When most of us think about political systems, we think about republics, democracy or communism, but we don’t really think about the details of how world governments are run and the ways in which different countries elect their leaders. The recent US presidential election has brought some attention to the issue of the electoral college. The fact is that many people in the United States don’t know much about the electoral college or how it works – they just show up and pass their vote, then wait to see what happens. Even those who are informed about the difference between the popular vote and the way that the votes were spread out per state, and the impact that the college can have, may not have ever stopped to think about other governments and how they are elected.
There are several different systems used by world governments. For example, there is first past the post and proportional representation. These can have some significant impacts on the outcome of an election, especially in bigger countries. Think, for a moment, about a country with a very densely populated capitol city, but then a spread out population in rural areas; some of which are affluent, and some of which are not. Is it more fair to ensure that the greatest number of voters are happy (so focusing on those densely populated areas, or the biggest portion of the population) or is it more fair to ensure that you represent everyone? In first past the post, the party that gets elected gets elected. In proportional representation, the percentage of votes that a party gets affects the amount of representation that the party has in parliament – so those less populated areas still get some representation; every constituency has a voice. Many countries use a combination of each method for local and federal/countrywide elections.