Proportional counting

The proportional counting system is used when more than one person is to be elected.

The proportional counting system is used when more than one person is to be elected. It ensures that the required number of candidates are elected in proportion to their support in the electorate.

How does proportional counting work?

Candidates must win a specific proportion (or quota) of votes to be elected. The quota is calculated by dividing the total number of formal ballot papers by one more than the number of vacancies to be filled, and adding 1 to the result.

number of formal votes

+ 1 = quota
number of vacancies + 1

A candidate who achieves the required quota is elected.

For example, if there were 15,000 formal votes to fill two vacancies, a candidate would need 5,001 votes to be elected.

When a candidate receives more votes than the quota, the candidate's surplus votes are transferred to the remaining candidates according to the preferences on the ballot papers. Because it’s not possible to tell which votes elected the candidate and which are surplus, all the candidate's votes are transferred, but at a value less than 1. The value of the transferred votes is worked out by dividing the surplus by the total number of ballot papers for the candidate. Each ballot paper transferred to another candidate has this value.

Any candidate who has gained the quota once the surplus votes have been transferred is elected.

If there are still vacancies to fill once the surplus votes have been distributed, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded. The excluded candidate's ballot papers are then transferred to the remaining candidates (at the value they were received) according to the preferences on them.

This process of transferring surpluses from elected candidates and distributing preferences from excluded candidates continues until all positions have been filled.

A short video outlining this process can be accessed below;

For further information please view our Proportional counting slideshow which illustrates the proportional counting process.

A booklet about the proportional counting system is also available:

Further information for candidates

Information on the proportional counting system for candidates is available in the relevant Candidate Handbook.