Proportional representation

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Proportional representation is an electoral system in which the number of seats held by a particular political party in a legislature is directly determined by the number of votes the political party's candidates receive in a given election. The purpose of proportional representation is to fairly represent various political parties in a legislature proportionally to the number of votes it gathers in an election.[1]

Systems of proportionality

Various forms of proportional representation exist. Below is a descriptive list of the widely used systems of proportionality:

  • In a party-list system, the elector votes for a list of candidates instead of for a single candidate. Each party then will receive a share of the seats proportional to the share of votes it received.[2][3]
  • In a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, voters rank their choice of candidates on the ballot instead of voting for just one candidate. It is important to note that this system of proportional representation is not widely practiced throughout the world.[2][3]
  • In an additional-member system, each elector casts two votes instead of one vote. On a double ballot, the elector chooses a candidate and also their party of choice among those listed.[2][3]

Differences between proportionality and plurality

There are a few apparent differences between a proportional representation system and a plurality system:

  • Unlike a plurality system, which uses single-member districts, proportional representation systems use multi-member districts.[2][4]
  • Plurality systems typically reward strong, larger parties while penalizing weak, smaller parties. Also, representation of an entire constituency is for a single candidate who may have received fewer than half of the votes cast. Proportional representation guarantees that smaller parties garner representation that is proportionate to their votes received in an election.[2]

In totality, advocates for proportional representation argue that an election is like a census of opinion as to how the country should be governed and by whom, and critics of proportional representation contend that the purpose of an election is to find a consensus and not a consensus of opinion.[2]

United States

See also: Section 2, Article I, United States Constitution and Amendment XIV, United States Constitution

The United States Constitution stipulates proportional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the United States Constitution, the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned and based on state population records according to the U.S. Census, which is recorded every ten years.[5]

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