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Fantasy Sports Politics - Majority vs Plurality

Updated 2/8/2013 by Brad Perniciaro

In any respectable fantasy league, a fantasy constitution is created which contains the rules by which the league will operate.  This document generally starts out very simple and evolves as league disputes arise and are resolved.  When a dispute arises which hasn’t been addressed in the league constitution, and as part of the fantasy commissioner’s duties, he will generally  propose possible resolutions through an online poll.  The winning resolution is then determined based on either a majority or plurality

When determining fantasy polls based on majority, if it required that the winning option garner more than 50% of the total votes cast.  If there are only two possible options in the poll, then determining the result is relatively straightforward and problems only arise if there is a tie.  How you handle ties in your league is up to you, but some leagues allow the commissioner to cast a deciding vote.

While majority rulings work fine for polls with 2 options, things get tricky if there are more than 2 possible options.  Let’s say that in a league with 12 owners a poll is created but only 10 owners vote in a particular poll.  The result of this theoretical poll is shown below:

  • Option A - 30% (3 total votes)
  • Option B - 30% (3 total votes)
  • Option C - 40% (4 total votes)

In order for the majority to be met, one of the 3 options had to garner more than 50% of the total votes cast (at least 6 vote in this case, or 60%).  Option C received the most votes, but because those votes accounted for less than 50% of the total votes, it cannot be declared the winner; follow-up action is now required.  One popular resolution to this situation is to re-vote with a smaller set of options.  But in the case above this isn’t possible as Options A & B tied with the same amount of 2nd placed votes. 

As the problem illustrates, requiring a majority can often lead to headaches.  Subsequent rounds of voting are often required and often follow-up polls aren’t isn’t adequate to resolve the issue.  You can quickly see how using a majority can lead to lots of wasted time and even deadlock.  Most leagues have bigger fish to fry and the commissioner has his own team to manage, so why not opt for a simpler solution?

As an alternative to majority rulings, a quicker and more straightforward approach is to simply require a plurality.  When using a plurality the option with the most votes wins, regardless of the number of options.  It’s as simple as that.  The most complicated problem you could possibly encounter when requiring a plurality is if multiple options tie for the most votes.  As discussed earlier, a simple solution is to allow the commissioner to cast the deciding vote. 

Especially when considering the small voting sizes of a fantasy league, utilizing a plurality instead of a majority greatly simplifies the process of determining poll outcomes.  Most polls in your league will probably only have 2 options, in which case the majority and plurality are the same thing.  But if your league adopts a consistent policy of plurality for all polling sizes, you’ll have a quick and simple way to approve new rules.  You can spend the extra time doing something more enjoyable, like managing your team.

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