In Norway, our system is what is known as a representative democracy. This means we elect people 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 won seats on the county council, how many seats they have won, and which representatives have been elected. The electoral count is based on the parties' total vote polled 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 thousand votes are counted and the counts translated into a limited number of representatives. Several calculation methods can be used for this. The modified Sainte-Laguë method is used for all elections in Norway and is the method that ensures as accurate a representation of the election results as possible. This means that very few votes in Norway are ultimately of no significance in an electoral count.
The all-important calculation
When the modified Sainte-Laguë method is used, each party's total vote polled 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 seats the party has won.
After this, each party is left with a number of quotients. The first seat on the county council goes to the party with the highest quotient. The second seat goes to the party with the second highest quotient. This process continues until all of the seats on the county council have been distributed. If two parties have the same quotient, the seat goes to the party that polled the highest number of votes. If the number of votes is also equal, lots are drawn to distribute the seat.
Once the county electoral committee has distributed the seats 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 in determining what candidates are finally elected. However, for personal votes to make a difference in the election of candidates, the candidates must have received personal votes on at least 8 per cent of the approved ballot papers. 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.
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 seat, Candidate B receives the second seat and Candidate F the third seat. 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 completed order of the candidates is: D – B – F – A – C – E
Once the personal votes have been added up and the representatives from each party thereby returned, the county electoral committee has completed its electoral count.