The following are the most popular methods:
(1) Proportional Representation in which Single Transferable Vote System and List System are the main methods.
(2) Limited Vote System.
(3) Cumulative Vote System.
(4) Separate Electorate System.
(5) Joint Electorate with Reservation of Seats.
1. Single Transferable Vote System:
The first experiment of this system conducted in the French National Convention in 1793, but its popularity began only when in 1951 Thomas Hare, an Englishman, described it in his book Election of Representatives. In 1855 Andrae, a minister, introduced the scheme in Denmark. Since then it was popularised in both the countries. Hence it has been called the Hare or the Andrae System. In India the election of the President, the Vice- President and also the elections to the Rajya Sabha and the Punjab University Senate are conducted according to this system.
The following are the features of this system:
(1) Multi-member Constituency or Plural Constituency;
(2) Possession by the voter of only one vote;
(3) Making Preferences by the voter;
(4) Transfer of Votes and Electoral Quota.
Generally two methods are followed to determine the quota:-
(a) Total number of Votes:
Number of members to be elected
(b) Total number of vote’s × 1:
Number of members to be elected × 1
Though the first method is simple, yet the second method is more commonly used. It is essential that there should be Plural Constituency in this system. Lord Courtney suggested that a fifteen-member constituency was a reasonable limit, but according to our view there should not be more than ten or twelve members in a constituency.
The advantage of this system is that every voter marks the figures 1, 2, 3, 4 against the names of the candidates and in this way he can indicate his preferences. He can vote for as many candidates by denoting his preference, as there are seats to be filled from the constituency.
For example, if twelve members are to be elected from a constituency and if there are 20 candidates, the voter can indicate his preference from 1st to twelfth, as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on up to the 12th preference.
The candidate in order to be elected requires a certain quota of votes. Thus the candidate who has secured the quota of votes is declared elected. If he gets more votes than the fixed quota, his surplus votes are passed on to the candidates not yet elected, according to their second preference.
In this way the votes of the candidate who has secured minimum votes are passed on to other candidates according to their second preference or choice. The process of transferring surpluses votes to the next preferences continues down the list until the required numbers of representatives have been elected.
The surplus votes of not only the successful candidates are transferred to other candidates, but, if need be, of those candidates also who have secured so few votes that they have no chance of being elected at all. Thus in this system counting takes place many times and the counting continues till the candidate is in a position to secure his minimum quota. Candidates securing the fixed electoral quota are declared to have been elected.
Another system of proportional representation is the List System. According to it, the entire country is divided into large constituencies and sometimes the entire country is considered as one constituency. According to this plan all candidates are grouped in the lists according to their party labels and every party offers a list of candidates up to the number of seats to be filled for each constituency. The number of votes which are secured by the individual candidates, are considered as votes for the list.
In other words, we can say that every party fields as many candidates as are the seats to be filled. The elections are contested on the party basis. The voters can cast as many votes as are the seats to be filled, but he cannot cast more than one vote in favour of one candidate.
For example, if five representatives are to be elected from a constituency, the voter can cast his votes for any list. He cannot distribute his votes among two or three lists. He will have to cast all his votes in favour of one list. The votes of all the parties are counted separately.
The number of votes required, the quota to secure a candidate’s election, is determined, as in the Hare System, by dividing the total number of votes cast by the number of seats to be filled. Let us suppose that the total number of votes cast is 10, 00,000 and 100 representatives are to be elected from that constituency.
The electoral quota will be:-
10, 00,000/100 = 10,000
Now suppose there are five parties A, B, C, D and E. If ‘A’ has secured 1, 00, 00 votes, then he will secure 1, 00,000/10,000 = 10 seats. Similarly if ‘B’ secures 3, 00,000 votes, he will secure 30 seats. In this way the parties divide the seats among themselves. This system is used in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Merits or Advantages of Proportional Representation:
(1) In this system representation to every minority is ensured and thus the minority is satisfied.
(2) This system is based on justice, because all parties get due representation in it.
(3) The voters get the right to elect the candidates according to their preferences and they are supposed to be careful while showing their preferences. The result is that they elect good candidates.
(4) The voters get political education in this system, because they are given the choice to elect good candidates in an order.
(5) It helps to elevate the character of the legislature by securing the election of more enlightened and distinguished representatives.
(6) According to Lord Acton, “It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no choice in the government; and it brings men more near equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted of his own.”
(7) The sphere of corruption and wastage of money is reduced because the influence of such parties is less, as try to keep the balance in their own hands. No one party commands much influence in the legislature.
(8) The voter is more free, because he can indicate his preference.
(9) No single party is in a position to secure absolute majority, but all the parties get some representation and thus no party can establish its dictatorship.
(10) Generally coalition governments are formed in this system. They take care of all in order to maintain stability.
Demerits of Proportional Representation:
(1) This is a complex system, and there is a great difficulty in the counting votes in single transferable vote system.
(2) Small parties get proportional representation, coalition governments are formed and the cabinets are unstable.
