An electoral system or voting system is defined as a method through which members or voters decide or make choices between various options usually within policy referendums or elections. A voting system usually enforces set out rules and standards that are essential for ensuring that the voting process is valid in terms of vote counting and aggregation of the votes to provide accurate and fair results. Some of the popular voting systems are preferential voting systems or the first-past-the post system, proportional representation or plurality voting system and the majority rule voting system. The identified systems are based on definitions provided by the voting theory or the social choice theory.
The single-member plurality voting system is defined as a single-winner voting system whose basis is single-member constituencies. It is used for elective purposes such as the election of executive officers and election of members of a given legislative assembly. In addition, this voting system is typically used in multi-member constituencies, in exhaustive counting systems. This is whereby a single member is elected at a single time, and such processes are repeated until all vacant positions are taken up.
The plurality voting system is applied in a number of countries such as the United States, Canada, India and the United Kingdom. Its application is characterized by using the vote count to declare winners, whereby a winner is an individual with the highest number of votes (plurality). In addition, within this system there are no requirements that the winner should accrue absolute majority of the electoral votes but rather a plurality of such that is at times termed as the relative or simple majority.
The use of the plurality voting system together with other systems such as the multiple and single-winner is termed as single-member district plurality or SMDP. In addition, such a combination is contrasted with proportional representation systems given that the winner “takes it all”. Plurality voting has been used widely around the world in 43 countries out of the 193 countries that are part of the United Nations treaty. The system has accrued criticism given that it provides for tactical voting approaches. This is likened to compromising the quality of votes whereby the voters are pressured to choose in a particular manner for a candidate. Such compromises are made because voters hold the belief that a vote to their preferred candidate is largely a possible loss and will have minimal impact on the outcome of the voting process.
This system advocates for votes against a particular candidate rather than votes for another. Voters tend to be influenced by factors such as the media and public opinions, which results in predetermination of the top candidates within an election. In addition, the system results in fewer political parties given that, constituencies that apply such a system, according to Duverger’s law, will result in a two party system given adequate time. In addition, this system also results in a large number of wasted votes. Losing candidates’ votes are considered as wasted given that they do not contribute towards determination of the outcomes of a particular voting process.
This system also provides for gerrymandering given the high levels of vote wastage. This means that constituencies are designed in an unfair manner with an aim of increasing the overall number of seats accruable to one party at the expense of the other party. In addition, this system also provides for the presence of spoilers. The spoilers give rise to suspicions of occurrences of manipulations of the slate while he/she may have been provided with incentives to run. The spoiler may opt to drop out of the contest in a strategic move to claim manipulation of the entire voting process.
On the other hand, the proportional representation voting system (PR) is termed as the main rival to the plurality majority voting system. This system is used widely in advanced democracies in the West with its adoption in Western Europe representing 21 out of 28 countries. This system works in a simple manner whereby the legislators are elected within multimember districts rather than single member districts. The numbers of seats that are won by a party in an election are usually proportional to the number of support among the voters. Some examples of proportional representations include party lists, mixed member proportional and single transferable vote (choice voting).
Party list voting is the most common form of proportional representation. It accounts for more than 80% of all the proportional systems used around the world. It widely used in Europe in countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland as well as in Africa, in South Africa. Mixed member proportional representation has been termed as a means towards combination of the single-member district systems with the proportional voting systems. Half of all the members within the legislature are elected based on the single-member district plurality races. Another form of proportional representation system is the single transferable vote or choice voting. The structure is used in nations such as Malta, Australia, Ireland and the United States in various states. This system involves the process of transference of votes.
In conclusion, the two systems, the member plurality and proportional voting systems have their respective benefits and limitations. However, it is largely evident that the proportional voting system is highly efficient towards equitable distribution of positions, whereas the plurality one is flawed due to the numerous avenues present for manipulation of the processes. Such sets out the differences between the systems of voting used in developed democracies and under-developed countries.