Vote Counting in Proportional Representation

You’re electing a new board of directors for your cooperative or association? Or perhaps a new university committee? No matter which sort of committee you’re electing, choosing the appropriate electoral system is crucial for a successful election. First of all you’ll have to decide whether you’re holding a candidate election or a party list election. Another important question is the vote counting method: majority vote (e.g. first-past-the-post) or proportional representation

majority vote system is more suitable for a direct candidate election, whereas proportional representation is best used in a party list election. Proportional representation is especially democratic because, by allocating seats based on the proportion of votes received by each party, each and every vote counts. Under this vote counting method, the will of the electorate is well represented by the final allocation of seats. Additionally, minorities are afforded the opportunity to participate through proportional representation by having electoral lists. Proportional representation is particularly advantageous if a certain number of voter groups and eligible voters are involved.

In a proportional representation election, you can choose between different calculating methods when allocating seats. Below we’ll explain the most commonly used vote counting procedures. 

Vote counting methods in proportional representation

D’Hondt highest averages method
Many electoral codes use the d’Hondt highest averages method. It’s a commonly used method in which the first seat is allocated to the party with the highest number of votes, then all remaining seats are allocated based on a series of calculations.
Click here for a detailed explanation of the d’Hondt highest averages method! 

The Webster or Sainte-Laguë/Schepers-method
Under the Webster method (also called Sainte-Laguë/Schepers), the allocation of seats is determined using a divisor for the separate lists. If you want to increase the chances of particularly small groups gaining seats, then this method is particularly democratic.
Learn more about how the Webster method works here! 

The Hare-Niemeyer-method
Until 2008, the Hare-Niemeyer-method was the most commonly used vote counting system. Smaller parties, groups or less popular candidates are better represented using this method. The allocation of seats according to Hare-Niemeyer is also called the “Quota-Method”, or largest remainder method, and calculates the remaining seats by using decimal places.
Here you can read up on the Hare-Niemeyer-method and see an example calculation! 

Proportional representation: vote counting

After learning about the various vote counting possibilities, we explain how to apply proportional representation to party list and candidate elections. 

Proportional representation: vote counting in a candidate election

The first question you should ask yourself is how many seats are up for election. If just one seat needs to be filled, then a majority vote is recommended. In general, candidate elections tend to function better under majority voting rather than proportional representation.
Read more about majority voting in candidate elections.

If more than one seat is up for election, you’ll need to determine the number of available votes per voter / for different voter groups. As soon as all valid votes are tallied, you can allocate the seats with your chosen vote counting method. Moreover, vote counting in proportional representation can get more complicated if you, for example, decide on using cumulative voting.
Save time and money in the vote counting process by holding your next election online. Our election experts can advise you on all the details!

Proportional representation: vote counting in a list election

If you would like to conduct a party list election, you can choose between a closed and an open list election.
In a closed list election, voters have one vote and vote for an entire electoral list. The candidate order on the electoral list is pre-decided so that the voter has no direct influence over which candidate receives a seat. The first candidate on the electoral list is therefore more likely to gain a seat than candidates towards the lower part of the list. 

A variant of the closed list election is the combined election, where the voter can first decide on an electoral list and then do a preference vote. In this form of voting, the order of candidates is not important for the allocation of seats, but rather the number of votes received by each candidate on the list. 

If you choose an open list election, voters are not bound to one electoral list but can allocate their votes to candidates from different electoral lists. This procedure is also called panachage. As soon as the voter votes for one candidate, the corresponding electoral list automatically receives a vote as well.
All varieties of list elections include the possibility of cumulative voting, meaning a preferred candidate can be given more than one vote by each voter. 

After the election the proportion of votes in the different lists is calculated using the chosen vote counting method, and the seats are allocated to the candidates and different lists. 

POLYAS-Tip: POLYAS online voting software legally counts your votes in seconds. The election results can be downloaded and used to correctly allocate seats. Learn about all functions in our POLYAS online voting support center >

Advantages of online proportional representation

With POLYAS you can conduct legally valid online elections and decrease organizational costs in proportional representation elections. You won’t have to count ballots manually in order to calculate the vote proportion – you’ll receive counted ballots with just one click. Additionally, you’ll benefit from useful features in an online election: you’ll be able to view voter turnout in real time and send voting reminders to increase voter turnout.

Combine voting procedures according to the needs of your voters: Your voters can vote via postal vote, conveniently online from home or do live voting at the annual meeting.