From Wikipedia:

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.

But how often do voters actually manage to change the default ranking of the party lists and elect someone who wasn't supposed to be at the top of the ballot? Are there any statistics from European countries which use this system?

  • 1
    In local elections in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, it sometimes happens that parties order their candidates by alphabet. This obviously only works if voters actually know them, or at least the more important ones.
    – chirlu
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 8:49

3 Answers 3


I am not aware of a systematic analysis of this phenomenon but it's pretty easy to get a feel for this by perusing the results of the Dutch elections. For example, looking the results of the CDA list for the 2006 election from Wikipedia, we can see that 79.5% of the voters voted for the first person on the list (which is equivalent to voting for the list as a whole on the ballot, IIRC). That leaves 20% who do make use of the open list to express a preference and influence the rankings of the candidates.

At the same time, this did not have any effect on who was effectively elected. Specifically, six candidates got enough personal votes to be elected directly but five of them were already in the top five spots of the list (not necessarily in the same order). Annie Schreijer-Pierik got more preference votes than all but three other candidates, effectively jumping from number 11 to number 4 on the list. But since her party got 41 seats in total, this had no practical effect.

Further down the list, you will see people getting one or two thousand (and in one case even ten thousands) votes but that's insufficient to be elected and does not affect the final result. In fact, this is a desired effect! Dutch political parties occasionally put what they call “lijstduwers” (or list-pushers) in unelectable positions in the list. Those are well-known personalities who are not seeking a mandate but might get some personal votes. Since they are not expected to reach the threshold, those votes only increase the party's total number of seats, to be filled from the top.

Still, in the last election, three candidates were elected based on preference votes, displacing someone who was higher up on the list than they were.

  • 4 people were elected based on preference voting (3 women + 1 farmer) according to the article.
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 13:34
  • @Erik Well, according to the article, one of these would have been elected anyway and the net result was that someone else got bumped but I didn't want to get into these details, which is why I wrote three.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:50

I've no idea how this is practiced across Europe. But as a comparison point, over in Australia they use above the line voting. It's not exactly what you describe but close. Rather than rank all choices one by one, voters get to choose one party or group, and all the remaining squares are deemed to be filled in according to a registered party ticket. 95% of voters end up doing this.

This would suggest that voters usually stick - quite predictably - with the party list.


I don't know any statistics from the top of my head, however, it depends on:

a) the actual rules of preferential voting. I.e. the candidates from the bottom of the list need to get some minimal share of votes in order to change the position. Obviously, lower minimal share and the higher number of preferential votes voters have lead to higher chances that candidates will switch positions.

b) the party and its voters - some voters use preferential voting, some don't and some (let's say populist) parties place their leader on the bottom of the list to indicate that they are not like the others, e.g. Slovakian party Ordinary People does this.

The only statistics I found comes from Slovakia where it was between 0-10 percent in 1994-2012 (on page 71, it is in Slovak language though).

  • Thank you for your answer, but unfortunately we expect answers to not just be educated guesses. We expect answers to be backed up by verifiable facts.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 8:32
  • Ok, I edited the answer and omitted my educated guess. Better?
    – skvrnami
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 13:01

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