The Expressive Case against Plurality Rule

Journal of Political Philosophy 27 (3):363-387 (2019)
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Abstract

The U.S. election in November 2016 raised and amplified doubts about first-past-the-post (“plurality rule”) electoral systems. Arguments against plurality rule and for alternatives like preferential voting tend to be consequentialist: it is argued that systems like preferential voting produce different, better outcomes. After briefly noting why the consequentialist case against plurality rule is more complex and contentious than it first appears, I offer an expressive alternative: plurality rule produces actual or apparent dilemmas for voters in ways that are morally objectionable, and avoidable under preferential voting systems. This expressive case against plurality rule is both simpler and more ecumenical than its consequentialist counterpart, and it provides strong reasons to prefer alternatives to plurality rule. Moreover, it suggests a distinct way of evaluating different alternatives like preferential voting.

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Daniel Wodak
University of Pennsylvania

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