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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 or representative government, is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected persons Representation (politics) , representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democra ...
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 institution, with the authori ...
, 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 trade ...
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 volunteering, volunteers, to form a body (or organiz ...
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 ...
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 Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica (region), Attica region and is one of the List of oldest ...
, where the Elections were considered an
oligarchic Oligarchy (; ) is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may or may not be distinguished by one or several characteristics, such as nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked ...
institution and most political offices were filled using
sortition In governance Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state (polity), state, by a market (economics), market, or by a social network, network – over a social system (family, trib ...
, 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. In applying statistics to a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with a statistical ...

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 democracy, direct and Universal suffrage, universal vote in which an entire Constituency, electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or El ...

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 was ...
and
ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC ...
, 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 Romanorum, german: Kaiser der Römer) during the Middle Ages, and also known as the German-Roman Emperor since the early modern period ( la, Imperator G ...
(see
imperial election The election of a Holy Roman Emperor was generally a two-stage process whereby, from at least the 13th century, the King of the Romans was elected by a small body of the greatest princes of the Empire, the prince-electors. This was then followed ...
) 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 convened to elect a Bishop (Catholic Church), bishop of Rome, also known as the pope. The pope is considered by Catholics to be the Apostolic succession, apostolic successor of Saint ...
)."Election (political science),"
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 August 2009
In the Vedic period of India, the ''
Raja ''Raja'' (; from Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European ...

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 **Gul ...

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 (ruled c. 750s–770s CE) in early medieval
Bengal Bengal (; Bengali language, Bengali: ', ) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, predominantly covering present-day Bang ...
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 was a Tamil people, Tamil thalassocratic empire of southern India, one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the world's history. The earliest datable references to the Chola are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BCE left b ...
, 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 States and union territories of India, state in southern India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian subcontinent and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry ( ...

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 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 well as i ...
of
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 well as in Sicily, Epirus, Southern Italy, Crete, Rhodes, some ...

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 in which pe ...
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 rect 15 475 48 ...
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 ; also Clisthenes via la, Clīsthenēs ) was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens , image_skyline = File:A ...

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 to ...
(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 act ...

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 shortha ...
and
the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all ...
were dominated by landed or
ruling class The ruling class is the social class of a given society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typ ...
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 laws ...
. Despite legally mandated universal suffrage for adult males, political barriers were sometimes erected to prevent fair access to elections (see
civil rights movement#REDIRECT Civil rights movement {{Rcat shell, {{R from other capitalisation {{R from related ...
).


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 (also known as stockholder) is an individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Individuality (or self-hood) is the state or quality of being an individual; particularly of being a person separate from other pe ...
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; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company, an institution, ...
, 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 governing the rights, relations, and conduct of persons, companies, organizations and businesses. The term refers to the legal pract ...
. 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 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. 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 th ...

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 linguisti ...
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 ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization, run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman people. Beginning with the Overthrow of the ...
, 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 so ...

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 or representative government, is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected persons Representation (politics) , representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democra ...
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 Image:Landsgemeinde Glarus 2006.jpg, upright=1.5, A Landsgemeinde, or assembly, of the canton of Glarus, on 7 May 2006, Switzerland. Direct democracy or pure democracy is a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly. ...
, 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 voting Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an Constituency, electorate, in order to make a collective ...

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 referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organiz ...
,
single transferable vote The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting system designed to achieve or closely approach proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected pro ...
,
instant runoff voting Instant-runoff voting (IRV), also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), preferential voting, or, in the United States, ranked-choice voting (RCV), though these names are also used for other systems, is a type of ranked preferential ...
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 Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Et ...
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 electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following di ...
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 The 2012 United States presidential election was the 57th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is ...
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, electing members of parliament for all 543 parliamentary constituencies. Running in nine phases from 7 April to 12 May 2014, it lasted 36 days. According to the Elec ...
.


