User Contributed Dictionary



mal (bad, wrong) + apportionment


  1. Any system where one group has significantly more influence than another, such as when voting districts are unevenly spread out across a population (cf. gerrymandering).

Extensive Definition

This article is about political apportionment. For the legal term, see apportionment.
Apportionment is the process of allocating political power among a set of principles (or defined constituencies). In most representative governments, political power has most recently been apportioned among constituencies based on population, but there is a long history of different approaches.
The United States Constitution, however, apportions political power differently to its upper house, the Senate, and its lower house, the House of Representatives. Within the Senate each state is represented by two seats, the result of compromise when the constitution was written. Seats in the US House of Representatives (the House) are apportioned among the states based on the relative population of each state in the total population of the union. The states then create districts from which representatives will be elected to serve in the US House of Representatives. The ideal is that each district would have an equal amount of population. States can lose or gain seats at each decennial census. Districts must be redrawn within each state after each census to reflect population changes.
Apportionment is also applied in party-list proportional representation elections to distribute seats between different parties once they've won a particular percentage of the vote. Current philosophy is that each person's vote should carry the same weight in legislative bodies that are derived from population. There is no single agreed upon way of measuring malapportionment. Using the ratio of the largest district to the smallest district may seem like an obvious way, but it does not tell us the overall degree of malapportionment. For example, in India, every district is assigned one member in the national lower chamber. The largest district, Thane, had a population of 1,744,592 in 1991. That same year the smallest district Lakeshadweep had a population of 31,665. Even though Lakeshadweep was outnumbered nearly 50:1, this information does not tell us the overall degree of malapportionment nationwide. If the smallest and highest populated districts are outliers, they could represent extreme cases although the overall country has a very low degree of malapportionment. There are many different mathematical schemes for calculating apportionment, which can produce different results in terms of seats for the relevant party or sector. Additionally, all methods are subject to one or more anomalies.
With the Hamilton method, party A with vote total P(A) is entitled to its mth seat before party B with vote total P(B) is entitled to its nth seat if and only if P(A)/Q-m > P(B)/Q-n, where Q is a fixed amount called a quota.
A popular alternative is a family of methods where the condition can be represented as P(A)/f(m-1) > P(B)/f(n-1) where f(x) is a function that, for practical applications, yields a number between x and x+1. Five choices for f(x) have received support over the years :
  • f(x)=x (the Adams method or method of smallest divisors)
  • f(x) set to the harmonic mean of x and x+1 (the Dean method)
  • f(x) set to the geometric mean of x and x+1 (the Huntington-Hill method or method of equal proportions)
  • f(x) set to the arithmetic mean of x and x+1 (the Webster method or method of major fractions)
  • f(x)=x+1 (the Jefferson method or method of greatest divisors)
Malapportionment, or unequal representation, is broad and systematic variance in the size of electoral constituencies resulting in disproportionate representation for a given voter. Malapportionment is only possible within electoral systems that have districted constituencies - an electoral system with only one national constituency, such as those in Israel and the Netherlands, cannot be malapportioned.

Malapportionment around the world

Malapportionment in the UK and Australia

Constituencies tend to vary according to some factor such as geographic location. Well-known examples include the differences between urban and rural constituency sizes in many Australian states. (Queensland, Western Australia and the 'Playmander' in South Australia in the past afforded far more notorious examples), as did the recently abolished smaller United Kingdom parliamentary constituencies in Scotland (with the notable exception of Orkney and Shetland. The UK retains a substantial malapportionment in favour of urban voters mainly because the redistricting process has not caught up with the residential shift to suburb. , which currently benefits the British Labour Party. The effects of malapportionment vary with time: deliberate over-representation of rural Queensland changed from favouring Labor to favouring the National Party .

Malapportionment in the United States

expert-portal Politics The United States Congress
The US Constitution apportions political power in the Senate equally among the states of the union regardless of population or geography. Article V specifies that this cannot be changed by amendment except with the consent of all affected states. Each state was given equal power. Until passage of the 17th Amendment, this made perfect sense because the state legislatures appointed the Senators.
As the people of each state elected their state legislators, they could be said to indirectly elect the Senators. The proximity of the state legislators to their constituents and the relative isolation of the state legislators from the national parties apparatus located in Washington D.C. may have provided a somewhat better representation for the common people.
The amendment provided for direct election of Senators by voters of each state. Due in part to the huge sizes of Senatorial constituencies and the changes in political campaigns, the cost of candidacy is approximately $12M. This cost of candidacy has increased a candidate's need for fundraising to run a competitive campaign.
Due to the relatively small number of seats in the US House of Representatives (435), related to the nation's population of roughly 300 million, the political power of the House of Representatives for several states is malapportioned. The representation was defined by the US Constitution to be based on population. The malapportionment occurs because of discrepancies created with round-off. As an example, the per capita influence of the state of Wyoming is almost twice that of Montana because the states have the same number of seats, but the population of Wyoming is smaller. The only cure within the Constitution is to dramatically increase the number of members/seats in the House of Representatives. (See Article The First.)

