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An overvote occurs when one votes for more than the maximum number of selections allowed in a contest.[1] The result is a spoiled vote which is not included in the final tally.

One example of an overvote would be voting for two candidates in a single race with the instruction "Vote for not more than one." Robert's Rules of Order notes that such votes are illegal.[2]

The exact definition of overvotes is ambiguous in a contest with N-of-M voting, where N of M choices can be selected and N>1 (vote for no more than N). Sometimes overvotes are reported as the number of ballots overvoted in the contest, and sometimes it is reported as N*overvoted-ballots.

Undervotes combined with overvotes (known as residual votes) can be an academic indicator in evaluating the accuracy of a voting system when recording voter intent.[3]

While an overvote in a plurality voting system or limited voting is always illegal, in certain other electoral methods including approval voting, this style of voting is valid, and thus invalid overvotes are not possible.[4]

In the corporate world, the term "overvote" describes a situation in which someone votes more proxies than they are authorized to, or for more shares than they hold of record.[5]


  1. ^ 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines Archived 2008-06-13 at the Wayback Machine, p. A-13 Election Assistance Commission
  2. ^ Robert, Henry M. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th ed., p. 416-417 (RONR)
  3. ^ Alvarez, R. Michael; Katz, Jonathan N.; Hill, Jonathan N. (September 20, 2005). "Machines Versus Humans: The Counting and Recounting of Pre-scored Punchcard Ballots" (PDF). VTP Working Paper #32. CALTECH/MIT Voting Technology Project. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  4. ^ "Approval Voting". The Center for Election Science.
  5. ^ "Briefing Paper: Roundtable on Proxy Voting Mechanics". www.sec.gov.

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