling precincts, absentee voting, or the like.
The most popular method of voting is plurality voting (pataasan). Here, a candidate
with the most number of votes, or most 1st-place votes, wins. This seems like a very
reasonable method, right? But let’s look at a particular election where a winner was
chosen using the plurality method.

Example 2: Plurality isn’t always the best method

In a certain barangay, 100 residents elected their barangay leader. There were 5
candidates: R, H, C, O and S. The voters were asked to rank the candidates and
the individual votes were consolidated. The consolidated results are displayed in the
table below called a preference schedule:

No. of voters 49 48 3
1st choice R H C
2nd choice H S H
3rd choice C O S
4th choice O C O
5th choice S R R

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Using plurality, the winner is candidate R with 49 1st-place votes, despite being the
last choice of a majority (51). Observe that candidate H almost won (falling behind
candidate R by just one 1st-place vote). Candidate H is also the second choice of
the rest. Might not H be a more acceptable winner? Under any reasonable
interpretation, H appears to be more representative of the barangay’s choice. But
the plurality method failed to choose H.

We can evaluate candidate H’s performance through a one-to-one comparison with

all other candidates. To do this we simply compare votes of H along with all other
candidates one at a time. Observe that in all one-to-one comparisons, H would get a
majority of the votes. Here, majority means at least 50% +1 of all votes cast.

• Comparing H with R, we see that H got 51 votes (48 from the second column
and 3 from the third) versus 49 for R.
• Comparing H with C, we have that H had 97 votes with only 3 from C.
• Finally, H is preferred to both O and S by all voters.

In the language of voting theory, we say that the plurality method in this instance
failed to satisfy a basic principle of fairness called the Condorcet criterion.

Condorcet Criterion
If there is a candidate who wins in a one-to-one comparison with any other
alternative, that candidate should be the winner of the election.

This principle of fairness is due to the French statesman and scholar, Marie-Jean-
Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, more popularly known as the Marquis de Condorcet
(1743-1794). The Marquis was one of the leading figures in the French Revolution.
He wrote on mathematics, political science, economics and human rights.

We shall examine several voting methods and discuss other fairness criteria. We
shall do this by considering the results of a fixed election, and examine the
outcomes using different voting methods. We will discuss four methods:

1. Plurality Method
2. Borda Count Method
3. Method of Pairwise Comparisons
4. Plurality with Elimination Method

The plurality method is the simplest and most commonly used method. The three
others are also popular and may be familiar to most of you.

The Borda Count Method

• This is a weighted voting method. Each place on a ballot is assigned

points. In there are N candidates, give N points for first place, N-1 points for
second, and so on, until the last place, to be given 1 point.

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• The points are tallied for each candidate, and the candidate with the highest
total wins.

• The method is named after Jean-Charles de Borda (1733-1799), French

statesman, scholar, and contemporary of the Marquis de Condorcet.

Method of Pairwise Comparisons

• Every candidate is matched on a one-to-one basis with every other

candidate, just as we did in analysing our barangay election in Example 1.

• Each of these one-to-one pairings is called a pairwise comparison.

• When pairing two candidates (say X or Y) one-on-one, each vote is assigned

to either X or Y by the order of preference indicated by the voter. (X gets the
votes of all voters ranking X higher than Y.)

• The winner of each head-to-head match-up gets 1 point. The winner of the
election is the candidate with most number of points.

Plurality with Elimination Method

• This is a sophisticated version of the plurality method and is carried out in


• The method starts by eliminating the candidate with the fewest number of 1st
place votes. By this, we mean that we remove from the preference schedule
that candidate with all votes assigned. The process is repeated round by
round, until a candidate with a majority of 1st place votes emerges.

Let us illustrate the four methods by considering a fixed election.

Example 3: The Math Lovers Club Election

There are four candidates for the position of President: Alice (A), Ben (B), Cris (C),
and Dina (D). The 37 members of the club each submit a ballot indicating his or her
1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th choices. The consolidated votes are displayed in the preference
schedule below.

Rank\Votes 14 10 8 4 1

1st choice A C D B C

2nd choice B B C D D

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3rd choice C D B C B

4th choice D A A A A

We shall now use the four different voting methods to pick the winner:

1. Plurality Method

Candidate A has the most number (14) of 1st-place votes and is thus the winner.
Alice wins!

2. Borda Count Method

Votes 14 10 8 4 1

1st : 4 pts A: 56 C: 40 D: 32 B: 16 C: 4

2nd : 3 pts B: 42 B: 30 C: 24 D: 12 D: 3

3rd : 2 pts C: 28 D: 20 B: 16 C: 8 B: 2

4th : 1 pt D: 14 A: 10 A: 8 A: 4 A: 1

A gets 56 + 10 + 8 + 4 + 1 = 79 points
B gets 42 + 30 + 16 + 16 + 2 = 106 points
C gets 28 + 40 + 24 + 8 + 4 = 104 points
D gets 14 + 20 + 32 + 12 + 3 = 81 points
The winner is Ben (B).

Observe that with this method, our previous winner Alice places last!

3. Method of Pairwise Comparison

Compare A and B. We see that A is preferred by 14 over B and B is preferred by

23 over A. For this pair, B wins and gets 1 point. We compare all other pairs:

A vs C (14 to 23) → C gets 1 pt

A vs D (14 to 23) → D gets 1 pt
B vs C (18 to 19) → C gets 1 pt
B vs D (28 to 9) → B gets 1 pt
C vs D (25 to 12) → C gets 1 pt

Candidate Cris (C) has the most points (3), and is the winner.

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4. Plurality with Elimination Method

# 14 10 8 4 1

1st A C D B C

2nd B B C D D

3rd C D B C B

4th D A A A A

Round 1: Since B has the least number of 1st-place votes, eliminate B.

From the above table, eliminate B, to obtain a reduced table.

