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Politics For Members

How does Norway's system for the local elections work? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
How does Norway's system for the local elections work? 
Norway's election system can be very complicated to understand, we've broken it down. Pictured is Norway's parliament.Photo by Marco Süssi on Unsplash

Norway uses a proportional voting system which allows you to assign your vote to one party, specific candidates from a party or part of your vote to one party and a candidate from another. 

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Municipal and county elections take place in Norway on September 11th. Foreign residents who have been living in the country for more than three years will be able to take part and shape the future of their local area. 

A tight race is expected in many parts of the country, and polls have forecast a leadership change in several of the country's biggest cities. We've put together a breakdown of the key issues in Bergen and Oslo

If you will be voting on the 11th, you can expect the ballot papers to maybe look different to what you are used to. 

That is because Norway uses a proportional voting system, whereby it tries to award seats proportionally to parties and candidates based on the number of votes they receive, rather than the party with the most votes being awarded all the seats or candidates. 

When you receive your ballot papers (there will be two, as there are two sets of local elections), you can vote for a specific party list. A party list is exactly that: a list of all the candidates representing that party in the election.

You can also give part of your vote to a specific candidate on the party list. To do so, you place a mark in the box next to their name. You can also give part of your vote to a party and the rest to candidates from other parties. 

This is known as "throwing" and means a list vote is given to the party the "thrower" comes from at the expense of some of the vote for the main party being voted for. 

You can give part of the vote to a candidate from another party than from the party list you have selected by adding the name of the candidate(s) in the specified place on the ballot paper. 

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When you do this, a proportion of your vote will be transferred from the party to that specific candidate. 

How does this all translate into results? 

Once all the votes have been cast and counted, the results will be translated into the number of seats the party has won. This is called the electoral count. The electoral count is based on the parties' list of votes. Each ballot paper contains several list votes that correspond to the number of representatives being elected to a council. 

As Norwegian municipalities and counties differ greatly in size, with some cities having a few hundred thousand residents and other local authorities being home to just a few hundred, the size of party lists on ballot papers will be reflected in the size of councils. 

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As an example of how this works, say a municipality has 25 representatives. Each ballot paper will represent 25 list votes. To find the total number of list votes a party receives, you need to take the number of votes that the party polled and multiply this by 25 (or by however many representatives the local authority has). 

Should this imaginary party receive 1,000 votes, they would receive 25,000 list votes. However, this is before throwers are subtracted or added. If someone were to vote for one party but add two throwers onto the ballot, the party would lose two list votes and, on that ballot, only receive 23 list votes rather than 25. 

Therefore, votes are counted on votes multiplied by the number of representatives to be elected in a municipality with any throwers added or subtracted. 

After this, the number of representatives for each party is calculated. A modified Sainte-Laguë method is used for this. The method sees each party's total list votes divided by 1.4 and then by three, five, seven and for as long as necessary to find the number of seats a party has won. 

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After this, each party is left with a number of quotients. The first seat goes to the party with the highest quotient, and the second seat goes to the party with the second highest quotient. This continues until all the seats have been distributed.

If two parties have the same quotient, the seat goes to the party that polled the highest number of votes.

Once the electoral committee has distributed the seats to the various parties, they will then be distributed to candidates on the lists. They are distributed by a mix of personal votes and votes awarded to candidates on the party list whose names appear in bold. 

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