ABSTRACT

Structuring the vote is the minimum function of a political party in a modern democracy. Even by the broad definition of a political party as a group seeking to elect government officeholders under a given label, it is not possible for a group to qualify as a party unless it does structure the vote. All that is meant by the awkward word “structuring” is the imposition of an order or pattern enabling voters to choose candidates according to their labels (whether or not the labels appear on the ballot). The structure may be little more than that provided by the label itself and the voters’ acquaintance with it, or it may involve a vast educational and campaigning apparatus mobilizing voters for a party cause. In one way or another, parties provide a basis—although not the only one—for electoral choice. Voters may still make their choice on some other basis, like individual candidate appeal, but party labels, persisting over many elections and many candidates, simplify the voter’s decision. Indeed, they become most relevant for new mass electorates. Structuring the vote, regularly and systematically, was not a characteristic of what were called parties in pre-democratic times.