Voting Rules for
 Accurate
Democracy

Different uses for voting need different types of voting.

Merits of Proportional Representation

Voter Turnout
 Statistics by Country 

Quotes about Proportional Representation
This page shows
 Seats in column 2 tell the average number of reps elected in a district and the voting Rule used to elect the country's lower house.
“PR” and “STV” countries use forms of proportional representation.
“Plurality” uses single-winner districts that do not require a majority.

 Voter Turnout  in column 3 is a measure of the incentive to vote.
The best voting rules tend to raise voter turnout. They create fewer “wasted votes”, so they give people more reason to go vote.

 Women Reps in column 4 shows the share of seats won by women.
Notice that plurality voting elects fewer women than other rules do.
A council with more women tends to raise your nation's health and education, and to reduce your chances and fears of poverty or murder.

 Sort by Voter Turnout or Women Reps, then look at the Seats column to see which voting rule tends to give better results. The worst are in bold.

Country    Seats    Rule Voter Turnout Women Reps Health Rank Math Score Poverty % Murders/ Million
Australia 1 * 001    IRV 93% 25% 32 520 12% 15
Australia 2 * 006    STV 93% 38% 32 520 12% 15
Austria 019    PR 82% 28% 09 505 06% --
Belgium 008.4 PR 89% 38% 21 520 10% --
Canada 001 Plurality 61% 25% 30 527 15% 15
Denmark 015    PR 88% 39% 34 513 03% 11
Finland 013    PR 72% 42% -- 548 04% 28
France 001  Runoff 80% 27% 01 496 08% 17
Germany 1 * 001 Plurality 71% 13% 25 504 16% 12
Germany 2 * 299    PR 71% 39% 25 504 16% 12
Greece * 005.7 PR  77% 21% 14 459 13% 07
Iceland 010    PR  85% 40% 15 506 -- 17
Ireland * 004    STV 70% 15% 19 501 16% 09
Netherlands 150    PR  80% 39% 17 528 12% 11
New Zealand 1 * 001 Plurality 74% 15% 41 522 15% 11
New Zealand 2 * 051    PR 74% 43% 41 522 15% 11
Norway 008.7 PR 76% 40% 11 490 -- 11
Spain 006.7 PR 69% 36% 07 480 17% 12
Sweden * 014    PR  86% 45% 23 502 04% --
Switzerland 007.8 PR  47% 28% 20 530 09% 09
UK 001 Plurality 76% 22% 18 495 10% 14
USA 001 Plurality 58% 18% 37 474 21% 42

 

Scores for each voting rule (These averages are weighted by populations of countries.)

Voting Rule    Seats Voter
Turnout
Women
Reps
Health
Rank
Math
Score
Poverty
%
Murders/
Million
Proportional Rep. 150 77% 37% 19 501 12.1% 10
Choice/STV 005 89% 33% 29 516 12.9% 14
Instant Runoff 001 95% 25% 32 520 12.0% 15
Runoff 001 60% 27% 01 496 08.0% 17
Plurality only 001 61% 19% 34 482 18.8% 35

Definitions of voting methods:
Plurality in single-winner districts      
Runoff in single-winner districts

PR is Party-List Proportional Representation.
MMP is Mixed-Member Proportional PR.
STV is Single Transferable Vote PR.

  
 Why Proportional Representation Elects Women 

Among the first questions many people ask are, “Why does Proportional Representation elect more women?” or, “How much do they affect policies?”

Proportional Representation elects several reps in a district. So each party offers several nominees to the voters. An all-male slate or party list would look totally sexist; so parties nominate some women. But with one-winner districts, many voters don't notice if a party nominates only men.

In a multi-winner race, a woman often is not seen as running against a man or an incumbent. She is more likely to be seen as running for her issues and policies. Most “women prefer to compete in teams” of two or more candidates.

A party's list also may reveal its class, ethnic or religious bias; and Fair-share Spending can reveal its budget choices.

Some leading women in Sweden considered starting their own party in 1994. Under plurality rules, new parties divide a side and lead to certain defeat. But PR promptly gives seats to a new party, if a big group of voters support it.

This credible threat made some parties decide that job seniority was not as important as gender balance. They raised some women up the party's candidate list. And they won. Now more women are incumbents with seniority, power and allies.

