In the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, and many other nations, usually the one candidate who receives the most votes is elected from a district. If an absolute majority is needed to win, a run-off election maybe required. In Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, and other nations (including some local elections in the United States), proportional representation is used to more adequately represent political or other minorities within the electorate. Two methods are used—the voter ranking system in a multiseat district, and the party list system in which parties gaining a threshold vote win one seat and those well above the threshold dividing the remaining seats proportionally. While a proportional system provides representation for minorities and eliminates gerrymandering, primaries, and run-off elections, it can weaken the representative-constituent relationship, encourage multiple parties, and necessitate coalition rather than majority governments. Some nations, for example, Italy, Germany, and Spain, use a combination of direct election and proportional representation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.