Local referendums2018


About the statistics


Name and topic

Name: Local referendums
Topic: Elections

Responsible division

Division for Population Statistics

Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Local referendums: Any referendum arranged within the municipality border were the persons entitled to vote have been given the possibility to directly give a statement concerning one single matter, and were the polling result will be used by the municipality or the county as a base for their decision-making in the matter. The referendum may be confined to parts of the municipality or involving the municipality as a whole.

Subject classification: Alcohol: Referendums concerning establishment/close-down of a state monopoly on wine and spirits, beer sale/service and other referendums concerning alcohol.

Variation of the Norwegian language: Referendums concerning which variation of the Norwegian language that should be applied in the primary and lower secondary school.

Territorial: Referendums concerning merging of municipalities, boundaries of municipalities and municipality/county belonging.

District and identity: Referendums concerning changes in the municipalities districts - for instance merging of school districts, construction of new schools or if a school should be closed down. Referendums about identity involve for instance questions about city status and name of municipality or district.

Environmental: Referendums concerning elements of environmental issues. For instance, the establishment of wind mill parks, the development of waterways for energy purpose, road construction and other infrastructure development, the protection of special areas, buildings etc.

Other: Referendums concerning other issues.

Submitted votes: The number of votes should be the same as the number crossed out in the Electoral list. In practical terms this means all valid and rejected votes.

Rejected votes: Votes that in one way or another are not approved or empty envelopes.

Valid votes: The number of approved votes after controls.

Final decision making: If the final decision making in the municipality was in compliance with the poll or not. For instance in cases concerning merging of municipalities, the result is registered as 'in compliance with the poll' if the decision in the actual municipality supported the polling result - even if the other municipality or municipalities decided not to support the polling result, or the central government overruled the decision.

Referendums concerning the municipality as a whole: All inhabitants entitled to vote in the municipality were entitled to participate in the referendum.

Referendums concerning parts of the municipality: Only inhabitants entitled to vote in a certain district or districts were enable to participate in the referendum.

Standard classifications

Municipalities, counties.

Classification of municipalities, centralization: In some tables, the country's municipalities are classifies in 8 different groups based on their business, industry and centrality

Administrative information

Regional level

Municipality level and district level in those municipalities where the persons entitled to vote are limited to inhabitants in specific school districts.

Frequency and timeliness

Every year.

International reporting

Not relevant.


Not relevant


Background and purpose

The purpose is to present a summary of local referendums arranged in Norwegian municipalities from 1970 and onwards. Statistics Norway has collected historical data from 1970 to 2007. From 2008 and onwards a yearly collection will take place and the municipalities report directly to Statistics Norway.

The use of consultative local referendums is a more than 100 year long tradition in Norway, especially in regard to referendums concerning licences to serve and sell alcohol and referendums concerning what version of the Norwegian language that should be applied in primary and lower secondary schools. Other subjects like the merging of municipalities and referendums concerning different environmental matters, have been of a more current interest. By an amendment to the Election act and the municipality act in 2008-2009, the municipality’s right to arrange a local referendum was established by law.

Users and applications

The media, researchers, political parties, municipalities and educational institutions are expected to use the statistics.

Equal treatment of users

Not relevant

Coherence with other statistics

Other statistics concerning elections.

Legal authority

Election act and the municipality act § 39 b.

EEA reference

Not relevant.



The statistics comprise results from arranged local referendums in municipalities. Numbers and information concerning the local referendums subject, time, poll alternatives distributed on votes cast in advance, votes cast on election day and total votes cast, if the decision were in compliance with the poll or not, if the referendum concerned the whole municipality or only specific districts, persons entitled to vote, and the voter turnout, are collected. Additionally, information about the voting results divided on valid votes and rejected votes, are collected from 2008 and onwards.

Data sources and sampling

From 2008 and onwards, the data are collected on a yearly basis through KOSTRA - a municipality-state-reporting system.

Postal-forms, including prefilled available information, concerning local referendums arranged prior to 2008, are posted to all municipalities. Municipalities with no available information on arranged local referendums are asked to fill out a form which confirms that they haven't arranged any local referendums in the period from 1970 to 2007.

Post-graduate thesis by Aimée Lind Adamiak, Department of Political Science - University of Oslo: "Lokale folkeavstemninger i Norge - Med særlig vekt på perioden 1970-2000" - published 2001, and information in Nynorsk faktabok 1965-2004 about local referendums concerning the subject version of the Norwegian language.

Total count.

Collection of data, editing and estimations

KOSTRA from 2008 and onwards, postal-form covering the period 1970-2007.

Computerized controls were done when registering the figures, mostly summarizing controls and logic coherence controls. Quality controls and additions were done by the municipalities.

The statistics summarize the reported information. A local referendum is counted as one separate referendum when the persons entitled to vote have the possibility to directly give a statement concerning one single matter.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


Not relevant.

Comparability over time and space

Statistics for arranged local referendums in Norwegian municipalities are to be found from 1970 and are being published by Statistics Norway for the first time in 2009.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

The data are reported to Statistics Norway via forms for the period 1970-2007. Recording errors and missing information  may occur in the municipalities files. This may lead to incomplete and incorrect data. The municipalities have not been obliged to keep information concerning arranged local referendums. The data collection for this period is based on secondary sources. The data have been through a quality assurance and complementation process in the municipalities, however not all municipalities have gone through this process, and the data from these municipalities are published with reservation. For the whole period from 1970 the number of submitted and rejected votes is uncertain in some municipalities. This is due to inaccuracy in keeping the Election List and errors in the Election Book. Misunderstandings of the concepts rejected voting / rejected vote also occur. Rejected voting occurs when a person appears, but due to different reasons, the voting is not accepted. When this occurs, the person's name should not be marked in the Electoral List and should normally not be included in the statistics. This may however in some cases still be marked in the election protocol and incorretly marked as rejected votes (ballot papers). When revising the votes, submitted and rejected votes in some cases must be adjusted or corrected by judgment, where the municipalities are unable to locate the errors.


Not relevant