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An election is a formal
group decision-makingGroup decision-making (also known as collaborative decision-making or collective decision-making) is a situation faced when individuals An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Individuality (or self-hood) is the state or quality of ...
process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern
representative democracy Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy, is a type of democracy where elected persons represent Represent may refer to: * Represent (Compton's Most Wanted album), ''Represent'' (Compton's Most Wanted album) or the title song, ...
has operated since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
, sometimes in the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
and
judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government i ...
, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

business
organisations, from clubs to
voluntary association A voluntary group or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, common-interest association, association, or society) is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement, usually as volunteers, to form a body (or organization ...
s and
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
s. 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 The concept of an archetype (; from Greek: + ) appears in areas relating to behavior, History of psychology#Emergence of German experimental psychology, historical psychology, and literary analysis. An ''archetype'' can be: # a statement, patter ...
, ancient
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...
, where the Elections were considered an
oligarchic Oligarchy (; ) is a form of power structure A power structure is an overall system of influence between any individual and every other individual within any selected group of people. A description of a power structure would capture the way in w ...
institution and most political offices were filled using
sortition In governance Governance is all the processes of interactions be they through the laws Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crim ...
, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot.
Electoral reform Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of: *Voting system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and ...
describes the process of introducing fair electoral systems where they are not in place, or improving the fairness or effectiveness of existing systems.
Psephology Psephology (; from Greek el, ψῆφος, psephos, pebble, label=none) is a branch of political science, the "quantitative analysis of elections and balloting". As such, psephology attempts to scientifically explicate elections. Psephology is r ...
is the study of results and other
statistics Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sens ...

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 other forms of ballot such as
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct Direct may refer to: Mathematics * Directed set In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number th ...

referendum
s are referred to as elections, especially in the United States.


History

Elections were used as early in history as
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
and
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, and throughout the Medieval period to select rulers such as the
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
(see
imperial election The election of a Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator Romanorum, german: Kaiser der Römer) during the Middle Ages, and also known as the German-Roman Emperor since th ...
) and the
pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

pope
(see
papal election A papal conclave is a gathering of the College of Cardinals The College of Cardinals, formerly styled the Sacred College of Cardinals, is the body of all Cardinal (Catholicism), cardinals of the Catholic Church. List of living cardinals ...
)."Election (political science),"
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 August 2009
In the Vedic period of India, the ''
Raja ''Raja'' (; from sa, राजन्, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguis ...

Raja
'' (kings) of a ''
gaṇa
gaṇa
'' (a tribal organization) was elected by the ''gana''. The ''Raja'' always belonged to the
Kshatriya Kshatriya ( hi, क्षत्रिय) (from Sanskrit ''kṣatra'', "rule, authority") is one of the four varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gu ...

Kshatriya
varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gulf of Varna **Lake Varna *Vahrn, or Varna, a municipality in Italy *Varniai, a city in Lithuania *Varna (Šabac), a villag ...
(warrior class), and was typically a son of the previous ''Raja''. However, the ''gana'' members had the final say in his elections. 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. The
PalaPala may refer to: Places Chad *Pala, Chad, the capital of the region of Mayo-Kebbi Ouest Estonia *Pala, Kose Parish, village in Kose Parish, Harju County *Pala, Kuusalu Parish, village in Kuusalu Parish, Harju County *Pala, Järva County, villa ...
King
Gopala Gopala (ruled c. 750s–770s CE) was the founder of the Pala Empire, Pala dynasty of Bihar and Bengal regions of the Indian Subcontinent. The last morpheme of his name ''Pala'' means "protector" and was used as an ending for the names of all the P ...
(ruled c. 750s–770s CE) in early medieval
Bengal Bengal (; bn, বাংলা/বঙ্গ, translit=Bānglā/Bôngô, ) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region located in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, p ...

Bengal
was elected by a group of feudal chieftains. Such elections were quite common in contemporary societies of the region. In the
Chola Empire The Chola dynasty ( ta, சோழ வம்சம்) was a Tamil Tamil may refer to: * Tamils, an ethnic group native to India, Sri Lanka and some other parts of Asia **Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamil people native to Sri Lanka **Tamil Malaysian ...

