Proportional representation

What is it?

Proportional representation is a vote counting system that gives candidates seats according to how many votes they receive.

It is used in South Australia to elect members of the Legislative Council and Local Government.

Isn't this how all elections work? No it is not.

The USA and UK use a system called first past the post that sees the party with the most votes winning the entire electoral division or seat.

Under this system, parties or candidates who receive only a minority of the vote can win the majority of the seats. If this happens, the majority of electors will be represented by people they did not vote for. See our First past the post page for more information.

In the early 1900s, the modern political party evolved as a system for electing people. Emerging democracies in Europe realised that political parties now held more and more power, so they developed proportional voting systems to give voters the power to hold political parties accountable.

Many developed countries have been using proportional representation for nearly 100 years.

The Electoral Commission SA has a number of publications to explain how proportional representation is used:


  • Download document Three levels of government in SA
  • Download document Vote counting methods
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