POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Election Principles

Here are the core principles of a democratic election for political elections as established in Article 21, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948:

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. 

  • Periodic: Elections will be held at regular intervals. Governments should not be allowed to delay elections as they should be periodic to be seen as legitimate. 
  • Genuine: Meaning that the vote has the ablitily to change the government, or that the government will respect and implement the outcome of the election.
  • Universal & Equal Suffrage: Every Citizen has the right to vote regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, education or disability. The only restrictions are on being above an age limit and registration, the latter of which has been abused in the past. This has the added implication of Fair Elections, meaning that every vote has the same weighting and worth. 
  • Secret Vote or other Equivalent free voting procedure: The Secrecy of the Ballot is a crucial aspect of many democracies. In order to protect against the purchasing of votes or cooercion, ballots should be cast in secret. Equivalent free voting procedure means that one's ability to vote should be unhindered by others in that elections should be free to vote in line with their views rather than be forced or cooerced into voting for what others would like. The secrecy of the ballot is an easier way of limiting election fraud, which is why it is the most common way of voting.

In corporate elections, not all of these principles need to be upheld, namely the quantity of votes per person. Often it is needed that voters who control more shares in an organization receive more votes - reflecting their control or ownership of the organization. Many organizations opt to do live voting, which often entails either a show of hands or acclamation. The secrecy of the ballot in this regard in unable to be maintained. 

Others, however, should always be upheld. The universality of elections as well as their integrity for example. Elections should never be discriminatory for reasons of gender, ethnicity, faith nor disability. Similarly, elections should always be trustworthy. 

POLYAS upholds all of the election principles with our certified online voting software. 

See also: Code of Ethics, Constitution, Secrecy of the Ballot in Online Voting

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