Electoral Systems around the World

German ballot 2012

Electoral Systems around the World

There are many different electoral systems in use around the world.  Most countries have chosen an electoral system very different to the one used in national elections in the United States.

Single-winner systems vs Multi-winner systems

Most nations around the world choose to have at least some multi-winner districts in their national legislatures. Fifty-four of the 195 countries in the map below use only single-winner districts. Ninety use only multi-winner districts, and 38 use a mix of multi- and single-winner districts. 

infogram_0_multi_and_single_winner_districtsMulti and Single winner districts//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js?2Fhtext/javascript


Proportional vs Winner-take-all

Internationally, proportional representation is the most common type of electoral system with 89 of the 195 countries below using it. Of those 84 countries, 79 use list proportional systems, with two using multi-winner RCV and three using other proportional systems. An additional 34 countries mix proportionality and winner-take all. Sixty-four countries use winner-take-all, including 37 that use plurality, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. 

infogram_0_electoral_systems_of_the_worldElectoral Systems of the World//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js?HeStext/javascript

Useful Sources:

Electoral Systems of 35 Major Democracies

The following chart lists the different voting systems used by the world's 35 major, well-established democracies to elect their most powerful legislative chamber. These 35 democracies were chosen because they had a population of at least 2 million and received a 2012 Freedom House Average Freedom Ranking of 1 or 2.

Among these 35 major democracies, proportional representation (PR) systems are by far the most common way to elect legislatures.

infogram_0_electoral_sys_maj_dems_2012Electoral sys maj dems 2012//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js?UbHtext/javascript


infogram_0_es_of_35_dems_2012ES of 35 Dems 2012//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js?gt8text/javascript


Of the six nations that do not use PR to elect representatives in their most powerful national legislative body, only three countries (US, Ghana, and Canada) don't use it for at least one of their national elections (PR is used in the upper house in Australia and European Parliament in UK and France).

Electoral Systems Reform is Possible

The structure of elections and a nation's choice of electoral system can have profound implications for the effectiveness of democratic governance. It is no surprise, then, that reformers in many nations continuously strive to improve the way their governments are elected. Most countries regularly reflect on how well their systems are working and consider structural improvements--and such changes are implemented more often than many casual observers may realize. In recent decades, major changes in electoral systems have been adopted in New Zealand, France, Italy and Japan. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted electoral systems vastly different from that in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the United Kingdom conducted a referendum on electoral reform in 2011, many Canadian provinces have voted on reform in the last decade, and the Canadian Parliament is currently considering electoral systems reform. (Matthew Shugart and Justin Reeves (2015) "Electoral System Reform in Advanced DemocraciesOxford Bibliographies)

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