Political Science Faculty Publications


Does the transfer of votes really matter?

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This article examines the impact of the transfer of votes in the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Alternative Vote (AV) electoral systems in the context of electoral reform. Specifically, it investigates Irish and Australian elections to answer two questions: how often is a transfer of votes needed for a candidate to secure a seat and how often does the transfer of votes produce a ‘winning’ candidate who was not a leading candidate before the transfer? The paper reaches two conclusions. First, the transfer of votes contributes to the election of the overwhelming majority of candidates in STV, but not in AV. Second, the greater the number of seats in a district, the greater the likelihood that the transfer of votes will push a trailing candidate into office at the expense of a leading candidate. Thus, the larger the district magnitude, the greater mechanical effect of the transfer upon the outcome of an election.

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