By Marcus Carlsen Häggrot
Political Theory 51 (2)

Many democracies use geographic constituencies to elect some or all of their legislators. Furthermore, many people regard this as desirable in a noncomparative sense, thinking that local constituencies are not necessarily superior to other schemes but are nevertheless attractive when considered on their own merits. Yet, this position of noncomparative constituency localism is now under philosophical pressure as local constituencies have recently attracted severe criticism. This article examines how damaging this recent criticism is, and argues that within limits, noncomparative constituency localism remains philosophically tenable despite the criticisms. The article shows that noncomparative constituency localism is compelling in the first place because geographic constituencies foster partisan voter mobilisation, and practices of constituency service help to sustain deliberation among constituents and within the legislature and promote the realisation of equal opportunity for political influence. The article further argues that it is unwarranted to criticise geographic constituencies for being biased against geographically dispersed voter groups, for causing vote-seat disproportionality, and for being vulnerable to gerrymandering. The article also discusses the criticisms that local constituencies may pose risks of inefficiency and injustice in resource allocation decisions, may lead legislators to neglect the common good, and may limit citizens’ control over the political agenda. Whilst conceding that these objections may be valid, the article argues that they do not outweigh the diverse and normatively weighty considerations speaking in favour of noncomparative constituency localism. Finally, the article’s analysis is defended against several variants of the charge that it exaggerates the benefits of geographic constituencies.



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