Election

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A ballot box used in France Election MG 3455.JPG
A ballot box used in France

An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. [1] It is usually used in Democratic nations.

Contents

Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century. [1] Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations. [2]

The universal use of elections as a tool for selecting representatives in modern representative democracies is in contrast with the practice in the democratic archetype, ancient Athens, where the Elections were not used were considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot. [3]

Electoral reform describes the process of introducing fair electoral systems where they are not in place, or improving the fairness or effectiveness of existing systems. Psephology is the study of results and other statistics relating to elections (especially with a view to predicting future results).

To elect means "to select or make a decision", and so sometimes other forms of ballot such as referendums are referred to as elections, especially in the United States.

History

Roman coin depicting election Roman Election.jpg
Roman coin depicting election
A British election campaign leaflet with an illustration of an example ballot paper, 1880 Cardiganshire Election ballot paper 1880.jpg
A British election campaign leaflet with an illustration of an example ballot paper, 1880

Elections were used as early in history as ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and throughout the Medieval period to select rulers such as the Holy Roman Emperor (see imperial election) and the pope (see papal election). [1]

In Vedic period of India, the Raja (chiefs) of a gana (a tribal organization) was apparently elected by the gana. The Raja belonged to the noble Kshatriya varna (warrior class), and was typically a son of the previous Raja. However, the gana members had the final say in his elections. [4] Even during the Sangam Period people elected their representatives by casting their votes and the ballot boxes (Usually a pot) were tied by rope and sealed. After the election the votes were taken out and counted. [5] The Pala King Gopala (ruled c. 750s–770s CE) in early medieval Bengal was elected by a group of feudal chieftains. Such elections were quite common in contemporary societies of the region. [6] [7] In the Chola Empire, around 920 CE, in Uthiramerur (in present-day Tamil Nadu), palm leaves were used for selecting the village committee members. The leaves, with candidate names written on them, were put inside a mud pot. To select the committee members, a young boy was asked to take out as many leaves as the number of positions available. This was known as the Kudavolai system. [8] [9]

The modern "election", which consists of public elections of government officials, didn't emerge until the beginning of the 17th century when the idea of representative government took hold in North America and Europe. [1]

Questions of suffrage, especially suffrage for minority groups, have dominated the history of elections. Males, the dominant cultural group in North America and Europe, often dominated the electorate and continue to do so in many countries. [1] Early elections in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States were dominated by landed or ruling class males. [1] However, by 1920 all Western European and North American democracies had universal adult male suffrage (except Switzerland) and many countries began to consider women's suffrage. [1] Despite legally mandated universal suffrage for adult males, political barriers were sometimes erected to prevent fair access to elections (see civil rights movement). [1]

Characteristic

Suffrage

The question of who may vote is a central issue in elections. The electorate does not generally include the entire population; for example, many countries prohibit those who are under the age of majority from voting, all jurisdictions require a minimum age for voting.

In Australia, Aboriginal people were not given the right to vote until 1962 (see 1967 referendum entry) and in 2010 the federal government removed the rights of prisoners serving for 3 years or more to vote (a large proportion of which were Aboriginal Australians).

Suffrage is typically only for citizens of the country, though further limits may be imposed.

However, in the European Union, one can vote in municipal elections if one lives in the municipality and is an EU citizen; the nationality of the country of residence is not required.

Campaigners working on posters in Milan, Italy, 2004 ElezioneMilano.jpg
Campaigners working on posters in Milan, Italy, 2004

In some countries, voting is required by law; if an eligible voter does not cast a vote, he or she may be subject to punitive measures such as a fine. In Western Australia, the penalty for a first time offender failing to vote is a $20.00 fine, which increases to $50.00 if the offender refused to vote prior. [10]

Nomination of candidate

A representative democracy requires a procedure to govern nomination for political office. In many cases, nomination for office is mediated through preselection processes in organized political parties. [11]

Non-partisan systems tend to be different from partisan systems as concerns nominations. In a direct democracy, one type of non-partisan democracy, any eligible person can be nominated. Although elections were used in ancient Athens, in Rome, and in the selection of popes and Holy Roman emperors, the origins of elections in the contemporary world lie in the gradual emergence of representative government in Europe and North America beginning in the 17th century. In some systems no nominations take place at all, with voters free to choose any person at the time of voting—with some possible exceptions such as through a minimum age requirement—in the jurisdiction. In such cases, it is not required (or even possible) that the members of the electorate be familiar with all of the eligible persons, though such systems may involve indirect elections at larger geographic levels to ensure that some first-hand familiarity among potential electees can exist at these levels (i.e., among the elected delegates).