(3) There is no close contact between the representatives and the voters, because the constituencies are very large. The representatives, therefore, do not feel responsible to their constituencies or areas.
(4) This system is impracticable for a big country.
(5) Since many groups get representation in this system, each group tries to enact laws favoring its own interests. Thus there is an adverse effect on the laws.
(6) It will give a setback to Parliamentary government, because the government will become unstable owing to many small groups in the legislature and no party will be responsible to the people. In the words of Esmein, “To establish the system of proportional representation is to convert the remedy supplied by bicameral system into a veritable poison it is to render cabinets unstable, destroy their homogeneity and make parliamentary government unstable.”
(7) There is no provision for bye-elections in this system. Bye-elections are the mirror of the public opinion. According to Dr. Finer, the bye- elections indicate the political trend, but this type of election is not possible in proportional representation system.
(8) From political point of view, the utility of this system is doubtful. Laski was of the view that the problems of the modern State could not be solved by a reform of electoral machinery.
These problems could be tackled more by the elevation of the popular standard of intelligence and the reform of the economic system than by making men choose in proportion to the nearly graded volume of opinion.
2. Limited Vote-System:
The entire country is divided into big constituencies. At least three representatives are elected from each constituency. Each voter is given the right to cast less than three votes. If five representatives are to be elected, then the voters are to cast 3 votes and if seven representatives are to be elected, than the voter can cast five votes.
In this system the voter cannot cast more than one vote in favour of one candidate. The result will be that the minorities will get some representation. For example, from a three-member constituency, the majority will send two representatives and the minority will be able to send one representative.
There are many defects in this system. The main defect of this system is that the minorities do not get Proportional Representation. They get only a small representation. Secondly, when the number of parties is large, this system does not work properly.
Sometimes minorities do not get any representation at all. Thirdly, this system cannot be introduced in single-member constituencies.
3. Cumulative Vote System:
In this system the constituencies are Plural or multiple. The voter has to cast as many votes as the number of candidates to be elected. In this system the voter can cast all his votes in favour of one candidate and if he wishes, he can cast some of his votes in favour of one candidate and the rest in favour of other candidates. In this system, the minorities can cast all their votes in favour of one candidate only and thus get one candidate elected.
The advantage of this system is that the minorities get some representation. But the drawback of this system is that sometimes popular candidates secure more voles. Since the minorities cast all their voles in favour of one candidate, many votes go waste. Secondly, every party does not get proportional representation.
Thirdly, the control and evils of the political parties increase to a great extent. The minorities have to organise themselves in order to get their candidates elected. The political leaders maintain a strict discipline in their parties and they appeal to the voters to divide or accumulate their votes carefully.
4. Separate Electorate System:
In this system the constituencies are delimited on the basis of religion. First of all Britishers introduced this system in India in 1909. The Muslims were given the right to elect their representatives separately in 1909. Similarly the Sikhs were given this right in 1919 and the Harijans in 1935.
According to this system seats were reserved for every community and the constituencies were made according to the seats. From the Muslim constituencies, only Muslim candidates could contest election and only Muslim voters could cast their votes.
Undoubtedly, the minorities used to get some representation in this system but there are many defects in it. First of all, the national feelings are destroyed. People become narrow-minded. Communal hatred prevails everywhere and various groups suspect and dislike one another.
The evil of the system of separate electorate ultimately resulted in the partition of India in 1947 and wholesale massacre of the minorities took place. So this system was abolished in the new constitution of India.
5. Joint Electorate with Reservation of Seats:
In this system seats are reserved for minorities in the legislature under the Constitution. Constituencies are not made on a communal basis. The Hindus have the right to cast their votes in favour of the Muslims and the Muslims have the right to vote for the Hindus.
Only those candidates who have regard for the interests of all the communities, can win the election. It creates the feeling of unity and the spirit of nationalism becomes strong. The representatives have in mind the interest of the whole of the country and not of their own community only. In the Constitution of India, seats were reserved for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes for 20 years since its promulgation. This period has now been extended till 1990.
At the time of elections all seats are filled up but sometimes some legislators resign or die. So their seats fall vacant and to fill those seats bye-elections are held. The advantage of a by-election after the general elections is that the voting trend of the people is known. Thus some estimate for the coming elections can be made by political parties.
Essentials of a Good Electoral System:
The following should be the essentials of an ideal electoral system:
(1) Adult Franchise;
(2) Director Election:
(3) Secret Ballot;
(4) Strict laws for immoral and undesirable activities at the time of election;
(5) Free and fair election;
(6) The abolition of Separate Electorate and Plural Voting and introduction of Joint Electorate;
(7) Protection of the Minorities;
(8) The basis for the political parties should be political or economic and not communal;
(9) Close contact between the voters and the representatives;
(10) The elections should neither be too early nor too late. A gap of 5 years between the two elections is quite appropriate;
(11) The members should place national interest above local interests;
(12) Provision for by-elections.