Voting Rules for

Different uses for voting need different types of voting.

Intro to multi-winner elections for voter turnout.

Statistics by Country

Voter Turnout Statistics by Country
This table shows how much voting rules impact some measures of democracy in 34 countries.  A newer page shows the top 20 countries, and it lets you sort national voter-turnout statistics by voting rule, election of women and policy results.

Column 2 tells the Voting Rule that elects the country's lower house.
“SWD” countries use winner-take-all, Single-Winner Districts.
“PR” countries use some form of Proportional Representation.
“MMP” systems elect a mix of reps by PR and SWD, usually plurality.

The Turnout of Voters is a measure of their motivation to participate. The best voting rules tend to increase voter turnout. They create fewer “wasted votes” and so give people more reason to go vote.

Women Elected shows the share of legislative seats won by women.

Notes: IRV= single-seat districts using Instant Runoff Voting.
Plurality= single-seat districts that do not require a majority. You may quickly see that plurality elections elect fewer women. The next page shows how this reduces health, safety and education.

Country Voting
of Voters
Date of
Australia (House) SWD 96% 15% 03/96 IRV
Austria PR 84% 27% 12/95
Belgium PR 91% 12% 05/95
Bulgaria PR   13% 10/91
Canada (Commons) SWD 70% 18%  10/93
Costa Rica PR   16% 12/92
Czech Rep. PR   15% 6/98
Denmark PR 83% 37% 3/98
Estonia PR   13% 9/92
Finland PR 72% 33% ___
France SWD 65% 10% ___3 Runoff
Germany SWD 79% 13% 10/94 Plurality
Germany PR 79% 39% 10/94
Greece PR 77% 5% 4/90
Hungary MMP   7% 4/90 Runoff
Iceland PR 86% 25% ___1
Ireland PR 69% 14% ___2 STV
Italy MMP 89% 15% 3/94 **
Latvia PR   14% 12/93
Lithuania PR   7% 11/92
Luxembourg PR 87% 20%   
Netherlands PR 80% 29% 9/89
New Zealand SWD 83% 15% 1996 Plurality
New Zealand PR 83% 45% 1996
Norway PR 83% 39% ___9
Poland PR   10% 10/91
Portugal PR 68% 13% ___1
Russia MMP   13% 12/93 *
Slovakia PR   18% 12/92
South Africa PR   25% 4/94
Spain PR 70% 25% ___3
Sweden PR 86% 40% ___4
Switzerland PR 47% 21% 10/91
Turkey PR 92%    
UK (Commons) SWD 76% 9% 4/92 Plurality
USA (House) SWD 39% 12% 11/94 Plurality

Australia is an unusual case. Its lower house has the highest percentage of women for any SWD legislature, 24.7% in the August 2010 election. It uses the Single Transferable Vote for one winner which Australians call “Alternative Vote” and Americans call “Instant Runoff”. As those names imply it A) lets a voter rank many candidates and B) combines the primary and general elections so there are often more than two important candidates; this encourages voter participation; turnout is about 90%. (Voting, like taxes and jury duty, is compulsory for citizens.)

Australia’s upper chamber is elected by multi-winner STV. Each province returns six senators. This filled 32.9% of the seats with women after the October 1998 election. The women's share of seats might be even higher if there were more than six seats in each district but A) 33% compares well with other countries and voting rules and B) more seats lead to more candidates which lead to longer, more difficult ballots for voters.

Ireland also uses multi-winner STV, but most districts elect only 3 or 4 reps.

Variables other than voting rules may influence voter turnout and election of women:

The newer constitutions are more likely to use PR.

But the age of the democracy does not correlate with accurate democracy because the oldest democracies (UK, USA) have not modernized and the newest democracies have not yet stabilized.

Language and culture, particularly religion and the education of women, strongly affect the election of women and resulting policies.

Latitude and climate: The accuracy of democracy correlates with distance from the Equator. This tends to be true even within a cultural region such as Western Europe or within one country. There are exceptions such as Costa Rica. And latitude can not explain why PR is three times more likely than plurality to elect women within a single country such as Germany or New Zealand, as the statistics above show.

Sources: FairVote the Center for Voting and Democracy, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

A new page shows the top 20 countries to let you sort recent voter-turnout by country, election of women and policy resultsPR quotes

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