Research Reports

International Snapshot: Poland

Posted on July 31, 2006

Poland held elections to its parliament in September 2005. Its lower house, the Sejm, is elected proportionally from closed lists. The Senate is elected in two- or three-member winner-take-all districts. While this feature of Senate elections should discourage small parties from running candidates, more and more parties contest elections with each passing cycle. Despite a relatively high threshold of 5% to enter the Sejm, small, ideologically similar parties proliferate, and coalition-building remains a challenge. This paper looks the intersections of Poland’s electoral system and party behavior, coalition-bulding, and turnout. It also considers the potential implications of a change to the formula used to allocate Sejm seats.

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Majority Rule in International Presidential Elections

Posted on June 05, 2006

Of the 28 freest presidential democracies, 21 require the president to win with a majority of votes. Two more mandate presidents be elected with relatively high minimum pluralities. Only five allow pure plurality winners. One of them, the United States, permits the winner of the popular vote to lose the election through an Electoral College system. The 23 countries with majority and minimum plurality requirements all employ runoff elections. 22 use delayed runoff elections and one, Ireland, builds both rounds into one with instant runoff voting (IRV).Each method has implications for voter choice, quality of campaigning and respect for majority rule. This report examines each system and its implications by way of description and case studies.

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Outside Looking In

Posted on May 30, 2006

This report makes clear the extent to which the preferences of black and urban voters are under-represented in the nomination process. It then argues that an early primary in Washington, D.C. is the only way to give these loyal Democratic constituencies an effective voice in the 2008 nomination.

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Municipal Right to Vote Action Plan

Posted on May 03, 2006

Because Americans treasure the right to vote, they often are surprised by a shocking fact: the Constitution does not affirm the right to vote. As a result, there are virtually no federal election administration standards, and there is mass disenfranchisement at each election. Yet the history of voting rights in America since 1787 is one of general, if irregular, progress toward universal franchise. The Municipal Right to Vote Initiative seeks substantive reform at the local level while detailing a plan to take America's voting rights to their logical conclusion: an affirmative, federally protected right to vote.

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International Snapshot: Israel 2006

Posted on April 04, 2006

Israel held elections to its parliament, the Knesset, on March 28, 2006. Frequently held up as an example of why not to adopt proportional voting, Israel's election system, critics argue, tends to produce unstable, unworkable governing coalitions. But this tendency has less to do with proportional voting than the form Israel has chosen to use, in tandem with its wider political environment. This report focuses on the effects of Israel's low electoral threshold and closed party list system.

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International Snapshot: Ukraine

Posted on April 03, 2006

Ukraine held elections to its parliament in March 2006. It was that country's first use of a fully proportional electoral system. The 1998 and 2002 elections used a parallel system in which half of seats were elected in single-member plurality districts. This paper analyzes the proportionality of results in historical perspective as well as turnout and number of effective votes. Institutional challenges and potential remedies are described. Choices about electoral institutions have important consequences for political outcomes in a representative democracy.

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International Snapshot: Palestine 2006

Posted on January 31, 2006

Palestine held elections to its Legislative Council on January 25, 2006. In that vote, Change and Reform (Hamas) took power away from the governing Fatah movement, winning 75 of 132 seats. Some commentators declared this a sweeping mandate for Hamas, speculating especially on what the power shift means for Israeli-Palestinian relations, but the election results are not an accurate reflection of popular opinion. Instead, the election system itself is at least as important as popular opinion in determining the makeup of the Council.

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International Snapshot: Iraq 2005

Posted on December 19, 2005

Iraq's December 2005 parliamentary elections were contested by 230 parties and 21 coalitions, all vying for seats in the first full-term, four-year parliament since the beginning of the 2003 war in Iraq. Authorities conducted the election using a new proportional voting system in which parties fielded candidates for parliament in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces under 18 different ballots using regional party lists. Additionally, the parliament consists of 275 seats, with 45 elected as "compensatory seats" to parties that did not win seats under the regional list elections but won enough votes nationally to cross the threshold for a seat at the national level.

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