European elections - counting the votes


The result of a European election cannot be declared until voting throughout the European Union is completed.

The ballot papers are sent to the count centre for each constituency. The candidate’s agents are allowed to supervise the count. Each ballot box is opened and the number of ballot papers in each box is checked against the return furnished by the presiding officer. All the ballot papers are then mixed and sorted. Invalid papers are rejected.

Counting continues until all the seats have been filled. The returning officer may recount all or any of the papers at any stage of a count. A candidate or their agent is entitled to ask for a recount of the papers.

When the count is completed, the returning officer declares the results of the election. The result cannot be declared until polling has closed in every EU member state.


The electoral system is proportional representation with single transferable vote (PR-STV).

The first step in the process is that the quota is worked out. The quota is the minimum number of votes necessary to guarantee the election of a candidate. It is calculated by dividing the total number of valid papers by one more than the number of seats to be filled and adding one to the result. For example, if there are 1,000 valid ballot papers and there are 4 seats in the constituency, the quota is 1000 ÷ 4 +1 = 200 + 1 = 201. The quota is 201.

The ballot papers are sorted according to the first preferences recorded for each candidate and counted. At the end of the first count, any candidate who has received the quota of votes or more than the quota of votes is deemed to be elected.

When a candidate receives more than the quota of votes, their surplus of votes is proportionally transferred to the remaining candidates.

If no candidate receives more than the quota of votes or if the surplus is not enough to elect one of the candidates, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated. Their papers are then transferred to the remaining candidates according to the next preference shown on them.

If a ballot paper is to be transferred and the second preference shown on it is for a candidate already elected or eliminated, the vote passes on to third choice and so on.

If it gets to the point that the number of seats left to be filled is equal to the number of candidates still in the running, these candidates are declared elected without having obtained the quota.

Page edited: 16 April 2015