[EM] The electoral system of the Weimar Republic

Tom Round T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Sun Aug 1 16:15:53 PDT 1999

Dear jdm,

Actually Weimar used fixed-party-list PR. Mixed-Member Proportional was a
post-1945 innovation (although an earlier version had been tried in
Denmark, in the 1920s I think) -- although, as someone I read once
commented, MMP did enable the Federal Republic to combine the single-seat
electorates that were used (with runoff ballot) before 1918 plus the
party-list system that was used 1918-1933.

The Weimar system was highly unusual in that the number of Reichstag seats
wasn't fixed in advance of election day. Instead the quota was pegged by
statute at 60,000 votes (I think). Initial allocation was in a few dozen
regional electorates -- each list got 1 seat for every whole 60,000 votes
-- then remainders for each party were pooled at State level, and finally
at national level, again awarding a seat each time a party's combined
left-over votes reached 60,000.

On the final national allocation, a remainder over 30,000 got rounded up,
but also a party could not win more seats at the third stage than it had
won at the first and second. (Ie, a very small party might have over 30,000
votes nationwide but if it couldn't muster 60,000 in any one State or
region, it still got no seats.) Mind you this was a very minimal threshold
and a large number of very small parties still won seats.

My sources for the above are:

*	Andrew McLaren Carstairs, A Short History of Electoral Systems in Western
Europe (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1980). 

* 	Clarence H Hoag and George H Hallett Jr (Proportional Representation.
New York: Macmillan, 1926).

Hope this helps, although I stand to be corrected on any of the details ...

At 08:45 AM 8/2/99 +1000, you wrote:
>To my knowledge, it was MMP as it is now... but don't quote me! I'll
>follow this up after I've searched the web. One book you may or may not
>get your hands on is one from just before Hitler became Chancellor, called
>"Proportional Representation"- it's a seminal work on the subject of PR
>and was commissioned by the US Proportional Representation Society
>I do know that Hitler's rise is often blamed on PR. That's not very
>accurate. At most times, the Nazis where over-represented because of the
>geographical distribution of their vote, which is the fault of FPP and
>single-member seats rather than PR. Also, all the other Right-wing parties
>of the time were particularly feral (including those that led to the
>modern Christian Democratic parties) and an "unholy alliance" of sorts was
>formed to punish the Left, which span out of control as the Nazis got more
>and more concessions from the other parties using the threat of violence.
>Under MMP, a certain number of the seats in a house are selected by
>single- or small-number-member seats. There is then an "At Large" process,
>where another lot of members are elected at large to make up (or
>approximate in some way) the proportions of the at-large vote that each
>party got.
>On Sun, 1 Aug 1999, mordles wrote:
>> Was it some form of proportional representation, first past the post?
>> Were the constituencies single member or multiple member?
>> There is a massive amount of literature about this turbulent period,
>> but my search for definitive answers has been fruitless.
>> jdm

Tom Round
BA (Hons), LL.B (Qld)
Research Officer, Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance
(incorporating the National Institute for Law, Ethics and Public Affairs), 
Griffith University, Queensland [Australia] 4111
Ph:	07 3875 3817
Fax:	07 3875 6634
E-mail: 	T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Web:	http://www.gu.edu.au/school/ccj/

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