Election has derived from the Latin word “eligere” which means to choose or pick out. An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.  Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century.  Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.
Electronic ballots are used in Brazilian elections. The universal use of elections as a tool for selecting representatives in modern democracies is in contrast with the practice in the democratic archetype, ancient Athens. As the Elections were considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot. Electoral reform describes the process of introducing fair electoral systems where they are not in place, or improving the fairness or effectiveness of existing systems.
Psephology is the study of results and other statistics relating to elections (especially with a view to predicting future results). To elect means “to choose or make a decision” and so sometimes other forms of ballot such as referendums are referred to as elections, especially in the United States. Technically, it means an organized process in which people vote a person or a candidate to a position of public importance. History Elections were used as early in history as ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and throughout the Medieval period to select rulers such as the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope.
 In medieval India, around 920 AD, in Tamil Nadu, palm leaves were used for village assembly elections. The leaves, with candidate names written on them, were put inside a mud pot for counting. This was known as the Kudavolai system.  The Pala king Gopala in early medieval Bengal was also elected.  Elections were carried out to select rajas by the gana during the Vedic Period. Ancient Arabs also used election to choose their caliph, Uthman and Ali, in the early medieval Rashidun Caliphate.  The modern “election”, which consists of public elections of government officials, didn’t emerge until the beginning of the 17th century when the idea of representative government took hold in North America and Europe.  Questions of suffrage, especially suffrage for minority groups, have dominated the history of elections.
Males, the dominate cultural group in North America and Europe, often dominated the electorate and continue to do so in many countries.  Early elections in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States were dominated by landed or ruling class males.  However, by 1920 all Western European and North American democracies had universal male suffrage (except Switzerland) and many countries began to consider women’s suffrage.
 Despite legally mandated universal suffrage for males, political barriers were sometimes erected to prevent fair access to elections Functions of Elections There are several functions of elections : First, elections are the ways to hold governments accountable. It means if the government does not work according to the commitment or they govern poorly, people will remove their positions of power through the election. In other words, elections are the instruments which the electors exercise influence over public policies. Second, elections are the means to choose those who will guide and direct affairs of the government.
An election must give voters a choice between candidates or a choice whether a particular policy is to be followed. Three, elections provide legitimacy to the government. It means elections give a feeling of choice to voters and as a result the authority of governments over the voters is enhanced. Lastly, elections serve the function of mobilisation. It is due to the elections are used as a reason for introducing new policies or pressing forward with old ones. For example, through the election campaign, before it begins, the candidates will make a seminar or a meeting that encourage people to join or to elect them.
Free and Fair Elections Generally, a ‘free’ elections is associated with : Each adult citizen have the right and an equal opportunity to vote the candidates of elections. Voting must be in secret. Citizens should have full freedom to participate and to nominate candidates of their choice. Candidates must have equal opportunities to publicise their names and policy positions in order that the voters can understand and choose them. Whereas a ‘fair’ elections generally have the characteristics of : No candidates should be discriminated.
It means that they should be given equal financial support as well as equal free time to make their views known to the electorate. Any voters should have an equal access to voting polling places. Elections will be held at the regular intervals and must be periodically. For instance, after 2 / 5 years. The counting of the votes must be accurately counted and published the results without delay. Types of Elections The classification of elections is based on the level of support which retained by political parties and have been classified into 3 types : Normal Election, Deviating Election and Realigning (critical) Election.
Normal Election It is where the result expresses the balance of long-term party loyalties in the electorate as a whole. Normal elections reveal that party identifications are stable and most people vote according to them which also known as ‘maintaining election’. Deviating Election It is where winning majority party loses the election due to short-term factors which usually temporary such as candidate appeal. Realigning or Critical Election It shows a major shift in the election result. The voters give up their old party loyalty and establish a new and durable party identities.
Elections and Referendums The method of choosing representatives can be direct and indirect. In a majority of the cases, the people are given the power to exercise their right to vote and to choose directly their own representatives while in a few cases , the people exercise their right to vote and to elect some persons who as a body which are generally known as the Electoral College and this body elects the actual representatives. Referendum is a method of election which allows voters to decide on a policy or constitutional issue by means of a popular vote at the request of a government or legislature.
It is in most countries when some democracies allow voters under some circumstances to decide directly in an election whether the government should follow a particular policy. Electoral System It can be defined as a set of rules for conducting an election which includes some rules that relate to the electoral constituencies, the method of casting vote, the administration of elections and specifies the number of offices to be filled and the mode of voting as well. Moreover, it also deals with such questions like How many votes should be converted into seats ?
Who has the right to vote ? Another important element of an electoral system is the franchise. It deals with the question who can vote. Most states apply the principle of universal suffrage which gives every qualified people the right to vote. The first step is to tally the votes, for which various vote counting systems and ballot types are used. Voting systems then determine the result on the basis of the tally. Most systems can be categorized as either proportional or majoritarian. Among the former are party-list proportional representation and additional member system.
