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Alternative Voting Systems for Representative Democracy

  • Joseph F. Zimmerman (a1)
Extract

The ideal electoral system in a representative democracy is one allowing all eligible citizens to cast an equally weighted vote, and for united groups of voters, except very small ones, to elect one or more of their candidates to a governing body. Approximate proportional representation on governing bodies would be a happenstance and not deliberate. Majority/plurality electoral systems, however, favor the dominant group and often leave women and minority groups with no direct representation.

Designers of electoral systems historically have employed various devices to reduce the influence of opposition political parties or groups and to make it difficult for them to elect their candidates to a governing body. Growing concern that numerous black citizens were prevented from voting in southern states resulted in the U.S. Congress using the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (79 Stat. 437, 42 U.S.C. § 1973), a statute applying to a state or local government meeting two criteria. The Congress in 1975 employed the Fourteenth Amendment to extend the Act's (89 Stat. 438, 42 U.S.C. § 1973) protection to language minorities defined as “persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives, or of Spanish heritage.”

The Act has eliminated invidious discrimination against protected groups, yet many law-making bodies are still unrepresentative of their respective constituencies.

Copyright
References
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Banfield, Edward C., and Wilson, James Q. 1963. City Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press and the M.I.T. Press.
Blair, George S. 1960. Cumulative Voting: An Effective Electoral Device in Illinois Politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Engstrom, Richard L., and McDonald, Michael D. 1993. “Enhancing Factors in At-Large Plurality and Majority Systems: A Reconsideration.” Electoral Studies 12 (December):385401.
Featherman, Sandra A. 1992. “Barriers to Representing Women and Blacks in Pennsylvania.” In United States Electoral Systems: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Hoecker, Beate. 1994. “The German Personalized Proportional Representation System: A Barrier to Women?” In Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Lakeman, Enid. 1994. “Comparing Political Opportunities in Great Britain and Ireland.” In Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Lijphart, Arend. 1991. “The Alternative Vote: A Realistic Alternative for South Africa?Politiken 18 (June):91101.
Rule, Wilma. 1987. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors, and Women's Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 40 (September):477–98.
Rule, Wilma, and Zimmerman, Joseph F., eds., 1994. Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Rydon, Joan. 1994. “Representation of Women and Ethic Minorities in the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand,” In Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Still, Edward. 1992. “Cumulative and Limited Voting in Alabama,” In United States Electoral Systems, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F..
Weaver, Leon, and Baum, Judith. 1992. “Proportional Representation in New York City Community School Boards.” In United States Electoral Systems: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Zimmerman, Joseph F. 1992. “Fair Representation for Women and Minorities.” In United States Electoral Systems: Their Impact on Women and Minorities, ed. Rule, Wilma and Zimmerman, Joseph F., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Zimmerman, Joseph F. 1978. “The Federal Voting Rights Act and Alternative Election Systems.” William and Mary Law Review 19 (Summer):621–60.
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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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