Characteristics of Elections

Characteristics of Elections

1. Suffrage

The question of who may vote is a central issue in elections. The electorate does not generally include the entire population; for example, many countries prohibit those who are under the age of majority from voting, all jurisdictions require a minimum age for voting. In Australia, Aboriginal people were not given the right to vote until 1962 and in 2010 the federal government removed the rights of prisoners serving for 3 years or more to vote (a large proportion of which are Aboriginal Australians). Suffrage is typically only for citizens of the country, though further limits may be imposed.

2. Nomination

representative democracy requires a procedure to govern nomination for political office. In many cases, nomination for office is mediated through pre-selection processes in organized political parties. For instance, in Nigeria, political parties include PDP and APC nominate their party flag-bearer who then represents the party in the election. Non-partisan systems tend to differ from partisan systems as concerns nominations. In a direct democracy, one type of non-partisan democracy, any eligible person can be nominated. As far as partisan systems, in some countries, only members of a particular party can be nominated.

3. Electoral Systems

Electoral systems are the detailed constitutional arrangements and voting systems that convert the vote into a political decision. The first step is to tally the votes, for which various vote counting systems and ballot types are used. Voting systems then determine the result on the basis of the tally. We will look at the types of electoral systems in another lesson. While openness and accountability are usually considered cornerstones of a democratic system, the act of casting a vote and the content of a voter’s ballot are usually an important exception. The secret ballot is a relatively modern development, but it is now considered crucial in most free and fair elections, as it limits the effectiveness of intimidation.

4. Scheduling

The nature of democracy is that elected officials are accountable to the people, and they must return to the voters at prescribed intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office. For that reason most democratic constitutions provide that elections are held at fixed regular intervals. In the United States, elections for public offices are typically held between every two and six years in most states and at the federal level, with exceptions for elected judicial positions that may have longer terms of office. There is a variety of schedules, for example presidents: the President of Ireland is elected every seven years, the President of Russia and the President of Finland every six years, the President of France every five years, President of the Nigeria every four years.

5. Election Campaigns

When elections are called, politicians and their supporters attempt to influence policy by competing directly for the votes of constituents in what are called campaigns. Supporters for a campaign can be either formally organized or loosely affiliated, and frequently utilize campaign advertising. It is common for political scientists to attempt to predict elections via Political Forecasting methods. The most expensive election campaign included US$7 billion spent on the United States presidential election, 2012 and is followed by the US$5 billion spent on the Indian general election, 2014.

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