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Cover Introduction to Politics

11. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines some of the central issues associated with voting and electoral systems, along with the functions of legislatures. It begins by discussing the two paradoxes of voting. First, the huge number of citizens in any modern state means that no individual’s vote is likely to make the difference between two or more choices, making it potentially ‘irrational’ for any individual to bother to vote at all. Yet votes make democracy possible. The second voting paradox concerns the difficulty of relying upon votes to determine the objective preferences of the public. The chapter proceeds by considering measures that aim to establish quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also describes different types of legislatures and the internal structure of legislatures. Finally, it analyses trends in the backgrounds of legislators in various countries, specifically focusing upon the criticism that they constitute a ‘political class’.