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The Role of Rules in Representation: Group Membership and Electoral Incentives

  • Brian F. Crisp, Betul Demirkaya, Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer and Courtney Millian

Existing research shows that the election of members of previously underrepresented groups can have significant consequences for policymaking. Yet, quotas, reserved seats, communal rolls, and race-conscious districting make it difficult to distinguish whether it is group membership, electoral incentives, or a combination of the two that matters. It is argued here that lawmakers who are members of underrepresented groups will stand out as defenders of their group’s interests only when electoral rules incentivize them to do so. This is demonstrated empirically using data from New Zealand, showing that Māori Members of Parliament systematically vary in the extent to which they represent their ethnic group as a function of the three different sets of rules under which they were elected.

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Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis (emails:;;, except Schwindt-Bayer, who is at the Department of Political Science, Rice University (email: authors would like to thank Megan Linquiti and the other members of the Democratic Institutions Research Team (D.I.R.T.) for their research assistance, and Matt Gabel and Bill Mishler for their comments on an earlier draft of this article. Data replication sets available at and online appendices are available at 10.1017/S0007123415000691. Replication data and code, as well as appendices not for print publication, are available at

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