Summer - 2013 valg1

Published on September 6th, 2013


A Guide to the Norwegian Election on September 9

By Tor G. Jakobsen

Every four year the Norwegian people get to choose their members of parliament. This year on September 9 most Norwegians will again cast their ballots. We in Popular Social Science bring you a guide on the practicalities of voting and how the seats are distributed between the parties and counties.

Every Norwegian citizen who is 18 or older, or who becomes 18 by the end of 2013, and who has not lost his suffrage by reasons stated in §53 in the Norwegian constitution, and resides or has resided in Norway (officially, according to the census), can vote in this election. Members of the Norwegian diplomacy (including consul services) and their families can vote even if they do not meet the criteria of having or having had residence in Norway.

According to the constitution a citizen can lose his or her suffrage if that person has been convicted of a crime where it is stated in the laws that suffrage should be withdrawn, or if that person enters the service of a foreign power without the consent of the Norwegian government. However, this very rarely happens. Today, the only crimes leading to a loss of suffrage are treason, attempted coup or revolution, or election fraud. If a person loses suffrage for one of these reasons, they lose it only for a maximum of 10 years.

If a Norwegian citizen has not resided in Norway the last 10 years, he or she must apply to the authorities of their last municipality of residence for inclusion in the census. This can be done by way of writing on the envelope used when casting your absent ballot (which is sent to your Norwegian municipality for counting). One can also apply using a separate application.

One votes according to where one was recorded as living on July 1, 2013. If one has moved to a different municipality (official address) after this date, one must still vote in one’s old municipality. On Election Day everyone must vote in their respective municipalities (where the counting is done). Most municipalities hold elections on September 9, but some have chosen to hold it on September 8.

New of this parliamentary election is that 12 municipalities allows for early voting through Internet.


How to vote

It is possible to vote early from August 10 (July 1 if you are abroad) and up until the last Friday before the election (the territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen counts as abroad). Each voter receives an electoral card in the mail prior to the mail which contains information on when and where to vote. It is not necessary to bring this card in order to vote (but it is recommended).  However, it does not count as an identity document. You will need to bring either your passport, driving license, or a bank approved payment card with your photo.

When you are at your polling station you will be guided to a voting booth. Here you will chose the list of the party that you want to vote for (you can also choose to do changes to the list, described below), you fold the list as shown on the instruction, approach the electoral official who will stamp the list/ballot (it must be stamped in order to count), and then you can put your ballot in the ballot box.

It is possible to make changes to your ballot. The candidates have a box on the left side of their name. Here you can enter new numbers, if you disagree with the order in which they are arranged. The highest ranked (the ones on the top of the list) has the greatest chance of getting a seat from your county.

There are also boxes on the right side of the names on the ballot. If you make an X in one of these boxes, the respective candidate is removed from your vote. The vote will count even if you make an error when changing the ballot (however, your changes to the ballot will be ignored). In order to have an influence on the outcome the same change must be done by more than half of the candidates in the county that voted for that particular party.


The distribution of seats

Each election the people elect 169 representatives. 150 of these are elected directly from each county. Norway uses proportional representation in order to elect its parliament. This implies that the parties get roughly the same percentage of members in parliament as they got votes in the election. But this has not always been the case:

-          From 1814–1905 Norway had what is called an indirect majority election. The voters chose electors, and then the chosen decided who were to be members of parliament.

-          From 1905–1919 Norway employed what is called a single member plurality system, which means that the party that got most votes in one district got that district’s representative. This type of election greatly favors the largest party, and is similar to that of present day United Kingdom.

-          1920–present Norway introduced proportional representation in districts with more than one candidate. This achieves greater mathematical fairness between the number of elected representatives from each party and their total percentage of the vote.

Norway is divided into 19 electoral districts (the Norwegian countries). The elected representatives are dived amongst these counties according to their population and size. The distribution key for each county is population + (square kilometers * 1.8):

Country Population Area * 1.8 Key
Oslo 613,285 817.20 614,102.20
Finnmark 73,787 87,510.60 161,297.60

This gives the following distribution for the counties:

Country Seats
Aust-Agder 4
Sogn og Fjordane 4
Finnmark 5
Nord-Trøndelag 5
Telemark 6
Vest-Agder 6
Troms 6
Hedmark 7
Oppland 7
Vestfold 7
Østfold 9
Buskerud 9
Møre og Romsdal 9
Nordland 9
Sør-Trøndelag 10
Rogaland 14
Hordaland 16
Akershus 17
Oslo 19
Total 169

