Elections and electoral politics

Week 11

Class coordinators

Connor McNeil, Allyssa Millie


Elections and electoral politics are the major punctuation marks in democratic states, both testing the quality of the democracy and offering the opportunity to citizens to change leadership and policy direction. But do they really fulfill the democratic promise? Are voters manipulated by political specialists? Do political parties and elites have too much control of the process through mass media, big-interest spending, organized mobilization, and outright misinformation? Or perhaps voters are smarter and more aware than they get credit for.

Beyond elections and electoral politics, there are many other forms of political participation, and one of the characteristics of the millennial generation seems to be active engagement in political issues combined with distrust for traditional politics and political parties.

Learning objectives

Explain the current Canadian SMP system and various alternatives under consideration.

Elections, Electoral models, Constituency / Riding, Campaign, Candidate selection, Strategy, Platform, political participation, protest behaviour

Required reading

  • Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapter 15 “Election campaigns, voting, and political participation”


Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor
Week 11 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation
[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]
[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives [5D]
[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]
[5] Critical Approaches and Studying Politics [5D, GLI]
[6] External resources [class coordinator]
[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]
[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)

Suggested resources – Canadian electoral issues

Presentation – Democratic Values and Citizenship (2010)
Presentation – Parties and elections (the basics)
Elections Canada
Bruce Cheadle, “SNC-Lavalin violated federal Elections Act with contributions to Liberals,
Tories,”Canadian Press, 8 Sep 2016
CBC “Election reform bill an affront to democracy, Marc Mayrand says” 8 Feb 2014
CBC  “Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer says the election system needs a 21st century overhaul
28 Sep 2016, (7:28)
CBC “Chief electoral officer warns of tight timeline to implement electoral reform,” 7 Jul 2016
Fairvote Canada
Partisan interests?
Conservative Case for Electoral Reform
Does gerrymandering happen in Canada?

Suggested resources – comparative electoral issues

Kimuli Kasara and Isabela Mares, “Unfinished Business: The Democratization of Electoral Practices in Britain and Germany,” Comparative Political Studies, Sep 2016. (established democracies may be less democratic than we think – including Canada)

Svetlana Kosterina, “Why Vote for a Co-Opted Party? Endogenous Government Power Increases and Control of Opposition Politicians in Authoritarian Regimes” Comparative Political Studies, Sep 2016 (Opposition parties in authoritarian regimes

Charles Butcher and Benjamin E. Goldsmith, “Elections, Ethnicity, and Political Instability” Comparative Political Studies, Sep 2016

Snyder, J. L. (2000). From voting to violence: Democratization and nationalist conflict New York: Norton

Wring, D. (1997). Reconciling marketing with political science: theories of political marketing. Journal of Marketing Management, 13(7), 651-663.

CBC Ideas From the Trenches, “Too Dumb for Democracy.” Evidence suggests that people can’t make rational, autonomous choices that are implied by electoral decisions.

Next up

The international system includes not only states, but non-state actors, and major economic interests that seek to shape the order to accommodate their preferences. All states are subject to external influences, and week 12 is a chance to see Canada from the outside and ask how its international environment affects it.  Trade, defence, refugees/immigration, foreign fighters, and the impact of environmental change are some of the issues you may wish to explore in the penultimate week.