Chola Empire
, around 920 CE, in
Uthiramerur Uthiramerur is a panchayat town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian States and territories of India, state of Tamil Nadu. It is situated 90 kilometer south west of Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu. It is noted for its temple inscriptions that ...
(in present-day
Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu (; ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspape ...

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. 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 __NOTOC__ The ephors were elected leaders of ancient Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric, or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an Ancient Greek dialect. Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese as w ...
of
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...

Sparta
in 754 B.C., under the
mixed government Mixed government (or a mixed constitution) is a form of government that combines elements of democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government ...
of the
Spartan Constitution The Spartan Constitution (or Spartan politeia) are the government and laws of the Classical Greece, classical Greek city-state of Sparta. All classical Greek city-states had a politeia; the politeia of Sparta however, was noted by many classical ...
.
Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens The Acropoli ...

Athenian
democratic elections, where all citizens could hold public office, were not introduced for another 247 years, until the reforms of
Cleisthenes Cleisthenes ( ; grc-gre, Κλεισθένης, Kleisthénēs, ) or Clisthenes ( la, Clīsthenēs ) was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens , image_skyline = File:Ath ...

Cleisthenes
. Under the earlier
Solonian Constitution The Solonian Constitution was created by Solon in the early 6th century BC. At the time of Solon the Athenian State was almost falling to pieces in consequence of dissensions between the parties into which the population was divided. Solon wanted ...
(circa 574 B.C.), 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 Solon ( grc-gre, Σόλων Solon ( grc-gre, wikt:Σόλων, Σόλων ''Sólōn'' ;  BC) was an Archaic Greece#Athens, Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, e ...

Solon
. The Spartan election of the Ephors, therefore, also predates the reforms of Solon in Athens by approximately 180 years. Questions of
suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (although the term is sometimes used for any right to vote). In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called a ...

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 Electorate may refer to: * The people who are eligible to vote in an Election#Electorate, election, especially their number e.g. the term ''size of (the) electorate'' * The dominion of a Prince-elector in the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 * An electo ...
and continue to do so in many countries. Early elections in countries such as the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...
and
the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
were dominated by landed or
ruling class In sociology, the ruling class of a society is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the ...
males. 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 Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote in elections. Beginning in the mid-19th century, aside from the work being done by women for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms, women sought to change voting law ...
. Despite legally mandated universal suffrage for adult males, political barriers were sometimes erected to prevent fair access to elections (see
civil rights movement The 1954–1968 civil rights movement in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North ...
).


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 A shareholder (in the United States often referred to as stockholder) of a corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal en ...
to select a
board of directors A board of directors is a group of people who jointly supervise the activities of an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, W ...
, and these elections may be mandated by
corporate law Corporate law (also known as business law or enterprise law or sometimes company law) is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules t ...
. In many places, an election to the government is usually a competition among people who have already won a
primary election Primary elections, often abbreviated to primaries, are a process by which voters can indicate their preference for their party's candidate, or a candidate in general, in an upcoming general election, local election, or by-election. Depending on t ...
within a
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
. Elections within corporations and other organizations often use procedures and rules that are similar to those of governmental elections.


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 ) 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. 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.


Voting population

Historically the size of eligible voters, the electorate, was small having the size of groups or communities of privileged men like
aristocrats Aristocracy ( grc-gre, ἀριστοκρατία , from 'excellent', and , 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its bro ...
and men of a city (
citizens Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and t ...

citizens
). With the growth of the number of people with
bourgeois Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguist ...

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 The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
, 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 In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such ...

voter turnout
of maximum 10% in 70 BC,Vishnia 2012, p. 125 only again comparable in size to the first elections of the United States. At the same time the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
had in 1780 about 214,000 eligible voters, 3% of the whole population.


