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 or multiple individuals to hold public office.

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Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century. 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 organisations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.

The global 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 considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot.

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). Election is the fact of electing, or being elected.

To elect means "to select or make a decision", and so sometimes m]]s 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 the Vedic period [ specify ] of India, the raja (kings) of a gaṇa (a tribal organization) was elected by the gana. The raja always belonged to the Kshatriya varna (warrior class), and was typically a son of the previous raja. However, the gana members had the final say in his elections. [2] 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. [3] [ better source needed ] 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. [4] [5] 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. [6] [7]

The first recorded popular elections of officials to public office, by majority vote, where all citizens were eligible both to vote and to hold public office, date back to the Ephors of Sparta in 754 BC, under the mixed government of the Spartan Constitution. [8] [9] Athenian democratic elections, where all citizens could hold public office, were not introduced for another 247 years, until the reforms of Cleisthenes. [10] Under the earlier Solonian Constitution (circa 574 BC), all Athenian citizens were eligible to vote in the popular assemblies, on matters of law and policy, and as jurors, but only the three highest classes of citizens could vote in elections. Nor were the lowest of the four classes of Athenian citizens (as defined by the extent of their wealth and property, rather than by birth) eligible to hold public office, through the reforms of Solon. [11] [12] The Spartan election of the Ephors, therefore, also predates the reforms of Solon in Athens by approximately 180 years. [13]

Picture about the 1946 presidential election, when the parliament of Finland elected prime minister J. K. Paasikivi to succeed the resigning Mannerheim as new president with 159 votes. Election of Paasikivi.jpg
Picture about the 1946 presidential election, when the parliament of Finland elected prime minister J. K. Paasikivi to succeed the resigning Mannerheim as new president with 159 votes.

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]

Contexts of elections

Elections are held in a variety of political, organizational, and corporate settings. Many countries hold elections to select people to serve in their governments, but other types of organizations hold elections as well. For example, many corporations hold elections among shareholders to select a board of directors, and these elections may be mandated by corporate law. [14] In many places, an election to the government is usually a competition among people who have already won a primary election within a political party. [15] Elections within corporations and other organizations often use procedures and rules that are similar to those of governmental elections. [16]

Electorate

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. [17]

Voting population

Historically the size of eligible voters, the electorate, was small having the size of groups or communities of privileged men like aristocrats and men of a city (citizens).

With the growth of the number of people with bourgeois citizen rights outside of cities, expanding the term citizen, the electorates grew to numbers beyond the thousands. Elections with an electorate in the hundred thousands appeared in the final decades of the Roman Republic, by extending voting rights to citizens outside of Rome with the Lex Julia of 90 BC, reaching an electorate of 910,000 and estimated voter turnout of maximum 10% in 70 BC, [18] only again comparable in size to the first elections of the United States. At the same time the Kingdom of Great Britain had in 1780 about 214,000 eligible voters, 3% of the whole population. [19]

Candidates

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. [20]

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

Map showing the main types electoral systems used to elect candidates to the lower or sole (unicameral) house of national legislatures, as of January 2022
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.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}
Majoritarian representation (winner-take-all)
Proportional representation
Mixed-member majoritarian representation
Mixed-member proportional representation
Semi-proportional representation (non-mixed)
No election (e.g. Monarchy) Electoral systems map simplified.svg
Map showing the main types electoral systems used to elect candidates to the lower or sole (unicameral) house of national legislatures, as of January 2022.
   Majoritarian representation (winner-take-all)
  No election (e.g. Monarchy)

Electoral systems are the detailed constitutional arrangements and voting systems that convert the vote into a political decision.

The first step is for voters to cast the ballots, which may be simple single-choice ballots, but other types, such as multiple choice or ranked ballots may also be used. Then the votes are tallied, for which various vote counting systems may be used. and the voting system then determines the result on the basis of the tally. Most systems can be categorized as either proportional, majoritarian or mixed. Among the proportional systems, the most commonly used are party-list proportional representation (list PR) systems, among majoritarian are first-past-the-post electoral system (single winner plurality voting) and different methods of majority voting (such as the widely used two-round system). Mixed systems combine elements of both proportional and majoritarian methods, with some typically producing results closer to the former (mixed-member proportional) or the other (e.g. parallel voting).

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.

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. [21]

Election timing

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.

Non-democratic 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 favour 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. [22]

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, favouring 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 favour 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. [23] 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. [24]

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

Tampering with the election mechanism

This can include falsifying voter instructions, [25] violation of the secret ballot, ballot stuffing, tampering with voting machines, [26] destruction of legitimately cast ballots, [27] 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.

