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Thu 25
How do the most democratic countries in the world vote?

How do the most democratic countries in the world vote?

Paper ballots, electronic, online and mail voting. Here are how some of the most democratic countries in the world choose their representatives

Helen Mendes

Here are how voters declare their political preferences in the 11 most democratic countries in the world (according to ranking made by the Economist Intelligence Unit). Among these countries, the only places where voting is mandatory are Australia and the canton of Schaffhausen, in Switzerland.


In Norway, voting works like this: the voter goes up to the voting booth, which is isolated. He then picks up a ballot of the party for which he wants to vote, and writes down the changes he wishes. The voter then folds the ballot so that no one may be able to see for whom he voted and goes up to the election official, who stamps the paper, and then deposits his ballot in the ballot box. Voters can also send their votes through the mail before the election date.

In 2013, the country tried an electronic voting system through the internet, but abandoned the system, because voters feared their votes could be made public, according to the BBC.


The Icelandic Parliament (the oldest in the world) is made up of 63 representatives who are elected throughout the country’s six provinces through a proportional representation. Voting is done in paper ballots. The candidates on the ballots are all members of their respective political parties. Voter may chose only one ballot, but are able to alter the order of the candidates in the ballot which they are using. The president is elected in a separate election.

Icelanders may also vote ahead of the election date. People who are not able to go to a voting station may vote in specific places or send their votes by mail up to eight weeks before the election date.


Sweden holds elections every four years to choose their representatives in the three levels of government (national parliament, district councils and municipal assemblies). In the weeks before the election, voting cards are sent to the addresses of every voter. In some places it is possible to vote ahead of the election date. People who live abroad may also send their votes through the mail or via a surrogate. People who are ill or have some form of handicap may also send their surrogates to the voting stations.

In the voting booth, there are ballots of different colors for each election which is being held. There are also different ballots which allow voting for a party or choosing among candidates in a list. Besides these options, there are blank ballots, where the voter may write down the name which he wants to vote for. Theoretically, if a person receive enough votes in this way, he or she may be elected.

Voters insert their ballots in an envelope and hand it to the election official in that voting section.

New Zealand

Voting in New Zealand’s general elections begin two weeks before the election day. Voters, who must register beforehand, may vote ahead of time if they are not in their voting zones in the election day.

After registering for voting, voters receive an information package called EasyVote, with the list of voting stations near their homes. In the election day, voters choose a political party and a candidate who will represent them in parliament.

New Zealanders may also download ballots in the Electoral Commission website and send their votes by mail, if they live abroad.

Plans of implementing an internet voting system through the internet have faced the opposition of technology experts, who claim online voting may not be safe.


Denmark elects its 179 members of parliament – 175 from Denmark and two for each of the Faroe Islands and Greenland – in general, direct and secret elections. All people qualified for voting may go to their voting stations in order to make their choices. A paper ballot is handed out to each voter, with the names of parties and candidates. In an isolated booth, voters may cross their options in the ballots and then deposit them in a ballot box. At the end of the elections, officers tally the votes.

Votes are considered invalid if the ballot is blank, if the option is not marked with a cross, or if it is not possible to state with certainty to which party or candidate the voter intended to vote, or if the ballot has any marks which may identify the voter.


In Ireland, every election is decided through proportional representation with a single transferrable vote. Voters indicate their first and alternative choices writing down a number next to the candidates’ names in the ballot. The person may indicate his or her first choice by writing down “1” next to a candidate, “2” for his second choice, and so on.

In that way, voters may indicate that their votes can be transferred to the second candidate of his choice in case his first choice is elected with an excessive number of votes, or gets eliminated.

Voters may choose several candidates, or just one. Those who do not want a specific candidate to be elected in any way usually give their preferences to all others, except those whom they reject.

Tallying votes begin with the first preferences. The quota, the minimum number of valid votes each candidate must receive in order to be elected, is calculated. If a candidate receives more than his quota, votes which exceed that number are transferred to the remaining candidates in their respective order, following the proportion of the voters’ preference.


Presidential and provincial elections in Canada use paper ballots, but electronic voting has also been used since the 1990s in municipal elections. Some municipalities also offer the possibility of voting through the internet.

Canadian voters must register ahead of time in order to vote. They may vote in the election day or in previous dates, in specific places. Canadians – either those who live in the country or abroad – also have the possibility of sending their votes by mail. In order to do that, they must request a kit which contains a special ballot.

Since 2010, the country has been discussing an electoral reform which would include internet voting. In 2016, the electoral reform committee expressed their opinion against online voting in the country, and the federal government accepted it.


Voting is mandatory for all Australians over the age of 18, who may attend a voting station on election day or vote by mail. Federal elections in Australia are done with paper ballots.

In 2013, the Australian Electoral Committee analyzed online voting. After the 2016 federal election, the leaders of the country’s two main parties discussed the possibility of introducing electronic voting in future elections.

Australia has been testing electronic voting since 2001, and has projects to try to improve the access of visually impaired voters and has been experimenting a safe network to allow voting by servicemen who are currently in other countries.

In the 2016 federal elections digitalization and the electronic tallying of paper ballots were introduced.


Every Finn above the age of 18, as well as most foreigners who live in the country, have the right to vote in Finland. Citizens receive a letter detailing their voting places.

Voters must attend their voting stations in the election day, or on previous scheduled dates. After identifying themselves, voters receive a paper ballot from the official, and writes down the number of their candidates inside a circle in the ballot. The ballot is then folded and handed to an official, who stamps the paper and indicates the ballot box where it should be inserted.

A Ministry of Justice taskforce coordinates a project to implement an electronic voting system all over the country. The Ministry decided to postpone the launching of nationwide electronic voting until they are able to ensure the safety of the system, mentioning concerns regarding possible interference in the elections.


Direct democracy is a centerpiece in Switzerland’s political scenario. Citizens are used to receiving their ballots in envelopes, along with information regarding the next referendums.

Swiss people not only choose their representatives, but also vote up to four times per year on referendums regarding federal proposals and specific issues concerning their own cantons. Votes may be sent by mail (the most popular option), placed in ballot boxes or send via internet in some regions.

This year, the country disclosed an online voting system which uses Blockchain technology. Researchers in the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology who are trying out the system, claim it offers a fraud-proof method which ensures voters’ anonymity.


The Netherlands used electronic voting machines since the late 1990s up until 2007 in most of its regions. The system has since then been canceled, and the country began to use paper ballots once again, after a controversy in the 2006 elections, when a group of demonstrators showed the vulnerability of the machines.

In the 2017 general elections, the country’s authorities decided to manually tally all votes, in order to avoid possible attacks against the software in the machines. The country was in a state of alert after American intelligence agencies warned that Russia might have influenced that country’s presidential elections.

In that same year, 28 parties, a record number, took part in the elections. Because of that, voters had to vote in giant paper ballots with the names of all candidates. The curious situation was shared in pictures spread all over the social media.



Como votam os países mais democráticos do mundo?

Cédulas de papel, votação eletrônica, online ou pelo correio. Veja como algumas das maiores democracias do mundo escolhem os seus representantes