Volume XXXVII, Number 2
May 2012

 

Introduction

Ever since James Madison's journal was made public in 1840, scholars have tried to decipher the voting patterns in the 1787 American Federal Constitutional Convention. Such efforts are challenging because the Convention used a unit rule that gave each state a single vote and because the delegates approached their task in a less than linear fashion, moving the decision making back and forth across a range of issues. To unravel the Convention's mysteries, in this issue of the Quarterly Jeremy C. Pope and Shawn Treier use ideal point estimates to identify how many dimensions cleaved the voting. Their approach allows them to advance beyond earlier studies because they are able to make use of all the available votes, simultaneously mining for all significant dimensions. The results of their analysis are consistent with many other studies in that they reveal that the most prominent division was on the question of legislative apportionment—the disagreement between the large population states and the small population states that ultimately resulted in the Great (or Connecticut) Compromise. But they also identify two additional dimensions that contributed to structuring the voting: one over the division of powers between the national and state governments and the other involving questions about the separation of powers among the branches of the new national government. A small division over the extent of legislative professionalism also appears. The approach taken by Pope and Treier, and the results they report, confirm much of what we have thought transpired during the Convention while adding a few important twists. In addition, by simultaneously examining all of the votes, their results give us greater confidence in our understanding of the Convention's voting patterns.

A major event in U.S. history also provides the grist for Scott R. Meinke's examination of the relationship between political party size and member calculations on floor votes. Meinke focuses on the U.S. House just before and just after the Civil War broke out in 1861. When representatives from the South, most of whom were Democrats, resigned their seats after their states left the Union, the Republican Party went from having a small majority in the chamber to having an overpowering one. This sudden and dramatic shift provides Meinke leverage on explaining member behavior. In this case, he is able to convincingly demonstrate that party voting declined with the increase in the size of the GOP's majority. But perhaps the article's most novel finding is that constituency measures partially explain the decline in party voting by individual members. This, of course, highlights the importance of the personal vote in explaining lawmaker voting behavior, particularly as the press of interparty competition declines.

The notion of a personal vote also plays a prominent role in Emanuel Emil Coman's analysis of the power of party leaders in the Romanian Chamber of Deputies. In 2008, Romania shifted from a closed-list proportional representation electoral system to a somewhat complicated system where candidates essentially run in single-member districts. This sort of change would usually be theorized to give individual members greater incentive to build a personal vote in their constituency and, at the same time, make them more resistant to the pull of party leader demands. But this is notwhat Coman finds. Comparison of floor votes before and after the system reform reveals that party leaders continued to exert considerable influence on important votes, in large part because parties continued to control the candidate nomination process. But the landscape changed on less important votes, those where leaders opted not to bind their members. In that instance there is evidence that those elected from single-member districts behaved more independently. Coman also reports evidence that in nonvoting activities—in this case the number of bill introductions and questions asked of the government—deputies elected in single-member districts were much more active than those who were elected under the previous electoral system. This behavior suggests that Romanian legislators are moving towards developing a personal vote, movement that may well accelerate as the reforms take hold.

The decennial redistricting process in the United States is an opportunity for those who draw the lines to do so in such a way as to benefit themselves and their political party. Observers of the process have long tended to focus on its overt partisan aspects. Recently, many scholars, Todd Makse among them, have reincorporated important geographic constraints into analyses of redistricting outcomes. Examining the outcome of redistricting in 22 U.S. states following the 2000 Federal Census, Makse reports that parties manipulated district lines for partisan advantages in ways that are not always noticed or acknowledged by journalists or political scientists. He demonstrates that parties that control the redistricting process in states with high-turnover legislatures do keep an eye on the partisan makeup of districts, as expected. But parties that draw the lines in low-turnover legislatures—institutions where incumbents have every reason to want to keep the same voters with whom they have established a relationship—manipulate the lines so that majority party members keep more of their previous constituents than do their minority party counterparts. This finding suggests that even seemingly bipartisan plans—ones that appear to protect all incumbents—may in fact be skewed in favor of the dominant party because its members get to keep more of their previous voters, allowing them to continue to capitalize on the creation of their personal vote. Minority party members may get districts with a similar partisan composition as their previous districts, but with more voters who had been represented by other lawmakers. This can make their reelection efforts more difficult.

Legislative scholars often think of legislators largely in terms of their partisan affiliation, seeing party as the main explanation for their behavior. The work of Mikael Gilljam, Mikael Persson, and David Karlsson reminds us that while party is clearly central, who lawmakers are and the experiences they bring with them to the legislature matter as well. Using a survey of more than 9,000 municipal lawmakers in Sweden, Gilljam, Persson, and Karlsson explore attitudes toward unorthodox forms of citizen protest, activities such as the occupation of a school building, illegal teacher strikes, and speaking without permission at municipal council meetings. They report, as we might anticipate, that more conservative lawmakers are less supportive of such activities than are their more liberal colleagues, and that members of government parties are less supportive than are members of opposition parties. But they also find that members who come from municipalities that experience more nontraditional sorts of protests are more comfortable with them.

—Peverill Squire
Senior Editor

 

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Lanny W. Martin as the Legislative Studies Quarterly’s new editor for manuscripts dealing with non-U.S. legislatures. Articles edited by John Carey will continue to appear in these pages for several forthcoming issues. Beginning July 1, 2012, new manuscripts dealing with non-U.S. topics should be submitted to Lanny W. Martin <lsq@rice.edu>, Department of Political Science, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, MS24, Houston, TX 77251-1892. As John Carey completes a three-year term as co-editor, I would like to thank him on behalf of all of us who are engaged in publishing LSQ for devoting his expertise and his time to the journal. John’s own innovative work in comparative legislative research and his reputation in the legislative research community worldwide have enabled us to continue to have excellent, well-edited manuscripts on legislatures outside the United States in our pages. We look forward to his continued association with our Quarterly as a member of our Editorial Board.

—Gerhard Loewenberg
   Director, Comparative Legislative Research Center

 


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