Open list describes any variant of party-list proportional
representation where voters have at least some influence on the order
in which a party's candidates are elected. This as opposed to closed
list, which allows only active members, party officials, or
consultants to determine the order of its candidates and gives the
general voter no influence at all on the position of the candidates
placed on the party list. Additionally, an open list system allows
voters to select individuals rather than parties. Different systems
give voter different amounts of influence. Voter's choice is usually
called preference vote.
1.1 Relatively closed
1.2 More open
1.3 Most open
1.4 Free or panachage
2 Practical operation
3 Countries with open list proportional representation
5 External links
A "relatively closed" open list system is one where a candidate must
get a full quota of votes on his or her own to be assured of winning a
seat. (This quota, broadly speaking, is the total number of votes cast
divided by the number of places to be filled. Usually the precise
number required is the Hare quota, but the
Droop quota can also be
used.) The total number of seats won by the party minus the number of
its candidates that achieved this quota gives the number of unfilled
seats. These are then successively allocated to the party's
not-yet-elected candidates who were ranked highest on the original
In a 'more open' list system, the quota for election could be lowered
from the above amount. It is then (theoretically) possible that more
of a party's candidates achieve this quota than the total seats won by
the party. It should therefore be made clear in advance whether list
ranking or absolute votes take precedence in that case.
In Dutch elections (for example to the House of the Representatives)
the voter can give his vote to any candidate in a list; the vote for
this candidate is called a "preference vote" (voorkeurstem in Dutch).
If a candidate has at least 25% of the quota then he/she takes
priority over the party's other candidates who stand higher on the
party list but received fewer preference votes.
An example: A party list got 5000 votes. If the quota is 1000 votes,
then the party wins five seats.
on the list
25% of the quota
Candidates #1, #7 and #4 have each achieved 25% of the quota (250
preference votes or more). They get the first three of the five seats
the party has won. The other two seats will be taken by #2 and #3, the
two highest remaining positions on the party list. This means that #5
is not elected even though being the fifth on the list and having more
preference votes than #2. In practice, at the national level only one
or two candidates succeed to precede on their lists as 25% of the
national quota means a huge number of votes. This happens more often
at the local level where the quota (in absolute numbers of votes) is
lower. Parties usually allow candidates to ask for preference votes,
but without campaigning negatively against other candidates on the
In elections in Sweden, the 'most open' list is used, but a person
needs to receive 5% of the party's votes for the personal vote to
overrule the ordering on the party list. Voting without expressing
a preference between individuals is possible, although the parties
urge their voters to support the party's prime candidate, to protect
them from being beaten by someone ranked lower by the party.
Slovakia each voter may, in addition to the party, select one to
four candidates from the ordered party list. Candidates who are
selected by more than 3% of the party's voters are elected (in order
of total number of votes) first and only then is the party ordering
used. For European elections, voters select two candidates and the
candidates must have more than 10% of the total votes to override the
party list. In the European election in 2009 (the most recent election
run under this system) three of Slovakia's thirteen MEPs were elected
solely by virtue of preference votes (having party list positions too
low to have won otherwise) and only one (
Katarína Neveďalová of
SMER) was elected solely by virtue of her position on the party list
(having fewer preference votes than a number of other candidates who
themselves, nevertheless had preferences from fewer than 10 percent of
their party's voters).
In the Netherlands, a country with an open list proportional
representation system, most people vote for the top candidate, to
indicate no special preference for any individual candidate, but
support for the party in general. Sometimes, however, people want to
express their support for a particular person. Many women, for
example, vote for the first woman on the list. If a candidate gathers
enough preference votes, then he gets a seat in parliament, even if
his position on the list would leave him without a seat. In the 2003
elections Hilbrand Nawijn, the former minister of migration and
integration was elected into parliament for the
Pim Fortuyn List
Pim Fortuyn List by
preference votes even though he was the last candidate on the list.
A country could introduce a version of a more open list voting system
allowing parties to choose a small number (say, 5 or 10) of candidates
to be guaranteed to be selected first (perhaps to form a small 'core'
of government, such as head of state, cabinet, etc.) This solves the
problem of major party figures being prevented from taking office, yet
still allows the vast majority of party candidates' order on the party
list to be decided by the voters.
Finnish parliamentary election uses the open list method. Here an
official poster rack in central Helsinki displays the candidates and
their assigned ballot numbers by party.
Ballot during the Finnish parliamentary election of 2011
A campaign bus in
Tokyo for (successful) Communist proportional
Tomoko Tamura in Japan's 2016 Councillors election. Tamura
received roughly half of her votes in Tokyo, other proportional
candidates on the same list won most of their votes in other
prefectures. The proportional district is nationwide; but limited
by a very short legal campaign period, some proportional candidates
focus their campaign efforts on only certain regions where they
personally or their party have a local base.
The 'most open' list system is the one where the absolute number of
votes every candidate receives fully determines the "order of
election" (the list ranking only possibly serving as a 'tiebreaker').
When such a system is used, one could make the case that within every
party an additional virtual single non-transferable vote election is
taking place. This system is used in all Finnish, Latvian and
Brazilian multiple-seat elections. While ties may be resolved by a
coin toss in Finland, the oldest candidate wins the tie in Brazil.
Since 2001, most open lists are also used for the 96 proportional
seats in the 242-member upper house of
Japan (the other 146 are
elected by a majoritarian, SNTV/FPTP system).
