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Election

elections district vote united

Election, selection of public officeholders by vote. Elections may be direct or indirect. In direct elections the voters themselves choose among the candidates for office or proposals in a referendum. In indirect elections voters choose delegates who cast the final and decisive votes. A well-known example of this process is the American electoral college, the body of delegates that, theoretically, elects the president and vicepresident of the United States. Elections may be based on the plurality system or on proportional representation. Under the former system, which is used in the United States and in most English-speaking countries, the candidate who receives the largest number of votes in a district, not necessarily a majority, is the winner. The legislature is then composed of the winners of the individual contests. Under proportional representation, each party nominates a slate of candidates in each district, usually equal in number to the total number of seats to which that district is entitled. The parties are then allocated seats based on the percentage of the total vote they win in the district, with some minimum, such as 5%, required for any representation at all.

The idea that representative democracy requires the participation of all adults developed only slowly in the 19th century. Religious and property qualifications disappeared gradually. By 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the vote, most Western nations had adopted universal suffrage. The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, lowered the voting age in the United States to 18.

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