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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??
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
  • 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