# 14 10 8 4 1

1st A C D B C # 14 10 8 4 1

2nd B B C D D → 1st A C D D C

3rd C D B C B 2nd C D C C D

4th D A A A A 3rd D A A A A

Combine the identical columns to get the reduced table for Round 2.

# 14 11 12

1st A C D

2nd C D C

3rd D A A

Now observe that C has the least number of 1st place votes (11). Thus, eliminate

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C, combine the identical 2nd and 3rd columns to get the following table for Round

# 14 23

1st A D

2nd D A

Since A has less 1st place votes than D, eliminate A, leaving candidate Dave (D)
as the winner using the plurality-with-elimination method.

Let us now summarize the winners of the Math Lovers Club Election using the four
different methods.

Voting Method Winner

Plurality Alice
Borda count Ben
Pairwise comparison Cris
Plurality with elimination Dina

From a single election, we used four methods and obtained four different winners!

Activity 1 (45 minutes)

Find the winners of an election with 55 voters whose preference schedule is given
below using the four different voting methods.

18 12 10 9 4 2
First choice A B C D E E
Second choice D E B C B C
Third choice E D E E D D
Fourth choice C C D B C B
Fifth choice B A A A A A

1.3 Other Fairness Principles

We already know the Condorcet Criterion. We list other major fairness principles.

1. Majority Criterion: If there is a candidate that is the first choice of the

majority (50%+1) of the voters, then that candidate should be the winner.

2. Monotonicity Criterion: If a candidate X is the winner of an election, and in

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a re-election all voters who change their preferences do so in a way that is

favorable only to X, then X should still be the winner.

3. Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives Criterion: If a candidate X is the

winner of an election, and one or more candidates are removed and votes
are recounted, then X should still be the winner.

4. Unanimity: If every individual prefers a certain option to another, then so

must the resulting societal choice.

5. Non-dictatorship: The outcome should not simply follow the preference

order of a single individual while ignoring all others.

Problems with the Different Voting Methods

Earlier, we saw that the plurality method may violate the Condorcet criterion. Are the
other voting methods better?

It turns out that all four voting methods exhibit some weakness in the following
sense: In a particular election, it is possible that the outcome may violate one or
more fairness principles or criteria.

Example 4.
The Board of Trustees of a university is choosing its Chair There are 11 board
members and 4 candidates. The Board will use the Borda Count Method to choose
its Chair. The results of the election are given below:

No. of Voters 6 2 3

1st place: 4 pts A B C

2nd place: 3 pts B C D

3rd place: 2 pts C D B

4th place: 1 pt D A A

Computing the total weighted points for each candidate, we find that B has 32
points, C has 30 points, A has 29 points, and D has 19 points. By the Borda Count
method, candidate B wins. Now note that this outcome violates the Majority
Criterion. Candidate A has a 6 out of 11 1st-place votes, a majority, but the Borda
method failed to produce A as a winner.

Example 5.
A student club election is held with 3 candidates A, B, C. The winner is to be

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decided by the plurality with elimination method. The preference schedule is given

No. of votes 7 8 10 4

1st choice A B C A

2nd choice B C A C

3rd choice C A B B

Eliminating B (who has the least number of 1st place votes), we obtain the reduced

No. of votes 11 18

1st choice A C

2nd choice C A

With this round, we see that candidate C wins.

However, the Election Committee declared the election null and void due to some
irregularity and asked the voters to cast their votes again. A second election is held
and the 4 voters (in the last column of Round 1) decide to change their ranking.
They switch their 1st and 2nd choices (between A and C), expecting to be on the
winner’s side after the new election. No other voters change their choices.

Since C won the first election, and the new votes only increased C’s votes, we
expect C to win again. Let’s determine the winner of the second election.

No. of votes 7 8 10 4

1st choice A B C C

2nd choice B C A A

3rd choice C A B B

A is eliminated after Round 1.

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No. of votes 15 14

1st choice B C

2nd choice C B

B wins in the new election! This outcome violates the Monotonicity Criterion.

Example 6.
The preference schedule for a certain election is shown below. The winner is to be
determined using the method of pairwise comparison.

No. of votes 5 3 5 3 2 4

1st place A A C D D B

2nd place B D E C C E

3rd place C B D B B A

4th place D C A E A C

5th place E E B A E D

Comparing all pairs, A gets 3 points. B, C, and D have 2 points and E has 1 point.
Candidate A wins.

The Comelec, for some reason, wanted to have a recount, without new voting.
Before they started their recount, losing candidates B,C, and D conceded and
requested that their votes be omitted (essentially dropping out from the race). This
means that the new preference schedule is now —

No. of votes 5 3 5 3 2 4

1st choice A A

2nd choice E E

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3rd choice A

4th choice A E A

5th choice E E A E

And this simplifies to —

No. of votes 10 12

1st choice A E

2nd choice E A

The winner is now E! Originally, the winner was A, but when some candidates
dropped out and no re-vote was made, the winner became E. This violates the
Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives fairness criterion.

We have presented an election where four different methods produced four different
winners. We have also presented instances of elections using certain voting
methods where particular fairness criteria were violated. It seems we are nowhere
near an answer to the question, Is there a best method?

It is good to know that experts would not have an immediate answer, too. Most
would declare: There is no ideal voting method!

The mathematical basis for this is a very famous and deep theorem of the
mathematical economist Kenneth Arrow.

1.4 Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem

Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem (1952)

It is impossible to design a voting system that would simultaneously obey in all
voting instances all of the following fairness conditions: monotonicity, independence
of irrelevant alternatives, unanimity and non-dictatorship.

This theorem states that there is no consistent method by which a democratic

society can make a choice that is always “fair” when that choice must be made from
among three or more alternatives. The concept of “fair” is taken in the sense that a
fairness principle or condition is not violated.

