Elections

KEY TERMS

  • Legislature: Assembly or body of representatives with the authority to make laws.
  • Bicameral Legislature:  Legislature with two chambers, which may have equal or unequal powers.
  • Chamber: An assembly or body of a legislature, often referring to one of two such bodies in a bicameral legislature.
  • Lower Chamber: In a bicameral legislature, the house that typically has a large number of legislators than upper chambers, and often represents the national vote either more proportionally or through smaller geographic constituencies.
  • Upper Chamber: The chamber in a bicameral legislature that is usually smaller in number of legislators, often representing larger geographic constituencies such as states or provinces.
  • Unicameral Legislature: Legislature with a single chamber.
  • Congress: A form of legislature typically associated with a presidential system in which there is a separation of powers.
  • Parliament: A type of legislature often associated with systems in which the legislators vote on the executive branch and the formation of a government.
  • District System: An electoral system in which voters select representatives from specific geographic constituencies.
  • Constituency: A group of voters or a geographic district that legislators or other elected officials represent.
  • Single Member District: Electoral system in which voters choose a candidate and the winner is elected by the most votes earned or through winning a runoff vote.
  • First-Past-the-Post: Electoral system in which the candidate with the most number of votes is elected, regardless of whether a majority has been attained.
  • Runoff: Electoral system in which the top candidates after a first round of voting compete in one or more additional rounds of voting until a candidate receives a majority.
  • Multi-Member District (MMD): Electoral system in which district constituencies have more than one representative.
  • Proportional Representation: Electoral system in which voters choose a preferred party and seats are allocated to parties according to the percentage of the vote the party wins.
  • Open List Proportional Representation: Electoral system in which voters choose a candidate but votes are aggregated by political party to determine the allocation of seats across parties.
  • Alternative Vote: Voting system in which voters rank candidates and the votes of low ranking candidates are reallocated until a winner is determined.  
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV): Electoral system in which voters rank candidates and the winners’ surplus votes are reallocated to other, lower ranking candidates until a slate of representatives is chosen.
  • Strategic Voting: Voting in a way that does not reflect a voter’s ideal preference, so as to prevent a less-desired outcome.
  • Indirect Election: Electoral system in which representatives are chosen by other elected officials, rather than directly by the citizenry at large.
  • Representation: In legislatures, the process by which elected legislators reflect the interests and preferences of voters in their constituencies.
  • Apportionment: The process by which legislative seats are distributed among geographic constituencies.
  • Districting: The process by which districts or other geographic constituencies are created for the purposes of elections.
  • Gerrymandering: Creation of districts of irregular shape or composition in order to achieve a desired political result.
  • Malapportionment: Apportionment in which voters are unequally represented in a legislature such as through relatively greater numbers of legislators per capita for low population areas and lesser number of legislators per capita for high population areas.
  • Committee: In a legislature, a body composed of a group of legislators convened to perform a certain set of tasks.
  • Executive-Legislative Relations: The set of relationships between the executive and the legislative branches of government.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

  • Does a PR or SMD voting system benefit minorities more and why? How does gerrymandering affect this?
  • What are the drawbacks to a first-past-the-post voting system?
  • Are indirect elections more or less democratic then direct elections?
  • Do district system elections disadvantage political minorities?

 

Elections: A process in which people vote to choose a person or a group of people to hold an official position.

 

PR (Proportional Representation): the seats in the electoral system are gained in proportion to the numbers of votes they receive

 

SMD (Single Member District): An electoral district or constituency having a single representative in a legislative body rather than two or more