Electoral Systems

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSGA1EL1084

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd and 4th Semester, 2nd Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Anil Persaud and Ekta Singh

Email of course coordinator:,

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: 1) To equip students with the tools to make informed decisions regarding their participation in one of the most public elements of democracy. 2) To enable students to assess the quality of governance. 3) To place national elections around the world within a global context.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Identify the major electoral systems in use around the world.
  2. Determine the exclusions present and past within a given electoral system and study the innovations that have emerged to overcome those exclusions.
  3. Engage with the experiences and practices of different electoral systems.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Introduction: The Introduction focuses on the question, Why elections matter? They matter for various reasons: they are a recent historical phenomenon, they are by definition events of contestation, they have recently been the target of sophisticated assaults on local governance around the globe. The introduction explores the big decisions we make when we cast our vote.
  2. Histories as Theories of Electoral Systems: This module takes a global comparative approach to explore the emergence the most common systems such as: first-past-the-post voting, the two-round (runoff) system, proportional representation and ranked or preferential voting.
  3. Exclusions and Innovations: This module looks at the historical exclusions and the processes and movements towards the inclusion of these exceptions within electoral systems. For instance, themes such as the amendments and other innovations to electoral systems that led to the granting of the franchise to non-whites, women, ballot options such as NOTA, use of the EVM and gerrymandering will be covered.
  4. Experiences and Practices of Electoral Systems: Drawing on the above two modules, the emphasis in this final module will be on guiding students as they study and situate the specific election being studied in that semester within both its national and global contexts. Students will be expected to carry out simple analyses of key issues related to the electoral process such as, policies, media coverage, campaign rules, concerned institutions, natural resources and constituencies.

Assessment Details with weights:

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments): 1) Group Presentation(s) - PPTs by two groups per Module, For instance, students will be encouraged to make presentations on the popular histories of Indian elections, such as songs, pamphlets and posters, films and documentaries and possibly schedule a film series open to all members of the campus, (40%); 2) two in-class test(s) (15% each for a total of 30%); 3) Group Reports - prepare a Report on the election under study during that semester that aspires to a quality that it can be submitted to the country or region’s Election Commission - (30%: 15% will be awarded as a Group Grade and 15% will be awarded for each group member’s contribution to the final report). The in-class tests will be based on the materials covered in the respective module.

Reading List:

  1. Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal, “Studying Elections in India: Scientific and Political Debates”. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 3 | 2009. DOI : 10.4000/samaj.2784
  2. Michael Gallagher and Paul Mitchell, The Politics of Electoral Systems. OUP, 2005.
  3. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso, 1983.
  4. A. Evans, “Elections Systems”, in J. Bara and M. Pennington (eds), Comparative Politics. Sage, 2009. pp. 93-119.
  5. CSDS Lokniti website for elections surveys:
  6. Wikipedia ‘Electoral System’ page at and ‘List of Forms of Government’ page.
  7. Ornit Shani, How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise. CUP 2017 – Introduction.
  8. W.R. Clark, et al., “Democracy or Dictatorship: Does it make a difference”, in Principles of Comparative Politics. Sage, 2013. Chapter 9 pp. 325-347.
  9. VR Vachana, Maya Roy,“NOTA and the Indian Voter”.Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.53, Issue No.6, 10 Feb. 2018.
  10. K Ashok Vardhan Shetty,“Making Electronic Voting Machines Tamper Proof: Some Administrative and Technical Suggestions”, Policy Watch No. 6, Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, 2018.
  11. “Gerrymandering.”International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.
  12. Mudit Kapoor, Shamika Ravi,“A Silent Revolution: Women Voters in Indian Democracy”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 49, Issue No. 12, 22 March 2014.
  13. Yogendra Yadav, “Understanding the Second Democratic Upsurge” in F. Frankel et al. (eds), Transforming India: Social and Political Dynamics in Democracy. OUP, 2000. pp.120-145.
  14. C. Jeffrelot, “Why should we vote? The Indian Middle Class and the Functioning of the World’s Largest Democracy”, in Religion, Caste and Politics in India. Primus, 2008. pp. 604-619.
  15. Pradeep K. Chhibber (Author), Rahul Verma (Author), Ideology and Identity: The Changing Party Systems of India. Oxford University Press, 2018. These scholars have a number of articles published in newspapers that will make the issues concerned easily accessible to first year students.
  16. Articles from Newspapers and undergraduate friendly journals such as EPW. For instance there is no dearth of materials in EPW for students to utilize to compare the present elections with those of the past as mentioned above. For instance, the recent EPW Engage report on “How Does India Vote? A Short Reading List”, where they have “curated articles that present a picture of how electoral democracy operates for various communities, spaces and states [in India].” Economic and Political Weekly, EPW ENGAGE, ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846