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 preselected (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 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 to other parties or candidates when they are dissatisfied with the political leadership.

Functions of elections

Elections have various functions. The most important of which is the legitimisation of elected officials and their later decisions. Legitimisation invested in elected bodies means that the electorate has expressed their will through a determined procedure. This function also includes the transfer of trust onto elected officials, representation of opinions and interests of voters and the possibility to bring about a change of power.

See also: By-elections, Legislative Term, Primary Legislation, Secondary Legislation

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