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Votes, Elections, Parties - Political Science 101

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Political Science
POL S101
Davina Rousell

Votes, Elections, Parties Authoritarian and dictatorships still use elections because they legitimize their leadership. The Voting Paradox o Voting is a mechanism for making collective decisions o Key component of representation o Assumed to ensure that majority preference are reflected in decisions Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem o In a situation where there are three or more options, it is impossible to determine the one that is “most preferred” unless more than 50% vote for it o The outcome of such a vote depends o the method used to count the vote  ** The outcome or the method we use to count a vote or use in assessing the votes is crucial and can alter the outcome. How we are able to confirm who won, the method we use is very important. Elections o A method of assessing preferences through votes o Central to democracy o Two basic types of electoral systems: plurality (first-past-the-post majority; and proportional representation) Simple Plurality System o “First-past-the-post” o Simplest system (the most votes wins) o Gives winning party a clear majority o Encourages strong opposition parties, and discourages extremism. Problems with Plurality o Can exaggerate margins of victory o The “wasted vote” problem  Votes for a party that cannot realistically win are considered to be “wasted votes”  Can discourage supporters from voting in future elections Proportional Representation o Prioritizes adequate representations of the range of public opinions o Favors the participation of minority groups and smaller parties o May contribute to policy stability o Reduces the “wasted vote” problem and increases the likelihood of coalition government Problems with Proportional Representation o May encourage fragmentation of the party system o Disproportionate power to small parties o More difficult to assign accountability for individual decisions (coalition government) Hybrid Systems o Alternative member model  Some seats elected by simple majority, others by proportional representation  Ex: Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Russia o Some systems use multiple rounds of elections where only the top two from the first round move on  Ex: France, Many African Countries (Ghana) Missing Info! Parties Outside Congress Cont’d o In Canada and Britain, parties were made along class lines (the Conservatives vs. Liberals; Labor vs. Conservatives in Britain) o Larger parties leads to the rise of professional party members and party officials - Do party officials have more say in policy than regular members? Should they? o Do the mid-20 century; there is trends towards catch all parties who focus on gaining support from the median (middle-of-the-road voter. Cartel Parties th o Decline of party membership in the later part of the 20 century o Relative power of the party machine grows o Increasingly media-savvy o Party professionals ready to serve any candidate that emerges o Candidate-centered parties Functions of Parties 1. Legitimation of the political system 2. Integration and mobilization of citizens 3. Representation
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