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Kenneth Arrow (1921-2017) examined these ideas for his Ph.D. dissertation “Social
Choice and Individual Values”. He published his results in a 1952 essay “A Difficulty
in the Concept of Social Welfare”. Arrow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics
in 1972.

Arrow’s theorem applies to ranked or preferential voting systems. The mathematical

proof uses concepts of order theory. It proves that no voting method can satisfy all
reasonable fairness criteria at the same time.

Are there alternative methods?

There are other voting methods that are also used, even in some legislatures. An
example is approval voting. In this system, voters are not asked to rank the
candidates in order of preference. Given a set of candidates, voters can give their
approval to as many (or as few) of their choices. Voting experts consider this strong
system, but more applicable to smaller voting populations, like some legislatures or
organizations. This method work for those voters who cannot or who prefer not to
make distinct rankings among the candidates.

According to advocates of the method, approval voting —

• is easy to understand and simple to implement.

• gives voters flexible options and increases voter turnout.
• helps elect the strongest candidates.
• unaffected by the number of candidates.
• will reduce negative campaigning.

Also, in the approval method minority candidates are not greatly disadvantaged.

We discussed four voting methods, which are really methods of “counting” or

“consolidating” individual votes:

• Plurality method
• Borda count method
• Method of pairwise comparison
• Plurality with elimination method

We introduced several fairness principles:

• Condorcet criterion
• Majority principle
• Monotonicity
• Independence of irrelevant alternatives
• Unanimity
• Non-dictatorship

Arrow’s “Impossibility Theorem” demonstrates that no voting method will always

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satisfy all fairness criteria in all voting instances.

Activity 2 (60 minutes)

Watch the following videos that highlight the concepts and issues presented in this
1. “Math and the Vote” by Moon Duchin, (11:27),
2. “Voting Theory: Fairness Criterion” (2:36),
3. “Voting Paradoxes” by Paul Dancstep, (9:29)
4. “Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem”, by PBS Infinite Series, (15:11) (also uploaded on
What are advantages of ranked voting systems, as compared to just voting for a
single winner without specifying ranks? In your opinion, which fairness principles
would you least like to be violated? Does Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem render
elections useless?

You may wish to visit the website “Math Alive” of Princeton University, found at The course site has a unit on Voting and Social Choice,
with worked-out example, notes and explanations.

2.0 Weighted Voting Systems and the Measurement of Power

In many elections, the principle of one-person, one-vote is followed. This is the
principle we follow when we elect presidents and national and local officials
(assuming no cheating). However, in some voting situations, individuals or groups
are not always equal and some voters are given more say than others.

Weighed voting systems are systems where voting rights are not equally divided
among all voters.

Some examples are:

• Corporate shareholder’s meetings, where each shareholder has as many

votes as the number of shares owned;
• In some legislatures, where bloc voting is followed because of strict party
loyalties. Here the parties are the players and the sizes of the blocs are the
weights of the votes; and
• Committee voting, where the chair has tie-breaking or veto power.

Let us consider the following questions:

• Who has more say in weighted voting systems or who has more power?

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• How is power measured?

• Is there a mathematical treatment of power?

Understanding how power is distributed will be useful in many ways.

2.1 Weighted Voting Systems

For simplicity we will analyze voting situations involving only two alternatives. For
example, a motion is any vote involving only two alternatives (a yes or no vote). We
assume that no abstentions are to be made.

A weighted voting system has three main ingredients, namely, the players, weights,
and quota.

• The players are the voters. If there are N players, denote them by:

P1, P2, … , PN

• Each player controls a certain number of votes, called the player’s weight.
Denote these by:

w1 , w2 , … , wN

• The quota, q, is the minimum number of votes needed to pass a motion.

The quota is usually strict majority (q > 50%, usually 50%+1), but rules may
require a higher number of votes, even 100% (unanimous). The quota must

½ (w1+ w2 +…+ wN) ≤ q ≤ w1+ w2 + …+ wN

We present the above information using the following convenient notation:

[q: w1, w2 , … , wN].

The notation indicates a weighted system with quota q and N players. The weights
of the N players are listed after the quota. The weights are ordered from biggest to

Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: [13: 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1]

This weighted voting system has 6 players: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, with weights
8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, respectively. The quota or number of votes to win is 13. There
are 24 total number of votes.

Example 2: [21: 9, 8, 2, 1]

Since the total number of votes is only 20, no motion could ever pass because

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the quota is too high. This is not a valid weighted system.

Example 3: [15: 10, 9, 8, 7]

The quota is less than half the total number of votes. If P1 and P2 voted yes
and P3 and P4 voted no, both groups win. So this is not a legal voting system.

Example 4: [20: 7, 7, 7, 7, 7]

Three players need to vote yes to meet the quota. In this case, all players
have equal power and this is essentially just a one-person, one-vote system. It
can equivalently be described by the system [3: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1].

Example 5: [6: 7, 3, 1, 1]

The first player can pass any motion alone. Such a player is called a dictator –
a player whose weight is bigger than or equal to the quota. In systems with
dictators, all the other players have no power. A player whose vote has no
outcome in the election is called a dummy. In this system, the last 3 players
are all dummies.

Example 6: [8: 7, 3, 1, 1]

Player 1 is not a dictator but he can single-handedly prevent any group of

players from passing a motion. Player 1 is said to have veto power.

Example 7: [51: 48, 47, 5]

Does player P3 really have very little power compared to P1 and P2? Observe
that P1 cannot pass a motion without the help of P2 or P3. Similarly, P2 (and P3)
need votes of at least one other player.

At least two players are needed to pass a motion. In this case, we see that P3
has just as much power as the two other players!

This example shows that in a weighted voting system, a player with the most
number of votes does not necessarily hold the most power.

