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Polisci 2230 March 19th.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 2230E
Gaile Mc Gregor

Polisci 2230 March 19 th Elections, Electoral Systems, and Reform Have to know what an electoral system does, which one we use in Canada and how it works, SMP, MMP, and STV (pro’s and cons) • First Half: Electoral Systems as x What are elections and electoral systems? What kinds are there? How do they work? What are their effects and consequences? Examples of electoral systems in comparison • Second Half: Electoral Systems as y What affects electoral systems? When does reform happen? When does it fail? Are electoral systems x or y… or both? What is an election? • Eligible electors cast votes to decide who does a particular job • Elections determine who governs: this is the most critical feature of a democracy • Elections bestow the authority to govern and grant democratic legitimacy • Usually legislative, though executive elections are possible, and even judicial. • Point is what we use to find the preferences of voters in a particular office that needs filling • Elections decide who governs and give that person the mandate to do so What does an electoral system do? • Sorts and counts preferences expressed by voters on ballots • Provides rules for using those preferences to determine which candidates have won office • Provides predictable conditions for winning that (almost) everyone can more or less agree on • Who won depends on what you’re voting for and how that formula calculates the winner of this election • What matters is the way we do it is agreed upon by all the players • Since there are many ways to do that, we can look at different kinds of electoral systems What kinds are there? • Single-member Plurality (SMP), also called “first past the post,” is probably familiar • Many other kinds of systems exist, including the Alternative Vote (AV), two- ballot runoff, list-based proportional representation (List-PR), and even hybrid systems like Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) and Single Transferable Vote (STV) Pippa Norris’s Typology • Norris sorts electoral systems into three broad categories: plurality systems, majority systems, and proportional systems • Plurality systems (like SMP) allow winning with only a plurality of the vote  Use tricks to find out that whoever wins did get majority support • Majority systems (like AV or runoff) ensure that, one way or another, the winner has a majority of the vote • Proportional systems (like list-PR, MMP, or STV) try to make seat share match vote share  Try to make vote share match up with seat share Forgot about Blais • Blais sorts electoral systems based on features, not by categories • Object of the vote: just what are we voting for? What is the district magnitude, i.e. how many seats are up for grabs? • Ballot structure: how many votes do we get? Is there preference ranking or some other way we can play with the order of candidates? • Electoral formula: the actual math used to determine a winner • Sorts systems based on their features Electoral Systems: How Do They Work? • They influence how people compete for office • They influence how people make vote choices • These in turn influence politics in general • They are persistent and hard to change • They are really just counting • Under some systems, small parties will do alright under the ballot box, but in others they just get hammered • The decision to run in the riding ex. Bloc Quebecois do they want to run in Quebec? – strategic entry • Deciding whether to go alone or to join a larger party – coordination (deciding who to support) • Influence how the voter decides • Electoral systems are the rules of the political game, they structure the competition and matter a lot Duverger (1954) lays down the law • Duverger's Law: plurality systems (like SMP) tend to produce two-party systems • More proportional systems tend to allow for more parties (if there are sufficient social cleavages to support them!), but do not cause there to be more parties • Electoral systems all put a brake on the number of parties; some just hit the brakes harder • This happens in two ways: mechanical effects and psychological effects • When there is a proportional system, there can be more parties, but only sometimes • Every kind of system will pose constraints on how many parties there can be • Under plurality rules, there will tend to be fewer parties because of the constraints • Exceptions, because it doesn’t hold anywhere Ex. Some countries have a plurality system with more than 2 parties (Ex. Canada) • The point he was trying to get across is that electoral systems matter  1. Mechanical effects  2. Psychological effects Mechanical effects • These are purely technical • Ways that the math can affect the outcome of a system • They are ways that the mathematical operation of an electoral system affects the outcome of an election under that system • Vote distortion under SMP is one example SMP over-rewards the largest party SMP punishes small parties unless they are geographically concentrated Mechanical effects under SMP in the 2011 Federal Election • Data courtesy of Elections Canada Popular Vote Share (%) 0.9 6 30.6 39.6 18.9 3.9 Seat Share (%) 0 1.3 Bloc Quebecois 33.1 Conservative Green Liberal
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