The 3 Main Types of Electoral Systems

The 3 Main Types of Electoral Systems

An electoral system is how our votes are used to elect governments and government officials. There are many different types of electoral systems, making it impossible to cover all of them in a simple blog post. Nevertheless, there are three main types that are widely used across the globe. These include plurality electoral systems, majority electoral systems, and proportional representation.

Plurality electoral systems

The 3 Main Types of Electoral Systems

Also known as “first-past-the-post” or “winner-takes-all,” a plurality electoral system is what we mainly use here in the United States. It awards the seat to the candidate who receives the most votes. This doesn’t mean that a candidate has to win a majority (more than 50%). Instead, out of all of the candidates, the winner is the one that has the largest number of votes, even if it is below 50%.

Majority electoral systems

In a plurality system, the winner doesn’t need to win over 50% of the votes to win. In a majority electoral system, however, they do. Also called “second ballot” systems, a majority system requires a majority, or 50%-plus-one-vote, to win. If none of the candidates receive that amount, then a second election is held with only a select number of candidates from the first round.

Proportional representation

Proportional representation (PR) electoral systems are the most widely used electoral systems in the world. It takes the percentage of total votes that a political party receives and translates it into the number of seats that party will have. For example, if a party wins 40% of the vote, they will receive 40% of the seats in parliament. There are three main types of PR systems:

  • Party List: Parties create a list of candidates and seats are won in proportion to the percentage of votes received.
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV): Voters rank candidates by order of preference.
  • Mixed Member PR (MMP): Voters make two selections, one for a candidate, and one for a party.

At the Honest Ballot Associate, we provide election services for any organization using any electoral system. To learn more about our voting services or voting machines, give us a call at 800-541-1851.