The second method is the general ticket system or scrutin de liste, or the multiple-member constituency. Under this system, the country is not divided into as many electoral districts as the number of representatives to be elected.
A smaller number of districts, or constituencies, are created from each of which several members are elected. The size of the district determines the number of representatives it will send and each elector has as many votes as there are members to be returned.
The advantages claimed for the single district system are that it establishes a more intimate relationship between representatives and their constituents and ensures that all parts of the State will be duly represented. The representative may also be known to the constituency, for very often he belongs to the district itself.
The voters can, thus, intelligently exercise their votes and elect those persons who are deemed best and capable of discharging their responsibilities most conscientiously. The representatives, in their torn, being personally familiar with the needs of their constituents, can get their grievances removed.
To sum up, the single-member constituency method of electing representatives “increases the responsibility of the voter in choosing his representatives and, at the same time, perhaps, intensifies the interest of the representative in and his responsibility to his constituency.”
The representative is keen to regularly nurse his constituency and acquaint his electors how he has justified the trust reposed in him. He cannot afford to remain oblivious of the fluctuations in public opinion and if he feels that the popularity of the party to which he belongs is receding, he becomes clamorous, because it means a fall in his electoral support.
This system of election also provides adequate opportunities for the representation of minorities, and secures a reasonable balance of interests. The comparative smallness of a single-member district tends to reduce the expense and trouble of an election. The system is simple and intelligible, and it can be conveniently and advantageously applied in large States.
But the single-member district method is not free from defects. The first objection is that it narrows the choice in the selection of candidates which may lead to the election of not only inferior, but often corrupt representatives.
The choice is still more restricted when the single-member constituency method is coupled with the locality rule. The representatives so chosen begin to entertain a very narrow idea of representation.
They regard themselves as the representatives of local interests rather than the representatives of the nation as a whole. Such a political mentality is highly detrimental to national solidarity.
“The custom which regards the legislator,” says Gamer, “as the representative of a particular locality is responsible for the election of men whose energies are likely to be engrossed with the pressure of petty local influences, and, therefore, often deprives he State of the services of able statesmen who would be willing to serve in the legislature could they be freed from such influences.”
Finally, as the single-member constituency method requires a constant revision of areas, the party in power resorts to the process of “gerrymandering”, that is to say, the electoral areas are formed in such a way that the ruling party’s majorities are spread over the largest number of constituencies possible and coop up the opposing party with overwhelming majorities in a small number of districts.
The merits claimed for the general ticket method are that it ensures that the majority will prevail.
Finer says that “the ideal system that is to say, a system having exactness of representation as its only object would be that in which the whole nation was taken as a single constituency, where lists of candidates for the whole number of members of the legislature could be presented and advocated by anybody.
Such an arrangement, if it could be organised, would provide an exact reflection of majority and minority groups.”
Then, the general ticket method allows greater freedom in selecting candidates and this permits the election of superior men. And when the members elected represent the whole State, instead of a single district, they will make their actions conform to the welfare of the State as a whole rather than to those of particular districts.
But the defects of this system “are not only serious”, observes finer, “they are actually destructive of the values most people want from representative government.” The general ticket method leads to a mushroom growth of political parties with confusing programmes, baffling the judgment of voters.
Then, the electoral area being the State as whole or huge multi-membered districts, it will not be possible for the electors to have a personal assessment of the candidates. The result is centralised authority of the party machine to organise the issues and conduct the campaign. And it permits the least degree of local and personal adaptation of the candidates.
There is, accordingly, complete divorce between the electors and their representatives. Neither it is possible for the representatives to nurse their constituencies nor does the system allow bye-elections. All this is against the elementary principles of a representative government.
Finally, it does not give adequate representation to minorities. Under the general ticket system, a party casting a majority of the votes can elect all the representatives with the result that minority parties, even though they constitute a very considerable part of the electorate, may be wholly without representation.
Under the district system the minority parties, unless they are in a minority in all the districts taken independently, will secure some representation. It should be noted, however, that under the district system, it is possible for a party that is in a minority in the State as a whole, to secure a majority of the representatives.
This happens when the bulk of the voting strength of the majority party is concentrated in a few districts while that of the minority party is widely spread over.
In spite of certain obvious drawbacks, the single district plan has been accepted as the most favoured electoral method. In fact, there is no plan of election which may be free from drawbacks. The general ticket plan, too, is making a rapid headway with the introduction of the system of proportional representation.
The system of proportional representation possesses not only all the advantages of the general ticket method, but obviates its disadvantages by ensuring that minority parties will secure representation and that such representation will be proportionate to their relative strength.