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On the origins of electoral systems and political parties. The role of elections in multi-member districts

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  • Josep M. Colomer

Abstract

The old, understudied electoral system composed of multi-member districts, open ballot and plurality rule is presented as the most remote scene of the origin of both political parties and new electoral systems. A survey of the uses of this set of electoral rules in different parts of the world during remote and recent periods shows its wide spread. A model of voting by this electoral system demonstrates that, while it can produce varied and pluralistic representation, it also provides incentives to form factional or partisan candidacies. Famous negative reactions to the emergence of factions and political parties during the 18th and 19th centuries are reinterpreted in this context. Many electoral rules and procedures invented since the second half of the 19th century, including the Australian ballot, single-member districts, limited and cumulative ballots, and proportional representation rules, derived from the search to reduce the effects of the ‘originating’ multi-member district system in favor of a single party sweep. The general relations between political parties and electoral systems are restated to account for the foundational stage here discussed.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 814.

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Date of creation: Mar 2005
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:814

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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Keywords: Political parties; electoral systems; multimember districts;

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  1. Robert J. Weber, 1995. "Approval Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 39-49, Winter.
  2. Bernard Grofman & Michael Migalski & Nicholas Noviello, 1986. "Effects of multimember districts on black representation in state legislatures," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 65-78, March.
  3. Carles Boix, 1999. "Setting the rules of the game: The choice of electoral systems in advanced democracies," Economics Working Papers 367, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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