The Need for Sociological and Political Knowledge in Improving Electoral Legislation

Lyubarev A.E.


The article discusses issues of election law that require research in political science, social science, political geography, social psychology as well as mathematic analysis of electoral statistics. These issues encompass all components of electoral legislation: the mechanisms that ensure electoral participation for people unable to vote at their polling station; the rules for registration of candidates and party lists; setting an optimal election day; optimal electoral redistricting; regulations for election campaigning; election fraud prevention; searching for optimum electoral system.

The election is a crossroads for many disciplines. Sociology, which is a study of society, views elections as an organized effort of a large number of people, as a way to display and detect sentiments that envelop the majority of the population or specific social groups. Political science views elections as various political institutions – political parties, politicians, government agencies – being proactive through communication as well as tracks the manifestation of political ideas and slogans in the course of elections. Law studies means and mechanisms of regulating the electoral sphere through statutory enactments as well as operation of institutions that settle electoral disputes. The list can be expanded with more particular disciplines like social psychology, cultural studies, political geography as well as mathematical methods of studying popular vote.

Elections are regulated by electoral legislation, which is a natural component of electoral law. It is common knowledge that electoral legislation is very volatile and is often subject to opportunistic change [6: 211–212]. However, the politicians who ignore scientific data and approaches often fail by getting the results that are far from those they anticipated by changing the electoral legislation. Raising the threshold to 10% before the 2002 election in Turkey may be used as an example: the parties that entered this threshold did not get into parliament as a result [17: 345].

It is also important to recognize that electoral law cannot be a stand-alone subject. The legal relations studied by electoral law are based on social interactions studied by sociology, political science and other disciplines mentioned above. The solutions put forward inside electoral law must be based on the data from these very disciplines.

This article discusses the issues or Russian electoral law that, in author's opinion, require studies in the field of sociology, political science and other disciplines.

Based on own experience, the author outlines the following components of electoral legislation:

1) institutions and regulations that deal with gaining and exercising active suffrage;

2) institutions and regulations that deal with gaining and exercising passive suffrage;

3) institutions and regulations that deal with organizing the elections;

4) institutions and regulations that ensure all voters generate their own will;

5) institutions and regulations that ensure the will of the voters is properly reflected in election results;

6) institutions and regulations that define the way voting results transform into election results.

The article will discuss each of these components and what kind of sociological, political, psychological and other knowledge is required to properly design legal standards.

The Challenges of Exercising Active Suffrage

When it comes to elections in Russia, the main challenge that arises from exercising active suffrage is providing a voter who is unable to vote at the place of their registration with opportunity to vote. Three mechanisms were created for this purpose on different occasions: early voting, absentee ballot voting and voting at current location. International practice shows some more examples of such mechanisms: postal voting, proxy voting, online electronic voting, although they either found no application whatsoever or limited application at Russian elections.

There are many groups of voters that require such mechanisms:

1) voters that do not reside at the place of their registration on either permanent or semi-permanent basis;

2) voters that are constantly or often on the move (long haul truckers, commercial travelers, etc.);

3) voters that temporarily leave their place of residence (on business, vacation, etc.);

4) urban voters who spend their weekend at the countryside (at holiday homes, hiking, etc.);

5) voters who have to work on election day (including those working outside their registered polling stations: members of electoral commissions, election observers, law enforcement officers, etc.).

It is obvious that whichever of the listed mechanisms is convenient for one group of voters is not necessarily convenient for the other, if not useless altogether. That is why voters who permanently reside outside the place of their registration are not able to vote early. Absentee voting was unavailable for them most of the time as well, since they had to either go to their place of registration themselves to get the absentee certificate or ask an official proxy to get it and mail it to them. The mechanism of voting at current location was developed for this group of voters in particular [9: 117–123].

On the other hand, voting at current location where the voter specifies the polling station where they are planning to vote is inconvenient for voters who are constantly on the move and cannot always know their location for election day beforehand. This mechanism (along with absentee ballot voting) also cannot help the voters who spend their weekend at the countryside or somewhere else that is located far from polling places.

