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The Single-Member District Electoral System

Single member district system reveals that this type of electoral system favors the election of candidates of the majority group in each district (Rule & Zimmerman, 1994). Amy (2000) says that with the exception of at large voting all plurality and majority systems use single member districts. He says that because members of legislatures are elected one at a time in small districts this separates this voting system from proportional and semi-proportional systems which use multimember districts (Amy, 2000).

The United States uses the single member district electoral system known as plurality. The single member districts in U.S. are characterized by its design to represent the majority or plurality of voters. Amy (2000) says that voters in the minority do not receive representation and also in this voting system one hundred percent of the representation goes to those who vote for the winner. This implies that those who vote for the losers get no representation. Amy found out that in a single member district contest a party must win over 50% of the vote so that the electorate can be sure that he or she wins the seat. A win of 51% is not always required to win hence if for example party A wins by 40% of the vote and parties B and C won 30% each then this means that party A candidate would win the seat.

But according to Amy (2000) 40% of the vote does not assure victory because in such a situation parties B and C might form an alliance around a single candidate that would then defeat party A candidate. Amy (2000) continues to say that the only way party A can be guaranteed the seat is to receive over 50% of the vote. It can not be excluded from office no matter what the other parties do. Single member district electoral system put a high priority on geographical representation. Amy (2000) says “that the main purpose of using geographical representation is that it produces a legislature that ensures that all geographical areas are represented” (p. 31).

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The Advantages of Using Single Member District 

The advantage of using single member district includes aspects of their simplicity which is evident in USA. Amy (2000) says that voters find them very easy to use; they simply cast their votes for their preferred candidates. He continues to say that using this form of electoral system it is easy to understand how votes are translated into seats. Amy (2000) mentioned that the most popular candidate in the district is elected.  Another advantage of single member district electorate systems is that they are clearly the best in terms of ensuring geographical representation. In this context since each representative is beholden to a specific geographical area, matters which are significant to a particular neighborhood or region are sure to have a champion (Amy, 2000)  

Single member district electoral system uses virtually small districts where candidates are able to get to know their constituents. Amy (2000) notes that “since it is clear which representative is obliged to serve which constituents, people readily know who to contact about their concerns” (p. 31).  It is also important to realize that in single member district electoral systems people usually vote for individual candidates not parties. Because voters are able to vote for individuals this gives them more direct control over exactly who is elected and gives them the power to get rid of their particular representative.

This type of electoral system encourages a two party system. Amy (2000) says that this is because a candidate must receive over 50% of the vote in order to be guaranteed victory. Single member district electoral system has a tendency to produce umbrella parties that must make broad based appeals in order to get elected. The aspect of broad based appeal comes in   whereby parties that need a majority or plurality to win must try to generate wide based support of the voters (Amy, 2000). This is considered to have a moderating effect because parties hope to win seats by narrow appeals to special interests or to specific racial or religious groups renders them difficulty.   One of the disadvantages of single member district voting systems is that winner take all and on the other hand produce a large number of wasted votes which elect no one to office. Amy (2000) says that people who cast wasted votes are denied representation.

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