PLURALITY (O. Fr. pluralite, Late Lat. pluralitas, plural number), in a general sense, a word denoting more than one; applied particularly to the holding of two or more offices by the same person (called then a pluralist). In ecclesiastical law, plurality or the holding of more than one benefice or preferment was always discountenanced, and is now prohibited in England by the Pluralities Act 1838, as amended by the Pluralities Act 1850 and the Pluralities Acts Amendment Act 1885. By the latter act a provision was made that two benefices might be held together, by dispensation of the archbishop on the recommendation of the bishop, if the churches be within four miles of each other, and if the annual value of one does not exceed 200 (see BENEFICE). It was formerly a practice to evade enactments against plurality by means of commendams, i.e. by committing or commending a benefice to a holder of other benefices until an incumbent should be provided for it. Commendams were abolished by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act 1836 (6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 77, 18). See also Coltv. Bishop of Coventry, 1613, Hob. 140 seq., where much learning on the subject will be found.
In elections, particularly where there are three or more candidates, and no one candidate receives an absolute majority of votes, the excess of votes polled by the first candidate over the second is often termed plurality, especially in the United States.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)