A Condorcet method (English: //; French: [kɔ̃dɔʁsɛ]) is an election method that elects the candidate who wins a majority of the vote in every head-to-head election against each of the other candidates, that is, a candidate preferred by more voters than any others, whenever there is such a candidate. A candidate with this property, the pairwise champion or beats-all winner, is formally called the Condorcet winner. The head-to-head elections need not be done separately; a voter's choice within any given pair can be determined from the ranking.
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Some elections may not yield a Condorcet winner because voter preferences may be cyclic — that is, it is possible (but rare) that every candidate has an opponent that defeats them in a two-candidate contest.(This is similar to the game Rock paper scissors, where each hand shape wins against one opponent and loses to another one). The possibility of such cyclic preferences is known as the Condorcet paradox. However, a smallest group of candidates that beat all candidates not in the group, known as the Smith set, always exists. The Smith set is guaranteed to have the Condorcet winner in it should one exist. Many Condorcet methods elect a candidate who is in the Smith set absent a Condorcet winner, and is thus said to be "Smith-efficient". The Condorcet winner is also usually but not necessarily the utilitarian winner (the one that maximizes social welfare).
Condorcet voting methods are named for the 18th-century French mathematician and philosopher Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet, who championed such systems. However, Ramon Llull devised the earliest known Condorcet method in 1299. It was equivalent to Copeland's method in cases with no pairwise ties.
Most Condorcet methods employ a single round of preferential voting, in which each voter ranks the candidates from most (marked as number 1) to least preferred (marked with a higher number). A voter's ranking is often called their order of preference. Votes can be tallied in many ways to find a winner. All Condorcet methods will elect the Condorcet winner if there is one. If there is no Condorcet winner different Condorcet-compliant methods may elect different winners in the case of a cycle - Condorcet methods differ on which other criteria they satisfy.
The procedure given in Robert's Rules of Order for voting on motions and amendments is also a Condorcet method, even though the voters do not vote by expressing their orders of preference. There are multiple rounds of voting, and in each round the vote is between two of the alternatives. The loser (by majority rule) of a pairing is eliminated, and the winner of a pairing survives to be paired in a later round against another alternative. Eventually, only one alternative remains, and it is the winner. This is analogous to a single-winner or round-robin tournament; the total number of pairings is one less than the number of alternatives. Since a Condorcet winner will win by majority rule in each of its pairings, it will never be eliminated by Robert's Rules. But this method cannot reveal a voting paradox in which there is no Condorcet winner and a majority prefer an early loser over the eventual winner (though it will always elect someone in the Smith set). A considerable portion of the literature on social choice theory is about the properties of this method since it is widely used and is used by important organizations (legislatures, councils, committees, etc.). It is not practical for use in public elections, however, since its multiple rounds of voting would be very expensive for voters, for candidates, and for governments to administer.