Then, 150 of the 169 seats are chosen directly from each county following the modified Sainte-Laguë method of seat allocation. This means that the votes are dived on the numbers 1.4, 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. We can use the country of Nordland (which had 10 seats in 2009) in the election of 2009 as an example:

Party Vote





































































This gave Labour 4, Progressive 3, Conservative 1, Center 1, and Socialist 1 seat. But remember that in the 2013 election only 150 seats are distributed this way (directly from each county). By employing 1.4 rather than 1.0 as the first number (which is used on the original method by André Sainte-Laguë) an advantage is given to the larger parties. This gives the large parties (especially the Labour party) a disadvantage in the distribution of the leveling seats. However, in sum the largest parties (especially the largest) benefit from the Norwegian election method, even when taking the leveling seats into account.


The leveling seats

19 of the 169 seats that are contested are dedicated to be distributed according to each political party’s share of votes at the national level, as long as the party received a minimum of 4 percent of the nationwide vote. If a party received for example 3.9 percent of the vote, it will not be eligible for the 19 leveling seats.

Even if the party does not reach the 4.0 threshold it can still acquire seats from the county distribution. The conservative-centrist Coastal Party received just 1.7 percent of the national vote in 2001. However, it still got one representative in Parliament. In the electoral county of Nordland it received 10.9 percent of the vote, thus qualifying for one of the district mandates.

Today, there is one leveling seat from each county. However, the distribution of the leveling seats between the parties (if they had a vote over 4.0 percent of the nationwide total) is decided before they are distributed among the 19 counties. In this first stage we think of Norway as one electoral district.

If a given party did not get a seat from a given county, its total vote from that county is included in the new calculation. If a party did get a seat (or seats), its vote is divided on the number of seats it got multiplied with 2. So if the Labor party got 50,948 votes in Nordland and 4 seats, the new coefficient for this country is 50,948 / (4*2) = 6268.5, while the coefficient for the Christian People’s party is similar to their total vote as they did not get any seats from Nordland. This is done for each country and then added up.

Then, the recalculated coefficients are used as a basis to calculate each party’s (with more than 4.0 percent of the nation vote) share of the 19 leveling seats. This is done by way of the same modified Sainte-Laguë method of seat allocation as described above.

Now, each party has gotten its share of leveling seats, and it is time to decide which party gets which seat from which country (remember, there is one leveling seat from each electoral district). This is done by way of dividing each party’s remaining votes (after the county mandates has been distributed) in each county on the average of votes required for each seat in that county.

This way we end up with a new coefficient for each party for each county. We can make a list of this:

County Party Coefficient Seat
Rogaland Socialist 0.561 Yes #1
Troms Center 0.500 Yes #2
Buskerud Center 0.497 Yes #3
Sogn og Fjordane Conservative 0.485 Yes #4
Akershus Center 0.471 No, they already got their 2 seats
Akershus Christian 0.465 Yes #5
Østfold Christian 0.461 Yes #6
Hedmark Socialist 0.459 Yes #7
Hordaland Progressive 0.456 Yes #8
Rogaland Christian 0.450 No, Rogaland’s seat taken by Socialists
Troms Socialist 0.447 No, Troms’ seat taken by Center
Nord-Trøndelag Conservative 0.446 Yes #9

We see that each party has a given number of seats, so even if the Center had a solid coefficient in Akershus it did not receive this seat, as it already had gotten its two seats from Troms and Buskerud (and the national calculation had shown that they should only get two seats). Also, we see that the Christians in Rogaland had the second best coefficient in Rogaland, so even if it was a solid coefficient the seat was already taken by the Socialists.

The lowest county-coefficient that received a seat in 2009 was Vest-Agder, where the Socialist Party won the representative with a coefficient of 0.197 (in a county where they received only 3647 votes). The Conservative-, Progressive, and Christian Party all had larger coefficients than the Socialist Party in Vest-Agder, but had already received their share of leveling seats when reaching their coefficients on the list.

To sum up, the Norwegian electoral system tries to combine the mathematical fairness of proportional representation together with the arrangement of the leveling seats. By using a modified version of the Sainte-Laguë method of seat allocation and a four percent threshold for the leveling seats, one avoids having to many small political parties present in the government.


*Cover photo by Alexandre Dulanoy, Stoltenberg/Solberg photo by Statsministerens kontor, Fremskrittspartiet photo by Fremskrittspartiet, Arbeiderpartiet photo by Rauma Ap, Høybråten photo by Kristelig Folkeparti.



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