Free or panachage
Main article: Panachage
A 'free list', more usually called panachage, is similar in principle
to the most open list, but instead of having just one vote for one
candidate in one list, an elector has (usually) as many votes as there
are seats to be filled, and may distribute these among different
candidates in different lists. Electors may also give more votes to
one candidate, in a manner similar to cumulative voting, and delete
(German: Streichen or Reihen, French: latoisage) the names of some
candidates. This gives the elector more control over which candidates
Some ways to operate an open list system when using traditional
paper-based voting are as follows:
One method (used in
Belgium and Australia) is to have a large ballot
paper with a box for each party and sub-boxes for the various
Another method (used in
Slovakia and Spain) is to have a separate
ballot paper for each party. To maintain voter secrecy, the voter is
handed ballot papers for every party. The voter chooses the candidates
(or may vote for the party as a whole) on one of the ballot papers and
puts that paper into an envelope, putting the envelope into the ballot
box, and discarding the other ballot papers into a bin provided for
In Brazil, each candidate is assigned a number (in which the first 2
digits are the party number and the others the candidate's number
within the party). The voting machine has a telephone-like panel where
the voter presses the buttons for the number of their chosen
candidate. In Finland, each candidate is assigned a 3-digit number.
In Italy, the voter must write the name of each chosen candidate in
blank boxes under the party box.
In Belgium, where electronic voting is used in most voting precincts,
the voter has to choose with an electronic pencil on a touchscreen
between lists and blank vote, then on the list's page between the top
box (vote for the list without preference for specific candidates) or
the box(es) for one or several candidates on the same list. The
computer program forbids spoilt vote.
Countries with open list proportional representation
Some of these states may use other systems in addition to open list.
For example, open list may decide only upper house legislative
elections while another electoral system is used for lower house
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Croatia since the 2015 election
Czech Republic[CEPPS 1]
Municipal elections in various states
Italy for European, regional and municipal elections; and before
the electoral reforms, for national parliamentary elections
Sri Lanka[CEPPS 12]
Election Authority: Elections in Sweden: The way its done
Archived 2009-02-25 at the Wayback Machine. (page 16)
^ Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: Results of the 24th
regular election of members of the House of Councillors: Proportional
Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party results (lists preference votes by
candidate and prefecture) (in Japanese)
^ "Open, closed, and free lists", ACE Electoral Knowledge Network
^ (in French) « Voilà comment voter électroniquement avec
Smartmatic », video posted on Youtube by the Belgian Federal
^ a b c d e f g h "Electoral Systems in Europe: An Overview". European
Parliament in Brussels: European Centre for Parliamentary Research and
Documentation. October 2000. Archived from the original on May 9,
2013. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
^ "Izborni zakon BiH, članovi 9.5 i 9.8" (PDF). Retrieved September
^ "Veliki vodič kroz glasovanje na izborima" (in Croatian). Jutarnji
list. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
^ Miriam A. Golden, Lucio Picci (April 2008). "Pork-Barrel
Postwar Italy, 1953-94" (PDF). American Journal of Political Science.
52 (2). doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00312.x. CS1 maint: Uses
authors parameter (link)
^ a b c Mainwaring, Scott (October 1991). "Politicians, Parties, and
Brazil in Comparative Perspective" (PDF).
Comparative Politics. 24 (1): 21–43. doi:10.2307/422200.
^ Craig Arceneaux, Democratic Latin America, Routledge, 2015
ISBN 9781317348825 p.339
^ George Rodriguez, "Voters head to the polls in
El Salvador to elect
legislators, mayors", Tico Times, 28 February 2015
^ (in Spanish) "Papeletas para las elecciones 2015 (reproduction of
ballot papers and explanation of the new voting system)", Tribunal
^ Matthew S. Shugart, "
El Salvador joins the panachage ranks,
president’s party holds steady", Fruits and Votes, 8 March 2015
^ Fijan elections office. "Electoral decree 2014" (PDF). Archived from
the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
^ Bruno, Greg (February 5, 2009). "Reshuffling the Political Deck".
Backgrounder: Iraq's Political Landscape. Council on Foreign
Relations. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
Retrieved 23 June 2017. Missing or empty title= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Czech Republic".
^ "Country Profile: Estonia". 2011-04-15. Retrieved June 30,
^ "Country Profile: Latvia". 08/05/2011. Retrieved June 30,
2012. Check date values in: date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Luxembourg". 02/04/2010. Retrieved
07/08/2012. Check date values in: access-date=, date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Netherlands". 2010-10-14. Retrieved June 30,
^ "Country Profile: Norway". 2011-03-18. Retrieved 07/08/2012.
Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Slovakia". 02/01/2012. Retrieved June 30,
2012. Check date values in: date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Slovenia". 2012-02-28. Retrieved June 30,
^ "Country Profile: Sweden". ElectionGuide. Consortium for Elections
and Political Process Strengthening. 2010-08-08. Retrieved
07/08/2012. Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Colombia". 2012-06-19. Retrieved 07/08/2012.
Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ "Country Profile: Indonesia". 2010-11-26. Retrieved June 30,
^ "Country Profile: Sri Lanka". 2010-02-18. Retrieved June 30,
British Columbia Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform - A debate on
the merits of open and closed lists by the Citizens' Assembly on
Electoral Reform in the Canadian province of British Columbia, 2004.
"Preferential Voting: Definition and Classification" - Paper presented
by Jurij Toplak at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science
Association's 67th Annual National Conference, Chicago, IL, April
Part of the politics and election series
Single-winner voting system
Positional voting system
Single transferable vote
Highest averages method
Largest remainder method
Alternative vote Plus
Single non-transferable vote
Proportional approval voting
Sequential proportional approval voting
Satisfaction approval voting
Table of voting systems by country
Voting system criteria
Condorcet loser criterion
Independence of clones
Independence of irrelevant alternatives
Independence of Smith-dominated alternatives
Majority loser criterion
Mutual majority criterion
Voting system quotas