It is also important to note that the efficiency of certain mechanisms depends on the type of election, or on the size of the constituency to be more exact. At federal election on a single constituency, the voter may vote at their current location or by absentee ballot at any polling station inside or outside the country. At local election, however, if the voter is staying outside the typically small constituency, they can vote neither at current location, nor by absentee ballot.

There are other solutions for certain groups of voters. An experiment was carried out in September 2019 where the voters who stayed in Moscow during gubernatorial election in their region or additional State Duma election could vote at the so-called electronic polling stations using touchscreen devices. Each of these polling stations (30) carried electronic ballots for all types of ongoing elections (20). There are plans to further develop and improve this mechanism by creating electronic polling stations all over the country. There is skepticism as far as the demand for this mechanism is concerned, however. The number of voters during the Moscow experiment for the most elections was small (less than 100 people): many polling stations registered either no voters for certain elections whatsoever or just one. There is also skepticism with regard to expanding the list of elections where this mechanism can be applied. For example, if this mechanism is applied to regional parliamentary election, such action will require a supply of hundreds of electronic ballots while municipal election will require several thousand.

Mayoral elections in Moscow in September 2018 and Saint Petersburg in September 2019 saw the creation of the so-called countryside polling stations outside these federal subjects. Experts concluded that this solution was too costly while also making the voting process difficult to monitor.

Another solution for voters who spend their weekend outside the city was extending voting hours until 10PM (voting typically stops at 8PM). This increases the workload of electoral commission, and the effect on voter turnout remains uncertain.

A more fundamental solution would be rescheduling the election day to the time when most of the electorate stays in the city. This question will be further discussed in another section.

A more fundamental solution for voters that do not reside at the place of their registration on either permanent or semi-permanent basis would be reforming the system of resident registration that would allow these citizens to register for voting at the place of their actual residence. Certain short-term measures cannot be implemented without such reforms. For example, Viktor Cherepanov suggests granting active suffrage at regional and municipal elections to the citizens who could be seen as belonging to a given territorial collective body [4; 5: 205–208].

The author believes that in order to find the most appropriate methods of exercising active suffrage for groups of voters at issue it is necessary to conduct sociological research that would help determine the size of each group. For this matter, analysis of the data in possession of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia has an important role to play.

For the time being, this agency is unfortunately very reluctant when it comes to sharing the impressively extensive amount of data at its disposal. For example, while the idea of voting at current location was being discussed in 2017, it turned out that the CEC not only has the data on the number of absentee voters (this data can be found in reports and is common knowledge), but also the data on the number of federal election voters in their home regions as well as other regions. Now the CEC has similar data regarding voting at current location, although the overall figures only became known thanks to journalists (25% rate of migration inside one territorial election commission, 43% inside one region, 32% between regions) [13], although it would be useful to have such kind of data for each region.

Another part of a more general issue is voting outside the voting premises. The law provides for a possibility to vote outside the voting premises (mobile ballot box) for voters who are for legitimate reasons (health problems, disability) unable to come to the voting premises in person. In practice, however, certain regions display a rate of 16–24% of the entire turnout when it comes to outside voting, while several rural regions display a rate of 30% or higher year after year. This means that voting outside the voting premises mechanism is used not only by the sick and physically challenged, but also by all rural voters that reside relatively far from the polling stations.

In 2018, the CEC of Russia, supported by experts, tried to counteract the situation by recommending that residents of such remote villages be transported to the polling stations instead of bringing the mobile ballot box to them. This proved effective, but only barely. The level of voting outside the voting premises remains relatively high [15: 339–343; 14: 1044–1048; 16: 480–482]. Transportation is more pertinent from the legal standpoint since it allows to properly monitor compliance with the law in the course of voting. However, it is necessary to study certain sets circumstances in order to determine the pragmatism of transportation. If voting outside the voting premises in remote villages proves to be an easier and cheaper option than transporting voters, it will be necessary to formalize this method legally and ensure that electoral rights of citizens are respected.

