Choosing the Rules: Preferences over Voting Systems for Assemblies of Representatives
51 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2014 Last revised: 20 Mar 2017
Date Written: January 18, 2017
There are many situations where different groups make collective decisions by voting in an assembly or committee in which each group is represented by a single person. There is a great deal of theoretical, normative literature on the question of what voting system such an assembly should use, but a consensus is lacking. Instead of studying theoretical concepts on the design of voting systems, I ask which voting systems individuals actually prefer. This is important for the legitimacy and acceptance of voting institutions. To answer this question, I design a laboratory experiment in which participants choose voting systems for assemblies when they do not know which group they will be in (and, as a control, when they do know it). Behind the veil of ignorance, participants predominantly choose voting systems that allocate more voting power to larger groups than the most prominent theoretical concept suggests. In front of the veil of ignorance, participants predominantly choose voting systems favoring their own group.
Keywords: Committee voting; Assembly of representatives; Penrose’s Square Root Rule; Banzhaf power; Shapley-Shubik power; Optimal apportionment
JEL Classification: D71, C90, C91, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation