- Electoral system: set of laws that regulate electoral competition between candidates or parties or both.
Electoral formula: how votes are translated into seats.
Ballot structure: how electoral choices are presented on the ballot paper (vote for candidates or parties or both, cast a single vote or express a series of preferences).
District magnitude: number of representatives elected in a district.
- Universal suffrage: the right to vote isn't restricted by race, gender, belief or social status.
But: restrictions based on age, mental health, citizenship, country residency, prison sentences, etc.
- Different systems:
I/ Majoritarian electoral systems:
- The candidates/ parties with the most votes win.
Absolute majority or plurality.
- Single-member district plurality system: individuals cast a single vote for a candidate in a single-member district=> candidate with the most votes is elected.
e.g the UK.
- simple, easy to understand
- low in cost
- 1 representative/ constituency=> responsible=> incentive to perform well
- no representation of extremist parties
- extremely unrepresentative outcomes
- wasted votes
- encouraging individuals to vote strategically rather than in accordance with their true preferences
- Alternative vote: in single-member districts, voters mark their preferences by rank ordering candidates=> absolute majority: win=> no candidate wins absolute majority: candidate with fewest votes is eliminated=> votes reallocated.... until 1 candidate has an absolute majority.
- 1 representative/ constituency=> responsible and accountable=> incentive to perform well
- chance to convey information about preferences
- less incentive to vote strategically
- help candidates/ parties win not only votes of base supporters but also 2nd preferences of others
- allow candidates to win who don't have majority support (reallocated=> not genuine)
- complicated to understand
- Borda count: in single- or multi member districts, voters use numbers to mark their preferences (1=> 0,9=> 0,8=> 0,7, etc.)=> values are summed=> candidate with the most valuable votes is elected.
- attractive in highly divided society
- incentive to vote strategically, engage in compromising and burying
- 2-round systems: potential for 2 rounds of elections. Candidates/ parties are automatically elected in the 1st round if they obtain a specified level of votes, typically an absolute majority. Those that win the most votes in the 2nd round are elected.
+ 2 types:
Majority-runoff 2-round system: 2nd round=> top 2 vote winners.
Majority-plurality 2-round systems: 2nd round=> all candidates who overcome some preordained threshold of votes.
e.g France (however, often choose to withdraw the less popular candidates in order not to split support).
- more choice, chance for voters to change their mind
- less incentive to vote strategically
- incentive for candidates who make it into the 2nd round to reach compromises with those already eliminated to win over their supporters
- disproportional translation of votes into seats (most disproportional of all systems used in Western democracies)
- hurt minority representation
- Supplementary vote: used in single-member districts.
2 columns. 1st column: most preferred candidate. 2nd colume: 2nd choice.
A candidate who wins an absolute majority of the 1st-preference votes=> automatically elected. If not=> 2 leading candidates remain, all others are eliminated=> 2nd-preference votes are reallocated to determine the winner.
=> like majority-runoff TRS but only 1 round of voting.
=> less costly.
e.g Sri Lanka.
- Single non-transferable vote: voters cast a single candidate-centred vote in a multimember district=> candidates with highest number of votes are elected.
=> equivalent of SMDP.
+ n seats to be filled=> win if having 1/ (n+1) of the votes.
- more proportional outcomes
- representation of smaller parties and minority ethnic groups
- also compete against candidates from their own party=> intraparty fighting, factionalisation=> weaken parties
- centred on candidate characteristics rather than policy differences
- voter confusion
- bribes to interest groups
- favour incumbent and well-organised parties
- not depend on transfer of preference votes=> less incentive to build broad-based coalition=> need not moderate political message (more extremist rhetoric)
- Block vote: in multimember districts, voters give as many votes as they like (except: 1 vote to any 1 candidate)=> candidates with highest number of votes are elected.
Party block vote: also in multimember districts, but voters have only a single vote, and allocate it to a list of party candidates rather than an individual candidate=> party with most votes wins all district seats.
=> highly disproportional outcomes
II/ Proportional electoral systems:
- n% of votes=> n% of seats.
- proportional outcomes
- representation of small parties
- essential for ethnically and religiously divided societies
- may replicate bitter societal division within the legislature without creating incentive for cooperation and accommodation
- tend to produce coalition governments=> hard to identify who's responsible
- representation of small, extremist parties=> undermine democracy
- weak link between constituents and representatives because no single representative is responsible for policy in a given district
- List PR system: each party represents a list of candidates for a multimember district=> parties receive seats in proportion to their overall share of the votes.
+ Based on quota (number of votes that guarantees a party a seat in a particular electoral district) or divisor (divides total number of votes won by each party in a district by a series of numbers to obtain quotients=> district seats are allocated according to which parties have the highest quotients).
+ Electoral threshold: minimum level of support a party needs to obtain representation.
Natural threshold: mathematical by-product of electoral system.
Formal threshold: explicitly written into electoral law.
=> Apparentement: provision in a list PR system for 2 or more separate parties to reach an agreement that their votes will be combined for the purposes of seat allocation (small parties group together to surpass the threshold).
+ Closed party list: order of candidates elected is determined by the party itself.
Open/ preferential/ unblocked party list: voters can indicate not just their preferred party but also their favoured candidate within that party.
Free party list: voters have multiple votes that they can allocate either within a single party or across different party lists (=> intraparty fighting).
- Single transferable vote: multimember districts.
preference (like AV, SV, BC)=> candidates that surpass a specified quota of 1st-preference votes are immediately elected=> in successive counts: votes from eliminated candidates and surplus votes from elected candidates are reallocated to the remaining candidates until all the seats are filled.
- convey information about preferences
- minimise wasted votes
- less incentive to vote strategically
- allow voters to vote for candidates from different parties
- incentive for candidates to appeal to groups outside core set of supporters
- more proportional outcomes than majoritarian systems
- candidate-centred system=> strong link between representatives and constituents
- weaken parties, make them less cohesive
- incentive for members of the same party to campaign against each other (though not much, because of the transference of votes)
- hard to operate in large districts
- less proportional than list PR
III/ Mixed electoral systems: voters elect representatives through 2 different systems, 1 majoritarian and 1 proportional.
- Independent mixed electoral system: the majoritarian and proportional components of the electoral system are implemented independent of 1 another.
Dependent mixed electoral system: the application of the proportional formula is dependent on the distribution of seats or votes produced by the majoritarian formula.
- Illustration: 2 parties compete over 10 seats, 5 seats at the constituency level and 5 at the national level.
SMDP=> party A comes 1st in constituency=> wins all 5 seats.
PR=> party A wins 60% of votes=> 60% of seats=> 3 seats.
=> 8 seats.
Party B: no constituency seat but 40% of party list seats=> 2 seats.
PR=> party A: 60% of votes=> 60% of seats=> 6 seats.
SMDP: party A comes 1st in constituency=> all 5 seats.
=> 1 party list seat.
Party B: 40% of votes=> 40% of seats=> 4 seats.
=> no constituency seats but 4 party list seats.
=> dependent: more proportional.
advantages and disadvantages of list PR system.
other disadvantage: 2 classes of legislators (responsible and accountable to a geographical constituency, and more beholden to a party)=> influence the cohesiveness of parties.
IV/ Electoral systems around the world:
- Dictatorships are much more likely to use majoritarian electoral systems than democracies.
=> easier to manipulate.