Malapportionment in state legislatures

Many states suffered through periods of extended malapportionment, which were created by failures of state legislators to reapportion after significant population shifts across established districts. The State's legislature is historically the body that draws district lines and apportions. As elected representatives, legislators have a self-interest in not giving away power, and often did not reapportion for fear of losing political power as changes came to states.
Among the most egregious examples in malapportionment was the Alabama state legislature's refusal to reapportion either the state House or Senate from 1901 until 1972. The result was that by 1960, 25% of the population of the state controlled the majority of the seats in the white, rural-dominated legislature. This rural v. urban split went beyond the related fact of racial and class disfranchisement. In 1901, like most southern states about the turn of the century, white Democratic state legislators had ratified a new constitution with provisions that effectively disfranchised African Americans and poor whites. This was a reversal of the state's having extended universal white suffrage at its establishment in 1819. By 1940, 600,000 poor whites and 520,000 African Americans had been disfranchised. The disfranchised had no representation in the state legislature. The failure of the legislature to reapportion meant also that the hundreds of thousands of industrialized and urbanized populations of the state were underrepresented for most of the 20th century.
In many states in the US, malapportionment was related to racial and class issues. For example, during much of the 20th century in Southern States, the Democratic rural areas dominated urban areas by refusing to redistrict although populations changed considerably. While most African Americans were disfranchised in the South, most voters were Democrats, but the urban populations suffered from inadequate representation. The result was that, in some cases, rural districts would have drastically less population than an urban counterpart and still hold an equal or greater number of representatives or senators, thereby diluting the voice in the legislature of the latter compared to that of the former.
Several notable lawsuits brought to the Supreme Court in the early 1960s challenged state apportionment systems, with Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims among the most important of these. The plaintiffs claimed that malapportionment was discriminatory and illegal under the Fourteenth Amendment. The US Supreme Court agreed, citing the doctrine of "One Man, One Vote" .
An example of how “One person, One vote” has helped to minimize malapportionment is that it requires congressional redistricting every ten years, following the census. One Pennsylvania plan was rejected by courts because the districts were nineteen voters apart, in districts of half a million people. The use of computers allows the states to virtually eliminate malapportionment every ten years with the census data. However, the ruling does allow for gerrymandering. During congressional redistricting, districts may each be assigned an equal population, but the use of gerrymandering may lead to malapportionment along political party lines, with the party in power trying to ensure its re-election.
Following the 1990 census, for example, the state house of Tennessee's first attempt to redistrict was rejected by the courts for systematically over-representing rural West Tennessee, then predominantly Democratic, at the expense of rural East Tennessee, then predominantly Republican. . Following the 2000 census, Georgia's first attempt at redistricting the state senate was thrown out for systematically under-populating then Democratic-held districts and systematically overpopulating then Republican-held districts throughout the state. .

Malapportionment in Australia

The Australian Senate is elected on a basis of equality among the states: all states elect 12 Senators, regardless of population. This leads to Tasmania, with a population of 450,000 people electing the same number of Senators as New South Wales, which has a population of six million. The senate is designed to ensure that the smaller states are not neglected.
The distribution of seats in both the federal and state legislatures have been subject to malapportionment, often resulting in rural constituencies containing far fewer voters than urban ones, in turn often maintaining in power parties with rural support bases despite polling far fewer popular votes. See: Australian electoral system#Gerrymandering and malapportionment

Malapportionment of the Diet of Japan

Another example is the systematic over-representation of voters in more rural prefectures and under-representation of voters in more urban prefectures in elections to the Japanese parliament. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party thus wins more seats in the Japanese parliament because its voters are concentrated in more rural prefectures.

Malapportionment in the Philippines

See: Malapportionment in the House of Representatives

Malapportionment in Spain

The Spanish Congress of Deputies consists of 350 members. Each Spanish province is a constituency entitled to an initial minimum of two seats for a total of 100 seats, while the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are allocated one member each. The remaining 248 seats are allocated among the fifty provinces in proportion to their populations. The result is that the smaller provinces are virtually guaranteed a minimum of three seats and have a disproportionate share of seats relative to their electorate. in 2004 for example Spain had 34,571,831 voters giving an average of 98,777 voters per deputy . However the number of voters per deputy varied from 129,269 in Barcelona and 127,377 in Madrid to 38,714 and 26,177 respectively in the smallest provinces of Teruel and Soria.
In the Spanish Senate each of the forty-seven mainland provinces are assigned four seats, while the three largest islands are allocated three seats each, and the seven smaller islands one each. The North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are allocated two seats each. Additionally, the legislative assemblies of the seventeen autonomous communites into which the provinces of Spain are grouped are entitled to appoint at least one Senator each, as well as one Senator for every million voters. The result is in a bias in favour of mainly rural areas. For example the community of Madrid with 4,458,540 voters in 2004 has 9 senators while Castilla y León with 2,179,521 voters has a total of 39 senators.
malapportionment in German: Sitzzuteilungsverfahren
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