The Challenges of Exercising Passive Suffrage

Most of the challenges concerning passive suffrage are strictly legal. The author believes that the same nature is characteristic of passive suffrage restrictions as well as many challenges regarding the registration of candidates and party lists. Nevertheless, in order to solve a number of challenges, we must once again resort to reasoning of sociology, political science and psychology.

The Constitutional Court of Russia repeatedly pointed out that the legislator has the right to act for the benefit of the voters by providing for special preconditions that will allow to remove candidates with insufficient electoral support from the electoral process. There is one question, however: what circumstances require such preconditions and on what condition will the removal of unpopular candidates benefit the voters? It is obvious that such preconditions (or filters, simply put) are only required when there are too many candidates. If the number of candidates or party lists is small, everybody should be registered with no preconditions whatsoever.

The next question that immediately arises is: what does "too many candidates" mean? This is where psychological knowledge is required. The author believes psychologists have already found the answer. The answer is something known as Miller's law, which states that the number of objects an average human can hold in short-term memory is about 7 ± 2 [22]. It makes sense that the optimal number of candidates should be 7 to 9. The optimal number may be a bit higher for lists of candidates (let us say 12 to 15) since may lists typically have very pronounced political and ideological undertones that allow voters to keep some of these lists in long-term memory while rejecting the others without paying too much attention to them.

However, from the legal standpoint, it would be incorrect to use or not to use filters depending on the number of nominated candidates. The author believes that the candidates must know the conditions for registration beforehand. Besides, the number of nominated candidates is easily manipulated. It is therefore necessary that the legislation determines the circumstances that do not require any filters, meaning all nominated candidates may be registered (the so-called declared registration).

Russian electoral legislation stipulates declared registration for municipal deputy elections: it may also be stipulated by regional law for municipal entities with an average electoral quotient established by this law, but it must be no higher than 10 000. We believe that the federal law must reinforce declared registration for deputy elections in small municipal entities. The regional legislator must at the same time be allowed to broaden the circle of such municipal entities [9: 96–97].

As for determining the threshold of municipal entities where declared registration may be applied, a study of municipal election data is required. Such a study will allow to reveal which municipal entities display such a low level of competition at the election that no filter is necessary.

The issue of determining the optimal number of voter signatures required for registration of a candidate, especially if there is a change in how signatures are gathered (at designated places, via electronic services). If the municipal filter is preserved at gubernatorial elections, it should not be established at random, but instead be based on the study of party patterns among deputies. In case the electoral deposit is brought back, which is one of the main demands of a number of experts, determining its optimal size will also require additional research carried out with the help of economic geography experts [9: 97–99; 18: 132–153].

Electoral legislation norms related to exercising passive suffrage closely correlate with the norms of legislation on political parties. There is an excellent example of how arguments from political science are used to justify rules of law. Russian Constitutional Court Ruling No. 11-P from July 16, 2007 made the case for the rule of law that allowed to remove political parties with less than 50 thousand members from the race with an argument based on political science data: only the parties that are sufficiently large and well-structured may represent the will and interest of the multi-ethnic people of the Russian Federation. Besides, the Court's position implied a thesis that the number of members is an indicator of people's support for the party. However, our study proved both arguments to be false [21]. The author believes that a serious political science analysis is required in order to optimize the legislation on political parties.

The Challenge of Setting an Optimal Election Day

Among the number of challenges related to organizing the elections, there are two that require special study from sociological, geographical and other approaches. These are the challenge of setting an optimal election day and the challenge of optimal electoral redistricting. Let us take a closer look at each of them.

Ever since the 2012 federal law established a single voting day in September there has been debates over the most appropriate timing of the elections. A wide range of months has been put forward for the single voting day: in fall – starting at the end of September until December and in spring – March or April. Discussion revolves around the idea of bringing back two single voting days a year (fall and spring) as well as around total abandonment of the idea of a single voting day for the entire country, which will again allow regions to determine their own election days [18: 97–101].

