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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Notes from "Elections and Electoral Systems"

Chapter 13 of Principles of Comparative Politics (William Roberts Clark, Matt Golder and Sona Nadenichek Golder)

- 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. 
+ advantages: 
  • simple, easy to understand 
  • low in cost 
  • 1 representative/ constituency=> responsible=> incentive to perform well 
  • no representation of extremist parties 
+ disadvantages: 
  • 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. 
e.g Australia. 
+ advantages: 
  • 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
+ disadvantages: 
  • allow candidates to win who don't have majority support (reallocated=> not genuine)
  • complicated to understand
  • costly 

- 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. 
+ advantages: 
  • attractive in highly divided society 

+ disadvantages: 
  • 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). 
+ advantages: 
  • 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 
+ disadvantages: 
  • costly 
  • 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. 
+ advantages: 
  • more proportional outcomes
  • representation of smaller parties and minority ethnic groups
+ disadvantages: 
  • 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. 
e.g Singapore 
=> highly disproportional outcomes 

II/ Proportional electoral systems: 
- n% of votes=> n% of seats. 

- advantages: 
  • proportional outcomes 
  • representation of small parties 
  • essential for ethnically and religiously divided societies 
- disadvantages: 
  • 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. 
+ advantages: 
  • 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 
+ disadvantages: 
  • 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. 

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