Electoral Systems (Week 7 Part 2) Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Electoral Systems (Week 7 Part 2) Deck (12)

What are the key functions of elections?

Recruiting politicians, making governments, providing representation, educating voters, building legitimacy, and strengthening elites.


What is an electoral system?

An electoral system is a set of rules that governs the conduct of elections. These rules vary considerably across the world. In many countries, electoral systems are subject of fierce political debate and argument. Electoral systems have an impact on the number of parties; on the type of government (one-party vs. coalition); on whether voters feel personally represented in parliament by an MP; on the representation of women and minorities.


What is district magnitude?

District magnitude refers to the number of legislative seats assigned to a districts. Ranges from 1 (SMD) to a system where the entire country functions as a single district. District magnitude is the primary determinant of an electoral system's ability to translate votes cast into seats. Small district magnitude fosters stronger links between candidates and their local constituencies. Large districts give a stronger proportionality but may reduce accountability. District magnitude also has implications for campaigning.


How much intra-party choice among candidates is provided by the electoral system?

Single-member districts = no intra-party choice;
PR systems - closed lists = no intra-party choice;
PR systems - preferential lists = intra-party choice


What is an electoral threshold?

Minimum vote share required for a party to be represented in the legislature. The effect of this is that it denies representation to small parties or forces them into coalitions. Advantage of this is that it promotes stability in the party system. Disadvantage of this is that supporters of minor parties are disenfranchised. Some countries don't have a legal threshold (Portugal, South Africa, Finland and the Netherlands), have 5% threshold (Poland, Germany, New Zealand), or 10% threshold (Turkey).


What is single member plurality (first past the post system)?

Single-member plurality (SMD) or First-Past-The Post (aka Majorititarian) System is when voters simply vote for one candidate. The seat is then awarded to the candidate with the most votes (plurality). This system has very low district magnitude (1), no intra-party choice, and is used in some of the world's largest democracies (US, UK, and Canada). This system divides up the country into a number of territorial districts, less than majority can win, and it favors large parties.


What is proportional representation and how is it different than first past the post-sytem?

A proportional representation (PR) system aims to award to each group its 'fair share' of representation. Voters choose a preferred party and seats are allocated to parties according to percentage of the vote of the party wins. An open


What is the runoff system? (Use France as example)

In the runoff system (aka two-round system), if no candidate wins a majority of votes in the first round, a second round (runoff) takes place in which only certain candidates are permitted to proceed to the second round. Whoever wins the most votes in the second round is the winner. This system has very low district magnitude (1), no intra-party choice, and is employed to elect parliaments in over twenty countries (including France) and is widely used to elect presidents.


What is a mixed system? (Use Germany as an example)

In a mixed system, the voter casts two votes: one for a local constituency MP and one for a party list. A certain proportion of MPs are elected from local (usually single-member) constituencies, and the rest from party lists. In Germany how it works is that every voter gets two votes: first vote allows voter to choose their candidate of choice in their district, the second vote is for the party they support. Every candidate who wins in one of the country's 299 districts -- based on voters' first votes -- automatically gets a seat in parliament. The rest of the Bundestag seats is allocated based on the percentage of the vote received nationwide -- based on voters' second votes.


What are voting procedures in different electoral systems? (Comparison slide)

In single-member disctric/Majoritarian (SMD) the procedure for vote is to choose candidate and the top candidate is elected by most votes or runoff. In proportional representation (PR) voters choose preferred party, seats allocated to parties by vote percent. An open-list PR voters choose candidates, and votes are aggregated by party for allocation of seats. In mixed systems/hybrid, voters choose a candidate and party (two votes), or combination of the other systems.


What are the consequences of electoral systems?

Consequence 1: Party Systems - Duverger's law, and how within PR systems, the number of parties tends to increase when the electoral threshold decreases and the district magnitude increases.
Consequence 2: Government formation - In PR systems, the likelihood of any one party-winning an overall majority is lower than under a non-PR system. Under non-PR systems, coalition government is less common. In PR systems, government formation almost always requires coalition making.
Consequence 3: Representation - Representation is the process by which elected legislators reflect the interests and preferences of voters in their constituencies. PR systems are more representative of the preferences of different segments of society. PR systems tend to produce parliaments that are more representative soci-demographically.
Consequence 4: Behavior of legislators - electoral systems also affect the ways in which MPs behave --> degree of intra-party choice affects behavior.


What is Duverger's law?

The single-member plurality system is associated with a two-party system, while a PR system is associated with multiparty systems.