As far as partisan systems, in some countries, only members of a particular party can be nominated (see one-party state). Or, any eligible person can be nominated through a process; thus allowing him or her to be listed.

Electoral systems

Electoral systems are the detailed constitutional arrangements and voting systems that convert the vote into a political decision. The first step is to tally the votes, for which various vote counting systems and ballot types are used. Voting systems then determine the result on the basis of the tally. Most systems can be categorized as either proportional or majoritarian. Among the former are party-list proportional representation and additional member system. Among the latter are First Past the Post electoral system (relative majority) and absolute majority. Many countries have growing electoral reform movements, which advocate systems such as approval voting, single transferable vote, instant runoff voting or a Condorcet method; these methods are also gaining popularity for lesser elections in some countries where more important elections still use more traditional counting methods.

While openness and accountability are usually considered cornerstones of a democratic system, the act of casting a vote and the content of a voter's ballot are usually an important exception. The secret ballot is a relatively modern development, but it is now considered crucial in most free and fair elections, as it limits the effectiveness of intimidation.

Scheduling

The nature of democracy is that elected officials are accountable to the people, and they must return to the voters at prescribed intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office. For that reason most democratic constitutions provide that elections are held at fixed regular intervals. In the United States, elections for public offices are typically held between every two and six years in most states and at the federal level, with exceptions for elected judicial positions that may have longer terms of office. There is a variety of schedules, for example presidents: the President of Ireland is elected every seven years, the President of Russia and the President of Finland every six years, the President of France every five years, President of the United States every four years.

Pre-decided or fixed election dates have the advantage of fairness and predictability. However, they tend to greatly lengthen campaigns, and make dissolving the legislature (parliamentary system) more problematic if the date should happen to fall at time when dissolution is inconvenient (e.g. when war breaks out). Other states (e.g., the United Kingdom) only set maximum time in office, and the executive decides exactly when within that limit it will actually go to the polls. In practice, this means the government remains in power for close to its full term, and choose an election date it calculates to be in its best interests (unless something special happens, such as a motion of no-confidence). This calculation depends on a number of variables, such as its performance in opinion polls and the size of its majority.

Election campaigns

When elections are called, politicians and their supporters attempt to influence policy by competing directly for the votes of constituents in what are called campaigns. Supporters for a campaign can be either formally organized or loosely affiliated, and frequently utilize campaign advertising. It is common for political scientists to attempt to predict elections via Political Forecasting methods.

The most expensive election campaign included US$7 billion spent on the 2012 United States presidential election and is followed by the US$5 billion spent on the 2014 Indian general election. [12]

Difficulties with elections

Buenos Aires 1892 "The rival voters were kept back by an armed force of police out of sight to others. Only batches of two or three were allowed to enter the polling-office at a time. Armed sentries guarded the gates and the doors." (Godefroy Durand, The Graphic, 21 May 1892). The Presidential Election in Argentina, the Polling-Station at the Church of La Merced, Buenos Ayres.jpg
Buenos Aires 1892 "The rival voters were kept back by an armed force of police out of sight to others. Only batches of two or three were allowed to enter the polling-office at a time. Armed sentries guarded the gates and the doors." (Godefroy Durand, The Graphic , 21 May 1892).

In many of the countries with weak rule of law, the most common reason why elections do not meet international standards of being "free and fair" is interference from the incumbent government. Dictators may use the powers of the executive (police, martial law, censorship, physical implementation of the election mechanism, etc.) to remain in power despite popular opinion in favor of removal. Members of a particular faction in a legislature may use the power of the majority or supermajority (passing criminal laws, defining the electoral mechanisms including eligibility and district boundaries) to prevent the balance of power in the body from shifting to a rival faction due to an election. [1]

Non-governmental entities can also interfere with elections, through physical force, verbal intimidation, or fraud, which can result in improper casting or counting of votes. Monitoring for and minimizing electoral fraud is also an ongoing task in countries with strong traditions of free and fair elections. Problems that prevent an election from being "free and fair" take various forms. [13]

Lack of open political debate or an informed electorate

The electorate may be poorly informed about issues or candidates due to lack of freedom of the press, lack of objectivity in the press due to state or corporate control, and/or lack of access to news and political media. Freedom of speech may be curtailed by the state, favoring certain viewpoints or state propaganda.

Unfair rules

Gerrymandering, exclusion of opposition candidates from eligibility for office, needlessly high restrictions on who may be a candidate, like ballot access rules, and manipulating thresholds for electoral success are some of the ways the structure of an election can be changed to favor a specific faction or candidate.

