Women's Representation Worldwide
There is no country in the world whose representative body fully reflects the percentage of women in its population.  However, some come closer than others.  Nordic countries average roughly 40%, more than twice that of North America. These countries all use some form of full representation.  Germany uses a mixed system whereby some seats are elected using full representation and others from single member districts  Data from these countries is especially valuable in comparing the effectiveness of both systems.  In the 1994 German election, the percentage of women elected from single-member districts was 13%--about the same as in the United States--while the percentage elected from the full representation contests was 39%.  These two countries demonstrate that when all cultural and geographic factors are equal, full representation typically results in higher representation of women.

Cultural values are another important factor in women’s representation, but even countries where social norms discourage women’s political involvement, women benefit from full representation.  Switzerland, for example, did not grant women the right to vote until 1971; yet using a full representation system, women today compose 24% of the Swiss legislature.  In less than 40 years, Switzerland has achieved higher women's representation than the U.S.          

Full representation helps, by increasing access to a greater number of candidates.  All other factors aside, women are almost twice as likely to be elected under proportional representation than in majoritarian systems.  Moreover, other measures aimed at increasing women's representation -- such as quotas for minimum numbers of candidates are much easier to impliment under full representation systems, where parties nominate several candidates at once.

Afghanistan is aiming to hold elections in 2005. If all goes as planned, the nation’s legislative body of 250 delegates will be elected directly through a system of proportional representation.  The system also includes a quota requiring a minimum of two female delegates from each province, meaning the body will be at least 25% women.

In the Iraqi elections, all political parties had to submit lists of candidates where every third person was a woman.  This again will guarantee at least 25% of all elected delegates are women.  U.S. authorities have committed $260 million to organize the elections.

The United States is supporting an electoral system in Afghanistan and Iraq which could also be effectively employed for itself. If the elections go as planned, Iraqi and Afghani women will have twice the representation as American women, despite their recent recovery from oppressive regimes.

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
A better election system
Lowell Sun

Election expert Doug Amy explains how choice voting can "inject new blood" into the elections of Lowell (MA), and give voters a greater incentive to participate.

October 16th 2009
Haven't Detroit voters spoken enough?
Livingston Daily

In Detroit, there have been three mayors in the past two years and the current one has come under scrutiny. Perhaps a system like instant runoff voting will help bring political stability to motor city.

August 21st 2009
Black candidate for Euclid school board to test new voting system
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Limited voting, a form of proportional voting, will be used in Euclid (OH), in the hopes of allowing better representation of minorities.

July 2nd 2009
Reforming Albany
New York Times

FairVote's Rob Richie responds in a letter to the editor making the case for proportional voting systems to bring substantive reform to New York's legislature.