Module code: POL2046

Module Overview

Electoral systems are the cornerstone of an effective democracy, facilitating the formation of governments and in turn enabling the public to hold governments to account. The module aims to deepen students’ knowledge of the electoral systems, voting behaviour and the consequences of these for different political systems. It introduces students to the mechanics of majoritarian, proportional and mixed electoral systems, the administration of these types of elections as well as their consequences for the allocation of preferences, representation and the wider political system. Students will have the opportunity to explore and debate different types of ballot papers, electoral formulas for seat allocation (e.g. d’hondt) and options for electoral reform in the UK and elsewhere.

Voting is the key way in which citizens can influence the direction of their nation; holding politicians and their parties to account. This module explores key explanations for why people choose to vote at all and also what factors are accounted for in their decision to vote for particular candidates. It goes beyond classical theories of voter behaviour such as class voting, partisanship and rationalism to consider their contemporary relevance and whether short-term issues are playing an increasingly important role. Students will explore the role of political leadership and issue voting, as well as ways in which participation can be encouraged.

This module discusses electoral systems and voting behaviour in the UK but also offers a broader, comparative perspective, covering a wide range of other countries.

The module complements and expands elements of UK electoral systems featured in POL 1017 (Debates in British Politics) and on theories of voting behaviour such as rational choice which have been discussed in POL 1012 (Introduction to Politics).  There are no pre-requisites for this module and students have the opportunity to carry out independent research on a recent election of their choice for the case study assessment.

Module provider


Module Leader

MIDDLETON Alia (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

The content for this module may include:

  • The importance of electoral systems and voting behaviour

  • Encouraging voting (regulations and compulsory voting)

  • Electoral administration and integrity

  • Majoritarian electoral systems (FPTP, Two Ballot, Alternative Vote, Supplementary Vote)

  • Proportional systems (Party Lists)

  • STV

  • Two vote/ Additional Member Systems

  • Electoral Reform

  • Class, religion and ethnicity: sociological voting models

  • Partisan identification and vote choice

  • Rationality, turnout and making your vote count

  • Issue-based and valence voting

  • Leadership and voting

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework CASE STUDY (3000 WORDS) 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • The ability to apply theoretical concepts to contemporary elections.

  • The capacity to critically engage with an electoral system and its effects

  • Strong use of primary research skills.

  • The ability to integrate original research with existing literature/knowledge.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Written briefing on electoral system: 1000 words (30%)

  • Case Study : 3000 words (70%)


For the defence assessment students will be asked to write a defence of one electoral system (from a choice of 3). Please see the module handbook for further information. In the case study assessment students are able to select a country and election of their choice for analysis. This analysis will include an exploration of the salient features of the electoral system used, alongside consideration of its effects (this may be on institutions, representation, political parties, voter choice or democracy itself).  Assessments deadlines to be confirmed – students should refer to the Module Handbook prior to the start of semester.


Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive feedback on the first assessment before submitting the case study. Time will be set aside in seminars to discuss aspects of the assessment. Where students are asked to complete small tasks in advance of - or during - classes, verbal feedback will be given to the group as a whole.

Module aims

  • Build on students’ existing knowledge of electoral systems and voting behaviour
  • Give students an understanding of the implications of the use of particular electoral systems in different contexts.
  • Develop students’ ability to analyse contemporary elections and electoral outcomes through existing theories and analytical frameworks.
  • Enable students to critically apply key voter behaviour theories to contemporary elections
  • Understand strategies through which participation in voting can be encouraged

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Develop advanced knowledge and understanding of the different electoral and voting systems KC
002 Enhance their understanding of contemporary theories surrounding the problems of the aggregation of preferences at elections and of voting behaviour KC
003 Understand the main arguments for and against different types of electoral system and be able to defend or critique them in a sophisticated fashion KC
004 Independently research a country, election and electoral system of their choice and apply relevant theories and debates to this case study. CPT
005 Understand the implications of electoral systems and voting behaviour on democracy.( KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Immerse students in the mechanics of electoral systems and their consequences

  • Facilitate the discussion and analysis of contemporary election results.

  • Encourage independent research between classes

The learning and teaching methods include:

Workshop sessions (2 hours per week x 11 weeks) to include: lectures, prescribed reading, group discussions, election simulations, independent study, research and analysis of primary material. May include the preparation of short tasks prior to the weekly seminars (information to be given to students in the preceding seminar).

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: POL2046

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Public Affairs MPA 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics with French BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics with German BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
International Relations BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature with Politics BA (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics with Creative Writing BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics with Spanish BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics and Economics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics and Sociology BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.