On the Origins of Electoral Systems and Political Parties. The Role of Elections in Multi-Member Districts
Josep M. Colomer
The old, understudied electoral system composed of multi-member districts, open ballot and plurality rule is presented as the most remote scene of the origin of both political parties and new electoral systems. A survey of the uses of this set of electoral rules in different parts of the world during remote and recent periods shows its wide spread. A model of voting by this electoral system demonstrates that, while it can produce varied and pluralistic representation, it also provides incentives to form factional or partisan candidacies. Famous negative reactions to the emergence of factions and political parties during the 18th and 19th centuries are reinterpreted in this context. Many electoral rules and procedures invented since the second half of the 19th century, including the Australian ballot, single-member districts, limited and cumulative ballots, and proportional representation rules, derived from the search to reduce the effects of the ‘originating’ multi-member district system in favor of a single party sweep. The general relations between political parties and electoral systems are restated to account for the foundational stage here discussed.
Political parties, electoral systems, multimember districts
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