“[W]hat should be done to give power into the hands of capable and well-meaning persons has so far resisted all efforts.”
Democracies worldwide are struggling with extreme and antidemocratic parties that are undermining effective government by exploiting public frustrations and obsolete election policies. Partisan polarization has multiple causes, but reforming electoral systems is the most precise way to alter the shape of party systems. Changing the way votes are translated into assembly seats directly affects the nature of partisan competition.
Winner-Take-All Single-Seat Plurality Electoral Systems
Plurality elections produce compact party systems, but distort partisan representation. Partisan sorting packs voters into safe seats thwarting voter influence and gerrymandering skews partisan representation to the advantage of majority parties. Centrifugal partisan competition swells when safe seats protect extreme candidates from moderate challengers and distorted representation insulates inflated parties from electoral opposition.
Party-List Proportional Representation Electoral Systems
List elections provide accurate partisan representation, but generate fragmented party systems. Regulating the number of seat-winning parties with district magnitudes and electoral thresholds encourages centrifugal partisan competition and party proliferation. Extreme parties only need to maintain their voter support above the barrier to entry to keep their assembly seats and feign legitimacy.
How can electoral systems be designed to ensure accurate partisan representation and compact party systems while deterring partisan polarization and extremism?