Electoral Systems and Congressional Malfeasance: Comparing Brazilian Senators and Deputies in the Supreme Court Cases

Taeko Hiroi, University of Texas at El Paso


This article contributes to our understanding of the relationship between electoral systems and legislative malfeasance by examining personal vote, district magnitude, and electoral accountability.Studies emphasizing individual responsibility argue that personal-voteelectoral systems promote good performance by elected politicians and constrain their malfeasance by enabling voters to identify, monitor, and hold responsible individual politicians. Another strand of the literature claims that large district magnitude ensures the availability of good politicians and electoral competition, which reduce malfeasance. At first glance, personal-vote systems with relatively large magnitude districts, such as open-list proportional representation, appear to combine the beneficial attributes of the electoral systems that prior studies have shown to lower malfeasance. This study develops a proposition that due to high information costs to voters faced with many candidates,multimember-district personal-vote systems may weaken, rather than strengthen, electoral accountability. Thus, the combination of personal votes and large district magnitude can paradoxically encourage the entry of bad politicians, facilitate their elections, and fail to deter them from misconduct once elected into office. Examining data on congressional malfeasance in Brazil, this study finds that deputies, who are elected through relatively large magnitude open-list PR, are more likely to receive court notices about the charges against them than senator selected by plurality rule.