Define: 50 Percent Plus One

50 Percent Plus One
50 Percent Plus One
Quick Summary of 50 Percent Plus One

In situations where a group needs to reach a decision, a common approach is to use a majority vote. This entails having more than half of the group agree on a particular matter in order for it to be implemented. To estimate this majority threshold, the “50 percent plus one” rule is often employed. For instance, if there are 100 individuals in the group, the majority would be considered as 51 people. However, if the group consists of an odd number of individuals, this estimation may not be precise. Therefore, it is more accurate to refer to this requirement as a “simple majority,” which signifies that more than half of the group must agree.

What is the dictionary definition of 50 Percent Plus One?
Dictionary Definition of 50 Percent Plus One

The term “50 percent plus one” is commonly used to approximate a majority, but it is not entirely accurate. It signifies that in a group, more than half of the members must agree for it to be considered a majority. For example, in a group of 100 people, the majority would be 51 or more individuals. However, if the group has an odd number of people, “half plus one” would not be a whole number and, therefore, would not accurately represent a majority. Another term that can convey the same concept is “simple majority,” which is more precise. For instance, if a school board consists of 7 members, a simple majority would be 4 or more members. If they vote on a new policy and 4 members vote in favour while 3 vote against it, the policy would pass because it received a simple majority.

Full Definition Of 50 Percent Plus One

“50 per cent plus one” is pivotal in democratic processes and legal frameworks. It represents the simplest majority, a decision-making threshold often employed in elections, legislative votes, and referenda. This threshold ensures that a decision is made when more than half of the voting body agrees, embodying the principle of majority rule. This essay explores the legal implications, applications, and debates surrounding “50 per cent plus one” within various contexts, primarily focusing on its significance in the United Kingdom (UK).

Electoral Systems and “50 Percent Plus One”

In electoral systems, “50 per cent plus one” is crucial for determining winners in different types of elections. The UK employs several electoral systems, each using the majority principle differently.

First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)

The FPTP system, used in UK general elections, does not require a candidate to secure “50 per cent plus one” of the total votes. Instead, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if they do not achieve an absolute majority. This can lead to a plurality, where a candidate wins with less than half of the votes, raising questions about the representativeness of such outcomes.

Alternative Vote (AV)

In contrast, the AV system, used for electing Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders, requires candidates to achieve “50 per cent plus one” through ranked-choice voting. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed according to second preference. This process continues until a candidate achieves “50 per cent plus one,” ensuring the winner has broader support.

Proportional Representation (PR)

PR systems, used in the UK for European Parliament elections until Brexit, aim to reflect the overall distribution of votes in the allocation of seats. While “50 per cent plus one” is less directly relevant in PR, achieving a simple majority is crucial for forming governments in coalition settings, where multiple parties must collaborate to surpass the majority threshold.

Legislative Decision-Making

In legislative bodies, “50 per cent plus one” is often required to pass laws and make decisions. This principle ensures that a decision has the support of more than half of the members present and voting.

The House of Commons

In the UK House of Commons, most votes are decided by a simple majority of those present and voting. This means that achieving “50 per cent plus one” of the votes cast is necessary for a decision to pass. However, notable exceptions, such as constitutional amendments or votes of no confidence, may require a higher threshold to ensure broader consensus and stability.

Local Government

At the local government level, councils also operate on majority rule. Decisions require “50 per cent plus one” of councillors to present and vote. This ensures that local policies and budgets reflect the majority view, promoting democratic governance at the grassroots level.

Referenda and “50 Percent Plus One”

Referenda represent direct democracy, where citizens vote on specific issues. The “50 per cent plus one” rule is critical in referenda to ensure that the decision reflects the majority’s will.

The Brexit Referendum

The 2016 Brexit referendum is a prime example. The Leave campaign won 51.9% of the vote, surpassing the “50 per cent plus one” threshold. This narrow majority led to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, illustrating the profound impact of majority rule in referenda. The result also sparked debate about the adequacy of a simple majority for such significant decisions, with some arguing for a supermajority requirement.

Scottish Independence Referendum

The 2014 Scottish independence referendum required a simple majority for Scotland to become independent. The “No” campaign won with 55.3%, exceeding the “50 per cent plus one” threshold. This result underscored the importance of majority rule while highlighting the potential divisiveness of closely contested referenda.

Legal Challenges and Debates

Applying “50 per cent plus one” often leads to legal challenges and debates concerning fairness, representativeness, and implications for minority rights.

