Elections and Electorates



Modern states are large country-states with vast territories and great population. It is physically impossible for the people in such states to assemble at one place for political purposes. They can take part in the business of the state only indirectly that is through their representatives whom they elect to make laws and policies and to decide other affaires of the state.


  • The representatives elected by the people who have the right to vote called suffrage. This indirect mode of participation is known as election.
  • When the citizens as a whole exercise their right to vote to elect their representatives, it s called an election

Hence modern democracy is an indirect democracy is an indirect democracy, with representatives elected by the people who have the right to vote called suffrage. This indirect mode of participation is known as election. Which we may define as a form of procedure, laid down by the electoral laws whereby some members of he public are chosen by the people to hold legislative or executive offices of authority in the state, In short, it is the way the ruled choose their rulers, i.e. their government.


Elections are the means of legitimating the assignment of a person to an office of authority in the state. John Austin once said that electoral procedure is like the procedure in a marriage ceremony: “Do you take this man (or women) to be your lawfully wedded husband (or wife)? “I do”. So a voter asks the candidate:” Do you accept my demands as your own?” “I do”, says the candidate. The point at which a candidate is elected is really not the moment of choice or decision by the voter: it was, in fact, much earlier, for a free voter decided much earliest to vote for a candidate of his preference.


The right to vote is called the suffrage or franchise. It is one of the most important political rights or the citizens in a democratic state, inasmuch as it is the very foundation and essence of the representative democracy. By the exercise of this right the citizens not only elect their representatives but also express their opinion on the policy of the government.

When a citizen exercises his rights to vote, he becomes a voter or elector. The actual choice or exercise of the right to vote is called voting. The act of voting is called polling. When the citizens as a whole exercise their right to vote to elect their representatives, it is called an election. All the citizens who at a electorate. The size of the electorate depends upon the law of franchise or representation, which differs from country to country.


When a citizen exercises his rights to rights to vote, he becomes a voter or elector.


The actual choice or exercise of the right to vote is called voting. 


The act of voting is called polling.


All the citizens who at a particular time have the right to vote or franchise are collectively called the electorate. 



According to this theory, franchise or the right to vote is the natural and inherent right of the individual. This theory was based on three doctrines which were prevalent during the 18th century; the doctrines of natural rights, equality of man and popular sovereignty or General Will. Carried to its logical conclusion this theory implies universal suffrage. All citizens have the inalienable and scared right to participate in the formulation of the law. “None cam be deprived of this right upon any pretext or in any government.”


The doctrine of natural rights is not acceptable in modern tines. It is now said that franchise is not a natural right of the individual. If it is so, then we cannot refuse this right to such persons who cannot obviously exercise it, as, for example, the minors or the wicked. This theory has the support of several modern writers, such as Bluntschli, Lecky, John Stuart Mill and Sir Henry Maine. The Fascists and Nazis upheld it on ground of racialism and nationalism, while the communists on grounds of proletarian citizenship.


Every state requires that an individual acquire the right to vote when he attains a certain age. Minors and young people are not given the right to vote because they are too young and immature to understand the purpose of voting and election. It is undoubtedly a necessary condition. But there is no uniformity as to the age of maturity or adulthood when the individual becomes a voter. It is eighteen years in the U.S.S.R, U.S.A, U.K and other countries, which is the lowest in the world; 21 years in Pakistan, and 25 years in Holland. However, it is better to fix 18 years of age as the age of a voter.


An individual must be mentally and morally fit to be a voter. Every state exclude lunatics, idiots and criminals from electorate, because they do mot possess necessary moral and mental qualifications. Those who are convicted of crimes may be temporarily or permanently deprived of this right, because they show lack of civic sense. Sometimes bribery at elections also disqualifies a person permanently.

  • SEX

For a long past women were not granted the right to vote, politics was regarded as man’s job only. The demand for universal suffrage was understood as a demand for male suffrage exclusively, on reason why women were disfranchise was the view that those persons only could be voters who fought for the state: warriors, alone were voters.



Some writers and thinkers have advanced several arguments against female enfranchisement in the past and present, as follows: –

(1)    Feminine nature is unfit for politics

The chief argument against female enfranchisement has been that female nature is such, which renders women unfit for political life and decision. Politics is man’s job, just as maternity is women. The Egyptian Ulama of the Al-Azhar University of Cairo issued a Fatwa in 1952, declaring that women must not be given the right to vote or sit in the legislature.

(2). Politics would unsex women

It is also said that nor only female nature but also womanly functions and role in life require that they should not participate in politics, if they are to preserve their feminine qualities and habits. They earn respect and honor from men only when they are delicate, retiring in habits, and devoted to their domestic duties. If they begin to participate in politics on equal terms with men, they would involve themselves in the mud and mire of political controversies and would be treated as roughly as men treat one another in political controversies and would be treated as roughly as men treat on another in political disputes and quarrels.

(3). It would create discord in family life

The opponents of female franchise paint a dark and dismal picture of family discord and quarrels if women are given the right to vote. It is said that if a woman voter agrees with her husband and vote, as he wants her, then peace and happiness of the family would be destroyed for the wife and husband would quarrel over voting.