Example 8: [51: 26, 26, 26, 22]

Suppose 4 partners hold shares of 26%, 26%, 26% and 22% respectively. The
weights are almost uniform. Can we say that all 4 players more or less have
the same power? Not necessarily.

The last shareholder is really a dummy. P4 has no power – the weight of P4 ‘s

vote (22%), even if close to the others, is not enough to make a losing coalition
win, or a winning coalition lose.

In this example, the first three partners share equal power. The last has none.

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Example 9: [15: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1]

All votes are needed to meet the quota (unanimous vote). Thus, each vote
counts as much as the other. The system is equivalent to [5: 1,1,1,1,1] and is
essentially a one-person, one-vote system.

We should thus regard the “one-person, one-vote” principle to mean that all
players have an equal say in the outcome of the election, instead of just having
an equal number of votes.

2.2 Banzhaf Index and the Mathematical Measurement of Power

As shown by the examples, a player’s power cannot be measured simply by the

number of votes he or she has. For instance, if player X has four votes and Y has
two votes, we cannot conclude that X has twice as much power as Y. Of course, if
two players have the same number of votes, we expect them to have the same
amount of power.

There are several measurements of power. We will discuss the method suggested
by lawyer John Banzhaf in 1965. Banzhaf’s idea is that power is measured by
winning. The player whose vote can influence the outcome of the election the most
is the one with the most power. The Shapely-Shubik index is another system, but
we will not discuss this in this module.

Example 7 (Revisited): [51: 48, 47, 5]

There are four groups that could join forces to form a winning combination:

P1 and P2 (with 95 votes)

P1 and P3 (with 53 votes)
P2 and P3 (with 52 votes)
P1, P2 and P3 (with all 100 votes)

A coalition is any set of players that join forces to vote together. The total
number of votes in a coalition is called the weight of the coalition.

Winning coalitions are those with enough votes to win. Otherwise, they are
called losing coalitions.

Let us list the different coalitions in the weighted voting system given in
Example 7.

Coalition Weight Winning /Losing?

A: {P1} 48 Losing
B: {P2} 47 Losing
C: {P3} 5 Losing

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D: {P1, P2} 95 Winning

E: {P1, P3} 53 Winning
F: {P2, P3} 52 Winning
G: {P1, P2, P3} 100 Winning

Coalition G is called the grand coalition.

Let us look at the winning coalitions for [51: 48,47,5]:

D: {P1, P2} 95 Winning

E: {P1, P3} 53 Winning
F: {P2, P3} 52 Winning
G: {P1, P2, P3} 100 Winning

In each of coalitions D, E, and F, both players in the coalition are needed for
the win; in G, no single player is essential.

A player whose desertion turns a winning coalition into a losing one is called a
critical player (or pivotal player). That is, a critical player is a voter who can
cause the measure to fail by changing his/her vote from yes to no.

Banzhaf Power Index

The critical player concept is the basis for the Banzhaf index. Banzhaf’s key idea is
that a player’s power is proportional to the number of times the player is critical.
In the previous example, each of the three players is critical twice, so all have equal
power. We say each player holds 1/3 power or that each has Banzhaf power index
1/3. The triple (1/3, 1/3, 1/3) is Banzhaf power distribution for the three players.

To calculate the power of a voter using the Banzhaf index, list all the winning
coalitions, then count the critical voters. A voter's power is measured as the fraction
of all swing votes that he could cast. We outline the steps:

Computing the Banzhaf power index:

Step 1: Make a list of all coalitions. With N players, one has 2N – 1 coalitions.

Step 2: Determine which are winning coalitions.

Step 3: In each winning coalition, determine who among the players are
critical players.

Step 4: Count the number of times player P is critical and call this number CP.

Step 5: Count the total number of times all players are critical and call this
number T.

The Banzhaf power index of player P is given by the ratio CP/T, that is,

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Power Index of Player P = # Critical instances of player P

# Critical instances of all players

Example 10: We compute the Banzhaf distribution for the system [4: 3, 2,1]

Step 1: There are 7 possible coalitions.

{A}, {B}, {C}, {A,B}, {A,C}, {B,C}, {A,B,C}

Steps 2-3: We determine the winning coalitions and critical players.

Winning Coalitions Critical Players

{A,B} A and B
{A,C} A and C
{A,B,C} A only

Step 4: A is critical 3 times; B is critical one time; C is critical one time.

Step 5: T = 5 total critical instances

The Banzhaf power distribution is (3/5, 1/5, 1/5), with power indices

A: 3/5 B: 1/5 C: 1/5.

Example 11: We determine the Banzhaf power distribution for [12: 8, 6, 5, 3].

We just list just the winning coalitions (instead of all 15 coalitions).

Winning Coalition Critical Player/s

{A,B} A and B

{A,C} A and C

{A,B,C} A

{A,B,D} A and B

{A.C,D} A and C

{B,C,D} B, C and D

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{A,B,C,D} none

The power distribution is (5/12, 1/4 , 1/4, 1/12), where

A: 5/12, B: 3/12, C: 3/12, D: 1/12.

Activity 3 (60 minutes)

1. Compute the Banzhaf power indices of players A, B, C in the system [4: 3, 2, 1]

by determining the winning coalitions and the critical players.

2. Do the same for the 4-player systems [5: 4, 3, 2, 1], [10: 7, 5, 4, 2], [4: 3, 2,1, 1],
and [10: 8, 7, 4, 2].

In the next two examples, we introduce some conditions on the weighted voting
systems and as before, compute the power distribution using Banzhaf’s method.

Example 12: In a committee of 4, consisting of A, B, C and D, each member has

one vote. A motion is carried by majority, except that in case of a 2-2 tie, the
coalition containing the chair (A) wins. What is the Banzhaf distribution?

