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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robert J. Pekkanen
JSIS B 472
Seattle Campus

Electoral Systems

Explores a fundamental link between citizens and political representation: how electoral systems shape party systems, what kinds of people become candidates, how parties work, representation, and policy. Covers effects and mechanics of the various voting systems. Offered: jointly with POL S 472.

Class description

How you count determines who wins. The importance of electoral systems is as inescapable and pervasive as the drumbeat of a Presidential election campaign. This course offers a comparative analysis of electoral systems. Electoral rules are critically important in politics; these rules translate votes into seats and thus determine who wins elections--and different ways of counting lead to different political results. An obvious recent example is the 2000 US presidential election, where one candidate won a majority of the popular vote but lost the election because of a peculiar electoral system (the electoral college). Redistricting and gerrymandering are perennial topics in the US, too. But, outside of the United States, electoral systems vary widely and this dramatically affects the politics of those countries. An important part of this course will be studying how electoral systems affect party systems, candidate selection, party organization, (gender, ethnic, and other types of) representation, and policy outcomes. We will also learn the mechanics of the various voting systems, from nominal systems (such as the single member district system we use in the US) to proportional representation systems, with assorted twists (open vs. closed party list) and eccentric systems (SNTV, STV) throw in for good measure. Moreover, patterns of electoral system reform in both advanced industrialized democracies and developing states from the adoption of proportional representation in the 19th Century to ballot reforms driven by donors in the 21st Century illustrate reciprocal influence and global interactions in den this critical and inextricably domestic institution. Students will leave the course with a solid understanding of what electoral systems are and how vitally important they are for politics.

Student learning goals

Students will leave the course with a solid understanding of what electoral systems are and how vitally important they are for politics.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Laura R. Dobrovolny
Date: 02/07/2014