An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, is a subdivision of a larger
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), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, United States * ''Our Sta ...

(a country, administrative region, or other
polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resources. A polity can be any other group of p ...

) created to provide its population with representation in the larger state's
legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with th ...

legislative body
. That body, or the state's constitution or a body established for that purpose, determines each district's boundaries and whether each will be represented by a
single member
single member
or multiple members. Generally, only voters (''constituents'') who
within the district are permitted to vote in an
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.
held there. District representatives may be elected by a
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP) electoral system, voters cast their vote for a candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins (irrespective ...

system, a
proportional representative
proportional representative
system, or another
voting method 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. R ...

voting method
. They may be selected by a
direct election Direct election is a system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the persons or political party that they desire to see elected. The method by which the winner or winners of a direct election are chosen ...

direct election
universal suffrage Universal suffrage (also called universal franchise, general suffrage, and common suffrage of the common man) gives the right to vote to all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status, race, ethnicity, political stance, or ...

universal suffrage
, an
indirect election An election with electoral delegates is an election in which voters do not choose between candidates for an office, but elect people who then choose. It is one of the oldest forms of elections, and is used by many countries for heads of state (su ...

indirect election
, or another form 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 act ...



The names for electoral districts vary across countries and, occasionally, for the office being elected. The term ''constituency'' is commonly used to refer to an electoral district, especially in British English, but it can also refer to the body of eligible voters or all the residents of the represented area or only those who voted for a certain candidate. The terms ''(election) precinct'' and ''election district'' are more common in American English. In Australia and New Zealand, electoral districts are called ''electorates'', however elsewhere the term ''electorate'' generally refers specifically to the body of voters. In
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Oce ...

electoral districts are referred to as "''Nirvācan Kṣetra''" ( hi|निर्वाचन क्षेत्र) in
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: हिन्दी, IAST/ISO 15919: ''Hindī''), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: मानक हिन्दी, IAST/ISO 15919: ''Mānak Hindī''), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in India. ...

, which can be literally translated to English as "electoral area" though the official English translation for the term is "constituency". The term "Nirvācan Kṣetra" is used while referring to an electoral district in general irrespective of the legislature. When referring to a particular legislative constituency, it is simply referred to as "Kṣetra" along with the name of the legislature, in Hindi (e.g. 'Lok Sabha Kshetra' for a
Lok Sabha The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is the lower house of India's bicameral Parliament, with the upper house being the Rajya Sabha. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by an adult universal suffrage and a first-past-the-post system to repr ...

Lok Sabha
constituency). Electoral districts for municipal or other local bodies are called "wards". In Canada, districts are colloquially called in English ''
'' (stemming from an earlier British geographical subdivision) (in some parts of Canada "constituencies" is used for provincial districts and "ridings" for federal districts), and in French, ''circumscription'' or (colloquially) ''comté'', "county". Local electoral districts are sometimes called ''
ward Ward may refer to: Division or unit * Hospital ward, a hospital division, floor, or room set aside for a particular class or group of patients, for example the psychiatric ward * Prison ward, a division of a penal institution such as a prison ...

s'', a term also used for administrative subdivisions of a municipality. In
local government in the Republic of Ireland Local government in the Republic of Ireland's functions are mostly exercised by thirty-one local authorities, termed County, City, or City and County Councils. The principal decision-making body in each of the thirty-one local authorities is com ...

local government in the Republic of Ireland
voting districts are called "electoral areas".

