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a : Additional Member System through At-Large

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  • Additional Member System: Another term for a mixed member proportional system.

  • Additional Member System : Another term for a mixed member proportional system.

  • Alternative Vote (AV) : A preferential, plurality-majority system used in single-member districts where voters rank their preferences on the ballot. A candidate who receives over 50% of first-preferences is declared elected. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority of first-preferences, candidates with the lowest number of votes are eliminated and votes re-allocated to the next viable candidate until one candidate has an absolute majority of votes cast. (See also Instant Runoff Voting).

  • Approval Voting: A voting system used in single-member district systems and single-office elections in which voters can vote for, or approve of, as many candidates as they wish. Each candidate approved receives one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. The winner need not garner a majority of the votes.

  • At-Large : A type of electoral jurisdiction where representatives are elected from the whole political region (i.e.: a city, county, state or nation).

b : Ballot structure through Borda Count

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  • Ballot structure: The way in which electoral choices are presented on the ballot paper.

  • Block Vote: A plurality-majority system used in multi-member districts where electors have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected. Voting can be either candidate-centered or party-centered. Counting is identical to a first past the post system, with the candidates with the highest vote totals winning the seats. Also known as the Bloc Vote.

    Additional Information:
  • Block Vote: A plurality-majority system used in multi-member districts where electors have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected. Voting can be either candidate-centered or party-centered. Counting is identical to a first past the post system, with the candidates with the highest vote totals winning the seats. Also known as the Bloc Vote.

  • Borda Count : A non-proportional form of preferential voting where voters rank candidates. These ranking are converted into points; the candidate with the most points wins. Candidates score one point for being ranked last, two for being next-to-last and so on, with the first-choice candidate receiving points equal to the total number of candidates. For example, in an election with five candidates, a first ranked candidate would receive five points, a second ranked office seeker four and so on.

c : Candidate-centered ballot through Cumulative Vote

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  • Candidate-centered ballot: A form of balloting where an elector chooses between candidates.

  • Candidate-centered ballot : form of balloting where an elector chooses between candidates.

  • Choice Voting: A proportional voting system used in at-large or multi-member district elections where voters rank candidates in order of preference. Candidates win by reaching a threshold through a process of surplus transfers and eliminations. (See also single transferable vote and preference voting)

    Additional Information:
  • Choice Voting : A proportional voting system used in at-large or multi-member district elections where voters rank candidates in order of preference. Candidates win by reaching a threshold through a process of surplus transfers and eliminations. (See also single transferable vote and preference voting)

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  • Closed List : A form of list proportional representation where electors are restricted to voting for a party only, and cannot express a preference for any candidate within a party list.

  • Compensatory Seats : The party list seats in a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system awarded to parties based on their proportion of the national vote. These seats are designed to correct the often disproportionate results of plurality-majority elections.

  • Contiguous districts : Districts comprised of areas geographically adjoined or touching.

  • Cumulative Vote : A semi-proportional system used in some American localities that uses multi-member districts. Voters have the same number of votes as seats and may allocate them among the candidates in any way they see fit—including giving more than one vote to a particular candidate.

d : Distribution Requirements through Droop Quota

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  • Distribution Requirements: The requirement that a winning candidate must not merely win a specified proportion of the vote nationally but also a specified degree of support from different regions.

  • District : The geographical regions into which a city, state, or country is divided for election purposes. Single member districts elect one member of the legislature whereas multimember districts elect two or more.

  • District Magnitude : The number of members to be elected in each district.

  • Droop Quota : Used in highest average method and Single Transferable Vote/ Choice Voting elections to determine the number of votes necessary to win a seat. The threshold is intended to be the lowest vote total that only the winning number of candidates can get. The quota is ascertained by the following formula: total vote divided by the number of seats plus one, then one is added to the product.

e : Electoral Formula through Electoral System

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  • Electoral Formula : That part of the electoral system dealing specifically with the translation of votes into seats.

  • Electoral Law : The constitutional and legal provisions governing all aspects of the electoral process.

  • Electoral System: A set of rules and procedures that govern the election of public officials by specifying, chiefly, the electoral formula, the ballot structure, and district magnitude.

f : First Past the Post (FPTP) through Full Representation

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  • First Past the Post (FPTP) : A plurality-majority voting system used in single winner elections where the candidate with the most votes wins without necessarily a majority of votes. It is the most common system used in nation-states descended from the British and French Empires, including the United States and Canada. Certain jurisdictions couple the use of a First Past the Post system with runoff elections if no winner attains the majority of votes in the initial election.

  • Free List : A form of list system PR providing for cumulative voting.

  • Full Representation: A term used by proportional representation proponents to describe electoral systems that aim to reduce the disparity between a party's share of the national vote in a legislative election and its share of seats. For example, if a party wins 40% of the votes, it should win approximately 40% of the seats.

g : Gerrymandering through Gerrymandering

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  • Gerrymandering : The manipulation of district boundary lines in order to advantage or disadvantage a candidate or political group. Gerrymandering is typically used to create a district that is favorable to an incumbent, advantage a particular party or political group to receive more seats than its proportion of the vote, or to conversely disenfranchise a group or party by weakening or dividing that subset of the electorate.

h : Hagenbach-Bischoff Formula through Highest Average Method

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  • Hagenbach-Bischoff Formula : Another term for the Droop Quota.

