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Democratic Equality$
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James Lindley Wilson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691190914

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691190914.001.0001

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Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation

(p.193) Chapter Eight Proportional Representation
Democratic Equality

James Lindley Wilson

Princeton University Press

This chapter studies the claim—common among political theorists who consider the matter—that political equality requires proportional legislative representation. This issue involves fundamental questions about the proper relationship between citizens' votes and the makeup of the legislature, and therefore about the basic structure of electoral systems. Debates about proportional legislatures turn on what constitutes fair representation of groups of voters. The chapter argues that proportional representation is not a fundamental requirement of political equality. Proportional representation of groups in the legislature does not necessarily guarantee appropriate consideration more reliably than single-member district (SMD) systems with plurality elections. In some circumstances, proportional representation may better secure certain forms of consideration and practical consequence for citizens than would other legislative systems. But the suitability of different legislative schemes varies with historical and social context. In some circumstances, alternative systems may better secure consideration for group members without guaranteeing those members official presence in the legislature. Securing legislative presence often comes at the expense of voter authority over coalition formation in the legislature itself. There is no general reason to think this sacrifice is justified, either for particular groups or for the citizenry as a whole.

Keywords:   political equality, electoral systems, fair representation, proportional representation, legislative representation, legislative systems, voter authority, coalition formation, plurality elections

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