The winning coalitions are:

• Any two-player coalition that includes the chair (A)

• Any three-player coalition
• The grand coalition (all four players)

The winning coalitions with critical players in boldface and underlined are:

• Two-player coalitions that include the chair: {A, B}, {A, C}, {A, D}
• Three-player coalitions: {A, B, C}, {A, B, D}, {A, C, D}, {B, C, D}
• Grand coalition: {A, B, C, D}

From the above data, we see that the Banzhaf power distribution is

A: 6/12 B: 2/12 C: 2/12 D: 2/12 or (1/2, 1/6,1/6, 1/6).

The tie-breaking rule gives the chair three times as much power!

Example 13: We have a committee of 5, with Chair (A), and members B,C,D,E.
The 4 members have equal standing. The Chair votes only to break 2-2 ties.
Motions are by strict majority.

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• Winning coalitions without the Chair (critical players in bold face and
{B,C,D}, {B,C,E}, {B,D,E}, {C,D,E} and {B,C,D,E}

• Winning coalitions with the Chair (after a 2-2 tie):

{A,B,C}, {A,B,D}, {A,B,E}, {A,C,D}, {A,C,E}, {A,D,E}

The power distribution is:

A: 6/30 B: 6/30 C: 6/30 D: 6/30 E: 6/30 or (1/5, 1/5, 1/5, 1/5, 1/5)

All members (including chair) have same power!

Some Mathematical Results

Mathematicians study these systems and have come up with results such as the

• In any voting system [q: w1, w2 , … , wN], if q = w1+ w2 + … + wN , the

Banzhaf power index of each player is 1/N. For example, even if the weights
are different, one can compute the power distribution for the system [18: 5,
4, 4, 2, 2, 1] and obtain a uniform index of 1/6 for each player.

• Two proportional systems [q: w1, w2, … , wN] and [cq: cw1, cw2 , … , cwN]
always have the same Banzhaf power distribution. For example, the systems
[9: 4, 4, 4, 4] and [27: 12, 12, 12, 12] are equivalent.

• In any 3-player voting system with no veto power, there is only one possible
power distribution, namely, (1/3, 1/3, 1/3).

Example 14: A Department Committee consists of a Professor, an Associate

Professor, an Assistant Professor and an Instructor. Voting on personnel issues
follows the system [4: 3, 2, 1, 1]. The Banzhaf power index distribution is (1/2, 1/6,
1/6, 1/6).

This made the Associate Professor unhappy. The Committee decided to try a
different set of weights. Hoping to increase the voting power of the Associate
Professor, the committee gave the different ranks distinct decreasing weights (with
an appropriate new quota. For this new system [5: 4,3,2,1], they computed the
power distribution and obtain (5/12,1/4, 1/4, 1/12). But the Associate Professor was
still not satisfied. Note that the system [5: 4,3,2,1] is equivalent to [10: 8,6,4,2]. They
continued to experiment with other weights, and came up with different
combinations summarized below:

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Weighted Voting System Banzhaf Power Distribution

[4: 3,2,1,1] (1/2, 1/6, 1/6, 1/6)

[5: 4,3,2,1] or equivalently, (5/12, 1/4, 1/4, 1/12)

[10: 8,6,4,2]

[10: 8,6,3,2] (1/2, 1/6, 1/6,1/6)

[10: 8, 7,4,2] (1/3, 1/3, 1/3, 0)

There is a mathematical reason why the committee could not seem to obtain a
(strictly decreasing) power distribution that reflected the decreasing weights. This is
given by the following theorem obtained by John Tolle and discussed in his paper
“Power distribution in four-player weighted voting systems” published in
Mathematics Magazine in 2003).

Theorem (Tolle, 2003)

In any 4-player weighted voting system with no veto power, there are only five
possible power distributions:

1. (1/4, 1/4, 1/4, 1/4)

2. (5/12, 1/4, 1/4, 1/12)
3. (1/2, 1/6, 1/6, 1/6)
4. (1/3, 1/3, 1/6, 1/6)
5. (1/3, 1/3, 1/3, 0)

In particular, there is no strictly decreasing power distribution for a 4-player

weighted voting system.

In the next section we examine weighted voting systems and power distributions in
some institutions.

2.3 Power Distributions in Some Institutions

United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council is composed of 5 permanent members (US,

UK, China, France, Russia) and 10 non-permanent members (voted into the
committee with fixed terms). All permanent members have veto power. A winning
coalition must consist of the 5 permanent members plus at least 4 non-permanent
members. We can view the voting rights in the Security Council as a weighted
voting system described by:

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[39: 7,7,7,7,7,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1]

The Banzhaf power index of a permanent member is 16.7% while that of a non-
permanent member is 1.65%.

Activity 4 (30 minutes)

Use a power index calculator freely accessible on the web such as Temple
University’s Banzhaf Power Index Calculator, found in “Calculus on the Web”, (www. to verify the power distributions provided in
Example 14. You may also experiment with various weighted voting systems and
use the online calculator to obtain the power index distributions.

The U.S. Electoral College

The President of the United States of America is chosen using an “electoral college”
system. Each of the 50 states is allowed to cast a certain number of votes equal to
the total numbers of members of congress (senators plus representatives) from that
state. The votes are cast by electors who are chosen to represent the voters of their
respective states. For purposes of the electoral college, the District of Columbia
(DC) is considered and included as an additional state and given 3 electors.

As a general rule, electors from a particular state vote the same way for the
presidential candidate who wins a plurality of votes in that state. Roughly, we have a
winner-take-all system for electoral votes assigned to a state. Thus, the electoral
college system can be thought of as a weighted voting system with the 50 states
and DC as the players. Individual citizens still cast their votes (and this becomes the
basis for the electoral college winner-take-all system).

