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Elections and Referendums Notes

by: Brandon Liu

Elections and Referendums Notes INTA 3203

Brandon Liu

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About this Document

Will make up majority of next exam.
Comparative Politics
Vince Pedicino
Class Notes




Popular in Comparative Politics

Popular in International Studies

This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Brandon Liu on Friday February 26, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to INTA 3203 at Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus taught by Vince Pedicino in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 12 views. For similar materials see Comparative Politics in International Studies at Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus.


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Date Created: 02/26/16
Elections and Referendums Intro  Elections are held to fill seats in parliament or choose a president o Elections are main way people express their views about how country should be governed o Use is universal among democracies  Referendums are where citizens directly decide on some policy issue o Use varies enormously o Decisions are either approved or rejected Elections and Electoral Systems  Universal feature of modern politics o Even false democracies use them to help provide some kind of legitimacy for their government  Forms a link between people and reps  Gives government legitimacy cause they are elected by the people and can be reelected or voted out  Electoral System: set of rules that structure how votes are cast and how votes are converted into the allocation of offices Electoral Regulations  Voting is generally voluntary  Australia and Belgium, voting is compulsory o Voter turnout is often determined by socioeconomic status (SES) so making voting compulsory helps eliminate ‘the yawning SES voting gap’  Onerous access requirements deter small parties or independent candidates from running  Term of presidents is usually fixed  Parliaments usually have a maximum length o Government can dissolve parliament before max Main Categories of Electoral Systems  Constituency: geographic area into which the country is divided for electoral purposes o Multi-member: seats are shared amongst the parties in proportion to their vote shares (also called proportional representation (PR)) o Single-member: strongest party wins the seat (also called majoritarian) Electoral Systems Based on Majoritarian  Single-Member Plurality o Simplest system o ‘First-past-the-post’ o Need voter plurality to win o Used in world’s largest democracies (India, USA, UK, Canada)  40% of pop and 70% of pop in established democracies employ this system  Alternative Vote o Rank candidates in order o Need a majority to win o If no majority is reached, the lowest candidate is eliminated and those ballots second choice is counted o Keeps going until majority is reached o Employed in Australia  Two-Round System o If no candidate wins majority in first round, second round takes place with only certain candidates on ballot o Whoever wins most in second round wins o Used in over 20 countries (France, Iran, French colonies) o Also widely used to elect presidents Electoral Systems Based on PR  ‘fair share’ representation  Country as one constituency o Easiest way to do PR o Israel, Netherlands, Slovakia o Guarantees a high level of proportionality o Might leave voters disengaged cause they don’t have a local MP  Multiple constituencies o More common o Seats awarded proportionally within each constituency o Brazil, Finland, Indonesia, Spain o Can’t guarantee the level of proportionality will be as high as in single constituencies o D’Hondt  Gives benefit of doubt to larger parties  All of these are list systems where parties present a list of candidates to the voters o Most common form of electoral system in world  Mixed Systems o Voters vote for one local constituency MP and for a party list o Certain portion is elected form local, rest from list o Proportions vary, Germany has ½ and ½ o Constituency seat is usually allocated under SMP rules o Compensatory mixed system: seats are awarded in order to rectify under representations and over representations, list and constituency are combined  Highly proportional outcomes  Easily manipulated  Germany, New Zealand, Venezuela o Parallel Mixed Systems  List seats are awarded purely on the list vote and is independent from constituency vote  Benefits large parties, hurts small ones  Japan and Mexico  PR-STV (Single Transferable Vote) o Dispenses of list o Logic of alternative vote applied to multi-member constituencies o High correspondence between votes cast for party’s candidates and share of seats o If voter’s top ranked choice is so popular that they don’t need the vote, the vote goes to the second candidate o Doesn’t presuppose the existence of parties or their salience in voter’s minds o Far for widespread o Malta and Ireland only Dimensions of Variation  District Magnitude o Number of MPs elected from each constituency o Larger the magnitude, the more fair the distribution  Intra-Party Choice o Extent to which voters decide which candidates take they seats that the party wins o Single-member constituency systems have none, only choose one candidate o Closed lists also offer no choice o Preferential Lists: voters get to add who they prefer on their ballot  Some cases preference votes set the list  Other cases preference votes only move people up or down a premade list o PRSTV have complete freedom to prefer any candidate from any party  Thresholds o Difficulty of winning seats o Prevent small parties from winning seats o Prevents undue fragmentation o 3-5% is common o Netherlands has lowest .67% o Russia has highest 7% Origins of Electoral