GOVN 444 Study Guide - Comprehensive Final Exam Guide - Canada, Democracy, Capitalism

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21 Nov 2018
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GOVN 444
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The Voting System and Electoral Process
Theories of Political Representation
Trusteeship
o eleted epesetaties at as tustees ho eeise thei est judget to
represent their constituents; each elected representative has a duty to
contribute to debate and deliberation in order to determine what governments
should do or not do; what actios ould ostitute the puli good ad
atioal iteest
Delegate
o elected representatives should act as delegates for their constituents; they
should be primarily concerned with representing as accurately as possible the
interests and preferences of their constituents; their own beliefs & judgment is
secondary
Ascriptive/Mirror
o an elected assembly should mirror the characteristics of the political
ostitue o od politi the lai to epeset; diffeet goups ithi
society should be represented in proportion to their presence within society;
epesetaties a ol epeset ad speak fo goups ith ho the shae
essential social or cultural attributes (gender, race, etc)
Voting System Effects: More Than Just a Way of Tallying Votes
Voting (electoral) system will affect voter choices
Behavior of parties and politicians
Parliamentary proceedings
Government operations and policies
Simple Plurality or First-Past-the-Post System (FPTP)
FPTP based on territorial representation (MPs represent ridings, districts,
constituencies)
Single member electoral districts (one territorial district per elected member); each
voter casts one ballot for one political candidate
Plurality principle (plurality = the most votes, not necessarily a majority of votes); the
candidate with the most votes is declared the winner (winner-take-all system)
Currently 308 electoral districts in Canada; following redistribution, 338 in next federal
election; 11 of these will be in Nova Scotia
Benefits of FPTP
Simplicity
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o system first used in Britain in 1430 AD; easy for voters to understand (voting
system for dummies); elections easy to stage
Speed and Clarity
o counting of votes can be done quickly and results announced shortly after polls
close; meaning of results is clear
Stability
o commonly produces majority Parliaments and one-party governments that will
govern for a complete mandate (4-5 years)
Decisive Government
o majority governments able to take difficult decisions or change policy direction
without need to compromise
Accountability and Responsiveness
o voters have direct link with their elected representative and voters can easily
attribute blame or credit for MP and government performance
Disadvantages of FPTP
Distortion Effect
o FPTP distorts the results between votes and seats, creating gaps (sometimes
enormous) between the number of seats won by a party and the number of
votes received; party forming government sometimes does not receive the most
votes (wrong winner outcome); opposition parties sometimes deprived of
enough seats to function properly or perform their opposition role credibly
Regional Amplification Effect
o system amplifies the regional concentration of party support, benefitting parties
with regionally concentrated support and penalizing parties with diffuse national
support (but not dominant in any particular region); such outcomes have
negative consequences for national integration, cohesiveness, unity
Wasted Vote Effect
o votes cast for losing candidates are not reflected in Parliament; preferences of
the majority of voters are routinely ignored in terms of elected representation
Proposals for Reform
Periodic calls for reform, commissioned studies, referenda: 1979-84 (1982 constitution);
1990-92 (Meech Lake, Charlottetown); 2004-09 (5 provincial commissions, 4 referenda)
Alternatives to FPTP?
o Majority systems (ensuring elected candidates reflect the preference of a
majority of the voters)
o Proportional systems (ensuring party seat totals reflect the proportion of the
vote they won; that the preferences of all voters are accurately represented in
the composition of elected legislatures)
Majority: two ballots or alternative vote (rank ordered preferential ballot)
Proportional: party lists, alternative formulas, thresholds, district size
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