I am looking for a label to a political system.

Right now, each state is apportioned a certain number of representatives in the House based on population. Texas gets 36 representatives, so there are 36 congressional districts.

According to the current system each district decides what party represents that district based on who wins the majority of votes in that district. So if 60% of the people vote Republican and 40% vote Democratic in a district, the Republican candidate will represent that district. If in all of the districts the same percentage applies, then all of the representatives will be Republican because they won the majority in each district.

But what would it be called if instead of determining the representatives based on how each district votes, rather the representatives are determined based on a state-wide vote. So according to this idea, if state-wide, 60% of the people in the State of Texas voted Republican and 40% voted Democratic, then 60% of the 36 representatives who go to Washington from Texas would be Republican and 40% of the 36 would be Democratic?

I think that this latter form of determining how representatives go to Washington might be more truly representative of the actual population than what we have now. But I don't know how political scientists would refer to this. Can you help? What would a system like that be called?

  • <pedantic>Each district decides which individual will represent them. For many voters, party affiliation is an important criteria. But there is absolutely nothing stopping an elected representative from changing parties without losing his/her seat. Also if a representative dies/quits/whatever his/her party does not get to choose his/her replacement.</pedantic> – emory Dec 31 '15 at 17:34

This is a form of proportional representation applied to the electoral college:

It splits each state’s electoral votes in accordance with their popular vote percentages. This way, a candidate who come in second place in a state with 45% of the popular vote would receive 45% of the electoral votes from that state, instead of 0%.

(The above link also discusses some other voting systems that could be used for US presidential elections.)

Maine and Nebraska currently use a different system, called the Congressional District Method:

With the district method, a state divides itself into a number of districts, allocating one of its state-wide electoral votes to each district. The winner of each district is awarded that district’s electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining two electoral votes.


The set of people voting for the same seats is called a circumscription or electoral district.

Electoral districts may be single seat (only a single representative is elected), as in the district system, or multiple seats (more than one representative is elected). It is not needed that the districts are based in states (you could divide Texas in two or four electoral districts, if there is a reason for that). In a district with multiple seats, a system for assigning votes to seats is needed (simple proportionality is not enough), like the D'Hont system.

In Europe many countries have district with multiple seats.

Note that this is not the end of the considerations, even with multiple seat districts there are issues. Namely, the usual is finding the districts size that is big enough that elected people represent the voters intentions while allowing for a local POV.

CGP Grey has some great videos analyzing voting systems:

Check the channel for more (not all videos are about this issue, though).

  • Note that "circumscription" is not a common term for an electoral district. For example, the Wikipedia disambiguation page for circumscription links to the page for electoral district, which lists a number of more common terms. – Steve Melnikoff Dec 30 '15 at 20:38
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    @SteveMelnikoff thanks for the point, in Spanish "circunscripción" is still widely used and I just translated it directly. – SJuan76 Dec 30 '15 at 20:45

The US is a republic system -- that is voters elect representatives to represent their views in Congress.

The fact that there are two houses with different methods of representation does not change the fact that we are a democratic republic. The different systems in the US is to balance the power of states with large populations and less populous states. Because populations of different states grow or shrink at different rates, Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution requires that the House seats be reapportioned among the population every 10 years. Over the years, however, there were inequities within states whose electoral districts might be divided disproportionally. The Supreme Court in 1962 and 1964 issued two major cases that challenged within-state disproportionate representation and mandated the "one-man, one-vote" rule. See Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), and Reynolds v. Simms, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). That's not to say that representation is fair, just yet -- there is still manipulation of election districts, i.e. gerrymandering, by state legislators to keep their party in power.

American's vote for individuals to represent them in the House and Senate of Congress. That contrasts to countries where voters vote for parties, rather than individuals, although they may have a personal connection with a party leader on a numbered list of possible members of parliament. In these countries, known as having proportional representation, a party getting 26 percent of the vote will have the top 26 percent of its list seated in parliament. In other words, if there are 100 seats, that party would seat the party leader and the next 25 persons on his list.

The biggest difference between the two systems is timing. Politics anywhere involves the building of coalitions that can control a majority of elected members of Congress or parliament. In republics, like the US, the system favors that coalitions be formed before the election. Party conventions draw up party platforms in which they state where they fall on various issues. The party's elected members, however, are not bound by the platform to the extent it contradicts or offends voters in their districts or states.

Parliamentary systems, however, have parties that are already bound to certain issues and in some countries an individual party never wins a majority of seats. But the one having the plurality tries to work out deals with other parties and their special interests. Also they have strict agreements among party members in the parliament that require them to vote with the party leadership. The coalition agreements, too, will require that all members vote with the coalition leaders. When the governing coalition disagrees and fails to win a vote, it is said to "fall," and new elections are called.

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    So this is a good answer, but I think it is not answering the question that the OP asked. Parliamentary systems and presidential systems (the U.S. model) can have a variety of voting systems, which is what the question is about. – The Pompitous of Love Dec 31 '15 at 16:11

The system you describe is called and individual majoritarian election, generally referred to as "first-past-the-post." In a "first-past-the-post" system, each position has a single billet to be filled, and the person who gets a plurality of votes (i.e. the most out of those cast) will occupy the position. All U.S. states have a "first-past-the-post" system for their representation at the Federal government, although some do have a majoritarian (50%) requirement for primaries, and some state offices.

The system you describe is one form of proportional representation, presumably using a list system. This type of election is common in many parts of the world, and is frequently used in many parliamentary systems, but could be used in the U.S. It is one of many different electoral systems that could be used. To get you started on additional research you can see this academic article on electoral systems, a summation by Georgetown Universities faculty of electoral systems, and Wikipedia's surprisingly thorough discussion of electoral systems.

The U.S. Constitution delegates the authority over elections to the states in Article 1, Section 4. There is no reason other than tradition--the colonies inherited the British first-past-the-post system--that the states converged on first-past-the-post and any state could choose to do it differently, they just haven't. Fair Vote is an organization that is attempting to revise government elections to have a different electoral format, and they claim that they are making progress in converting Maine to a 'ranked choice' electoral system, which is not the system you describe, but is yet another electoral system.

  • Thank you very much for your help. Although I do have an inkling of an inclination as to which form of electing representatives would be good, I confess it is not very well informed and will probably go no further than me anyway. But I have thought about it and would like to learn more. You have helped me on the way. Thanks. – Mark McDonnel Dec 31 '15 at 20:53

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