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 Mandate most often refers to: * League of Nations mandates, quasi-colonial territories established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919 * Mandate (politics), the power granted by an electorate Mandate may also re ...
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 of Republic of Ireland, Ireland and the supreme commander of the Defence Forces (Ireland), Irish Defence Forces. The President holds office for seven years, and can be ...
is elected every seven years, the
President of Russia The President of the Russian Federation ( rus, Президент Российской Федерации, Prezident Rossiyskoy Federatsii), is the head of state of the Russia, Russian Federation, as well as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the ...
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 pr ...
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 Arme ...
every five years,
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal govern ...

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 shortha ...

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'' as " e authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a ...

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 , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A dictator is a political leader who possesses autocracy, absolute power. A dictatorship is a state ruled by one di ...
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 of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term freedom of expression is us ...

Freedom of speech
may be curtailed by the state, favoring certain viewpoints or state
propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to influence Influence or influencer may refer to: *Social influence, in social psychology, influence in interpersonal relationships **Minority influence, when the minority affect the behavior ...
.


Unfair rules

Gerrymandering Gerrymandering ( or ) is a practice intended to establish an unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts, which is most commonly used in first-past-the-post electoral sy ...

Gerrymandering
, exclusion of opposition candidates from eligibility for office, needlessly high restrictions on who may be a candidate, like
ballot access Elections in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, ...
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 and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering over , and encom ...

Russia
/
USSR The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a Political union, union of multiple national Republics of t ...

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. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...
in
Taiwan Taiwan (), officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. Neighbouring countries include the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The main islan ...

Taiwan
and by
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering over , and encom ...

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 reg ...

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 electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following di ...
,
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 by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. It is distinguished from political campaigning in that campaigning attempts to change likely votin ...
, 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 democracy, direct and Universal suffrage, universal vote in which an entire Constituency, electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or El ...

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 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 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in leap years). This day is known as New Year's Day since the da ...
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. Indi ...
in Fascist Italy, the 1942 general election in
Imperial Japan The was a historical nation-state that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of Japan, 1947 constitution and subsequent formation of modern Japan. It encompassed the Japanese ...

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 t ...
, 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 Swe ...
,
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 reg ...
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 countri ...
, the
1928 Events January * January – British bacteriologist Frederick Griffith reports the results of Griffith's experiment, indirectly proving the existence of DNA. * January 1 ** Estonia changes its currency from the Estonian mark, mark to th ...
,
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 Events January * January 1 – A United Nations-sponsored ceasefire brings an end to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. The war results in a stalemate and the division of Kashmir, which still continues as of 2021, 2021. * January 2 – ...
,
1951 Events January * January 1 – Patti Page's hit song "Tennessee Waltz" enjoys its first week as the No. 1 single, on ''Billboard charts, Billboard'' and ''Cashbox (magazine), Cashbox'' Record chart, charts, in the United States. * January 4 ...
and 1958 elections in Portugal, the 1991 Kazakh presidential election, those in
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It borders China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Yalu (Amnok) and Tum ...
, the
1995 1995 was designated as: * United Nations Year for Tolerance * World Year of Peoples’ Commemoration of the Victims of the Second World War This was the first year that the Internet was entirely privatized, with the United States government ...
and 2002 presidential referendums in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and the
2021 Hong Kong legislative election The 2021 Hong Kong Legislative Council election is scheduled on 19 December 2021 for the 7th Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo). Under the 2021 Hong Kong electoral reform, new framework imposed by the National People's Congress Standing C ...
. In
Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nahuan languages: ), officially the United Mexican States (; EUM ), is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; ...

Mexico
, all of the presidential elections from
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 ...
to
1982 Events January * January 1 - In Peninsular Malaysia, time is switched for 30 minutes, to match Time in Malaysia, the time in use in East Malaysia, to become UTC+8 (GMT+8.00). Singapore follows after that. *January 1 - Eddie Murphy makes his ...
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