District magnitude

''District magnitude'' is the number of representatives elected from a given district to the same legislative body. A ''
single-member district A single-member district is an electoral district represented by a single officeholder. It contrasts with a multi-member district, which is represented by multiple officeholders. Single-member districts are also sometimes called single-winner voti ...

single-member district
'' has one representative, while a ''multi-member district'' – historically in the US especially called a
plural district A plural district was a district in the United States House of Representatives that was represented by more than one member. States using this method elected multiple members from some of their geographically defined districts. They did so on a sin ...

plural district
– has more than one. Voting systems that seek or are called
proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideological partitioning of the electorate. ...

proportional representation
entail multi-member districts – or
leveling seatsLeveling seats ( da|tillægsmandat, sv|utjämningsmandat, no|utjevningsmandater, is|jöfnunarsæti, german: Ausgleichsmandat), commonly known also as adjustment seats, are an election mechanism employed for many years by all Nordic countries (exce ...

leveling seats
. Levelling seats are rarely authorized to foist away a victory from a
plurality Plurality may refer to: Voting * Plurality (voting), the most votes for any choice in an election, but not necessarily a majority ** Plurality voting, system in which each voter votes for one candidate and the candidate with a plurality is elected ...

-winning candidate; most are instead
additional members
additional members
for the entire set of districts,
at-large At-large is a description for members of a governing body who are elected or appointed to represent a whole membership or population (notably a city, county, state, province, nation, club or association), rather than a subset. In multi-hierarchical ...

. In voting systems other than
general ticket General ticket representation is a type of block voting in which voters opt for a party, or a team's set list of candidates, and the highest-polling one becomes the winner. It, unless tempered to apply to a specific proportion, arrives at a 100% ret ...

general ticket
plurality block voting Multiple non-transferable vote (MNTV), also known as plurality-at-large voting or block vote, is a non-proportional voting system for electing several representatives from a single multi-member electoral district using a series of check boxes and t ...

plurality block voting
and certain pro-landslide
party-list system Poster for the European Parliament election 2004 in Italy, showing party lists Party-list proportional representation systems are a family of voting systems emphasizing proportional representation in elections in which multiple candidates are electe ...

party-list system
s, a
Droop quota The Droop quota is the quota most commonly used in elections held under the single transferable vote (STV) system. It is also sometimes used in elections held under the largest remainder method of party-list proportional representation (list PR). ...

Droop quota
or threshold is recognised. This means the higher the district magnitude, the more proportional the system (and the greater the number of distinct parties or choices that can be represented). A compromise between the two, a heavily modified general ticket, is the teams model. This is the system of the numerically dominant
Group Representation Constituencies#REDIRECT Group representation constituency {{R from move ...

Group Representation Constituencies
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bordering the Straits ...

which requires one team member (at least) to be of a different race from the others. In proportional representation, in a state where
civil and political rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and political life of so ...

civil and political rights
are liberally exercised, there exist political competing views evolving into parties or independent candidatures, a diverse mainstream media, and a moderate cap on
election expenses Campaign finance, also known as election finance or political donations, refers to the funds raised to promote candidates, political parties, or policy initiatives and referenda. Political parties, charitable organizations, and political action c ...

election expenses
, greater magnitude diversifies the party or non-affiliated makeup of the elected body. This diversity of winners enables clear representation of
minorities in viewpoint
minorities in viewpoint
; a 10%-polling minority party in a district where turnout is quite uniform will not win a seat in a 5-member district but if its turnout is in line with the others will do so in a 9-member district as this is the minimum to exceed a
Droop quota The Droop quota is the quota most commonly used in elections held under the single transferable vote (STV) system. It is also sometimes used in elections held under the largest remainder method of party-list proportional representation (list PR). ...

Droop quota
. The distribution of minority groups (parties) interplays with the magnitude: an unpopular or non-campaigning party, body-wide, tends to secure a seat if they are concentrated in a district, and require less concentration if the electoral district's magnitude is greater. Likewise if their support is significant but very diffuse they are more likely to win seats if the magnitude is greater. District magnitude can vary. Examples: *
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga|Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, which is located on the eastern side of the i ...

Republic of Ireland
for the freely elected chamber of the legislature, the
Dáil Éireann Dáil Éireann ( , ; ) is the lower house, and principal chamber, of the Oireachtas (Irish legislature), which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann (the upper house).Article 15.1.2º of the Constitution of Ireland reads: " ...

