Effects of Ballot Type and District Magnitude on Local Public Goods Bill-Initiation Behavior: Evidence from Honduras

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2021, Vol. 74(2) 388 –402
© 2020 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912920905885
The study of electoral systems is at the heart of political
science, and this is for good reason. It is believed that
through different mechanisms, they affect how democra-
cies work and contribute to shape public policies (Chang
et al. 2011; Lijphart 1999; Lizzeri and Persico 2001;
Milesi-Ferretti, Perotti, and Rostagno 2002; Persson and
Tabellini 2003). In spite of being one of the most studied
fields in political science, we still lack an understanding of
the consequences of these formal institutions. Particularly,
a theorized relationship between proportional representa-
tion (PR) electoral systems and legislators’ personal vote-
seeking behavior,1 through activities such as the provision
of local public goods (LPG), remains understudied
(André, Depauw, and Shugart 2014; Colomer 2011).
In the American politics literature, the single-member
district plurality rule system is a frequent culprit of pork-
barrel behavior by members of the U.S. Congress.2 This
literature is both quite old and extensive (e.g., Ansolabehere,
Gerber, and Snyder 2002; Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina
1987; Fenno 1978). However, in the past three decades,
scholars have become increasingly interested in explaining
whether PR has an effect on how legislators represent the
interests of their constituencies (Colomer 2011; Edwards
and Thames 2007; Hallerberg and Marier 2004; Shugart,
Valdini, and Suominen 2005; Wessel Tromborg and
Schwindt-Bayer 2019).
To a great extent, this interest has been motivated by
Carey and Shugart’s (1995) seminal contribution. PR sys-
tems consist of multimember constituencies. This means
that the number of seats per constituency—that is, district
magnitude (M)—is greater than one. PR systems also use
either candidate-centered or party-centered ballots. Carey
and Shugart (1995) suggested that variations in the ballot
type and M interaction can produce diverse incentives on
legislators’ personal vote-seeking behavior. Scholars
studying different forms of relationship between constitu-
ents and legislators have found that Ballot Type × M
interaction affects the behavior of legislators and voters
significantly, thus following the personal vote-seeking
incentive distribution expected by Carey and Shugart
(André, Depauw, and Deschouwer 2014; André, Depauw,
905885PRQXXX10.1177/1065912920905885Political Research QuarterlyMuñoz-Portillo
1University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
Corresponding Author:
Juan Muñoz-Portillo, School of Political Sciences, Faculty of Social
Sciences, University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Email: juanmanuel.munoz@ucr.ac.cr
Effects of Ballot Type and District
Magnitude on Local Public Goods Bill-
Initiation Behavior: Evidence from
Juan Muñoz-Portillo1
An influential literature predicts that incentives to provide local public goods are conditioned by how electoral
systems expose a legislator to the need to seek a personal vote. Carey and Shugart theorize that district magnitude
and ballot type interact affecting the legislators’ personal vote-seeking behavior. Another literature challenges the idea
that electoral systems affect the behavior of legislators, particularly in highly clientelist settings, usually associated with
high poverty. I empirically evaluate these arguments on an original data set of local goods bills presented by legislators
of the National Congress of Honduras between 1990 and 2009. Honduras changed its electoral system from closed-
list to open-list in 2004 while keeping its district magnitude constant. The results suggest that the Ballot Type ×
District Magnitude interaction does not affect the behavior of legislators in small magnitude constituencies, where
poverty is more significant. However, support for the hypotheses is found in the largest, more developed constituency
where M is equal to twenty-three seats.
clientelism, electoral systems, Honduras, legislative studies, personal vote, political economy

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