The author believes that choosing the optimal timing for holding the elections requires calls for considering a great number of factors. Climate, for example, is one of the more important factors. Good weather conditions encourage citizens to spend time outside the city. Bad weather conditions (especially combined with icy or muddy roads) encourage citizens to stay at home. In other words, a weather that is relatively warm and dry is most appropriate for election day. At the same time it is necessary to consider the most popular vacation seasons (summer months, July and August specifically, the so-called "velvet season" in September, school holiday period) as well as seasons of bad road which lead to transport issues.

It is important to consider climatic and social factors not just for the election day, but also for the entire campaigning period. If signature gathering and canvassing fall to the vacation season, the election campaign has little effect.

The psychological state of the voters requires special attention. The case for spring is made by a generally more positive disposition of the population. Such arguments, however, should be supported by scientific data. Cases have been made for November and February being the most depressive months, which makes these months a poor choice for holding elections [28].

The question that stands out is as follows: is it possible to pick the most optimal period for holding election in all regions while considering all the mentioned factors? If it turns out this tasks is impossible to solve, this will be another argument in favor of abandoning the idea of a nation-wide single voting day.

There is only one argument in favor of a September election day: it is convenient in terms of the budget process [26]. Such statements, however, are not supported by any studies at any level – whether federal, regional or municipal.

The issue of single voting days is closely related to the issue of overlapping elections. Although overlapping elections (held on the same day) was a common practice even before single voting day was introduced in 2006, the very idea of a single voting day virtually compels the overlap. Moreover, the idea of overlapping elections in order to save public funds became one of the arguments in favor of single voting days. As a result, the number of ballot papers received by one voter may sometimes reach nine.

Overlapping elections also have their disadvantages. It becomes difficult for a voter to make a conscious choice, increases the level of protest voting and makes the job of electoral commissions even more complicated, which leads to more mistakes in tallying the results [18: 105–108].

It is therefore desirable to carry out psychological and sociological studies that would determine the number of ballots favorable for making a conscious choice.

The challenges of electoral redistricting

It is known that electoral redistricting may affect election results, which is why this process often becomes an object of manipulation in order to switch the results in favor of a certain political party. These manipulations date back two hundred years when they became known as "gerrymandering" [23; 17: 118–120]. In order to avoid or minimize the manipulations, redistricting is performed by independent agencies [8] based on specific rules of redistricting. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in particular recommended considering the following during redistricting:

· population density;

· ease of transportation and communication;

· geographical characteristics;

· existing structures of human settlements;

· financial viability and administrative potential of a constituency;

· financial and administrative consequences of redistricting;

· existing boundaries;

· common interests.

In practice, many countries use such criteria as equal population (or electorate) count, compactness, accounting for natural and administrative boundaries, common interests and cultural issues [29: 272–275; 24].

Russian legislation provides for three criteria: roughly equal number of voters, territorial integrity (only enclaves may be considered an exception) and accounting for administrative boundaries. At the same time, the first and the third criteria often come into conflict with one another. In this case, priorities are determined by the redistricting agency. Let us take regional elections as an example. The law stipulates that the deviation between the average electoral quotient and the number of voters in a single-mandate constituency generally must not exceed 10%. However, the rate of allowed deviations may be increased up to 20% in order not to redistrict the municipal entities.

Practice shows that some regions tend to remain within the 10% limit while allowing municipal entities to be redistricted. Other regions prefer to allow deviations from the average electoral quotient without redistricting the municipal entities and urban district that remain within the limit established by law [14: 83–117]. An analysis based on political science and sociology would help understand which of these two approaches is more preferable. The answer to these questions will most likely vary depending on the situation; however, a scientific approach is necessary in every case.

As for the criteria of compactness and common interest, they are not exactly articulated in Russia. Nevertheless, they are most likely taken into account on an intuitive level. Since 2014, however, there were cases of conscious violation of these criteria, which may be considered as gerrymandering. For example, a "petalled" redistricting pattern could be observed at the Tula Oblast parliamentary election: the constituencies stretched from the center of Tula to the periphery in a petal-like pattern and included urban and rural territories. A curious configuration could be observed in several constituencies at the Moscow city parliamentary election [15: 45–46].

