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Representation and the Electoral College$
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Robert M. Alexander

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190939427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190939427.001.0001

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Theories of Representation

Theories of Representation

(p.22) 2 Theories of Representation
Representation and the Electoral College

Robert M. Alexander

Oxford University Press

This chapter details applicable theories of representation relative to the Electoral College. It examines how representation has been operationalized over time, paying specific attention to Hannah Pitkin’s seminal work on the topic. Using her concepts of formalistic, descriptive, symbolic, and substantive representation provides a common framework to evaluate how the Electoral College performs relative to these standards. Edmund Burke’s distinction between delegate representation and trustee representation further aids the objective assessment of the Electoral College relative to expectations regarding representation. An examination of how electoral rules affect different dimensions of representation is undertaken in a comparative context. Analyzing how different nations use different electoral systems provides greater insight into what the Electoral College process emphasizes regarding representation. Acknowledging the importance and potential tension among popular sovereignty, federalism, and legitimacy is essential in evaluating the merits of the Electoral College.

Keywords:   Hannah Pitkin, Edmund Burke, trustee, delegate, formalistic representation, descriptive representation, symbolic representation, substantive representation, Electoral College

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