Systems  Not all electoral systems arose from a partisan battle  Australia and its alternative vote o Arose out of two center right parties trying to keep the vote from splitting allowing the Labor Party to benefit  France, Greece, and Italy o Electoral system is changed periodically to keep current party in power and damage the opponents  Denmark and Finland o Degree of consensus from both sides in selecting electoral systems  US and UK o Evolved before a time where other options could be considered  Trend is moving away from majoritarian systems an towards PR, especially in Europe Consequences of Electoral Systems  Impact of electoral system on party systems o Duverger’s Law  Single-member plurality system was associated with two-party system  PR associated with multi-party o Relationship also goes the other way around  Two-party system would want to have a SMP to stay in power  Multiparty system that emerges under may move to PR to assure mutual survival  Proponents of PR argue: o Tends to produce parliaments that are more representative socio- demographically and politically  Happens because of list system, parties pick a well-balanced list to appeal to the largest amount of voters  Gender spread tends to be more equal too  Can be wide variation in countries with similar systems showing the presence of other factors  Electoral systems might impact the way MPs behave o In open list or PRSTV, candidates are competing with each other for preference votes, they pay more attention to their constituencies o Locally born MPs higher in open and PRSTV o Political cultures play big role too  Britain and France citizens and MPs see representing the constituency an important part of the MPs role  Arguments for non-PR o Benefits of two-party o Stable government Referendums  ‘mass electoral vote on some public issue’  Government today is representative government  Great majority of political decisions are made by elected officials; however, some places employ referendums  Not direct democracy  Referendums is an institution within the framework of representative democracy Types of Referendum  Could be mandatory or optional o Either required by constitution cause it affects state sovereignty o Or Constitution does not require, subject to partisan manipulation  Voters initiate o Voter Initiative causes the referendum o Set number of voters to bring to popular vote o Rare in constitutions o Switzerland the exception o Italy only other western European country to allow initiative o Popular in most post-communist countries o Prominent in state level politics of US, especially south-west  Decision-promoting v. Decision-controlling o Decision-promoting is rare, usually used by authoritarian govs  Napoleon and Louis Napoleon  Post-communist countries, extending rule of incumbent president o Decision Controlling is more common  Referendums used as another veto player  Abrogative referendums  Aim to strike down existing law or constitution  Italy uses  Rejective referendums  Prevent proposal from passing into law or constitution  Switzerland widely uses Rationale of Referendum  Process related arguments center around that the fact decisions are reached through referendums is important in itself o Two rationale  Legitimizes policies fully  Educates voters on issues o Referendums usually are called for:  Whether to join a transnational body  Secession  Make a significant change to the political institutional regime or to moral ethos of society o Reduces feelings of disconnect o Unless electors deem the issue important, they won’t show up to vote  Outcome related arguments argue quality of decisions maybe affected by direct involvement of the voters o Increases # of opportunities to be excluded if low socio-eco status are less likely to vote o Majoritarian device, tramples on the rights of the minority, politicians are only group capable of balancing both groups o ‘Parliamentarians may be ignorant, but not so ignorant as the masses’ o Empirical evidence from US shows that the size of the unit voting makes a huge difference in protection of minorities  Smaller local units tend to be less protective of minority rights  Devices built in to curb the danger of majoritarianism o Referendum use is highly restricted o Judicial body can usually veto vote or eliminate proposals from ballot post hoc o Federal Countries, require double majority in voters and from regions Empirical Patterns  Varies greatly  Uses for non-partisan issues that transcend day to day politics Voting Behavior  Voter ignorance  Issue voting-perspective o Vote on basis of issue on ballot  Second-order election perspective o Vote based on their like or dislike of the government  Link between both o Proposal advocated by government that is liked will do better o Propaganda may help too  Turnout usually lower o Varies depending on importance o Campaigning has a greater effect on referendums than in general elections  Large swing in vote occurs, usually in the negative o ‘Soft yes’ votes end up having ‘fear of abyss’ cause by opposition and decide it is better to maintain the status quo Impact of Referendums  Conservative impact, veto player  Decisions decided by referendum enjoy greater legitimacy  Public doesn’t necessarily take time to scrutinize minority opinions  ‘Cognitive incompetence’  ‘Devices for the political mobilization of opinion fed masses by the elite’  Proponents say voters already have all the info they need  Attempts by media may sway opinion negatively  Quality of democracy seems to be little affected by referendum  Difficult to find countries whose people feel their quality of democracy has been ruined by referendums  Referendum is entirely compatible with representative forms of government  Great tool of representative democracy


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