Candidates

A
representative democracy Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy, is a type of democracy where elected persons represent Represent may refer to: * Represent (Compton's Most Wanted album), ''Represent'' (Compton's Most Wanted album) or the title song, ...
requires a procedure to govern nomination for political office. In many cases, nomination for office is mediated through
preselection Preselection is the process by which a candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or honor, or a person seeking or being considered for some kind of position; for example: * to be elected to an office — in th ...
processes in organized political parties. Non-partisan systems tend to be different from partisan systems as concerns nominations. In a
direct democracy Direct democracy or pure democracy is a form of democracy in which the Election#Electorate, electorate decides on policy initiatives without legislator, legislative representatives as proxies. This differs from the majority of currently estab ...
, one type of
non-partisan democracy Nonpartisanism is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias toward, a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party ...
, 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 A one-party state, single-party state, one-party system, or single-party system is a type of sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. ...
). 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 system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote ...
s that convert the vote into a political decision. The first step is to tally the votes, for which various
vote counting systems Afghan Ballot Vote counting is the process of counting vote, votes in an election. It can be done manually or by machines. In the United States, the compilation of election returns and validation of the outcome that forms the basis of the offic ...
and
ballot A ballot is a device used to cast votes in an election and may be found as a piece of paper or a small ball used in secret . It was originally a small ball (see ) used to record decisions made by voters in Italy around the 16th century. Each v ...

ballot
types are used. Voting systems then determine the result on the basis of the tally. Most systems can be categorized as either
proportional Proportionality, proportion or proportional may refer to: Mathematics * Proportionality (mathematics), the property of two variables being in a multiplicative relation to a constant * Ratio, of one quantity to another, especially of a part compared ...

proportional
,
majoritarian Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between t ...
or mixed. Among the proportional systems, the most commonly used are
party-list proportional representation Party-list proportional representation is a subset of proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportion ...
(list PR) systems, among majoritarian are
First Past the Post electoral system In a first-past-the-post (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP) electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and h ...
(plurality, also known as relative majority) and
absolute majority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority A majority, also called ...
. Mixed systems combine elements of both proportional and majoritarian methods, with some typically producing results closer to the former (
mixed-member proportional Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP or MMPR) is a mixed electoral system in which voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, ...
) or the other (e.g.
parallel voting Parallel voting describes a mixed electoral system where voters in effect participate in two separate elections for a single chamber using different systems, and where the results in one election have little or no impact on the results of the oth ...
). Many countries have growing electoral reform movements, which advocate systems such as
approval voting Approval voting is a single-winner electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral syste ...
,
single transferable vote Single transferable vote (STV) is a type of ranked preferential electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are de ...
,
instant runoff voting Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a type of Ranked voting, ranked preferential electoral system, vote counting method used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates. IRV is also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), pre ...
or a
Condorcet method A Condorcet method (; ) is an election method that elects the candidate who wins a majority rule, majority of the vote in every head-to-head election against each of the other candidates, that is, a candidate preferred by more voters than any oth ...
; 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 Accountability, in terms of ethics and governance, is equated with answerability, blameworthiness, legal liability, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As in an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to probl ...

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 The secret ballot, also known as the Australian ballot, is a voting method in which a voter Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an Constituency, electorate, in order to make a collective decision making, decision or expres ...
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 In politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social s ...
. It is common for political scientists to attempt to predict elections via
Political Forecasting Political forecasting aims at forecasting Forecasting is the process of making predictions based on past and present data and most commonly by analysis of trends. A commonplace example might be estimation of some variable of interest at some specif ...
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 The Indian general election, 2014 was held to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha Members of the 16th Lok Sabha The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is the lower house of India's Bicameralism, bicameral Parliament of India, Parliament, wi ...
.