  • Hare Quota : Used in largest remainder full representation systems to determine how many votes are needed to win a seat. The quota is ascertained by dividing the total vote by the number of seats.

  • Highest Average Method : A family of formulas used with list systems to translate votes into seats, including the d'Hondt formula and the Sainte-Laguë Formula. Party vote totals are divided by a series of devisors, which differ according to the system used. After each stage, the party with the highest average wins the seat.

i : Imperiali Quota through Invalid Votes

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  • Imperiali Quota : Sometimes used in largest remainder systems to determine how many votes are necessary to win a seat. The quota is ascertained by dividing the total vote by the number of seats plus two.

  • Index of Disproportionality: A figure illustrating the collective disparity between the votes cast for parties in an election and the seats in a legislature they win.

  • Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) : A majoritarian electoral system used in single winner elections where voters rank candidates in order of preference. A candidate who receives over 50% of the first preference votes will be declared the winner; if this does not occur, the ballot count simulates a series of runoff elections. The candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for that candidate are "transferred" to second choices as indicated on voters' ballots. This process of transferring votes continues until one of the candidates has a majority.

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  • Invalid Votes : Ballots cast that are unable to be included in the vote total due to accidental or deliberate errors on the ballot.

l : Largest Remainder Method through List Proportional Representation

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  • Largest Remainder Method : General term for the Hare Quota, and the Droop and Imperiali calculation methods, which translate votes into seats within List PR systems. There are two stages to the count. First, parties are awarded seats in proportion to the number of quotas they fulfill (quotas vary depending on which of the three systems are used). Second, remaining seats are awarded to parties on the basis of the leftover votes they possess after the 'quota' stage of the count. Largest remainder seats are allocated in order of vote size.

  • Limited Vote : A plurality-majority system used in multi-member districts; electors have more than one vote but fewer votes than there are candidates to be elected. Counting is identical to a first past the post system, with the candidates with the highest vote totals winning the seats. When voters have only one vote, it is also known as the one-vote system or the single non-transferable vote (SNTV).

  • List Proportional Representation : A form of proportional representation used in multi-member elections where the party submits lists of candidates to be elected. Voters vote for the party. The seats are allocated to each party in proportion to the share received in the national vote using various allocation methods. The most common methods are: D’Hondt, Sainte-Laguë, and largest remainder formula. Party lists of candidates can be open, closed, or free. List proportional representation are also known as party list proportional or list systems or List PR.

m : Majority Rule through Multi-Member Plurality Voting System

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  • Majority Rule: Is a principle feature of first-past-the-post (FPTP) systems, where the majority in the electorate is rewarded with 100% representation. In a two-way FPTP contest, a candidate receiving a bare majority of 50% + 1 votes would be elected. This result means a significant portion of the electorate is represented by a candidate they did not support. In plurality-majority systems victorious candidates often earn substantially less than 50% of the vote, rewarding a minority with 100% representation. (See Also: Manufactured Majority)

  • Majority-Runoff (Two-Round System) : The most common method for the second round of voting in a Two-Round System is a straight 'run-off" contest between the two highest vote-winners from the first round – this is termed a majority-runoff system.

  • Malapportionment : The uneven distribution of voters between electoral districts.

  • Manufactured Majority : Where a single party wins less than 50% of the valid votes, but an absolute majority of the legislative seats.

  • Mixed Member Proportional (MMP): A hybrid electoral system where a fraction of seats are elected from plurality-majority districts and the remainder from party list proportional systems. MMP combines geographic representation with proportional representation of ideological interests. Depending on how party lists seats are allocated, MMP can be fully proportional (i.e. the list seats compensate for any disproportionality produced by the district results) or semi-proportional.

  • Mixed System : An election system combining single-member districts and either multi-seat districts or at-large elections. (See also Mixed Member Proportional)

  • Multi-Member District : A district from which more than one member is elected.

  • Multi-Member Plurality Voting System : A system where candidates run in large multi-member districts and voters have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected. Candidates win by being a top vote getter in relation to the number of seats to be filled. For instance, if there are five seats, the top five vote getters win. This system is used almost exclusively in town and city elections in the United States. Also know as at-large voting.

n : Numbered Posts through Numbered Posts

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  • Numbered Posts : Positions on a city council or school board, somewhat similar to designated areas, where candidates run from a particular “post” but still have to be elected at-large. Some numbered posts require that the candidate be a resident of a particular geographical area.

o : One Vote System through Open List

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  • One Vote System : A limited voting system in which every voter has one vote regardless of the number of representatives to be elected.

  • Open List : A form of List PR in which electors can express a preference for the order of candidates within a party list, as well as voting for the party.

p : Party-centered Ballot through Proportional Voting Systems (also called Proportional Representation or Full Representation)

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  • Party-centered Ballot : A form of ballot in which an elector chooses between parties.

