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Pol Sci 1G06

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 2012 Lecture 10a: Institutionalizing Democracy - Our political system is a Representative Democracy rather than a Direct democracy - Elected representatives in government are supposed to give expression to the will of the people - Question: - How do you link Democracy with representation? - How do you ensure that a single government of a few hundred elected officials is representative of the “Will of the entire people”? - Specifically how do you filter the votes of millions to the voices of the few? - The institutional mechanism chosen to sort millions of votes into a few hundred representatives is profoundly political - Dickerson and Flanagan: “The result obtained from an election depends upon the method that is employed” - There are a number of institutional solutions to the problem of representation - Single Member Plurality System – First past the post – Winner takes all - This is the institutional procedure used in Canada, Britain, US - It is marked by a distortion between the votes cast and the electoral outcomes produced - 1. Parties with geographically concentrated support may see their influence magnified - 2. Parties with support that is spread too thin geographically may see their influence reduced - Some problems with respect to the democratic character of the results: - It tends to produce “artificial majorities” - It tends to suppress the political power of minorities - It tends to lead to voter disenchantment with the act of voting 1 - There are some institutional variations on the First Past the Post system, variations which try to ensure that the Party that wins an election is, in fact, that which has gathered an absolute majority of the vote: - A) The Runoff System - B) Preferential or Alternative Ballot - Despite the differences between First Past the Post systems, they are still winner takes all systems - Votes do not translate proportionately into representation - Proportional Represen
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