Voting systems for environmental decisions


Voting systems aggregate preferences efficiently and are often used for deciding conservation priorities. Desirable characteristics of voting systems include transitivity, completeness, and Pareto optimality, among others. Voting systems that are common and potentially useful for environmental decision making include simple majority, approval, and preferential voting. Unfortunately, no voting system can guarantee an outcome, while also satisfying a range of very reasonable performance criteria. Furthermore, voting methods may be manipulated by decision makers and strategic voters if they have knowledge of the voting patterns and alliances of others in the voting populations. The difficult properties of voting systems arise in routine decision making when there are multiple criteria and management alternatives. Because each method has flaws, we do not endorse one method. Instead, we urge organizers to be transparent about the properties of proposed voting systems and to offer participants the opportunity to approve the voting system as part of the ground rules for operation of a group. © 2014 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of the Society for Conservation Biology.






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Publication Info

Burgman, Mark A, Helen M Regan, Lynn A Maguire, Mark Colyvan, James Justus, Tara G Martin and Kris Rothley (2014). Voting systems for environmental decisions. Conservation Biology, 28(2). pp. 322–332. 10.1111/cobi.12209 Retrieved from

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Lynn A. Maguire

Professor of the Practice Emeritus

Dr. Maguire's current research uses a combination of methods from decision analysis, environmental conflict resolution and social psychology to study environmental decision making. She focuses on collaborative decision processes where values important to the general public and stakeholders must be combined with technical analysis to determine management strategies. Her recent applications of decision analysis include the management of rare species, invasive species, and wildfire risk. Dr. Maguire is also using the principles of decision analysis to improve multicriteria rating systems, such as those used to set conservation priorities, and to develop frameworks used to value ecosystem services. She is involved in both empirical and conceptual research on perceptions of the time value of environmental resources, such as endangered species, and on the mismatches in timescales of ecological, social and political systems. Recent and current collaborations on timescales, ecosystem services and prioritization of endangered species recovery efforts have been facilitated by the National Center for Socioenvironmental Synthesis (SESYNC).

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