The perversity of the 50% turnout rule

LSE’s strike re-balloting as a case study

As a result of the Trade Union Act 2016, at least 50% of those recently balloted over USS pensions in a British university needed to vote in order to render strikes on the campus lawful. The LSE is one of seven universities that fell short of this requirement. At the LSE, 545 union members were balloted and 251 returned their ballot, falling just 22 votes short of the required 50% turnout. Of those who voted, 90% (226) voted Yes to going on strike.

Along with the other six universities, the LSE will now be re-balloted, to see whether it can get over the 50% threshold on a second try. Suppose that everyone who voted in the first round votes exactly the same way in the second round. Suppose, in addition, that 22 who abstained in the first round, because they were unsure whether they were prepared to go on strike, make up their minds this time against going on strike and vote No. These 22 extra votes against going on strike will have the perverse effect of authorising strikes at the LSE. This is, I think, a reductio ad absurdum of the 50% rule.

Written by

Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method, LSE

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