Voting System Basics

What is a voting system?

A voting system is how we elect representatives to a legislature. In provincial elections, the voting system is used to elect Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The Legislative Assembly is where provincial laws are made and governments are formed.

Voting system illustration

There are many different voting systems. Each one has different rules about how voters cast their ballot, how votes are counted, and how votes translate into seats in the legislature.

Basic features of voting systems

Each voting system is different, but they all share some basic features. These basic features include candidates, political parties, electoral districts (also called ridings or constituencies), and ballots.


  • Candidates are the people who compete in the election to represent you as an MLA
  • Most candidates represent political parties
  • Some candidates do not represent a party and are called independents
  • How a candidate becomes an MLA depends on the voting system being used


Political Parties:

  • A political party is a group of people who share common values and ideas about what government should do
  • During elections political parties run campaigns and endorse candidates to represent them

Political parties

Electoral Districts

  • Electoral districts are geographic areas that are represented in the Legislative Assembly
  • Some voting systems have one MLA per electoral district, while others have two or more
  • Electoral districts are often called ridings or constituencies

Electoral districts


  • The ballot is the piece of paper you mark your vote on when you go to vote
  • There are different ballots for different voting systems. In some systems you vote for a candidate, while in others you vote for a party. In some systems you vote by marking a check or an ‘x’ on the ballot, while in others you rank in order of preference. There are many different possibilities depending on the voting system being used.