Dáil Éireann
: 3-, 4-, and 5- member districts. *
Hong Kong Hong Kong (, ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR) (), is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People's Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta o ...

Hong Kong
for half of the
Special Administrative Region's Legislature
Special Administrative Region's Legislature
, the LegCo: 5- to 9- member districts. *The
New Hampshire House of Representatives The New Hampshire House of Representatives is the lower house in the New Hampshire General Court, the bicameral legislature of the state of New Hampshire. The House of Representatives consists of 400 members coming from 204 legislative districts ac ...

New Hampshire House of Representatives
: 1- to 11-member districts. Maximum magnitude: *Democracies with one single nationwide electoral district for a main body of their national legislature, include: Fiji, Israel, The Netherlands, Moldova, Mozambique, Slovakia, South Africa and Serbia.

Apportionment and redistricting

''Apportionment'' is the process of allocating a number of representatives to different regions, such as states or provinces. Apportionment changes are often accompanied by ''redistricting'', the redrawing of electoral district boundaries to accommodate the new number of representatives. This redrawing is necessary under single-member district systems, as each new representative requires their own district. Multi-member systems, however, vary depending on other rules. Ireland, for example, redraws its electoral districts after every
census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, and acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses in ...

§5: Establishment of Constituency Commission; Electoral Act, 1997
Irish Statute Book while
Belgium Belgium ( nl|België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the so ...

uses its existing administrative boundaries for electoral districts and instead modifies the number of representatives allotted to each.
Israel Israel (; he|יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar|إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the State of Israel ( he|מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, '), is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Se ...

and the
Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl|Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country primarily located in Western Europe and partly in the Caribbean. It is the largest of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In Europe, the ...

are among the few countries that avoid the need for apportionment entirely by electing legislators
at-large At-large is a description for members of a governing body who are elected or appointed to represent a whole membership or population (notably a city, county, state, province, nation, club or association), rather than a subset. In multi-hierarchical ...

. Apportionment is generally done on the basis of
population In biology, a population is a number of all the organisms of the same group or species who live in a particular geographical area and are capable of interbreeding. The area of a sexual population is the area where inter-breeding is possible bet ...

. Seats in the
United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States. The House's composition is es ...

United States House of Representatives
, for instance, are reapportioned to individual states every 10 years following a census, with some states that have grown in population gaining seats. By contrast, seats in the
Cantonal Council of Zürich The Cantonal Council of Zürich (german: Zürcher Kantonsrat) is the legislature of the canton of Zürich, in Switzerland. Zürich has a unicameral legislature. The Cantonal Council has 180 seats, with members elected every four years. Elections T ...

Cantonal Council of Zürich
are reapportioned in every election , which is only made possible by use of multi-member districts, and the
House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina The House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina ( sh|Dom naroda Bosne i Hercegovine/Дом народа Босне и Херцеговине) is one of the two chambers of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the other cham ...

House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina
, by contrast, is apportioned without regard to population; the three major ethnic groups -
Bosniaks The Bosniaks or Bosniacs ( bs|Bošnjaci, ; , ) are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to the Southeast European historical region of Bosnia, which is today part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A native minority of Bosniaks live in oth ...

, [[Serbs, and [[Croats - each get exactly five members. ''[[Malapportionment'' occurs when voters are under- or over-represented due to variation in district population. In some places, geographical area is allowed to affect apportionment, with rural areas with sparse populations allocated more seats per elector: for example in Iceland, the Falkland Islands, Scottish islands, and (partly) in US Senate elections.


