The choice of electoral system is one of the most important institutional decisions for any democracy.

In almost all cases the choice of a particular electoral system has a profound effect on the future political life of the country concerned, and electoral systems, once chosen, often remain fairly constant as political interests solidify around and respond to the incentives presented by them. The choices made may have consequences that were unforeseen, as well as predicted effects.

Electoral systems can also have a significant impact on the wider political and institutional framework. Their design and effects are heavily contingent upon other structures within and outside the constitution. Successful electoral system design comes from looking at the framework of political institutions as a whole: changing one part of this framework is likely to cause adjustments in the way other institutions within it work.

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the electoral systems in use in more than 200 countries and includes 18 case studies as well as a map showing where the various electoral systems are used. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different electoral systems, and the factors to consider when modifying or designing an electoral system.

The Overview is also available in print.


Publication date
01 June 2005
Andrew Reynolds, Ben Reilly, Andrew Ellis
Number of pages
91-85391-18-2 (Print)

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Electoral System Design

The New International IDEA Handbook
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