Simple Majority: Definition, System & Rule

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  • 0:00 Simple Majority
  • 1:58 Majority Rule System
  • 3:36 Compromise
  • 4:19 Shared Responsibilities
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Krcatovich

Erin teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration and has a PhD in Political Science.

In this lesson, we will learn about a simple majority. This concept will be defined in the context of the United States and compared to the concept of a supermajority.

Simple Majority

A simple majority is a vote taken by an organization where at least 51% of the members must vote yes to approve a bill before it is accepted. The United States national government has two lawmaking bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate, which share responsibility for making the nation's laws. Some of these bills that may become law can be passed with a simple majority. For example, in the Senate, at least 51 of the 100 members must vote 'yes' to pass the 51% approval threshold. However, by law, other types of bills must be passed by a supermajority, which is a greater majority than a simple majority. Some issues must be resolved with more agreement than a simple majority. For example, most state legislatures mandate a supermajority vote to amend their state constitutions. Such issues may require a 2/3 or 3/4 vote of members to pass.

It is important that enough members are present at the vote to make the decision fairly representative of what the majority of members want to happen. For this reason, most organizations will call for attendance to be taken of members before a vote occurs. A quorum is a number of members, decided in advance, who must be present when attendance is taken. If there are fewer members, the vote will not occur until at least that number of people are present. A vote can take place without all members in attendance; if so, the number of votes will be fewer than 51% of the total number of members. For example, one day there may be 40 positive votes for a bill out of the 70 present Senators; this is a simple majority although there are 30 Senators absent. A quorum is assumed to be achieved, unless a roll call vote happens and shows otherwise.

Majority Rule System

In the United States, we have a representative democracy. A democracy is a system of government where the people have power, as opposed to kings or other unelected leaders. The U.S. is a representative democracy because voters choose to elect representatives to act on their behalf when making laws. As a nation, we do not gather once a month to take a vote of all citizens to pass new laws because that would be incredibly tedious, time consuming and may not result in the passage of any meaningful legislation. Instead, we vote for public officials to make laws that we want, namely our national and local legislators. Meanwhile, the people also elect executives, such as the U.S. President, the state governors and mayors who enforce those laws. These elections also give the people the power to vote representatives out of office if they fail to make laws that represent what most people want.

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