POLYAS Election Glossary

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


An election is a democratic procedure through which one or more persons are chosen as executives or representatives in certain bodies. 

Persons who have voting rights (the electorate) vote in a predetermined procedure (voting system) to choose a mandate or office holders for a particular term.  In order to manage the election outcome, eligible candidates are usually predetermined, proposed or preselcted (candidate listing).

Importance of elections 

Elections are the most important form of political participation in a democratic system. Through elections the political leadership determines the political course of the next legislative period. Furthermore, elections are the most effective tool voters have to ensure the accountability of their leaders, as voters are able to shift power away from the incumbents when they are dissatisfied with their political leadership.

Functions of elections

Elections have various functions. The most important of which is the legitimization of elected officials and the policy decisions they make. Legitimization given to elected bodies means that the electorate has expressed their will through a predetermined, fair procedure. This function also includes the transfer of trust onto elected officials, with the expectation they will represent the opinions and interests of voters.

See also: By-Laws, Legislative Term, Election Campaign, Presidential Election

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