''Gerrymandering'' is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries for political gain. By creating a few "forfeit" districts where opposing candidates win overwhelmingly, gerrymandering politicians can manufacture more, but narrower, wins for themselves and their party. Gerrymandering relies on the [[wasted vote|wasted-vote effect, effectively concentrating wasted votes among opponents while minimizing wasted votes among supporters. Consequently, gerrymandering is typically done under voting systems using single-member districts, which have more wasted votes. While much more difficult, gerrymandering can also be done under proportional-voting systems when districts elect very few seats. By making three-member districts in regions where a particular group has a slight majority, for instance, gerrymandering politicians can obtain 2/3 of that district's seats. Similarly, by making four-member districts in regions where the same group has slightly less than a majority, gerrymandering politicians can still secure exactly half of the seats. However, any possible gerrymandering that theoretically could occur would be much less effective because minority groups can still elect at least one representative if they make up a significant percentage of the population (e.g. 20-25%), compared to single-member districts where 40-49% of the voters can be essentially shut out from any representation

Swing seats and safe seats

Sometimes, particularly under non-proportional winner-take-all voting systems, electoral districts can be prone to [[landslide election|landslide victories. A ''safe seat'' is one that is very unlikely to be won by a rival politician due to the makeup of its [[constituency. Conversely, a ''swing seat'' is one that could easily ''swing'' either way. In [[Elections in the United Kingdom#General elections|United Kingdom general elections and [[United States presidential and congressional elections, the voting in a relatively small number of swing seats usually determines the outcome of the entire election. Many politicians aspire to have safe seats. In large [[multi-party systems like
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Oce ...

, swing seats can lead to a [[hung assembly like situation if a significant number of seats go for regional parties instead of the larger national parties who are the main competitors at the national or state level, as was the situation in the
Lok Sabha The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is the lower house of India's bicameral Parliament, with the upper house being the Rajya Sabha. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by an adult universal suffrage and a first-past-the-post system to repr ...

Lok Sabha
(Lower house of the [[Parliament of India) during the 1990s.

Constituency work

Elected representatives may spend much of the time serving the needs or demands of individual ''constituents'', meaning either voters or residents of their district. This is more common in assemblies with many single-member or small districts than those with fewer, larger districts. In a looser sense, corporations and other such organizations can be referred to as constituents, if they have a significant presence in an area. Many assemblies allow free postage (through [[franking privilege or prepaid envelopes) from a representative to a constituent, and often free telecommunications. [[Caseworker (politics)|Caseworkers may be employed by representatives to assist constituents with problems. Members of the [[United States Congress|U.S. Congress (both Representatives and Senators) working in Washington, D.C. have a governmentally staffed district office to aid in constituent services. Many state legislatures have followed suit. Likewise, [[House of Commons of the United Kingdom|British MPs use their Parliamentary staffing allowance to appoint staff for constituency casework. [[Client politics and [[pork barrel politics are associated with constituency work.

Special constituencies with additional membership requirements

In some elected assemblies, some or all constituencies may group voters based on some criterion other than, or in addition to, the location they live. Examples include: * By ethnic groups: [[Communal constituencies in Fiji; [[Reserved political positions in India|reserved seats in India for [[Anglo-Indians and [[scheduled castes and scheduled tribes; [[Māori electorates in New Zealand. * By qualification: [[University constituency in Ireland and formerly the United Kingdom, [[Functional constituency (Hong Kong)|functional constituency in Hong Kong * By residence outside the country: [[Overseas constituencies in [[Constituencies for French residents overseas|France and [[Overseas constituencies of the Italian Parliament|Italy

Voting without constituencies

Not all democratic political systems use separate districts or other electoral subdivisions to conduct elections. [[Politics of Israel|Israel, for instance, conducts parliamentary elections as a single district. While the 26 electoral districts in [[Politics of Italy|Italy and the 20 in the [[Politics of the Netherlands|Netherlands have a role in the actual election, but no role whatsoever in the division of the seats. [[Ukraine elected half of the [[Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) in this way in the [[2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election|elections in October 2012."Parliament Passes Law on Parliamentary Elections"
''[[Kyiv Post'', 17 November 2011.


{{Authority control [[Category:Constituencies| [[Category:Elections [[Category:Electoral systems [[Category:Types of administrative division