Basic Ways Of Determining Electoral Results

1458 words - 6 pages

There are two basic ways of determining electoral results: first-past-the-post and proportional representation. First-past-the-post is the British and American way. From Britain, it spread to all the former dependencies of the British Empire. It is a solid system in that it makes the elected representative of a constituency inescapably responsible for his voting record. Every time there is an election the representative or the parliamentarian has to go back to his electors and convince them that he, mainly as an individual (although party performance also affects public perception), deserves to be re-elected. In the first-by-the-post system, you would have to be in a land of utter ignoramuses to get away with malfeasance in office.
As not all voters are created equal, the first-past-the-post system is vulnerable to special pleading, especially by campaign financiers. It has also against it that through gerrymandering, or the redrawing of congressional or parliamentary districts or constituencies, it can be made to distort over-all electoral results, so that, in theory, it becomes likely that representation will not reflect public opinion. In America, it is the electoral-college system, which carries the first-past-the-post principle to unconscionable extremes. It has allowed presidential candidates on four occasions to reach the presidency with a minority of votes (see The American business cycle and electoral results). In Britain, the Conservative or Labourite bent of regional electorates causes the disregard of many millions of votes.
The usual way that first-past-the-post idiosyncrasies are corrected is through proportional representation, through which places in parliaments are allotted according to party election results. This sort of system, though seemingly fair, makes representatives more accountable to the parties that choose them than to the electorates, who vote for the party rather than for the candidate. Under proportional representation, in principle, even in a land of acute political observers, you could get away with murder and be re-elected if a party was willing to back you. The trend in the world's democracies, except where first-past-the-post is entrenched, is for a combination in which first-past-the-post is the basic system but minority votes in every constituency are totted up and assigned proportionally to parties, which fulfill a minimum-requirement of popular support. In Venezuela, perhaps the world's worst performing true democracy, proportional representation in practice divided the country into party chiefdoms. There indeed it was the case that, whatever else you did as long as you did the party's bidding, you were assured of re-election. It was the essence of clientelism.
There is another potentially big flaw in proportional representation and that is where the electorate is fissured in many different ways, such as happens in Israel. One would imagine that a state that was formed for a people that claims...

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