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 The president of Ireland ( ga, Uachtarán na hÉireann) is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public ...
is elected every seven years, the
President of Russia The President of the Russian Federation ( rus, Президент Российской Федерации, Prezident Rossiyskoy Federatsii), is the of the , as well as the of the . It is the . In 1991, the office was briefly known as the pres ...
and the
President of Finland The president of the Republic of Finland ( fi, Suomen tasavallan presidentti; sv, Republiken Finlands president) is the head of state of Finland. Under the Constitution of Finland, executive power is vested in the Finnish Government and the p ...
every six years, the
President of France The president of France, officially the President of the French Republic (french: Président de la République française), is the head of state of France, as well as the Chief of the Armed Forces (France), commander-in-chief of the French Arm ...
every five years,
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of ...

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 The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

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

In many of the countries with weak
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a compreh ...

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.
Dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
s 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. 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.


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 Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being w ...
, 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 in London, 1974 Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state ...

Freedom of speech
may be curtailed by the state, favoring certain viewpoints or state
propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to Social influence, influence an audience and further an Political agenda, agenda, which may not be Objectivity (journalism), objective and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a pa ...
.


Unfair rules

Gerrymandering In representative democracies, Gerrymandering (, originally ) refers to political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency. ...

Gerrymandering
, exclusion of opposition candidates from eligibility for office, needlessly high restrictions on who may be a candidate, like
ballot access Elections in the refers to the rules and procedures regulating the conditions under which a , , or is entitled to appear on voters' s. As the is decentralized by , Section 4, of the , ballot access laws are established and enforced by the . As a ...
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 Foreign electoral interventions are attempts by governments, covertly or overtly, to influence elections in another country. Theoretical and empirical research on the effect of foreign electoral intervention had been characterized as weak overa ...
can also occur, with the United States interfering between 1946 and 2000 in 81 elections and
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
/
USSR The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a socialist state that spanned Eurasia during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a Federation, federal union of multiple national Republics of ...

USSR
in 36. In 2018 the most intense interventions, by means of false information, were by
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
in
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
and by
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
in
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic re ...

Latvia
; the next highest levels were in Bahrain, Qatar and Hungary.


Tampering with the election mechanism

This can include falsifying voter instructions, violation of the
secret ballot The secret ballot, also known as the Australian ballot, is a voting method in which a voter Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an Constituency, electorate, in order to make a collective decision making, decision or expres ...
,
ballot stuffing Electoral fraud, sometimes referred to as election fraud, election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favored candidate, depressing the ...
, tampering with voting machines, destruction of legitimately cast ballots,
voter suppression Voter suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public off ...
, 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. 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 In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such ...

voter turnout
and high support (typically at least 80%, and close to 100% in many cases) for the prescribed or for the
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct Direct may refer to: Mathematics * Directed set In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number th ...

referendum
choice that favors the
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
in power. Dictatorial regimes can also organize sham elections with results simulating those that might be achieved in democratic countries. 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. Ballots may contain only one "yes" option, or in the case of a simple "yes or no" question, security forces often
persecute Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, racism, and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms ...

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 The term enemy of the people or enemy of the nation, is a designation for the political or class opponents of the subgroup in power within a larger group. The term implies that by opposing the ruling subgroup, the "enemies" in question are acti ...
. 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 PartyThe National Unity Party, National United Party, Party of National Unity or National Unity Front may refer to: * National United Party of Afghanistan (founded 2003) * National Unity Party (Albania) * National United Party (Armenia), defunct * Nation ...
suffered a landslide defeat to the opposition
National League for Democracy The National League for Democracy ( my, အမျိုးသား ဒီမိုကရေစီ အဖွဲ့ချုပ်, ; Abbreviation, abbr. NLD; Burmese abbr. ဒီချုပ်) is a political party in Myanmar (Burma). It becam ...
and consequently the results were annulled. Examples of sham elections are the
1929 This year marked the end of a period known in American history as the Roaring Twenties after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 ushered in a worldwide Great Depression. In the Americas, an agreement was brokered to end the Cristero War, a Catholic C ...
and
1934 Events January * January 1 – The International Telecommunication Union, a specialist agency of the United Nations, is established. * January 7 – The ''Flash Gordon'' comic strip is first published in the United States. * January 15 ...
elections An election is a formal group decision-makingGroup decision-making (also known as collaborative decision-making or collective decision-making) is a situation faced when individuals An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Ind ...

