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Electoral Systems. Ensuring Representation, Ensuring Stability March 25 th , 2004. Electoral Systems. are never neutral help ensure certain outcomes and make other outcomes less likely the question – which type of outcome do different electoral systems favour??.

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Electoral systems

Electoral Systems

Ensuring Representation, Ensuring Stability

March 25th, 2004


Electoral systems1
Electoral Systems

  • are never neutral

    • help ensure certain outcomes and make other outcomes less likely

    • the question – which type of outcome do different electoral systems favour??



1998 quebec provincial election
1998 Quebec Provincial Election



Single member plurality system smps
Single Member Plurality System (SMPS)

  • one representative per geographic area (riding, constituency, district)

  • ‘first-past-the-post’, ‘winner-take-all’ system

    • win a seat by having more votes than the next candidate

      • i.e. do not need a majority (50%+1)

  • to win overall election, party does NOT have to win the most votes


Effects of smps
Effects of SMPS

  • tends to over-represent strongest party (more seats than votes warrant)

    • helps ensure majority government

      • decisive leadership

      • accountability

      • stability (governments do not fall often)

    • distorts patterns of representation


Distortion under smps
Distortion under SMPS

  • example: Canada

    • exacerbates regional differences in party support

      • favours parties with concentrated regional support

        • i.e. encourages regional parties

        • organizes regional issues into Canadian politics

      • discourages minor national parties (e.g. with diffuse support)

        • e.g. parties appeal to social class

        • organizes class issues out of Canadian politics

    • exacerbates regionalized images of parties

      • creates impression that parties have little regional support



Alternative systems proportional representation
Alternative Systems: Proportional Representation

  • representation (# of seats) directly proportional to share of popular vote received (# of votes)



Electoral systems democracy
Electoral Systems & Democracy 2000 Election

  • SMPS

    • exaggerates political dominance of largest group of voters to emphasize leadership, stability and accountability

      • do all models of democracy value bold leadership equally??

  • creates false majority rule

    • concern with rights of minorities?

    • concern with representation?

  • proportional representation

    • more competition and choice

      • better representation of various interests

      • more effective and meaningful political participation

    • higher level of consensus required for government to act


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