The weight of a state is the number of senators (2 each) plus the number of
representatives (proportionately based on the population) from that state. The quota
is strict majority: currently 270 are needed for a candidate to be elected as
President of the USA, from a total number of electoral votes of 538,

There are several states, led by California, with a big number of electoral votes.
Many states have few electoral votes because of their small populations. This
imbalance affects the campaign strategies of candidates. The number of electors
per state is updated every 10 years. We list some big and small states with the
corresponding electoral votes (used for the 2016 US elections based on the 2010
US Census).



California 55 11.36%

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Texas 38 7.21%

New York, Florida 29 5.40%

Illinois, Pennsylvania 20 3.68%

Ohio 18 3.30%

Georgia, Michigan 16 2.93%

Connecticut, Oregon 7 1.27%

Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, 6 1.09%

Mississippi, Nevada, Utah

Nebraska, New Mexico, West 5 0.91%


Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, New 4 0.73%

Hamphshire, Rhode Island

Alaska, Delaware, Montana, 3 0.55%

North Dakota, South Dakota,
Vermont, Wyoming, DC

The Electoral College system was first proposed in 1787. It has been used by the
US since 1876 and continues to be the preferred system for choosing the chief
executive. But from time to time, it has produced surprising results. For instance, in
the 2000 U.S. presidential elections, the Electoral College results proclaimed
George W. Bush as winner over Albert Gore, with electoral votes given below:

• Bush – 271 votes

• Gore – 266 votes

But Gore won in the popular vote! Had the elections been conducted in the
Philippines, Gore would be declared President.

• Gore: 50,996,064
• Bush: 50,456,167

This outcome was only the second time since 1888 that the winner of the popular

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vote lost the election.

That election also became controversial because of allegations of cheating (through

allegedly faulty automated voting machines) reported in Florida. George W. Bush
won the 25 electoral votes that put him over Gore. At that time, the governor of
Florida was Jeb Bush, the candidate’s brother. Gore initially filed a protest, but
decided to withdraw and accept the election results.

In the most recent 2016 US Presidential elections that put Donald Trump in power,
the electoral college results were more decisive: 290 electoral votes for Trump
against 232 electoral votes for Hillary Clinton. But as in 2000, Clinton won the
popular vote, and this time by an even bigger margin of around 2.86 million votes!

Activity 5 (20 minutes)

Watch the following short videos on the Electoral College.

1. “Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained” by Christian Greer
2. “Do you know the Electoral College” by Prager University hosted by Terry Ross
3. “The trouble with the Electoral College”, by CGP Grey, (6:30)
The second and third videos take sides on the debate on the appropriateness of the
Electoral College system to choose the President of the U.S.A. What’s your
position? Do you think the Electoral College system can be implemented in the

By analyzing how power is distributed in voting systems, we can respond properly to

situations and make informed decisions. The knowledge also allows us to guard
against abuses.

More than a lecture on the mathematics of power, we hope that this section once
again underscores the power of mathematics.

3.0 Fair Division and Apportionment

This final section deals with division problems. Sometimes, dividing objects equally
into smaller sets can be easy. Think of 30 pieces of polvoron candy. If Mom had 5
children, then each child would get 6 pieces each. But what if there were 31 pieces?
What to do with the remaining 1 piece? It is probably difficult or impossible to neatly
divide such a piece into 6 equal parts. Instead, the mom would probably just eat it
herself and everyone would be happy.

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Fair division is an area of mathematics that deals with problems such as the above.
The typical problem involves division of a certain set of goods among individuals
that would be considered fair by the parties involved.

Let us have one more (fair division) story.

An old farmer in the desert died and left his estate of 17 camels to his three
children. He willed 1/9 of the herd to the youngest, 1/3 to the middle child, and 1/2 to
the eldest. The siblings could not figure out how to fairly settle their inheritances, as
the 17 camels could not be divided nicely – until a wise man came riding by and
offered a solution that left all three children satisfied with the share they received.
What was the wise man’s solution?

The wise man first added his camel to the herd of 17 to make a total of 18 camels.
Now, observe that —

• 1/9 of 18 is 2, which he gives to the youngest.

• 1/3 of 18 is 6, the share of the middle child.
• 1/2 of 18 is 9, the eldest’s inheritance.

This makes 17. Everyone is happy. The wise man takes back his own camel and
rides away.

3.1 Fair Division

Fair Division Problem: Given n players, and a set of goods S. How can you divide
the set S into n shares in such a way that each player gets a share that he/she
considers fair?


A fair share is any share that in the opinion of the player receiving it is worth at least
1/n-th of the total value (n = number of players). It only matters that an individual
player thinks the share is fair, based on the player’s own personal value system.

Properties of a Fair Division Scheme

A fair division scheme —

• Is decisive – If rules are followed, a fair division of the set is guaranteed.

• Is internal to the players – It does not require intervention of an outside
authority such as judge, arbitrator, etc.
• Assumes that the players have no knowledge about each other’s value
• Assumes that the players are rational — they use logic instead of emotion.
For example, a rational player would want more than less.

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Types of Fair Division Problems

Fair division problems are classified into two types – continuous or discrete –
depending on the good or goods to be divided. Examples of continuous goods are
parcels of land or a piece of cake. Examples of discrete goods are cars, houses,
and jewelry. The goods may also be a mix of continuous and discrete goods.

Most of us have probably used a fair division scheme when sharing a piece of cake
or pizza with a friend. The “I cut-and-you choose” method is an example of a
continuous fair division scheme. I think you will agree that this seems fair.

Apportionment is a typical application of fair division; it refers to the process of

allocating identical, indivisible objects among participants entitled to unequal shares.
An important application is the problem of assigning congressional seats.


The standard divisor (SD) is the average number of people per seat over the
entire population.

SD = Total Population
No. of Seats

The standard quota (SQ) is the (exact) fraction of the total number of seats a state
would be entitled to if seats were not indivisible; the quota is usually not a whole

SQ = (No. of Seats) × State Population

Total Population

= State Population

The lower quota is the standard quota rounded down to the nearest whole number.
The upper quota is the standard quota rounded up.