elections
in Fascist Italy, the 1942 general election in
Imperial Japan The was a historical nation-state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

Imperial Japan
, those in
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...
, the 1940 elections of the
People's Parliament lt, Liaudies Seimas , native_name_lang = , transcription_name = , legislature = , coa_pic = , coa_res = , coa_alt = , coa_caption = , logo_pic = , logo_res = , logo_alt = , logo_caption = , house_type = , houses = , chambe ...
s in
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...
,
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic re ...
and
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
, the 1928,
1935 Events January * January – Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia creates a military school at Holeta.1942 Events Below, the events of World War II have the "WWII" prefix. January * January 1 – WWII: ** The Declaration by United Nations is signed by China, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and 22 other nations, in ...
, 1949 Portuguese presidential election, 1949, 1951 Portuguese presidential election, 1951 and 1958 Portuguese presidential election, 1958 elections in Portugal, the 1991 Kazakh presidential election, those in Elections in North Korea, North Korea, the 1995 Iraqi presidential referendum, 1995 and 2002 Iraqi presidential referendum, 2002 presidential referendums in Ba'athist Iraq, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and the 2021 Hong Kong legislative election. In Mexico, all of the presidential elections from Mexican general election, 1929, 1929 to Mexican general election, 1982, 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 Mexican general election, 1988, 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 Mexican general election, 1994, and the opposition did not win until Mexican presidential election, 2000, 2000. A predetermined conclusion is always established by the regime through Political repression, suppression of the opposition, coercion of voters, Electoral fraud, 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 Liberian general election, 1927 general election, a "majority" that was over fifteen times larger than the number of eligible voters.


See also

*Ballot access *Concession (politics) *Demarchy—"Democracy without Elections" *Electoral calendar *Electoral integrity * Electoral system *Election law *Election litter *Elections by country *Electronic voting *Fenno's paradox *Full slate *Garrat Elections *Gerontocracy *Issue voting *Landslide election *Meritocracy *Multi-party system *Nomination rules *Party system *Pluralism (political philosophy) *Political science *Polling station *Reelection *Slate (elections), Slate *Stunning elections *Two-party system *Voter turnout *Voting system


References


Bibliography

* Kenneth Arrow, Arrow, Kenneth J. 1963. ''Social Choice and Individual Values.'' 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. * Benoit, Jean-Pierre and Lewis A. Kornhauser. 1994. "Social Choice in a Representative Democracy." ''American Political Science Review'' 88.1: 185–192. * Corrado Maria, Daclon. 2004. ''US elections and war on terrorism – Interview with professor Massimo Teodori'' Analisi Difesa, n. 50 * Farquharson, Robin. 1969. ''A Theory of Voting.'' New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. * Mueller, Dennis C. 1996. ''Constitutional Democracy.'' Oxford: Oxford University Press. * Owen, Bernard, 2002. "Le système électoral et son effet sur la représentation parlementaire des partis: le cas européen.", LGDJ; * William H. Riker, Riker, William. 1980. ''Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice.'' Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. * Thompson, Dennis F. 2004. ''Just Elections: Creating a Fair Electoral Process in the U.S.'' Chicago: University of Chicago Press. * Ware, Alan. 1987. ''Citizens, Parties and the State.'' Princeton: Princeton University Press.


External links


PARLINE database on national parliaments. Results for all parliamentary elections since 1966

"Psephos," archive of recent electoral data from 182 countriesElectionGuide.org — Worldwide Coverage of National-level Electionsparties-and-elections.de: Database for all European elections since 1945ACE Electoral Knowledge Network
— electoral encyclopedia and related resources from a consortium of electoral agencies and organizations.
Angus Reid Global Monitor: Election TrackerIDEA's Table of Electoral Systems WorldwideEuropean Election Law Association (Eurela)List of Local Elected Offices in the United States

Caltech/ MIT Voting Technology Project
{{Authority control Comparative politics Elections, Politics