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Pedro Reira, "Electoral systems and the Sheriff of Nottingham: Determnantes of dispropotionality in new and established lberal democracies" Party Politics, 21 (March 2015), 222-233. [Available at]

First paragraph:

Disproportionality is of course one of the major effects of electoral rules. For this reason, it has been at the core of an increasing literature which has measured it, has identified some of its main determinants, and has discussed its consequences for different political institutions such as party systems, parliaments or governments. In the last century, Douglas W. Rae (1971: 86), arguably one of the founding fathers of the science of electoral systems, emphasized the relevance of disproportionality as the main consequence of electoral institutions, graphically depicting them as the Sheriff of Nottingham, ‘apt to steal from the poor and give to the rich’. And, while most electoral systems share the samedirectional pattern of redistribution, there are still very important differences in its strengthor degree (Rae, 1971: Ch. 9).

Figures and Table

Figure 1: Dispertion in electoral disproportionality and electoral reforms
Table 1: Descriptive statistics
Table 2: Effects of electoral reforms on electoral disproportionality, new and established democracies
Figure 2: Marginal effect of electoral reform or electoral disproportionality over democracy
Table 3: Effects of electoral reforms on electoral disproportionality over time, new and established democracies

Last Paragraph:

Finally, the findings presented in this article are not in and of themselves sufficient to provide a robust theory of the causes of changes in electoral disproportionality. Even reforms that have been designed to constrain the overall permissiveness of the electoral rules, such as many of the adopted in the last two decades in Israel, have not managed to produce the desired outcome. Hence, these examples highlight the inherent limitations of electoral engineers in fulfilling their expectations on institutional change. Moreover, voter coordination is more difficult when a high number of parties contest elections (Cox, 1997), so that what looks like erratic behaviour on the part of voters may really be driven by the actions of parties (Tavits and Annus, 2006). In this sense, what I have not identified yet is the causal effect of overcrowded ballots on electoral disproportionality. Additionally, without a way to randomly assign electoral reform, its effect cannot be distinguished from the potential – if any – impact of other variables leading to its adoption. Thus, future comparative studies are necessary in order to clearly specify the causal path between electoral reforms and levels of disproportionality and properly address this potential problem of endogeneity.

Last updated March 2015