The "petalled" pattern dominated the 2016 State Duma election: it was used in 45 regions out of 53 with more than one single-mandate constituency. This pattern was used this very same year in redistricting for regional parliamentary elections [14: 53–56, 83–117].

The "petalled" redistricting does not comply with the criteria of compactness (the constituencies either become stretched or have an unusual shape) and common interest (urban, suburban and peripheral territories with clearly differing interests are merged). However, as it was mentioned before, these criteria are not established in the Russian legislation. There is barely any mention of them in Russian academic literature as well. The democratic countries, however, pay a lot of attention to these issues, and we can easily find examples of how these issues are dealt with [29: 255–257, 274–275]. It is therefore important for political geographers to carry out studies in order to adapt these criteria for Russian electoral space.

The Challenges of Generating the Will of the Voters

The will of the voters is generated by means of what may be called political advertising. During election campaign it manifests as canvassing or electioneering. There are others means to generate the will of the voters, like information on political parties provided by electoral commissions, mass media and other sources as well as public survey results. The contents of the ballot play an important role as well.

While Russian legislation may pay special attention to some aspects, it completely ignores the other. For that matter, political advertisement is not regulated outside the election campaign whatsoever. At the same time, it is obvious that such advertising has a significant impact on the will of the voters, especially during the pre-election campaign period, when some parties hold the so-called primaries, other parties boost their public presence in other ways and potential candidates make their decisions to run for office public.

There are many restrictions when it comes to canvassing or electioneering. Some of them are justified, while others are quite controversial [18: 170–181]. For example, there is a restriction on the timing of canvassing ("campaign silences", mass media advertising 28 days before the election day, state and municipal TV and radio broadcasting during the workweek only), a restriction on subjects (state and municipal agencies, foreign citizens and organizations, electoral commission members, office holders on duty and others are prohibited from campaigning). Candidates and parties are not allowed to use any other funds except for election funds or to criticize their opponents on TV; there are restrictions on combining campaigning and activities that are considered vote buying as well as certain requirements towards printed campaigning materials.

There are less restrictions in regards of information material, and they are usually outlined only very briefly (the contents must be objective, reliable, must not violate equality of candidates and voter associations). The only type of information material that is strictly regulated is public survey results: certain details of the surveys must be published and it is prohibited to publish the results within five days before the election day. Ballot paper contents are strictly regulated as well.

There has been a long debate over whether keeping the voters informed and election campaigning should be considered separately. The author believes it is necessary if the restrictions listed above (or a portion of them) are preserved. It is therefore important to develop criteria for separating information distribution and campaigning. There has been several attempts at developing such criteria from a legal standpoint [2: 110–118], although it is important that social scientists and social psychologists are involved in the process.

The author believes that one of the main tasks of electoral sociology is understanding the mechanism behind how the will of the voter is generated and what factors affect the process. There is a number of competing theories that try to explain the electoral behavior of the voters; these studies are mostly based on studying the elections and electorate in the USA and Western Europe [6: 223–253; 38: 9–53]. If it is unclear how exactly these theories apply to mature democratic countries, it is especially unclear if they are able to explain electoral behavior of voters in Russia [27: 550–572].

Still, there is a general awareness that major political parties have a core electorate that always votes for "their" party and is hardly susceptible to canvassing or electioneering. There are voters that decide who they are going to vote for during the election campaign. There are also voters who make their decision at the polling station after examining the information in the ballot paper or on one of the summary posters at the polling station. It is important to determine the percentage of each of these groups through sociological study. Such studies are carried out in South Korea and Japan, for example [32; 30].