Sham 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. [28]

Sham 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 favours the political party in power. Dictatorial regimes can also organize sham elections with results simulating those that might be achieved in democratic countries. [29]

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. [30] [31] [32]

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. [33] [34]

In some cases, sham 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, in which the government-sponsored National Unity Party suffered a landslide defeat to the opposition National League for Democracy and consequently the results were annulled. [35]

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, the 1942 general election in Imperial Japan, those in Nazi Germany, the 1940 elections of Stalinist "People's Parliaments" to legitimise the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the 1928, 1935, 1942, 1949, 1951 and 1958 elections in Portugal, the 1991 Kazakh presidential election, those in North Korea, [36] the 1995 and 2002 presidential referendums in Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the 2021 Hong Kong legislative election.

In Mexico, all of the presidential elections from 1929 to 1982 are considered to be sham elections, as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its predecessors governed the country in a de facto single-party system without serious opposition, and they won all of the presidential elections in that period with more than 70% of the vote. The first seriously competitive presidential election in modern Mexican history was that of 1988, in which for the first time the PRI candidate faced two strong opposition candidates, though the government still rigged the result. The first fair election was held in 1994, though the opposition did not win until 2000.

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. [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Proportional representation (PR) refers to a type of electoral systems under which subgroups of an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical and political divisions of the electorate. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result—not just a plurality, or a bare majority—and that the system produces mixed, balanced representation reflecting how votes are cast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voting</span> Method for a group to make a collective 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, but while many of the systems used in decision-making can also be used as electoral systems, any which cater for proportional representation can only be used in elections.

Elections in Sweden are held once every four years. At the highest level, all 349 members of Riksdag, the national parliament of Sweden, are elected in general elections. Elections to the 20 county councils and 290 municipal assemblies – all using almost the same electoral system – are held concurrently with the legislative elections on the second Sunday in September.

Mixed-member proportional 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 first by the successful constituency candidates, and second, by party candidates based on the percentage of nationwide or region-wide votes that each party received. The constituency representatives are usually elected using first-past-the-post voting (FPTP) but the Scandinavian countries have a long history of using both multi-member districts and nationally-based compensatory top-up seats.

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.

Nonpartisan democracy is a system of representative government or organization such that universal and periodic elections take place without reference to political parties. Sometimes electioneering and even speaking about candidates may be discouraged, so as not to prejudice others' decisions or create a contentious atmosphere.

The Canadian electoral system is based on a parliamentary system of government, modelled on that of the United Kingdom.

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

Elections in Egypt Political elections for public offices in Egypt

Elections in Egypt are held for the President and a bicameral legislature. The President of Egypt is elected for a six-year term by popular vote after draft amendments to the 2013 constitution altered the presidential term limits from the original four years to six years.

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

Elections in Lithuania Political elections for public offices 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.

Elections in Pakistan Political elections for public offices in Pakistan

Since its establishment in 1947, Pakistan has had an asymmetric federal government and is a federal parliamentary democratic republic. At the national level, the people of Pakistan elect a bicameral legislature, the Parliament of Pakistan. The parliament consists of a lower house called the National Assembly, which is elected directly, and an upper house called the Senate, whose members are chosen by elected provincial legislators. The head of government, the Prime Minister, is elected by the majority members of the National Assembly and the head of state, the President, is elected by the Electoral College, which consists of both houses of Parliament together with the four provincial assemblies. In addition to the national parliament and the provincial assemblies, Pakistan also has more than five thousand elected local governments.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral system of New Zealand</span> System by which New Zealand parliament is elected

The New Zealand electoral system has been mixed-member proportional (MMP) since the 1996 election. MMP was introduced following a referendum in 1993. It replaced the first-past-the-post (FPP) system New Zealand had previously used for most of its history. New Zealanders elect their members of parliament (MPs) with two votes. The first vote is for a candidate from an electorate. The second vote is used to elect ranked party lists.

Voting in New Zealand Aspect of political history

Voting in New Zealand was introduced after colonisation by British settlers. The New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in 1852, and the first parliamentary elections were held the following year.

Direct representation or proxy representation is a form of representative democracy where voters can vote for any candidate in the land, and each representative's vote is weighted in proportion to the number of citizens who have chosen that candidate to represent them. This is in contrast to other conventional forms of representative democracy, such as the winner-take-all system, where the winner of a plurality of votes in a given district, party or other grouping of voters, goes on to represent all voters in that group, or the proportional representation system where the number of representatives allotted to each party or political faction is roughly in proportion to the number of voters supporting each faction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elections in the United Kingdom</span> Overview of the procedure 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 and under the provisions of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 the timing of general elections can be held at the discretion of the Prime Minister during any five-year period. All other types of elections are held after fixed periods, though early elections to 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electoral system</span> 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. Electoral systems are used in politics to elect 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, how votes translate into the election outcome, limits on campaign spending, and other factors that can affect the result. 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.

2012 Burkinabé parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in Burkina Faso on 2 December 2012. They were the first elections held since the National Assembly dissolved the National Electoral Commission in 2011, following fraud allegations concerning the 2010 presidential elections. Municipal elections for over 18,000 councillors were held simultaneously. The elections were held amidst a period of political uncertainty, following protests against President Blaise Compaore's regime.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to democracy.

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