In Norway we have what is known as representative democracy. This means we elect persons and parties who represent our opinions to governing bodies such as the Storting (Parliament), the county council and the municipal councils. It is the electoral count that tells us which parties have entered the county council and by how many and which representatives are elected. The electoral count is based on the parties’ total number of votes from all municipalities in the county.
Choice of method
An electoral count is therefore a mathematical calculation. In county council elections, up to several hundred thousands of votes are recalculated to find a limited number of representatives. The are several methods of calculation that can be used for this. The St. Lagüe modified method is used in all elections in Norway, and is the method that secures as accurate a representation of the election result as possible. This means that there are extremely few votes in Norway that are ultimately of no significance for the electoral count.
The big equation
When the St. Lagüe modified method is used, each party’s number of votes is first divided by 1.4. They are then divided by 3 - 5 - 7, and so on. This continues for as long as is it necessary to find the number of mandates the party should have.
After this, each party is left with a number of quotients. The first mandate in the county council goes to the party that has the largest quotient. The second mandate goes to the party with the second highest quotient. It carries on like this until all the mandates in the county council are assigned. If two parties receive the same quotient, the mandate is given to the party with the most votes. If the number of votes is also equal, lots are drawn to assign the mandate.
When the county election board has distributed the mandates to the various parties, they then distribute them to the candidates on the lists. In county council elections, voters may give candidates personal votes, and this is important for determining what candidates are finally elected. For the personal votes to be of significance for the election of candidates, however, the candidates must have received personal votes in at least 8 per cent of the approved ballots. If the proportion is lower than 8 per cent, the personal votes are disregarded, and the election is based on the order on the list.
Example of calculation
If a party has received 3,000 votes, the election threshold for personal votes is 240 (8 per cent of 3,000). Six candidates on the list have received the following number of personal votes:
- Candidate A: 90 personal votes
- Candidate B: 290 personal votes
- Candidate C: 150 personal votes
- Candidate D: 310 personal votes
- Candidate E: 100 personal votes
- Candidate F: 250 personal votes
Three of the candidates have received more personal votes than the election threshold, and must be ranked accordingly. Candidate D receives the first mandate, Candidate B receives the second mandate and Candidate F the third mandate. The other three candidates have received fewer personal votes than the election threshold, and are ranked according to their place on the list: A – C – E
Thus the full sequence for the candidates is: D – B – F – A – C – E
When the personal votes are added up and the candidates have been elected in this way for all parties, the county election been has made its electoral count!