Norway elects its legislature on a national level. The parliament, the Storting (or Stortinget by Norwegian grammar), has 169 members elected for a four-year term (during which it may not be dissolved) by the proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies.
Norway has a multi-party system, with numerous parties in which no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalition governments or minority cabinets.
In Norway, elections are held every second year, alternating between elections for the Parliament and local elections, both of which are held every four years.
Suffrage is universal from the year a person turns 18 years old, even if the person turns 18 later in the year the election is held. Only Norwegian citizens can vote in the Parliamentary elections, but foreigners who have lived in Norway for three years continuously can vote in the local elections. Women's suffrage was adopted in 1913.
Norway uses the same system in both local and national elections when it comes to distributing mandates. This method is the modified Sainte-Laguë method and the underlying principle is that the number of seats a party gets in the Storting should be as close as possible to the relative number of votes the party got in the election.
There are some exceptions to the above-mentioned principle:
Unlike most parliaments, the Storting always serves its full four-year term; the constitution does not allow snap elections, nor does it give the monarch the right to dissolve parliament even if the government wants to do so. By-elections are not used, as the list-system means that vacant seats are merely filled by the next one on the party list (suppleants). This is also the case when candidates take temporary leave due to illness, childbirth etc.
Norway is divided into 19 counties, and each county is a constituency in the election. Each county elects a pre-calculated number of seats in the Parliament, the Storting, based on the population and geographical area of the county. Each inhabitant scores one point and each square kilometer scores 1.8 points. This calculation is done every eight years. This practice has been criticised because in some larger counties with sparse population a single vote counts more than in other more densely populated counties. Others claim that counties with a scattered and sparse population situated far away from the central administration should have a stronger representation in the Parliament. In recent elections a vote in the northernmost county Finnmark has counted approximately twice a vote in the capital Oslo or the surrounding county Akershus.
After the votes are counted and the members of the Parliament are designated their respective seats of their county, 19 leveling seats, one in each county, are divided to parties who got fewer seats than their election result percentage would suggest. This practice was adopted in 1989. However, only parties with more than 4% of the votes on a national basis – the election threshold – are entitled to leveling seats.
For the elections of 2005 and 2009 the distribution of seats, including levelling seats, is as follows:
|Sogn og Fjordane||5|
|Møre og Romsdal||9|
The local elections are two separate elections held at the same time. The first is the county election, which elects politicians to the county council. Second is the municipality election, which elects politicians to the municipal councils.
People of Sámi heritage, included in the Sámi census, are eligible to vote to the Sami Parliament of Norway. For the election Norway is divided into 13 constituencies from which 3 representatives are elected. In addition an additional representative is elected from the four constituencies with most votes. The election is held at the same time as the elections to the Norwegian Parliament.