The De Borda Institute


Based in Northern Ireland, De Borda promotes inclusive voting procedures in contentious elections

Last updated: December 2021

The de Borda Institute works for the reform of voting procedures, not just in elections, but primarily in decision-making: the Modified Borda Count, (MBC).

While electoral systems vary, decision-making rarely does. In business, law and in politics, people use (simple or weighted) majority votes. Multi-option voting is rare. Consensus voting is almost unheard of, even though it is two-hundred years old: it is more inclusive and more democratic than the adversarial and dichotomous majority vote.

The de Borda Institute has not only demonstrated consensus voting systems in Northern Ireland, but also promoted them abroad, both in 'stable' democracies as well as in divided societies and conflict zones. They include all the ex-Yugoslav countries in the Balkans, all three countries in the Caucasus, as well as Austria, Canada, China including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Kenya, Namibia, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine, Uganda and USA.

Contributions to the Northern Ireland Peace Process and beyond

  • Bringing all sides in the Northern Ireland conflict together in a public meeting in 1986, still eight years before the cease-fire, and identifying their consensus.
  • Using an electronic count at another all-party conference in Belfast, in 1991. On this occasion, the Institute also had a Bosnian in attendance.
  • Organising an MBC social survey in 1998 as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
  • Publishing Defining Democracy (2012, Springer, Heidelberg), with two book launches, one in the House of Lords, the other in Áras an Uachtaráin with the President of the Republic of Ireland.
  • Three days before the Irish general election of 2016, (2016, Springer, Heidelberg), we launched From Majority Rule to Inclusive Politics in Dublin, to show how a parliament could elect an all-party power-sharing government of national unity.
  • A recent work, Majority Voting as a Catalyst of Populism (2019, Springer, Heidelberg), was based on a mainly overland journey from Belfast to Beijing and beyond. This was then promoted in another overland trip, with ten book launches in ten different jurisdictions, including Russia and China, with demonstrations of the MBC with electronic voting in universities in both.

Why the MBC matters

All these uses of the MBC – in Ireland North and South, the UK, elsewhere in Europe including Russia, the United States and, as noted above, now in China – have been successful. The MBC has also been used for real; the de Borda Institute recently persuaded Dublin City Council to use an MBC in a recent multi-option debate. This is the first time such a voting procedure has been used in an elected chamber, certainly in Ireland.

Sadly, the world persists in using majority votes, despite the fact that, “All the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum,” (to quote Sarajevo's famous newspaper Oslobodjenje), and the same now applies to Ukraine. And hence too the madness of Brexit. In a nutshell, peace settlements should be based on:

  • decision-making by MBC
  • elections by the Quota Borda System, QBS; and
  • all-party power-sharing governance based on the matrix vote.

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