Quota Rule: A state’s apportionment should either be its upper or lower quota.

3.2 Some Quota Methods and Paradoxes from the Quota Method

Apportionment methods that satisfy the quota rule are called quota methods.
We present two quota methods proposed by Alexander Hamilton (1791) and

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William Lowndes (1822).

Hamilton Method

1. Calculate each state’s standard quota.

2. Initially assign each state its lower quota.

3. Give surplus seats, one at a time, to states with the largest absolute
fractional parts until you run out of surplus seats.

Example 1: A mythical country with three states A, B, C has a total population of

1,000,000. There are 100 seats to be apportioned to the three states. The standard
divisor is therefor SD = 1,000,000 divided by 100 = 10,000. We will use Hamilton’s
method to apportion the seats.


Population 657,000 237,000 106,000 1,000,000

Standard quota 65.7 23.7 10.6 100

Usual round-off 66 24 11 101

Lower quota 65 23 10 98

Absolute 0.7 0.7 0.6

fractional part

Surplus seats +1 +1

Allocation 66 24 10 100

We allocate this time using our second quota method.

Lowndes Method

1. Start out as in Hamilton’s method.

2. But assign surplus seats using relative (not absolute) fractional parts. This
means we divide the fractional part of the quota by the integer part of the
quota. We first illustrate the relative fractional part.


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Standard quota: 41.82

Fractional part: 0.82
Integer part: 41.00
Relative fractional part: 0.82 /41 = 0.02

Example 2: We apportion the 100 seats in our 3-state country in Example 1, this
time using Lowndes method.


Population 657,000 237,000 106,000 1,000,000

Standard quota 65.7 23.7 10.6 100

Usual round-off 66 24 11 101

Lower quota 65 23 10 98

Relative fractional 0.01 0.03 0.06


Surplus seats +1 +1

Allocation 65 24 11 100

Hamilton and Lowndes are quota methods. Both use the standard divisor and
standard quota. Both satisfy the quota rule: standard quota is rounded up or down
to nearest whole number.


A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. It is

an assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, although based on a valid
deduction from acceptable premises. Paradoxes are often statements or situations
contrary to received opinion or are counterintuitive.

Quota methods are open to problems and paradoxes.

We will illustrate three paradoxes arising from application of quota methods. These
paradoxes will be illustrated in the succeeding three examples.

• Population Paradox: An increase in the state’s population causes it to lose

a seat.

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• Alabama Paradox: An increase in the total number of seats to be

apportioned causes a state to lose a seat.

• New State Paradox: Adding a new state with its fair share of seats can
affect the number of seats due other states

Example 3 (Population Paradox):

Recall the allocation (using Hamilton’s method) in our mythical country with 3
states A, B, C.


Population 657,000 237,000 106,000 1,000,000

Standard quota 65.7 23.7 10.6 100

Allocation 66 24 10 100

Suppose that the population grew to 1,010,000. We recompute standard

quotas and apply Hamilton’s method again.


Old population 657,000 237,000 106,000 1,000,000

(old allocation) (66) (24) (10) (10)

New population 660,000 245,100 104,900 1,010,000

Standard quota 65.7 23.7 10.6 100

New allocation 65 24 11 100

A’s population grew, but A lost a seat!

C’s population decreased, but C gained one seat!

Example 4 (Alabama Paradox):

After the population grew in our mythical country, Congress decided to allocate
101 seats. Let’s see what happens when we re-apportion using Hamilton’s

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Population 660,000 237,000 106,000 1,000,000

(old allocation) (65) (24) (11) (100)

Standard quota 66.00 24.51 10.49 101

New allocation 66 25 10 100

When the house only had 100 seats, C was entitled to 11 seats.

But when the house increased to 101 seats (with no changes in population), C
only got 10 seats!

Example 5 (New State Paradox):

New Fake City has two schools: Dilaw and Pula. Mayor Moka donated 100
computers that were apportioned using Hamilton’s Method.

Dilaw Pula Total

Enrolment 1,045 8,955 10,000

Standard quota 10.45 89.55 100

Allocation 10 90 100

Suppose that a new school (Bato) is created, with an initial enrolment of 525.
Mayor Moka decides to add 5 computers to the pool of computers. After this is
done, a re-calculation of the allocation is made. This is the result:

Dilaw Pula Bato Total

New enrolment 1,045 8,955 525 10,525

Standard quota 10.45 89.55 5.24 105

(old allocation) (10) (90)

New allocation 11 89 5 105

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The addition of a new school (state) can, by itself, affect the apportionment of
other schools (states)!

3.3 Divisor Methods

There are apportionment schemes where the standard divisor and standard quota
are not used. Instead, a modified divisor MD is used (obtained by trial and error) to
obtain modified quotas that will result in no surplus seats. The modified quota
(MQ) is obtained by dividing the state population by the chosen modified divisor,
that is, MQ = state population / MD. These apportionment methods are called
divisor methods.

We present three divisor methods. The three methods differ in the way modified
quotas are rounded off. Their proponents were the American statesmen Thomas
Jefferson (1791), John Quincy Adams (1832), and Daniel Webster (1832).

Jefferson Method (1791)

1. Calculate each state’s standard quota.

2. Initially assign each state its lower quota.

3. If there are surplus seats, modify the divisor so that when each state’s
modified quota is rounded downward, no surplus seats remain.

4. Apportion to each state the integer part of its modified quota.

For the succeeding three examples, we will allocate 100 seats from a population of
1,100. The standard divisor is 1,100/100 = 110. However, we will be using modified
divisors instead. We outline the steps for each method used.

Jefferson method:

• Assign lower quotas (based on standard quotas), giving: (A,B,C) = (6,2,1)

• Since this gives 9 seats, modify the divisor (choose a smaller divisor, say 98)
to get bigger allocations.

