Voting by show of hands

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Voting by show of hands is an accessible social protocol that can be used to make group decisions.


All options are presented to the voters in order. This order might be predetermined or randomly chosen. For each option, each party elligible to vote has three options:

  • Raising their hands: this inditaces support of the option.
  • Lowering their hands: this indicates rejection of the option.
  • Neither raising nor lowering their hands: this indicates neither support nor rejection of the option. In some cases, this might be interpreted as being neutral on the option. In other cases, it might mean the user refrains from voting on the option, and in doing so forfeit their right to appeal the decision.

One round of voting might be followed by more. A new round may be planned before the first round, or be initiated by no option having seen enough support by the voters to be chosen over the others.

To find consensus, it is used to see if people disagree or have concerns about a particular decision. In this case, these concerns can be formulated and discussed until a full group consensus can be reached.

The show of hands can also be used in group discussions when participants agree or disagree with an opinion without interrupting the speaker.


This protocol is characterised by its accessibility: no additional equipment (e.g. ballots) are required in the procedure of voting. If voting is done publicly, it does not require a neutral party to count the votes. In this case, however, it does not provide anonimity to the voters.