  • Plurality-Majority Systems : A group of voting systems that award seat(s) to candidate(s) with the most votes regardless of whether the candidate(s) have achieved an absolute majority. Plurality-majority systems are often characterized as winner-take-all systems and is a feature of single-member plurality and multi-member plurality voting systems.

  • Polarization : In voting rights, polarization describes a division where voters cast their votes along racial lines. For example, an area would exhibit polarized voting if most white voters support a particular candidate and most black voters support another candidate.

  • Preferential Voting: Electoral systems in which voters can rank-order candidates on the ballot paper in order of their choice. Alternative vote, Borda count, instant runoff voting (IRV), and choice voting, are all examples of preferential voting.

  • Proportional Voting Systems (also called Proportional Representation or Full Representation) : A group of voting systems used in many democracies whose major goal is to ensure that parties and political groups are allocated seats in legislative bodies in proportion to their share of the vote. For example, a party receiving 30% of the national vote should receive approximately 30% of the seats in the national legislature.

r : Reserved Seats through Runoff Elections

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  • Reserved Seats : Seats in which some ascriptive criterion such as religion, ethnicity, language, gender etc. is a requirement for election.

  • Runoff Elections : An election method where the top two candidates face off in a second round of voting if no candidate wins a majority (or lower, pre-determined vote) in the first round.

s : Sainte-Laguë Formula through Strategic (or Tactical) Voting

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  • Sainte-Laguë Formula : A highest-average formula for allocating seats proportionally in a list system. The available seats are awarded one at a time to the party with the largest average number of votes as determined by dividing the number of votes won by the party by the number of seats the party has been awarded plus one. Each time a party wins a seat, the divisor for that party increases by two, which thus reduces its chances of winning the next seat. The first seat is awarded to the party with the largest absolute number of votes, since, no seats having been allocated, the average vote total as determined by the formula will be largest for this party (see also d’Hondt formula).

  • Semi-Proportional Systems : Those electoral systems where proportional outcomes (groups winning seats according to their population percentage) in elections may be produced, but are not guaranteed. Semi-proportional systems generally produces electoral results that are between the proportionality of full representation systems and the disproportionality of plurality-majority systems. These systems include cumulative voting and limited voting.

  • Sincere Voting : A term used to describe votes cast by voters for their most preferred candidate. This contrasts with "insincere" or "strategic" voting where voters must cast a vote for a candidate other than their first preference in order to best pursue their political interests.

  • Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) : A semi-proportional system which combines multi-member districts with a first past the post method of vote counting, and in which electors have only one vote. (See also limited voting)

  • Single Transferable Vote (STV): Also known as the choice voting form of proportional representation. It is a preferential, proportional representation system, used in multi-member districts. To gain election, candidates must surpass a specified threshold of first choice preference votes. Voters' preferences are re-allocated to other continuing candidates when an unsuccessful candidate is excluded or if an elected candidate has a surplus. (See also, choice voting)

  • Single-Member District : A district from which only one member is elected.

  • Single-Member Plurality System : Commonly used for federal and local elections in Canada, Britain, and the United States, this version of first past the post elections are conducted in single-member districts. Voters cast one vote for a favored candidate, and the candidate with the most support wins.

  • Spoiler : A phenomenon of plurality/majority voting systems and single winner elections where an independent or third party candidate takes enough votes away from one major party candidate to ensure the victory of the other major party candidate, who would not have won otherwise.

  • Strategic (or Tactical) Voting : Occurs when a voter votes for a candidate other than her sincere choice to prevent an unwanted outcome. For example, in a first-past-the-post election, there is often a strong incentive for supporters of a minor party to throw their vote to a larger party with a greater chance of victory; this prevents a party or candidate the voter dislikes from winning. Generally speaking, proportional voting systems are designed to reduce strategic voting, as the results will closely match the total share of votes cast for each party.

t : Threshold through Two-Tier Districting

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  • Threshold : The minimum numbers of the votes needed to receive any seats in the legislature under a proportional representation system. Known technically as the threshold of exclusion in List PR, because if a party reaches this threshold they cannot be excluded from winning a seat. Under choice voting, the threshold is the fewest number of votes that only the winning number of candidates can obtain (roughly the number of votes divided by the number of seats.

  • Two-Round System (TRS) : A plurality-majority system in which a second election is held if no candidate achieves an absolute majority of votes in the first election. Also known as runoff elections.

  • Two-Tier Districting: Where seats are awarded to parties from both single member districts and national lists, or both regional and national lists.

w : Wasted Votes through Winner-take-all

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  • Wasted Votes : A political science term used to describe votes that are not useful in the election of the winning candidate or party. Those votes include ballots cast for a losing candidate(s) along with any extraneous votes cast in support of winning candidates.

  • Winner-take-all : A term used to describe single member district and at-large election systems that award seats to the highest vote getters without ensuring fair representation for minority groups. In the United States, these are typically single-member district schemes or at-large, block-voting systems. Under winner-take-all rules, a slim majority of voters can control 100% of seats, leaving everyone else effectively without representation.