Seats and Votes

The Effects and Determinants of Electoral Systems

Rein Taagepera and Matjthew Soberg Shugart

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July 24, 1991
x
ISBN: 9780300050776
Paper

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Electoral systems, which determine how votes cast for political parties or candidates are converted into seats in a representative assembly, are an essential factor in the political process. The conversion rules can be crucial in determining who wins and who loses; with the same number of votes, a party can win under one system and lose under another.
 
This comprehensive study of electoral systems describes the electoral rules of different nations, reviews the current state of knowledge about their effects, and offers guidelines for designing new systems. Rein Taagepera and Matthew Shugart use quantitative data to demonstrate how electoral rules affect the larger political and social systems. Through rational models, they show the effect of district magnitude (seats per district) and electoral formula on proportionality and the number of parties. Arguing that the number of issue dimensions affecting politics, they provide a theoretical model that explains and predicts durability of cabinets in terms of the effective number of parties.
 
Taagepera and Shugart contend that the study of electoral rules matters not only because these rules have political consequences, but also because they are creatures of politics and can be altered for political reasons. Their book thus constitutes a quantitative key to democratic systems in a wider sense.
 
 

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is blessed with a rare and admirable scientific spirit, a happy amalgam of theory and empiricism, and a sensible readability despite rather complex analysis."—Samuel C. Paterson, Perspective

"This book marks a considerable advance in our understanding of the complexities of electoral systems. Its methods and conclusions will surely be studied by political scientists for many years to come."—Vernon Bogdanor, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Taagepera and Shugart have presented what will remain undoubtedly the best single source on the logic, nature, and consequences of electoral laws and processes in democracies. This volume is must reading for the serious student of comparative political systems and institutional analysis."—Choice

"This volume addresses an important topic, determining how votes cast for candidates or political parties are translated into the acquisition of seats in legislative bodies. The process used to convert votes into seats is an important component of the electoral process, and this volume does justice to this importance. . . . This volume is comprehensive, well written, methodologically sophisticated, and scholarly. It is strongly recommended and should be of interest to a wide audience. It represents a significant addition to the literature."—John S. Robey, Social Science Quarterly

"A widely recognized and valued piece of work."—Michael C. Munger, American Political Science Review

"This will be the single most important book on electoral systems since the publication of Douglas Rae’s classic work twenty years ago. It is the kind of brilliant, innovative, breakthrough work that should be rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Political Science."— Arend Lijphart, University of California, San Diego
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