POLS1500 Lecture 8: POLS 1150 – Electoral Systems

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POLS 1150 – Lecture 15 10/24/2012
Electoral Systems – Plurality, Majority & Proportional Systems
What is an Electoral System?
A way to translate votes into political representation
The choice of electoral systems has HUGE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
Certain electoral systems favour certain political parties, which work in support of a distinct set of people
and interests
As a result, it is difficult if not impossible for everyone to mutually agree on what is a fair electoral system
Major Voting Systems -> Voting System Variants
Plurality -> single-member plurality or multi-member plurality
Majority -> double ballot or alternative vote
Proportional -> party list or single transferable vote
Components of an Electoral System (what are the difference btw voting systems)
Ballot Design
How are voters to mark their ballots? With an “X” or by ranking candidates?
Districting
What geographical area will be involved in the contest, a small district or the entire country?
Will this area elect a single member or multiple members?
Voting Formula
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How will the total number of votes be added up to determine a winner or winners?
Does the winner need a mere plurality of votes, a majority of votes, or is representation distributed based
on the proportion of votes cast for each party
Most important in determining major types
The Single-Member Plurality (SMP) System -> First past the post
Ballot design
Voters just mark an “X” for the local candidate of their choice
Districting
Small districts that reach only elect a single member
Voting Formula
Plurality formula – the winning candidate just needs to have more votes than any other candidate
The Plurality Voting Formula
The winning candidate just needs to have more votes than any other candidate
Of there are 2 candidates, winners needs to receive 50% of the votes
If 3 = 34%
If 4 = 25%
If 5 = 20%
No matter what percentage of the vote the winner receives, they get the entire seat and no other candidate
gets anything – it is “winner-take-all” system.
Arguments Against SMP system:
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Winner can take all of the seats, but the voters did not intend for them to take them all.
Artificially makes majority.
SMP allows people with less votes create a majority government.
Wasted votes
because winner takes all, the majority of votes is an SMP system do not elect anyone – they are essentially
“wasted votes”
Discourages new parties to form
Strategic Voting
If you know your first choice has no chance of winning, you might as well vote for the least offensive
candidate to you who actually has a chance
Favours regionally-concentrated parties over parties with broad support (and therefor exacerbates regional
cleavages)
Arguments in Favour of the SMP:
Simplicity
Not complicated voting formula; counting is simple and quick
Stability
Produces stable majority governments, which can implement their policies without having to constantly
negotiate with other parties
Local Representation
Variant of SMP: Multi-member Plurality
Ballot Design
Same a SMP
Districting
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