Many countries elect more women now than 20 years ago. But the relative positions of countries change little — unless one changes its voting rule as New Zealand did in 1996. The number of women elected jumped from 21 to 35. The native Maoris elected jumped from 6 to 15, which is almost proportional to the Maori population. Voters also elected 3 Polynesian reps and 1 Asian rep. (NZ uses MMP like Germany.)

Australia is another good example to look at. Its lower house has 26% women, 37 of 150 seats in the 41st parliament, 40 of 150 seats in the 42nd. That is a higher share for women than any other house elected from single-winner districts. They are elected by a voting rule called Alternative Vote, Preference Vote, Instant Runoff, and STV1 or Hare, by Australians, Europeans, Americans, and academics. As those names imply it 1) lets a voter rank many candidates and 2) combines the primary and general elections so there are often more than 2 important candidates. This encourages voter participation; turnout runs about 90%. Australia is often the top-20 country with the highest voter turnout. (Voting, like taxes and jury duty, is mandatory.)
Australia's upper chamber is elected by multi-winner STV. Each province returns 6 senators. This filled 35% of the seats with women in the November 2007 election, 27 of 76 seats. The women's share of seats might be even higher if there were more than 6 seats in each district. But more seats are not needed as 35% compares well with other countries. And more seats in each district could attract more candidates, making the ballots longer and harder for voters.

 Ireland elects fewer women than other PR countries partly because it elects fewer reps in each district — it is closer to using single-winner districts.  Greece has the same pattern. And its 'reinforced' PR is neither balanced nor centered: The party that wins the most seats is given 50 more.

Other factors may affect voter turnout and election of women:

Culture: The electoral success of women is influenced by the quality of education for women and by gender prejudices, often based in religion.

Latitude: Cultures that favor accurate democracy seem to correlate with distance from the Equator — even within a cultural region such as Europe or within a large country such as the USA. As with any statistical tendency there are exceptions, for example Costa Rica is notably more democratic and less authoritarian than its neighbors.

Some of this may be due to the temperate zone's productive farming and freedom from tropical disease – which combine to help wealth and education. Some may be due to winters that require a culture of planning ahead, building deep foundations and delaying pleasure to store food and fuel.
  

But culture or climate cannot explain why PR elects more women than plurality rule does in the same country. * Germans elect half their reps from single-winner districts and the other half from PR party lists. Women win only 1 of every 10 district seats but they win 3 of every 10 list seats. We see same pattern in  New Zealand  and other countries.

 Election Rules and Policy Results 

The statistics above make it clear: advocates for education, health care, a clean environment or a clean government should all work for better voting rules.

When we work to ease urgent needs, we often overlook the essential needs, the roots of those problems. At the root, we often get poor policies, due to poor representation, due to poor election laws.

The link between voting rules and quality of life is clear in statistics from nations. It's likely true for cities too, and for other democratic groups.

Do female reps tend to raise education and health results?
Do these raise low incomes and so lessen violent crime?

Consequences: It appears that legislatures with fewer women tend to give less attention, priority and funding to health care, child care, education, and other social needs. Run-down schools and hospitals are one blight; a class of citizens with inferior education and health are another.

Fair-share Spending gives the opposition some power.
So votes to elect them no longer feel like wasted votes.
This can boost the voter turnout in elections.

 Statistic Definitions and Sources: 

Women %, For a bicameral legislature, numbers are from the lower house. Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Turnout, Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Health Rank, by the World Health Organization.

Math Score, A higher number is better on this HS test. Program for International Student Assessment, OECD.

Poverty, % of children below half of median income; OECD.

Murder Rate, yearly murders per million people. Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends.

Other sources that show many measures of politics, economics, health and education:  Globalis-IndicatorUN Data, and the Democracy Index by the Economist.

Voter Turnout Since 1945; International IDEA, 2002.
Free Markets vs. Family Values; Los Angeles Times, 2012.
The Children Left Behind, Inequality in rich countries; UNICEF.
The Spirit Level: Why equality makes societies stronger;
    online slide show of The Spirit Level, 2010.

Older statistics: Voter turnout and seats for woman vary from year to year in each country. But PR countries always hold the top spots and winner-take-all countries do poorly. Another page has more countries but older statistics on voter turnout statistics in other countries.
Both of these pages answer questions about:

The next page has six short quotes about Proportional Representation.   PR quotes 

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