A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from
A by-election, also known as a special election in the United States and the Philippines, a bye-election in Ireland, a bypoll in India, or a Zimni election (Urdu: ضمنی انتخاب, supplementary election) in Pakistan, is an election used t ...
s (only one electorate
goes to election).
In most systems, a general election is a regularly scheduled
election where both a head of government (such as president or prime minister), and either " a class
" or all members of a legislature are elected at the same time. Occasionally, dates for general elections may align with dates of elections within different administrative divisions, such as a
In many parts of the world, local elections take place to select office-holders in local government, such as mayors and councillors. Elections to positions within a city or town are often known as "municipal elections". Their form and conduct vary ...
The term ''general election'' in the United Kingdom often refers to the elections held on the same day in all constituencies of their
Members of Parliament
A member of parliament (MP) is the representative in parliament of the people who live in their electoral district. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this term refers only to members of the lower house since upper house members often ...
(MPs) to the
House of Commons
The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
Historically, English and later British general elections took place over a period of several weeks, with individual constituencies holding polling on different days. The
Parliament Act 1911
The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two Houses of Parli ...
introduced the requirement that elections in all parliamentary constituencies be held on the same day. There has been a convention since the 1930s that general elections in Britain should take place on a Thursday; the last general election to take place on any other weekday was that of
* January 2 – South Dakota native Ernest Lawrence invents the cyclotron, used to accelerate particles to study nuclear physics.
* January 4 – German pilot Elly Beinhorn begins her flight to Africa.
* January 22 – Sir ...
Under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011
, in force from then until March 2022, the period between one general election and the next was fixed at five years, unless the House of Commons passed
* A motion of no confidence in the Government sooner than that, and did not pass a motion of confidence in a new Government within fourteen days,
[Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011]
as enacted, legislation.gov.uk
* a motion, approved by two-thirds of its members, resolving that a general election should take place sooner,
* a proposal from the Prime Minister to reschedule an election mandated by the Act to no later than two months after the original date.] [
Although not provided for in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, an early election could also be brought about by an act of parliament specifically calling for a general election, which (unlike the second option above) only required a simple majority. This was the mechanism used to precipitate the December 2019 election, when the ] Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019
The Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 (c. 29) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made legal provision for the holding of the 2019 United Kingdom general election on 12 December 2019.
The Act was fast-tracked in ... was enacted.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was repealed by the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022.
The term general election is also used in the United Kingdom to refer to elections to any democratically elected body in which all members are up for election. Section 2 of the Scotland Act 1998, for example, specifically refers to ordinary elections to the Scottish Parliament as general elections.
In U.S. politics, general elections are elections held at any level (e.g. city, county, congressional district, state) that typically involve competition between at least two parties. General elections occur every two to six years (depending on the positions being filled with most positions good for four years) and include the presidential election, but unlike parliamentary systems, the term can also refer to special elections that fill out positions prematurely vacated by the previous office holder (e.g. through death, resignation, etc.). Some parallels can be drawn between the general election in parliamentary systems and the biennial elections determining all House seats, although there is no analogue to "calling early elections" in the U.S., and the members of the elected U.S. Senate face elections of only one-third at a time at two-year intervals including during a general election.
Unlike parliamentary systems where the term ''general election'' is distinguished from by-elections or local and regional elections, the term is used in the US and distinguished from primaries or caucuses, which are intra-party elections meant to select a party's official candidate for a particular race. Thus, if a primary is meant to elect a party's candidate for the position-in-question, a general election is meant to elect who occupies the position itself.
In the State of Louisiana the expression ''general election'' means the
The two-round system (TRS), also known as runoff voting, second ballot, or ballotage, is a voting method used to elect a single candidate, where voters cast a single vote for their preferred candidate. It generally ensures a majoritarian resu ... which occurs between the two highest candidates as determined by the jungle primary. [Chapter 5 of th]
''Louisiana Election Code''
incorporating Section 18:401 of the ''Louisiana Revised Statutes''.
International IDEA's Electoral Processes Program
A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825
General Election 2010