The situation is more difficult when it comes to voting for specific candidates. There are cases when candidates are very well known to the voters, but not as politicians per se: they may be known as journalists, performers, athletes, etc. (or as doctors, teachers, etc. when it comes to municipal elections) which makes their political views obscure. Most of the times the voters are either briefly familiar with the candidates or nor familiar at all, which is where the importance of information comes out. On the one hand, this information includes their party affiliation, which is reflected through whatever party nominated the candidate; it is important even if the candidate is not a member. The independent candidate may either specify their party affiliation or conceal it. There is no doubt that party affiliation is important to voters: this is what foreign research reveals [38: 146–157], although the same conclusion may be still made for Russia based on election results. Anyway, it would be best to determine the specific cases and voter groups.

On the other hand, biographical and social status data is very important as well, which provides a great scope for research. For example, the legislation demands the voter be informed on the candidate's criminal record – it is mandatory to specify this information in the ballot paper. Although it is still unclear whether the voter is capable to make a proper judgement based on the number of the Criminal Code article alone, especially without the year the sentence was passed.

At the same time, it is obvious that the voter is interested in positive biographical facts as well. State decorations, academic degree, military rank, etc. – this is objective information that will help the voter to make a clearer judgement of the candidate. It is debatable whether including such information into the ballot paper is appropriate, but it may be worth specifying it on the posters at polling stations.

Nowadays there is too formal an attitude towards specifying education background and place of residence. For example, stating that the candidate graduated from a so-and-so university does not make their occupation clear. The Electoral Code of Moscow initially required the candidate to state whichever district of Moscow they resided in: this information was assumed important for the voter considering the size of the metropolis. This requirement was later abolished.

It can also be assumed that the candidate's occupation may be important for the voter. It is once again a very difficult aspect to formalize, since the candidate may have several places of employment and the attitude of voters towards each of them may be different, the candidate may be involved in public work, they may be a working pensioner, etc. Whichever position is chosen for the ballot paper may influence the outcome of election.

There are specific issues concerning the contents of the ballot paper. Sometimes party names use stylized font to attract attention. The order of the parties in the ballot paper became a separate issue in recent years. The law makes provisions for lot drawing, and the analysis of the results received at regional parliamentary elections and regional center representative bodies indicates that lot drawing is often manipulated. United Russia gets the top spot on the list only too often with regard to probability theory while sometimes other parties are just as "lucky", like Communists of Russia, for example [16: 196–197].

At the same time, all ideas of the importance of the top spot on the ballot paper are based on the fact that the unknown Conceptual party Unity received 1.2% of votes at the 2003 State Duma election. The result, however, may have also been a consequence of its nominal similarity with United Russia, which at the time made its electoral debut. The effect may as well have been cumulative in fact. Having already had the experience of seven legislative election campaigns as well as two hundred regional and a great number of municipal campaigns, it is possible to study the issue of the top spot on the ballot at a more serious level.

Finally, it is important to check the justification behind many restrictions listed at the beginning of this section. For example, restricting state and municipal TV and radio broadcasting to working days only, prohibiting the publication of public survey results within five days before the election day, etc.

The Challenges of Measuring Election Results

The main challenges of tallying the results for Russian elections is election fraud identification and prevention. A very young branch of science that has not been named yet deals with election fraud identification. The methods used in this process are based on statistical analysis of election results.

Since election fraud methods are quite varied, the methods for their identification have to be varied as well. The methods are currently being developed, however some of them have already proved to be effective. In the 1990s, Aleksandr Sobyanin and Vladislav Sukhovolsky used the correlation method for election results and voter turnout that allowed them to identify cases of ballot-box stuffing [37: 73–109]. This method along with many others is also used by Mikhail Myagkov and his co-authors [25]. Andrei Buzin later introduced an upgrade to this method [3]. The very same hypotheses were used by Sergei Shpilkin to quantify ballot-box stuffing [17: 543–564]. Shpilkin later attempted to simultaneously measure the volume of ballot stuffing and shifting while upgrading his method [35].

Fabricated reports could be identified with the help of methods based on frequency analysis of digits appearing in various lines of the report. These methods, however, have not been tested enough yet [33: 105–120]. Special mention can be given to methods used by some researchers for identifying cases of voter turnout and/or specific party results coinciding with high accuracy rates [14: 1019–1021].

