Comparing Electoral Systems by David M. Farrell (auth.)

By David M. Farrell (auth.)

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With the failure of this constitutional talks process, electoral reform was left on the back burner. It will be of interest to see how the dramatic electoral results of 1993 might affect this debate in the longer run. If the Canadians are looking for ideas on how to go about changing their electoral system from FPTP, one obvious place to look is New Zealand whose electors voted in 1993 to replace their FPTP system with a version of the German two-vote system (for details on this new system, see chapter 5).

In other words while people may think there are problems with the system - as shown most particularly by the low levels of esteem for politicians generally and, perhaps, by very low turnout - there is no great interest in electoral reform as one possible means of changing things. Another factor which undoubtedly contributes to the lack of concern about the electoral system is the fact that the US government tends to be 'divided', in the sense that it is common for one party to control the presidency while another controls Congress.

The basic argument was that FPTP - the system first adopted - risked a situation where parties would suffer unfairly from vote splitting. This point was illustrated by a by-election in Western Australia, when a Labor candidate was elected with 35 per cent of the vote, reflecting the fact that the support of the non-Labor side was split between three other candidates. Soon after that, in 1918, what was known as preferential voting, or majority-preferential voting, was introduced for elections to the Australian House of Representatives.

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