• Assign lower quotas using the modified quota.

A B C Total

Population 696 268 136 1,100

Standard quota 6.33 2.43 1.24 10

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Lower quota 6 2 1 9

Modified quota 7.10 2.73 1.38

Allocation 7 2 1 10

Adams Method (1832)

• Assign upper quotas (based on standard quotas), giving: (A,B,C) = (7,3,2)

• Since this gives 12 seats, which is too much, modify the divisor (choose a
larger divisor than 110, say 135) to get smaller allocations.

• Assign upper quotas using the modified quota.

A B C Total

Population 696 268 136 1,100

Standard quota 6.33 2.43 1.24 10

Upper quota 7 3 2 12

Modified quota 5.16 1.99 1.38

Allocation 6 2 2 10

Webster Method (1832)

• Round off the standard quotas in the usual way, giving: (A,B,C) = (6,2,1).

• Since this gives only 9 seats, modify the divisor (choose, say 107.2) to get
larger allocations.

• Round-off the modified quotas in the usual way.

A B C Total

Population 696 268 136 1,100

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Standard quota 6.33 2.43 1.24 10

Usual round-off 6 2 1 9

Modified quota 6.49 2.50 1.27

Allocation 6 3 1 10

The apportionment of 100 seats to the three states using the three methods are
summarized below:


Jefferson 7 2 1 10

Adams 6 2 2 10

Webster 6 3 1 10

We see that after using the 3 divisor methods we obtain 3 different apportionments!
It is known that the 3 divisor methods can violate the quota rule (unlike the Hamilton
and Lowndes methods which do not violate the quota rule). However, it can be
proven that none of the 3 divisor methods can suffer from the earlier paradoxes
(unlike the Hamilton and Lowndes methods).

Which method is better — a quota method or a divisor method? Among the different
methods, is there a best one?

Advocates of particular methods continue to disagree, but the following result of

mathematicians Michael Balinsky and H. Peyton Young, called the Balinsky and
Young Impossibility Theorem, is known. It asserts that no apportionment method is
mathematically flawless in the following sense:

Theorem (Balinsky and Young, 1980): Any apportionment method that does not
violate the quota rule must produce paradoxes; and any apportionment method that
does not produce paradoxes must violate the quota rule.

A comparison of properties of the five methods is presented below:

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Method Quote Quota Divisor Divisor Divisor

Violates quota No No Yes Yes Yes


Alabama Yes Yes No No No


Population Yes Yes No No No


New state Yes Yes No No No


Favors Large states Small states Large states Small Neutral


Huntington-Hill Method

The apportionment method used by the US Congress to apportion congressional

seats is called the Huntington-Hill method. This method was proposed by statistician
Joseph Hill and mathematician Edward Huntington in 1911. It was adopted officially
by the US Congress in 1941 with a fixed House size of 435.

The method is similar to the Webster method, except that rounding-off is based on
the geometric mean, instead of the (usual) arithmetic mean. The geometric mean
of x and y is √xy, the square root of the product xy.

Fun fact: The first US Presidential veto was a math bill. In 1791, President George
Washington vetoed Hamilton’s bill on apportionment. Jefferson’s method was
adopted instead.


Activity 6 (90 minutes)

A new republic with a population of 12,500,000 is to be made up of 6 states:

A,B,C,D,E,F. The new legislature will have a total of 250 seats, to be apportioned
among the 6 states. The populations of the states are given below. Determine the
apportionments using the six methods presented. You should be able to fill in all the

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seat allocations and the total for each method used must be 250.


Population 1,646 6,936 154 2,091 685 988 12,500

(x 1000)


Hamilton 250

Lowndes 250

Jefferson 250

Adams 250

Webster 250

Huntington-Hill 250



The concept of order is ubiquitous and important in mathematics. Order is also

critical in society, especially in decision-making. Mathematics allows us to analyze
voting systems and other social issues, but it does not provide all answers.

In Section 1.0, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem shows that there can be no perfect

In Section 2.0, we are reminded that in any society, no matter how democratic,
some individuals and groups have more power than others. The notion of power as
it applies to weighted voting systems can be studied mathematically. The Banzhaf
power index is one way to measure power.

Finally in Section 3.0, the problem of how to divide certain sets fairly was examined
and applied to the process of seat allocations in congress. We saw that apportioning

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Mathematics in the Social Sciences

seats can be affected greatly by simple operations such as rounding-up or rounding-

down numbers.

In this module we presented the use of mathematical theory to familiar issues or

questions encountered in society. Many problems in society and government, such
as voting, power relations, and fair division and apportionment, can be more clearly
understood and analyzed using mathematics.



P. Tannembaum and R. Arnold, Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 9th ed.,

Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2013.

For All Practical Purposes: Mathematical Literacy in Today’s World, 10th Ed.,
COMAP, W.H. Freeman, New York, 2015.

J. Malkevitch, The process of electing a president, Feature Column from the AMS,
www.ams/samplings/feature-column/fcarc-elections, accessed on 01/06/2018.

G.G. Szpiro, Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to
the Present, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2010.

J. Tolle, Power distributions in four-player weighted voting systems, Mathematics

Magazine, Vol. 76 No. 1 (2003) pp. 33-39.

B. Conrad, Banzhaf power index and Shapely-Shubik power indices, SSPI.html, accessed on 01/06/08 [this website
has a brief introduction and a link to an applet for calculating power indices]

Most of the examples in this module, such as the Math Lover’s Club election, the
examples of weighted voting systems, and the discussion on fair division and
apportionment are drawn and adapted from the wonderful textbook Excursions in
Modern Mathematics written by P. Tannembaum and R. Arnold.

Photo Credits:
• Cover photo:
the-drama-the battle-2/, accessed on 01/06/2018

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