Fairness and Representativeness

Critics argue that “50 per cent plus one” may not always produce fair or representative outcomes. For instance, in FPTP systems, a candidate can win without an absolute majority, potentially sidelining significant portions of the electorate. Proponents of alternative voting systems, like AV or PR, argue that these methods better capture voter preferences and enhance representativeness.

Minority Rights

Another concern is the impact on minority rights. Decisions based solely on majority rule may overlook the interests of minority groups. This is particularly pertinent in contexts like referenda on constitutional changes or human rights issues. Some legal scholars advocate for higher thresholds or additional safeguards to protect minority interests and ensure more inclusive decision-making.

Supermajority Requirements

Legal frameworks sometimes require supermajorities—higher than “50 per cent plus one”—to pass critical decisions. For example, constitutional amendments or decisions with long-term implications may require a two-thirds or three-fifths majority. This approach aims to ensure broader consensus and prevent majoritarian tyranny.

Case Studies

The Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland, exemplifies the use of qualified majorities. Key decisions in the Northern Ireland Assembly require cross-community support, meaning a majority of unionist and nationalist members. This ensures both communities have a say in critical decisions, promoting stability and inclusiveness.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced a supermajority requirement for early general elections in the UK. A two-thirds majority of MPs is needed to dissolve Parliament before the end of its five-year term. This provision prevents the ruling party from calling early elections for political gain and ensures broader parliamentary support for such decisions.

International Perspectives

Comparing the UK’s application of “50 per cent plus one” with other countries provides valuable insights into its implications and alternatives.

United States

In the United States, the Electoral College system for presidential elections sometimes results in a president who does not win the popular vote. This contrasts with the “50 per cent plus one” principle and has sparked calls for electoral reform. However, legislative decisions in the US Congress often require simple majorities, similar to those in the UK.


Switzerland employs a unique system of direct democracy, where referenda are common and double majorities are sometimes required. For certain decisions, a proposal must win a popular majority and a majority of cantons (regional entities). This dual threshold ensures broader consensus and protects regional interests, offering an alternative to the simple majority rule.


The “50 per cent plus one” principle is fundamental to democratic decision-making, ensuring that decisions reflect the majority’s will. Its application in the UK electoral system, legislative processes, and referenda highlights its significance and complexities. While it promotes majority rule, it also raises questions about fairness, representativeness, and minority rights. Legal frameworks sometimes incorporate higher thresholds or additional safeguards to address these concerns, balancing majority rule with the need for broader consensus and inclusiveness. By examining its applications and debates, we gain a deeper understanding of “50 per cent plus one” and its role in shaping democratic governance.

50 Percent Plus One FAQ'S

“50 percent plus one” refers to a voting threshold required to pass certain decisions or resolutions. It means that more than half of the votes cast must be in favour of the proposal for it to be approved.

This rule is commonly used in various legal settings, such as corporate governance, elections, referendums, and decision-making processes within organisations or associations.

In some cases, the governing documents or laws may allow for different voting thresholds. However, unless specified otherwise, the default rule is often “50 percent plus one” for majority approval.

If the vote results in a tie or exactly 50 percent, it is generally considered a failure to meet the required majority. In such cases, the proposal is typically not approved.

Yes, “50 percent plus one” is another way of expressing a simple majority. It means that the proposal needs to receive more votes in favour than against, with no specific requirement for a supermajority.

Certain decisions may require a higher voting threshold, such as constitutional amendments or significant changes to bylaws. These exceptions are typically outlined in the governing documents or applicable laws.

The “50 percent plus one” rule is primarily used for decision-making processes rather than resolving legal disputes. Legal disputes are typically resolved through the application of relevant laws, court decisions, and legal principles.

No, the application of the “50 percent plus one” rule depends on the specific context and governing rules. Different voting thresholds may be required for different types of decisions or resolutions.

If there are concerns about the validity or fairness of a vote, it may be possible to challenge or contest the results. However, the specific procedures and grounds for challenging a vote may vary depending on the governing rules and applicable laws.

No, “50 percent plus one” does not require unanimous agreement. It only requires a simple majority, meaning that more than half of the votes cast are in favour of the proposal. Unanimous decisions, on the other hand, require the agreement of every participant or voter.

Related Phrases
No related content found.

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th June 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):50 Percent Plus One. DLS Solicitors. June 16 2024
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):50 Percent Plus One. DLS Solicitors. (accessed: June 16 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):50 Percent Plus One. Retrieved June 16 2024, from website:
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts