A conditional defense of plurality rule: generalizing May's theorem in a restricted informational environment

May's theorem famously shows that, in social decisions between two options, simple majority rule uniquely satisfies four appealing conditions. Although this result is often cited in support of majority rule, it has never been extended beyond decisions based on pairwise comparisons of options. We generalize May's theorem to many-option decisions where voters each cast one vote. Surprisingly, plurality rule uniquely satisfies May's conditions. This suggests a conditional defense of plurality rule: If a society's balloting procedure collects only a single vote from each voter, then plurality rule is the uniquely compelling electoral procedure. To illustrate the conditional nature of this claim, we also identify a richer informational environment in which approval voting, not plurality rule, is supported by a May-style argument.
Keywords May's theorem  Majority rule  Plurality rule  Approval voting  Procedural justifications of democracy
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Eva Erman (2011). Human Rights Do Not Make Global Democracy. Contemporary Political Theory 10 (4):463.
Stéphanie Novak (2014). Majority Rule. Philosophy Compass 9 (10):681-688.

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