Different uses for voting need different types of voting.
This page shows
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|
|Germany 1 *||001 Plurality||71%||13%||25||504||16%||12|
|Germany 2 *||019 PR||71%||39%||25||504||16%||12|
|Greece *||005.7 PR||77%||21%||14||459||13%||07|
|Ireland *||004 STV||70%||15%||19||501||16%||09|
|New Zealand 1 *||001 Plurality||74%||15%||41||522||15%||11|
|New Zealand 2 *||050 PR||74%||43%||41||522||15%||11|
|Sweden *||014 PR||86%||45%||23||502||04%||--|
* USA turnout drops about 20% in non presidential years.
Scores for each voting rule (These averages are weighted by populations of countries.)
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?
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.
Statistic Definitions and Sources:
Women %, For a bicameral legislature, numbers are from the lower house. Inter-Parliamentary Union.
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.
Voter Turnout Since 1945; International IDEA, 2002.
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.