Elections are the essential organizations of liberal democracies. Elections offer competition for government office. It is a way of holding the administrators responsible. Through elections, the candidates are allowed to engage in a discourse. The discourse usually happens between parties and voters, and amid state and the society. Through citizens` vote, new administrators are endowed with authority which so add to their effectiveness as leaders. Therefore elections assist in making choices, accountability, discourse, as well as legitimacy.
Elections have various functions. During elections, politicians are recruited, a government is formed, and someone is voted to represent the public. Through elections, policies are influenced, voters are educated, elites are strengthened, and legitimacy is built. Voting, on the other hand, functions by influencing the voter. Influencing happens in two ways – pushing among the stable voters and pulling among the changing voters.
Types of Election
There are three types of election – maintaining election which comes into two types, deviating election which comes in three forms, and three forms of realigning election. There are maintaining elections followed by stability and maintaining elections followed by change. There are also deviating elections that generate temporary changes in party authority, and in the element of voter coalitions.
Models of Voting
There are three models of voting – Party identification or voting as affirmation rational choice or voting as calculation and Dominant ideology or voting as conditioned. There are four identities that determine the vote structure. This includes religion, social class, ethnicity, and post-materialism. Among the four identities, class is considered to be the most politically important of social divisions in business society, mirrored in unparallel distribution of income, wealth, and status, as well as the voters vote for the party typical of their class. Oftentimes, there has been deviant exception to such generality including non-manual deviations and manual deviations.
De-aligned Voting
De-aligned Voting is made up of two forms: the partisan and the class de-alignment. Partisan de-alignment is the reduction in voter recognition with, and reliable electoral support for, a party. Loyalties grow weaker, voting becomes unstable, and normal ally for parties collapses, with an augmentation in floating or swing voters. Class de-alignment is the deteriorating incident of the connection amid the class and party, with a small number of individuals voting for their natural party, for instance, middle class assistance for Conservative parties, and working class assistance for Social Democratic Parties. It has been suggested that in order to render change in social rulings and in voting, there is a need to revise the concepts of class restructure social realities and issue voting.
Electoral Systems
Electoral systems translate votes into election outcomes by offering mechanisms for shifting votes into seats to be occupied by voted representatives in parliament, which then serves to create the ground for the development of a government. There are two types of electoral systems – Plurality systems and Proportional representation systems. Plurality or majority systems are the winner-take-all systems that are generally being employed in the United States. They encompass the common plurality systems similar to the single-member district plurality vote and in general voting, and less common majority systems similar to the two-round runoff as well as the instant run-off. Proportional representation systems is a voting system that are employed by majority of other progressive Western democracies and are intended to allow that parties are represented proportionally in the government. They encompass party list systems, single transferable vote, and the mixed-member proportional.
Criteria for Assessing Electoral Systems
The criteria for evaluating electoral systems include the following: provision of a fair representation strong, effective government and proportionate demographic representation.
Plurality systems are made up of three variants namely plurality, majority, and alternative vote system. Plurality system is also known as first past the post (FPTP). Its characteristic features include votes cast in 646 single-member constituencies victory going to candidate with most votes, which may be a relative, not absolute, majority viz. This type of system has its advantages which include simplicity of choice close MP-constituency link amplification of leading parties makes single-party government likely single-party government applies policy mandate accountable, responsible government and exclusion of small extremist parties. On the other hand, its disadvantages include distortion of voter choice single part governments are formed on minority of votes underrepresentation of third and other small parties, votes for which are wasted need for tactical voting overly partisan government with abrupt policy switches on change of government and reduced government accountability to parliament.
Majority system is used in France. Its characteristic features include the following: votes cast in 577 single-member constituencies in two ballots victory going to candidate with absolute majority (50%+) at first ballot, or relative majority at second ballot candidates polling under 12.5% of electorate at first ballot are excluded from second ballot. Its advantages include wide candidate choice at first ballot encouragement of party alliances and broad appeals at usually two-party second ballot and exclusion of small, extreme parties creates strong stable governments, distortion in favor of bigger parties and exclusion of small and extreme parties creates strong stable governments. On the other hand, its disadvantages include distortion in favor of bigger parties exclusion of small parties from second ballot encouragement of party proliferation at first ballot and voter fatigue. A disparity of this system is employed for French Presidential Elections. In this variation, an absolute majority (50%+) is required at either first ballot, or at the second ballot which is contested by only the top two candidates from the first ballot. Advantages include two-candidate race at second ballot boosts catch-all campaigning and pushes in direction of a two-party system small and extreme parties are marginalized voters are excluded protest parties are integrated by having a moderate two-party choice at second ballot and a corrective for defects in French political culture. On the downside, this type of system has the following characteristics: first ballot indulges extremist parties undermines voting for moderate parties of government particularly damages capacity of left candidate to win at second ballot and can produce rogue `no real choice` result.
The Alternative Vote System is employed in Australia and London mayoral election. Its characteristic features include preferential voting in single member constituencies with voters ranking candidates in order of preference winning candidate needs a 50%+ majority and votes counted by first preference with bottom candidate`s second preference redistributed until a winner emerges with 50%+. The advantages of this form of system are as follows: votes not wasted as in FPTP systems no deals between parties are needed as in two-ballot systems and encourage candidates to reach beyond their natural supporters to earn second preference votes. Disadvantages include being biased towards bigger parties and winning candidates can be lowest common denominators with few first preferences.
The proportional Systems have three Variants: AMS, STV, and Party List System. Additional Member System is used in Germany. Its characteristic features include the following: voters have two votes, one for FPTP in single member constituencies which provide 50% of the MPs and remaining seats are filled by voting for regional party lists, with seats allocated in this section so as to ensure overall proportionality between votes and seats. Disadvantages, on the other hand, include keeping link between MPs and constituencies still favors larger parties and so single party government allows split ticket voting and represents smaller parties. On the downside, FPTP element still denies true proportionality. Small parties can exercise disproportionate influence on government formation. List system gives central party greater control over MPs. The use of system in Scotland has delivered the government to the control of an anti-system party.
Single Transferable Vote is employed in Ireland. Its characteristic features include multi-member constituencies in which voters vote preferentially for candidates. This system is very beneficial in that it render very proportional outcome and voter has choice of MP to whom to take issues. However, strong stable governments are less likely possible. There is divisive intra-party competition caused by multi-member districts. Party List System is the purest form of PR and is used in many European countries and Israel. Its features include the following: Country divided into regional multi-member constituencies or kept as one constituency voters vote for party lists in order of candidate preference parties allocated seats in proportion to votes for party lists and a threshold may be used to exclude small parties.
Sources: Hague & Harrop 9th edition Ch 8 8th edition Ch 9.
Heywood 4th edition Ch 20. Axford Ch 4 Parry & Moyser.