Electoral Systems and Representation: the Effects of District Magnitude

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District magnitude (the number of representatives elected from a district) influences the strategies legislators adopt to build and maintain electoral security. In comparison to single member districts (SMDs), representatives in multimember districts (MMDs) compete for votes alongside a large set of candidates, and often share a party affiliation with other candidates competing for one of many available seats in the same district. This project sheds new light on the effects of district magnitude on the political careers of elected representatives and the nature of representation provided by a legislature. Utilizing a unique data set of campaign and legislative behavior in conjunction with personal interviews of current state legislators in four states, I find that those elected in MMDs build and maintain electoral support differently from those in SMDs. Specifically, I find that district magnitude influences the way candidates interact on the campaign trail, attention to local governments and organized interests, the degree to which representatives specialize, and the balance of power in the legislative chamber. The results have important implications for our understanding of the relationship between electoral systems and democratic representation, and suggest that many long-standing assumptions regarding the influence of district magnitude on elite political behavior may be in need of revision.