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Electing the House: The Adoption and Performance of the U.S. Single-Member District Electoral System, Jay K. Dow

Reviewed by Alex Keena

In this well-researched investigation of the origins and evolution of the U.S. electoral system, Jay K. Dow offers a defense of single-member districts (SMDs) in the House of Representatives. The book begins with a discussion of the ideas that animated the framing of the U.S. constitution. Dow follows fundamental disagreements between “Federalists” and “Anti-Federalists” over the nature of civic virtue, the public good, and tyranny to show how these distinct perspectives informed the design of representation in the House of Representatives. The Federalists, who were largely coastal elites, saw the House as a place for debating ideas among well-educated men who were capable of putting self-interest aside for the common good. As such, Federalists preferred larger, more diverse districts, where voters could choose from a larger pool of well-qualified candidates and elected officials would govern as trustees. In contrast, the Anti-Federalists viewed the House as a place for “the balancing and reconciliation” of conflicts of interests (p. 18) and saw representatives as delegates who served the interests of their constituencies. Ideally, districts would be smaller and more homogeneous, so that representatives would be intimately knowledgeable of their districts and their constituents’ interests and citizens could hold unresponsive repre

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