POLYAS Election Glossary

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D'Hondt Highest Averages Method

In a list election with proportional representation, the ratio of votes must be determined.  The D'Hondt method is named after the Belgian lawyer Victor D'Hondt. This method of counting votes is also referred to as the greatest divisors method and is known in Anglo-Saxon countries as the Jefferson method, while in Switzerland it is referred to as the Hagenbach-Bischoff method.

The D'Hondt system of highest averages determines the highest average value for the nomination lists that were voted for, and this determines the allocation of seats. The number of votes in a nomination list is divided by a proportionally increasing series of numbers (1, 2, 3,...), resulting in the highest average. These are compared across the lists and the available seats are distributed according to the order of the highest average.

Example of proportional representation calculation

For example, if list (1) receives a total of 85 votes and list (3) receives 44 votes, the first seat is awarded to list (1) at a ratio of 85:1 = 85. However, list (3) gets the second seat with the calculation of the highest average 44:1=44. The numerical series is determined by the number of seats to be allocated and is accordingly divided by the order of the list, starting from the top to the last seat. 

The D’Hondt method for seat allocation is somewhat controversial because it slightly favors the largest party over the smallest. Alternative vote-count methods are available which aim to minimize this disadvantage, such as the Hare-Niemeyer method and the Webster (or Sainte-Laguë/Schepers) method.

See also: Hare-Niemeyer method, Webster method, Election Principles, Ballot paper, Proportional representation

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