Among the latter are First Past the Post (FPP) (relative majority) and absolute majority. Many countries have growing electoral reform movements, which advocate systems such as approval voting, single transferable vote, instant runoff voting or a Condorcet method, these methods are also gaining popularity for lesser elections in some countries where more important elections still use more traditional counting methods. While openness and accountability are usually considered cornerstones of a democratic system, the act of casting a vote and the content of a voter’s ballot are usually an important exception.
The secret ballot is a relatively modern development, but it is now considered crucial in most free and fair elections, as it limits the effectiveness of intimidation. There are 2 rules for converting votes into seats : Single Member District Plurality Systems (SMDP) Proportional Representation System (PR) 1. Single Member District Plurality Systems (SMDP) In this system, a single member is elected from each district by a plurality of votes whereas a state or its sub-national units are divided into equal constituencies with 1 representative elected from each district.
This system usually means that the candidate who wins a plurality of support does not necessarily command the majority of votes cast in the constituency. The variants of Single Member District Plurality Systems (SMDP) : First Past the Post . The candidate who win a plurality of support does not necessarily command the majority of votes cast in the constituency because it gives bonus seats to large parties. Alternative Vote (AV) . Voters rank the candidates in order of preferences by placing numbers. If a candidate obtains a majority of first choice votes on the first count, he or she is declared elected.
For example , Australia’s lower houses. Run-Off . If the candidates for legislative and executive posts could not obtain a majority in the first ballot , they compete in run-off elections that continue until a candidate wins. 2. Proportional Representation System (PR) Proportional representation allows a political party to win seats in a legislative assembly in proportion to its share popular votes. There are 2 variants of proportional representation : The List System and the Single Transferable Vote. The List System is the most common form of proportional representation which used in most countries in Europe.
It based on the principle that the total number of votes won by a party determines how many candidates are elected. There are several versions of the List System. Firstly, it called the “closed party list” that used in Spain and Portugal. Under this system, voters have no choice over candidates but simply vote for the party that they prefer. Secondly, the “free party list” which used in Switzerland and Luxembourg. In these countries, the voters have complete freedom to choose among candidates running in a multi-member constituency.
The Single Transferable Vote is used in the Australian Senate, in the Republic of Ireland and Malta. This system allows voters maximum choice of the candidates and guarantees that all voters will be used to select representatives as well. Each voters has many votes as there are seats. In brief, the proportional system (PR) is a good mean for the representation of minorities in legislature. There is no wastage of votes as it can be transferred. The smaller or newer party will not be unfairly discriminated under the PR system as they would be under the majority system.
Comparison and Contrast between the Proportional Representation System (PR) and Single Member District Plurality Systems (SMDP) PR is a good device for the representation of minorities in legislature where the SMDP system favours the large parties. In PR system , no vote would go under represented or wasted but in SMDP system, many votes were wasted. SMDP systems tend to produce 2 party or 2-plus systems while PR systems encourage multiparty due to it assign parliament seats in proportion to the percentage of votes. Election Campaigns
When elections are called, politicians and their supporters attempt to influence policy by competing directly for the votes of constituents in what are called campaigns. Supporters for a campaign can be either formally organized or loosely affiliated, and frequently utilize campaign advertising. It is common for political scientists to attempt to predict elections via Political Forecasting methods. Difficulties with Elections In many countries with weak rule of law, the most common reason why elections do not meet international standards of being “free and fair” is interference from the incumbent government.
Dictators may use the powers of the executive (police, martial law, censorship, physical implementation of the election mechanism, etc. ) to remain in power despite popular opinion in 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, lack of objectivity in the press due to state or corporate control, or lack of access to news and political media. Freedom of speech may be curtailed by the state, favoring certain viewpoints or state propaganda. Unfair Rules This can include Gerrymandering, exclusion of opposition candidates from eligibility for office, 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. Tampering with the Election Mechanism This can include confusing or misleading voters about how to vote, violation of the secret ballot, ballot stuffing, tampering with voting machines, destruction of legitimately cast ballots, voter suppression, voter registration fraud, failure to validate voter residency, fraudulent tabulation of results, and use of physical force or verbal intimation at polling places.
Nomination A representative democracy requires a procedure to govern nomination for political office. In many cases, nomination for office is mediated through preselection processes in organized political parties. 
Non-partisan systems tend to differ from partisan systems as concerns nominations. In a direct democracy, one type of non-partisan democracy, any eligible person can be nominated. In some non-partisan representative systems no nominations (or campaigning, electioneering, etc.) 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 among the elected delegates.
As far as partisan systems, in some countries, only members of a particular political party can be nominated or an eligible person can be nominated through a petition, thus allowing him or her to be listed on a something. References 1. a b c d e f g h “Election (political science),” Encyclpoedia Britanica Online. Retrieved 18 August 2009 2. Wiktionary – Elect 3. “Panchayat Raj, Policy notes 2011–2012”. Rural development & panchayat raj department, TN Government, India. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
4. “Pre-Independence Method of Election”. Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, India. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 5. “Handbook on Kongu archaeological treasures”. The Hindu (Coimbatore, India). 27 June 2005. 6. History of Buddhism in India, Translation: A. Shiefner. 7. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World (2004), vol. 1, p. 116-123. 8. Reuven Hazan, ‘Candidate Selection’, in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies 2, Sage Publications, London, 2002.