POLYAS Election Glossary

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


In politics, a quorum describes the necessary number of votes, which have to be reached in a vote to be valid.
The term quorum is mostly used for votes within councils or boards. Elections often have a minimum voter turnout required for an election to be valid, however not all countries have a minimum threshold that needs to be crossed.

Quorums always use a reference variable, which is set at 100%. This reference variable can be for example the total number of eligible voters, total number of people present or total number of cast votes. Based on this reference variable, a threshold is set which has to be crossed in order for a quorum to be reached. The threshold always has to be smaller than the reference variable. Ultimately, the aim of the quorum is to avoid having a non-representative majority. 

Types of quorum

  • Canada

The Canadian Senate requires the presence of at least 15 Senators including the Speaker to hold a meeting and exercise its powers.

In the Canadian House of Commons, a quorum of at least 20 members including the Speaker is needed to exercise its powers and constitute a meeting.

Each Canadian province and territory sets its own quorums, all of which are between 10, 21 or the majority.

  • United States

The US Senate requires a majority of Senators (51) to be present in order to legally exercise its powers.

A quorum in the US House of Representatives is reached at a threshold of 218 representatives present. If seats are vacant because of deaths or resignations, the quorum is adjusted accordingly. 

See also: Canadian Parliament, Canadian House of Commons, Canadian Senate, US Congress, US House of Representatives, US Senate, Voter Turnout

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