Interference with campaigns

Those in power may arrest or assassinate candidates, suppress or even criminalize campaigning, close campaign headquarters, harass or beat campaign workers, or intimidate voters with violence. Foreign electoral intervention can also occur, with the United States interfering between 1946 and 2000 in 81 elections and Russia/USSR in 36. [14] In 2018 the most intense interventions, by means of false information, were by China in Taiwan and by Russia in Latvia; the next highest levels were in Bahrain, Qatar and Hungary. [15]

Few US states check results State audits.png
Few US states check results

Tampering with the election mechanism

This can include falsifying voter instructions, [16] violation of the secret ballot, ballot stuffing, tampering with voting machines, [17] destruction of legitimately cast ballots, [18] voter suppression, voter registration fraud, failure to validate voter residency, fraudulent tabulation of results, and use of physical force or verbal intimation at polling places. Other examples include persuading candidates not to run, such as through blackmailing, bribery, intimidation or physical violence.

Show election

A sham election, or show election, is an election that is held purely for show; that is, without any significant political choice or real impact on results of election. [19]

Show elections are a common event in dictatorial regimes that feel the need to feign the appearance of public legitimacy. Published results usually show nearly 100% voter turnout and high support (typically at least 80%, and close to 100% in many cases) for the prescribed candidate(s) or for the referendum choice that favors the political party in power. Dictatorial regimes can also organize show elections with results simulating those that might be achieved in democratic countries. [20]

Sometimes, only one government approved candidate is allowed to run in sham elections with no opposition candidates allowed, or opposition candidates are arrested on false charges (or even without any charges) before the election to prevent them from running. [21] [22] [23]

Ballots may contain only one "yes" option, or in the case of a simple "yes or no" question, security forces often persecute people who pick "no", thus encouraging them to pick the "yes" option. In other cases, those who vote receive stamps in their passport for doing so, while those who did not vote (and thus do not receive stamps) are persecuted as enemies of the people. [24] [25]

In some cases, show elections can backfire against the party in power, especially if the regime believes they are popular enough to win without coercion or fraud. The most famous example of this was the 1990 Myanmar general election. [26]

Examples

A ballot from the 1936 elections in Nazi Germany. Wahlzettel-3.-Reich.jpg
A ballot from the 1936 elections in Nazi Germany.
A ballot from the 1938 elections in Nazi Germany asking voters to approve the new Reichstag and the Anschluss. The "no" box was made significantly smaller than the "yes" box. Stimmzettel-Anschluss.jpg
A ballot from the 1938 elections in Nazi Germany asking voters to approve the new Reichstag and the Anschluss. The "no" box was made significantly smaller than the "yes" box.

Examples of sham elections are the 1929 and 1934 elections in Fascist Italy, elections in Nazi Germany, the 1940 elections of the People's Parliaments in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the 1955 referendum in Vietnam, the 1958 election in Portugal, post-revolutionary Iran, the 2014 Crimean referendum, and in most communist and socalist states (e.g. East Germany, the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Ba'athist Iraq).

A predetermined conclusion is always established by the regime through suppression of the opposition, coercion of voters, vote rigging, reporting a number of votes received greater than the number of voters, outright lying, or some combination of these.

In an extreme example, Charles D. B. King of Liberia was reported to have won by 234,000 votes in the 1927 general election, a "majority" that was over fifteen times larger than the number of eligible voters. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

Plurality voting is an electoral system in which each voter is allowed to vote for only one candidate, and the candidate who polls the most among their counterparts is elected. In a system based on single-member districts, it may be called first-past-the-post (FPTP), single-choice voting, simple plurality or relative/simple majority. In a system based on multi-member districts, it may be referred to as winner-takes-all or bloc voting. The system is often used to elect members of a legislative assembly or executive officers. It is the most common form of the system, and is used in most elections in the United States, the lower house in India, elections to the House of Commons and English local elections in the United Kingdom.

Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. If n% of the electorate support a particular political party as their favorite, then roughly n% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result—not just a plurality, or a bare majority. The most prevalent forms of proportional representation all require the use of multiple-member voting districts, as it is not possible to fill a single seat in a proportional manner. In fact, PR systems that achieve the highest levels of proportionality tend to include districts with large numbers of seats.

Single transferable vote Proportional representation voting system

The single transferable vote (STV) is a proportional voting system designed to achieve or closely approach proportional representation through voters ranking candidates in multi-seat organizations or constituencies. There are various ways of counting votes under STV, as described below.

Voting method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion

Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. Residents of a place represented by an elected official are called "constituents", and those constituents who cast a ballot for their chosen candidate are called "voters". There are different systems for collecting votes.

Mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation is a mixed electoral system in which voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party. Seats in the legislature are filled firstly by the successful constituency candidates, and secondly, by party candidates based on the percentage of nationwide or region-wide votes that each party received. The constituency representatives are elected using first-past-the-post voting (FPTP) or another plurality/majoritarian system. The nationwide or region-wide party representatives are, in most jurisdictions, drawn from published party lists, similar to party-list proportional representation. To gain a nationwide representative, parties may be required to achieve a minimum number of constituency candidates, a minimum percentage of the nationwide party vote, or both.

Electoral reform in New Zealand

Electoral reform in New Zealand has, in recent years, become a political issue as major changes have been made to both parliamentary and local government electoral systems.

Electoral Reform Society political group in the United Kingdom

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) is a political pressure group based in the United Kingdom which promotes electoral reform. It seeks to replace the first-past-the-post voting system with one of proportional representation, advocating the single transferable vote. It is the world's oldest operating organisation concerned with political and electoral reform.

Election law is a discipline falling at the juncture of constitutional law and political science. It researches "the politics of law and the law of politics". The conceptual knowledge behind election law focuses on who votes, when that person can vote, and the construction behind the tabulated totals.

Elections in the United States Political elections for public offices in the United States

Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the president, is elected indirectly by the people of each state, through an Electoral College. Today, these electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are directly elected by the people of each state. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages; as well as for special districts and school districts which may transcend county and municipal boundaries. According to a study by political scientist Jennifer Lawless, there were 519,682 elected officials in the United States as of 2012.

Elections in Australia discussion of elections conducted in Australia

Elections in Australia take place periodically to elect the legislature of the Commonwealth of Australia, as well as for each Australian state and territory. Elections in all jurisdictions follow similar principles, though there are minor variations between them. The elections for the Australian Parliament are held under the federal electoral system, which is uniform throughout the country, and the elections for state and territory Parliaments are held under the electoral system of each state and territory.

Elections in France

France is a representative democracy. Public officials in the legislative and executive branches are either elected by the citizens or appointed by elected officials. Referendums may also be called to consult the French citizenry directly on a particular question, especially one which concerns amendment to the Constitution.

Elections in Greece gives information on elections and election results in Greece.

2005 British Columbia electoral reform referendum

A referendum was held in the Canadian province of British Columbia on May 17, 2005, to determine whether or not to adopt the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to replace the existing first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP) with a single transferable vote system (BC-STV). It was held in conjunction with the BC Legislative Assembly election of 2005. Voters were given two ballots at that time: a ballot to vote for a Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia (MLA) in their constituency and a referendum ballot. The referendum received considerable support from the electorate but failed in meeting the demanding threshold that had been set. A second referendum was held in 2009.

Elections in Iraq gives information on election and election results in Iraq.

Elections in Lithuania

Elections in Lithuania, are held to select members of the parliament, the president, members of the municipal councils and mayors, as well as delegates to the European Parliament. Lithuanian citizens can also vote in mandatory or consultative referendums.

BC-STV is the proposed voting system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in October 2004 for use in British Columbia, and belongs to the single transferable vote family of voting systems. BC-STV was supported by a majority of the voters in a referendum held in 2005 but the government had legislated that it would not be bound by any vote lower than 60 percent in favour. Because of the strong majority support for BC-STV, the government elected to stage a second referendum in 2009, but with increased public funding for information campaigns to better inform the electorate about the differences between the existing and proposed systems. The leadership of both the "yes" side and the "no" side were assigned by the government. The proposal was rejected with 60.9 percent voting against, vs. 39.1 percent in favour, in the 2009 vote.

Voting in Switzerland is the process by which Swiss citizens make decisions about governance and elect officials. The polling stations are opened on Saturdays and Sunday mornings but most people vote by post in advance. At noon on Sunday, voting ends and the results are usually known during the afternoon.

Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:

Elections in the United Kingdom types of elections in the United Kingdom

There are five types of elections in the United Kingdom: elections to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elections to devolved parliaments and assemblies, local elections, mayoral elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Within each of those categories, there may also be by-elections. Elections are held on Election Day, which is conventionally a Thursday. Since the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for general elections, all five types of elections are held after fixed periods, though early elections to parliament and the devolved assemblies and parliaments can occur in certain situations. The five electoral systems used are: the single member plurality system (first-past-the-post), the multi-member plurality system, the single transferable vote, the additional member system and the supplementary vote.

Electoral system Method by which voters make a choice between options

An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by governments, while non-political elections may take place in business, non-profit organisations and informal organisations. These rules govern all aspects of the voting process: when elections occur, who is allowed to vote, who can stand as a candidate, how ballots are marked and cast, how the ballots are counted, limits on campaign spending, and other factors that can affect the outcome. Political electoral systems are defined by constitutions and electoral laws, are typically conducted by election commissions, and can use multiple types of elections for different offices.

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