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A single-member district is an
electoral district An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, is a subdivision of a larger state Sta ...
represented by a single officeholder. It contrasts with a multi-member district, which is represented by multiple officeholders. Single-member districts are also sometimes called single-winner voting, winner-takes-all, or single-member constituencies. A number of
electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by governments, while non-political ele ...
s use single-member districts, including
plurality voting Plurality voting is an electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by gover ...
(first-past-the-post),
two-round system The two-round system, also known as the second ballot, runoff voting, or ballotage, is a voting method Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate Electorate may refer to: * The people who are eligible to vote in an E ...
s,
instant-runoff voting Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a type of Ranked voting, ranked preferential electoral system, vote counting method used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates. IRV is also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), pre ...
(IRV),
approval voting Approval voting is a single-winner electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral system ...
, range voting,
Borda count The Borda count is a family of single-winner election method An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct and ...
, and
Condorcet method A Condorcet method (; ) is an election method that elects the candidate who wins a majority rule, majority of the vote in every head-to-head election against each of the other candidates, that is, a candidate preferred by more voters than any oth ...
s (such as the
Minimax Condorcet In voting system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by governments, while non-political ...
,
Schulze method The Schulze method () is an electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are org ...
, and
Ranked Pairs Ranked pairs (RP) or the Tideman method is an electoral system developed in 1987 by Nicolaus Tideman that selects a single winner using votes that express preferences. RP can also be used to create a sorted list of winners. If there is a candi ...
). Of these, plurality and runoff voting are the most common. In some countries, such as
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
and
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
, members of the lower house of parliament are elected from single-member districts; and members of the upper house are elected from multi-member districts. In some other countries like
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
, members of parliament can be elected from both single-member districts as well as multi-member districts.


History in U.S.

The
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first ...

United States Constitution
, ratified in 1789, states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States...Representatives...shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers.
In other words, the Constitution specifies that each state will be apportioned a number of representatives in the
House of Representatives House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies A legislature is a deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is ...
proportional to its population. It does not, however, specify ''how'' those representatives should be apportioned. In the early years of the United States, a form of multi-member districts called
plural district A plural district was a district in the United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate being the upper house. Togethe ...
s were the norm. In contrast with modern
proportional Proportionality, proportion or proportional may refer to: Mathematics * Proportionality (mathematics), the property of two variables being in a multiplicative relation to a constant * Ratio, of one quantity to another, especially of a part compared ...

proportional
multi-member districts (which had not yet been invented), plural districts were elected ''
at-large At-large is a description for members of a governing body who are elect An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.
''. By 1842, single-member House districts had become the norm, with twenty-two states using single-member districts and only six using at-large multi-member districts. On Dec 14, 1967, single-member House districts were mandated by law ( 2 U.S. Code §2c), under the justification that they served as bulwarks against southern Democrats diluting the electoral power of African Americans by using strategically drawn at-large multi-member districts (they could, for instance, create a single statewide multi-member district elected by plurality vote, all but guaranteeing the white majority would elect all Democrats).


Aspects


Constituency link

It has been argued by proponents of single-member constituencies that it encourages a stronger connection between the representative and constituents and increases accountability and is a check on incompetence and corruption. In countries that have multi-member constituencies, it is argued that the constituency link is lost. For example, in Israel the whole country is a single constituency and representatives are selected by party-lists. On the other hand, today most voters tend to vote for a candidate because they are endorsed by a particular political party or because they are in favor of who would become or remain the leader of the government, more than their feelings for or against the actual candidate standing. Sometimes voters are in favor of a political party but do not like specific candidates. For example, voters in Canada re-elected the
Alberta ("Strong and free") , image_map = Alberta in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , official_lang = English , capital = Edmonton Edmonton ( ) is the capital ...

Alberta
government in 1989 but, because of dissatisfaction with its leadership, the premier and leader of the governing party,
Don Getty Donald Ross Getty, (August 30, 1933 – February 26, 2016) was a Canadian politician who served as the 11th Premier of Alberta between 1985 and 1992. A member of the Progressive Conservatives, he served as Energy Minister and Federal and Inter ...
, lost his seat.


Fewer minority parties

It has been argued that single-member districts tend to promote
two-party system A two-party system is a Politics, political party system in which two major party, major political parties consistently dominate the political landscape. At any point in time, one of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature ...
s (with some regional parties). Called
Duverger's law#REDIRECT Duverger's law In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, polit ...
, this principle has also been empirically supported by the
cube rule The cube rule or cube law is an empirical observation regarding elections under the first-past-the-post system. The rule suggests that the party getting the most votes is over-represented (and conversely, the party getting the fewest votes is un ...
, which shows how the winning party in a
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are org ...
system is mathematically over-represented in the legislature. For example, in the 2014 United States House of Representatives elections, the
Republican Party Republican Party is a name used by many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about polit ...
won 51.2% of the popular vote but 56.7% of the seats. Supporters view this effect as beneficial, claiming that two-party systems are more stable, and that the minority opposition does not have undue power to break a coalition. First-past-the-post minimizes the influence of third parties and thus arguably keeps out forms of opposition outside of the dominant rival party. Critics of two-party systems believe that two-party systems offer less choice to voters, create an exaggerated emphasis on issues that dominate more marginal seats, and does not completely remove the possibility of a balanced chamber (or
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no particular political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an absolute majority of legislators (c ...
), which can also give undue power to independents and lead to more, not less, stability.


Safe seats

A safe seat is one in which a plurality or majority of voters, depending on the electoral system, support a particular candidate or party so strongly that the candidate's election is practically guaranteed in advance of the vote. This means votes for other candidates effectively make no difference to the result. This results in feelings of disenfranchisement, as well as increased , by both supporters of the dominant candidate (who can confidently abstain from voting because their preferred candidate's victory is nearly assured) as well as supporters of other candidates (who know their preferred candidate is essentially guaranteed to lose).


Gerrymandering

Single-member districts enable gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating district boundaries to favor one political party. Whereas proportional multi-member districts ensure that political parties are represented roughly in proportion to the share of the vote they receive, in single-member districts the entire district is represented by a single politician, even if a sizeable minority (or, in the case of a plurality win, a majority) of the electorate voted for candidates from other parties. This enables political parties to rig elections in their favor by drawing districts in such a way that more districts are won by their party than their proportion of the overall vote would dictate (in the
2018 Wisconsin State Assembly election The Wisconsin State Assembly elections of 2018 were held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. All 99 seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly were up for election. The Republican Party of Wisconsin, Republican Party maintained a majority it has held sinc ...
, for example, the
Republican Party Republican Party is a name used by many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about polit ...
won 45% of the popular vote but 64% of the seats, due in part to gerrymandering).


Comparison of single-member district election methods


See also

*
Duverger's law#REDIRECT Duverger's law In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, polit ...


References

{{Authority control Constituencies