Elections || Methods of Voting

Elections || Methods of Voting

Elections and Methods of Voting

Election is the formal process of selecting a person for public office or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting. To conduct a vote it is necessary to know the methods of voting. It is important to distinguish between the form and the substance of elections. In some cases, electoral forms are present but the substance of an election is missing, as when voters do not have a free and genuine choice between at least two alternatives. Most countries hold elections in at least the formal sense, but in many of them the elections are not competitive (e.g., all but one party may be forbidden to contest) or the electoral situation is in other respects highly compromised.

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Meaning of Election

An election is the process of voting to choose someone to be their political leader or representative in government.

Methods of Election

An election is the occasion or the means by which the qualified voters make a choice among two or more candidates for the seat in legislature or some public office. It is of two kinds, direct and indirect.

Direct Election

Direct election is a term describing a system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the person, persons or political party that they desire to see elected. The method by which the winner or winners of a direct election are chosen depends upon the electoral system used. The most commonly used systems are the plurality system and the two round systems for single winner elections, such as a presidential election, and party-list proportional representation for the election of a legislature. Examples of directly elected bodies are the European Parliament and the United States Senate (since 1917).

Indirect Election:

Indirect election is a process in which voters in an election do not actually choose between candidates for an office but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It is one of the oldest forms of elections and is still used today for many upper houses and presidents. This process is also used in many union elections and sometimes in professional, civic, and fraternal organizations.

Types of Elections

Primary Elections:
These elections are held by the political parties to select each party’s nominee for the general election. Political parties are central to the election of officeholders. The selection and nomination of candidates, a vital first stage of the electoral process, generally lies in the hands of political parties; an election serves only as the final process in the recruitment to political office. The party system thus can be regarded as an extension of the electoral process. Political parties provide the pool of talent from which candidates are drawn, and they simplify and direct the electoral choice and mobilize the electorate at the registration and election stage.

General Elections:
These elections are held to determine which political party, independent, or write-in candidate will occupy each office that is up for election.

Constitutional Amendment Elections:
These elections are held when constitutional amendments appear on the ballot.

Special Elections:
Held in extraordinary situations such as the necessity to fill a vacancy that occurs during the term for which a person was elected, or when a referendum is held on some particular question or proposition such as the issuance of bonds.


Meaning of Voting

  • Give or register a vote.
  • Cause (someone) to gain or lose a particular post or honour by means of a vote.
  • Used to express a wish to follow a particular course of action.

Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting.

Methods of Voting:

Deliberative assemblies – bodies that use parliamentary procedure to arrive at decisions – use several methods of voting on motions (formal proposal by members of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action). 

The regular methods of voting in such bodies are

  1. Voice vote
  2. Arising vote 
  3. Show of hands

An additional form of voting includes

  1. Recorded vote
  2. Balloting
  3. Preferential voting
  4. Cumulative voting

Voice vote

A voice vote (viva voce) is the usual method of voting on any motion that does not require more than a majority vote for its adoption. It is considered the simplest and quickest of voting methods used by deliberative assemblies. The chair of the assembly will put the question to the assembly, asking first for those in favour of the motion to indicate so verbally ("aye" or "yes"), and then ask those opposed to the motion to indicate so verbally ("no"). The chair will then estimate which side had more members.

Rising vote

A simple rising vote (in which the number of members voting on each side rise to their feet) is used principally in cases in which the chair believes a voice vote has been taken with an inconclusive result, or upon a motion to divide the assembly. A rising vote is also often the normal method of voting on motions requiring a two-thirds vote for adoption. It can also be used as the first method of voting when only a majority vote is required if the chair believes in advance that a voice vote will be inconclusive. The chair can also order the rising vote to be counted. 

Show of hands

A method of voting in which the members raise their hand to show their vote. This method is best used only in small groups where everyone can see each other, or the results may be in question.

A show of hands is an alternate to voice voting, often used in small boards, committees or also informal gatherings, but also in larger assemblies. It is more precise than a voice vote but does not require members to rise from their seats. However, it does not count as a division of the assembly, and is not always as effective as a rising vote in causing a maximum number of members to vote who have not done [clarification needed] so. 

Recorded vote

A recorded vote is a vote in which the votes (for or against) of each member of the assembly are recorded (and often later published). RONR explains: 

Taking a vote by roll call (or by yeas and nays, as it is also called) has the effect of placing on the record how each member, or sometimes each delegation, votes; therefore, it has exactly the opposite effect of a ballot vote. It is usually confined to representative bodies, where the proceeds are published, since it enables constituents to know how their representatives voted on certain measures. It should not be used in a mass meeting or in any assembly whose members are not responsible to a constituency.

Recorded votes may either be taken by actually calling the roll (a task typically ordered by the chair and performed by the secretary) or, in some assemblies, by electronic device.[6]

Signed ballot:

A signed ballot is sometimes used as a substitute for a roll call vote. It allows the members' votes to be recorded in the minutes without the chair having to call the names of each member individually. A motion to use a signed ballot is one of the motions relating to methods of voting and the polls.


Balloting is a form of voting in which the secrecy of the member's choices is desired. Members mark their choices on pieces of paper (or electronic devices tailored for such a purpose) and deposit the paper into a ballot box. This procedure is typically the usual method in elections. Robert's Rules of Order states that if a candidate does not receive a majority vote, the balloting is repeated until a candidate obtains a majority vote. Exceptions to this rule must be stated in the organization's rules. Such exceptions may include preferential voting, cumulative voting, and runoffs.

Preferential voting:

Preferential voting allows members to vote on more than one proposal or candidate at a time, and to rank the various options in order of preference.

Robert's Rules of Order states that preferential voting "affords less freedom of choice than repeated balloting, because it denies voters the opportunity of basing their second or lesser choices on the results of earlier ballots, and because the candidate or proposition in last place is automatically eliminated and may thus be prevented from becoming a compromise choice." In any case, preferential voting can be used only if the bylaws specifically authorize it. Elimination of the candidate with fewest votes is a feature of instant runoff voting, but not of all preferential voting methods.

Cumulative voting:

Cumulative voting allows members to cast more than one vote for a candidate.

Regarding this method of voting, RONR states, "A minority group, by coordinating its effort in voting for only one candidate who is a member of the group, may be able to secure the election of that candidate as a minority member of the board. However, this method of voting, which permits a member to cast multiple votes for a single candidate, must be viewed with reservation since it violates the fundamental principle of parliamentary law that each member is entitled to one and only one vote on a question".


A runoff is when a second round of voting is held where the lowest vote-receiving candidates or all but two candidates are eliminated after the first round.

RONR states, "The nominee receiving the lowest number of votes is never removed from the ballot unless the bylaws so require, or unless he withdraws – which, in the absence of such a bylaw, he is not obligated to do. The nominee in lowest place may turn out to be a 'dark horse' on whom all factions may prefer to agree".

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