A ballot box used in France

An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.[1] Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century.[1] 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.[2]

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, ancient Athens, where the Elections were not used were considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot.[3]

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.


Roman coin depicting election
A British election ballot paper, 1880

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 (see imperial election) and the pope (see papal election).[1]

In Vedic period of India, the Raja (chiefs) of a gana (a tribal organization) was apparently elected by the gana. The Raja belonged to the noble Kshatriya varna (warrior class), and was typically a son of the previous Raja. However, the gana members had the final say in his elections.[4] 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.[5] The Pala King Gopala (ruled c. 750s–770s CE) in early medieval Bengal was elected by a group of feudal chieftains. Such elections were quite common in contemporary societies of the region.[6][7] In the Chola Empire, around 920 CE, in Uthiramerur (in present-day 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.[8][9]

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.[1]

Questions of 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 and continue to do so in many countries.[1] Early elections in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States were dominated by landed or ruling class males.[1] 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.[1] Despite legally mandated universal suffrage for adult males, political barriers were sometimes erected to prevent fair access to elections (see civil rights movement).[1]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Verkiesing
العربية: انتخابات
asturianu: Eleiciones
azərbaycanca: Seçki
বাংলা: নির্বাচন
Bân-lâm-gú: Soán-kí
беларуская: Выбары
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Выбары
български: Избори
bosanski: Izbori
brezhoneg: Votadeg
català: Elecció
čeština: Volby
Cymraeg: Etholiad
dansk: Valg
Deutsch: Wahl
eesti: Valimised
Ελληνικά: Εκλογές
español: Elecciones
Esperanto: Voĉdono
euskara: Hauteskunde
فارسی: انتخابات
français: Élection
Frysk: Ferkiezing
galego: Eleccións
хальмг: Суңһувар
한국어: 선거
Hausa: Zaɓe
हिन्दी: चुनाव
hrvatski: Izbori
Bahasa Indonesia: Pemilihan umum
íslenska: Kosningar
italiano: Elezione
עברית: בחירות
ಕನ್ನಡ: Election
ქართული: არჩევნები
қазақша: Сайлау
Kiswahili: Uchaguzi
Latina: Comitia
latviešu: Vēlēšanas
lietuvių: Rinkimai
македонски: Избори
मराठी: निवडणूक
მარგალური: გიშაგორუეფი
Bahasa Melayu: Pilihan raya
монгол: Сонгууль
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ရွေးကောက်ပွဲ
Nederlands: Verkiezing
नेपाली: निर्वाचन
नेपाल भाषा: निर्वाचन
日本語: 選挙
norsk: Valg
norsk nynorsk: Val
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Saylov
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਚੋਣ
polski: Wybory
português: Eleição
română: Alegere
Runa Simi: Akllanakuy
русский: Выборы
संस्कृतम्: निर्वाचनम्
Scots: Election
sicilianu: Elizzioni
Simple English: Election
سنڌي: چونڊون
slovenčina: Voľby
slovenščina: Volitve
Soomaaliga: Doorasho
српски / srpski: Избори
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Izbori
suomi: Vaali
svenska: Val
Tagalog: Halalan
தமிழ்: தேர்தல்
తెలుగు: ఎన్నికలు
Türkçe: Seçim
українська: Вибори
vèneto: Elesion
Tiếng Việt: Bầu cử
walon: Vôtaedje
Winaray: Piniliay
ייִדיש: וואלן
Yorùbá: Ìdìbòyàn
粵語: 選舉
中文: 選舉