Peter Klimek used another approach [12] that further developed by Walter Mebane and Kirill Kalinin who introduced the so-called finite mixture model for diagnosing electoral fraud [11]. This model, however, is criticized for its mathematical background [34]. What may also prove useful is the development of geographical methods based on the hypothesis that groups of voters living close to one another display similar electoral behavior in most cases [33: 120–131].

All of these approaches require further development, testing and summarizing so that the struggle for fair election would carry on with the help of reliable statistical instruments.

The Challenges of Transforming Voting Results into Election Results

A set of rules that determine how voting results transform into election results makes up the foundation of an electoral system (in the strict sense of the notion) [17: 10–18]. The study of electoral systems interfaces between electoral law and political science [6: 186–222].

While analyzing various electoral systems, we concluded that each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages. At the same time, it is important to note that these advantages and disadvantages are not absolute: they are linked to specific circumstances in which the electoral system is used. Moreover, close correlation between various elements of the systems leads to their positive and negative features manifesting to a greater or lesser extent depending on the combination of these very elements [17: 565–571].

The clear implication of that finding is that in order to identify an electoral system that would be most effective for a certain type of election, it is necessary to assess the conditions of the upcoming election. These conditions include the state of the party system, the level of electoral culture, geographic features, administrative subdivision of a country or region, etc.

Let us provide several issues that were resolved with the help of political science studies as an example.

The debate between political scientists and legal practitioners over the preference of the mixed electoral system is still ongoing. The mixed non-compensatory (parallel) voting system applied in Russia receives a fair amount of criticism. A mixed two-votes compensatory voting system is proposed as a replacement – a system similar to that applied in German Bundestag elections (and many Landtag elections as well) since 1953. However, political scientists highly doubt this system will work in Russia just as well as it works in Germany. There is discussion around the possibility of using the "compensatory member" system (a mixed system where the voter only has one vote that goes to both the candidate and the party), which is similar to the system used in 1949 Bundestag elections and to the systems used in the federated state of Baden-Württemberg and in Estonia [39; 6: 209–211; 7; 17: 201–243, 586–591; 40; 18: 25–28].

The author believes this issue may be resolved through studying the split votes under the mixed electoral system both in Russia and in other countries. Many such studies may be found in academic circles abroad ([1; 10; 32; 31] for example). Similar studies were started in Russia as well [20; 17: 475–510], so continuing them seems only rational.

There is another challenge related to elections in multi-member constituencies. The elections in multi-member constituencies in Russia are mostly municipal, although such constituencies are used in some regional parliamentary elections. The main issue here is the number of votes a voter has. This number is traditionally determined by the number of distributed mandates. However, Russian Constitutional Court decrees that the number of votes must be equal for every voter, which is why in case the constituencies with different amount of mandates form at one and the same election, the number of votes will be limited – right up to giving one vote to the voter (the so-called single non-transferable vote).

Since there are thousands of municipal campaigns carried out in multi-mandate constituencies in Russia every year, an incredible amount of statistical data has been accumulated. This data may explain many things about electoral behavior at such elections. For instance, many voters do not use all of their votes, which makes it easier to calculate the used vote coefficient. It is also important to study the way the votes are divided between the candidates, including the winners, depending on the number of votes given to the voters [17: 134–148, 472–474]. Such studies will help understand which number of mandates in the region is the optimal one.

The third issue concerns the use of proportional representation system at municipal elections. The debates around this issue have been going on for a very long time [36; 19; 5: 216; 18: 38–41, 122–124]. Another question is whether the 2009 prohibition on public nonparty associations nominating party lists is justified. In this regard, it would be helpful to measure actual cleavages at the municipal level based on the analysis of debating points discussed at municipal representative body and the respective elections, and whether or not these cleavages have a political, corporate, territorial or other undertone. Nevertheless, similar studies will be helpful at the regional level as well, especially when it comes to those regional parliaments where no party represented an absolute majority.


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