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List Elections - Explained

In comparison to a single candidate election, the electorate votes for a list of candidates. Learn more about the different types of list elections and download free ballot templates for your election.

Closed List Election

Closed list elections (also fixed list) are lists of candidates on ballot papers. Voters may not select individual candidates but are forced to vote for the group in general. This system allows voters to vote for a party rather than an individual and is most frequently used in politics for systems with proportional representation. From a political perspective, this has the benefit of highlighting national issues rather than candidates battling over localized policy. Conversely, local issues are more likely to be pushed to the side.

Download free ballot paper templates for your fixed closed election here

Candidates are chosen for on closed list elections by parties and interest groups. These groups decide who the leading candidate and frontrunners will be. The positions that the candidates are applying for, or will receive once elected, are usually stated clearly on the ballot paper. This means that interest groups decide on behalf of the voters which candidates will get what positions.

Well known examples for list elections are for the second vote in German elections, Israel and South Africa.

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Open List Elections

It is important to remember what list elections aim to achieve - an organization or party chooses their preferred candidates and presents it to the public to vote on. There are therefore various types of open list election, all of which are aimed at giving more control to voters over who is elected. There are a few different types of free list election types that we will go through.

Firstly, semi-open list elections allow voters to cast their votes onto candidates within a ballot. The order, and therefore ranking, of the list is determined by the party or organization. For the electorate to overrule the list, there is often a quota that has to be reached. For example in the Dutch House of Representatives a candidate will take precedence over other candidates if they achieve over 25% of votes.

Another type of list election is where candidates are ordered in the list according to how many votes they receive. candidates that receives the most votes are elected. The final variation on list election is panachage (also: free list elections). This system gives the electorate more than one vote per ballot paper. Voters are allowed to distribute their votes across candidates and, in some elections, are able to stack their votes behind a one or more candidates.  This system is used at all levels in Switzerland, in Parliamentary elections in Ecuador, and in the majority of German states.

You can download free ballot paper templates for list elections here

POLYAS-Tip: Regardless of your election type, POLYAS will meet all necessary requirements and ensure that you receive a legally valid election result at the press of a button. Learn about all functions in our POLYAS online voting support center >


Checklist for your list election

If you submit an election proposal, you should be sure of the legal framework set out in your electoral procedures. In your bylaws, the rules and regulations surrounding how elections may be conducted will be stated. After the election proposal has been approved, you can begin creating an election management council and begin planning your list election.

List election checklist

  • How many supporting signatures are needed for your election, candidate selection or fixed list? What form do your submissions have to take? If they are over one page then you will have to print the proposal on ever piece of paper. 
  • What are the deadlines for your election to be successfully implemented?
  • What are the conditions that the chosen candidates have to meet?
  • What information regarding the candidates has to be present on the ballot paper?

Learn about the different types of forms you need for an election proposal. Make sure that your election will happen and be legally valid. 

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