Comparative Political Systems

Comparative political systems – the design of electoral systems

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Comparative political systems – the design of electoral systems
by Charles Quigley - Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 3:28 PM

In 1776, George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, wrote That no free government, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. Three such principles relevant to the choice of an electoral system are, in my opinion, the rights to self-determination, political equality, and majority rule. Since the first of these principles might not be readily apparent to some, I’ll try to clarify it as briefly as I can.

 The right to self-determination is the right of each of us Americans to have a voice in the making of decisions that might affect our lives, liberty, property, and opportunity and capacity to pursue happiness as we see fit with due consideration to the protection and preservation of the same rights for everyone else. Our participation in such decision making can either be direct or by means of representatives we have chosen to serve in public office on our behalf. And, in the making of those decisions the ideal of political equality should prevail as well as the making of decisions by the majority.

 Taking these principles or other considerations that might be relevant into account, how does one  justify the design of our present electoral system that involves single member, winner-take-all, plurality elections compared with the proportional representation systems used in most other democracies that include multi-member representational districts and result in multiple parties being represented in their legislatures?

 Note: For those not familiar with alternative electoral systems, the best single source of information on this frustratingly complex subject that I have found is a book entitled Electoral System Design – The New IDEA Handbook available free at