(4). Women are incapable of bearing arms

A citizen must fight for the country or state; women cannot be given civic rights, as they can do nothing to defend the state.


Several writers, e.g.; Mill, Hare, and Side wick, etc; have championed women’s right to vote. Their arguments are as follows:-

(1). Democracy remains an imperfect ideal without female enfranchisement

Just as democracy does not differentiate between men on basis of race or blood, so it should not differentiate between men and women on the basis of sex. Politics cannot be a monopoly of men, for law and government affect women, their life and happiness as much as they affect men.

(2). Sex is no disqualification

The right of voting is a political right of the individual based on moral and rational grounds rather than on physical considerations. It belongs to both men and women. Women cannot be denied franchise on the basis of sex, for it is a, which does physical factor not affect polities.

(3)  The arguments of family quarrels and military incapacity of

women refuted.

The arguments that the enfranchisement of women would increase family quarrels are quite baseless. On the contrary, it would sharpen the intellects and increase their understanding of the problems confronting their country.

(4)  Weakness of the female sex necessitates her participation in

politics for the sake of better protection.

Citizens are given the right to vote for they have to protect certain rights. Women, being physically weaker, are more dependent on law and government, state and society, for protection of their rights and interests, which men have failed to protect, as past experience has demonstrated.

(5)  Female enfranchisement will exercise moral influence on

political life.

The admission of women into politics would have a purifying, ennobling and refining influence in it. It will tend to improve the tone of public life and will be conducive to better government. It will introduce decency, righteousness and purity in politics.

(6)  Good citizenship is as necessary for women as men

Women are given many civil rights and perform many civil duties, in present times; women are to compete with men in several walks of life. It is, therefore, inconsistent and irrational that they should be denied political right of franchise, when they enjoy other rights, perform civil duties and have to struggle for existence on equal footing with men.

(7) Women are the custodians of culture civilization and the future of every state depends upon their active and equal participation in the affairs of the government. 

·        PROPERTY

In the nineteenth century, possession of property was considered as an essential qualification for franchise. Various reasons were given why property owners alone could be the voters. Firstly, men of property were men of education who could thereby understand the meaning and purpose of voting and election, and could express their opinions on national issues. Secondly, men of property had a stake in the country and would gibe considered opinion on problems and dangers confronting it. Thirdly, it was feared that if the property less classes were given the right to vote. They would elect such representatives as would abolish private property altogether and thus bring economic ruin to the country. Fourthly, the legislature, which imposes taxes, should consist of those who pay taxes, that is the representatives of the propertied classes. In the present times, however, the attitude towards property qualification has completely changed.

·        EDUCATION

In the nineteenth century, ignorance, illiteracy or lack of education was regarded as good grounds for disqualifying a person as a voter. Various writers justified this restriction on different grounds. Bluntschli said, “To vest the power of choosing to see who are to rule the stare in the hands of the incapable and unworthy classes would mean stare suicide.

J.S. MILL asserted that I regard it as wholly inadvisable that any person should participate in the surface without being able to read and write. He therefore remarked that “universal teaching just precedes universal enfranchisement” Like property qualification opinion about educational qualification has also changed in present times.


In view of its importance and power it is necessary that the electorate should be as extensive as the adult population of the state. When all the adult citizens, irrespective of the difference of sex property, social status color or creed, residence, education, etc, have the right to vote it is called universal adult suffrage. It means there should be no restriction on franchise except such essential ones as adulthood or age limit mental and moral fitness.

Arguments against universal adult suffrage

In the some states franchise is restricted on such grounds as property, educations, sex, race, color, religion, etc, various arguments are advanced to justify this kind of restricted suffrage. Firstly, it is said that the ignorant masses or uneducated people will make a dangerously bad use of their votes, as they are opposed to progress. Sir Henry Maine, a strong critic of universal suffrage, said that the enfranchised masses would oppose all scientific, cultural and intellectual progress and achievements of mankind.

Arguments in favor of universal adult suffrage

Several arguments are also advanced in its favors. Firstly universal franchise is democratic. It is based on the sovereignty of the people are sovereign; they should have a share in t5he government. Secondly, laws are obeyed readily when they are made with the consent and approval of all, as expressed through their representatives. Thirdly, universal adult suffrage is based on the principle of ‘one man one vote.’ This principle ensures political equality, as no citizen is excluded from the right to vote. Lastly, it gives strength and stability to the state, because it places political power in the hands of all adult citizens who are intelligent, sane and able-bodied.  In short, universal adult franchise is the very basis of the modern democratic state.


 Purpose of voting

Political issues can be settled by expressing opinion either peacefully of with violence. Voting has been described as a means of deciding political disputes and questions without violence.

It is better to count heads than to break them. But if voting is to achieve this purpose, it must be free and independent. It means that the voter should be free from all sorts of fear s or pressures at the time of voting.

Two methods of voting have been devised to ensure free and independent voting; public voting and secret voting or vote by ballot.

Secret voting

Freedom from intimidation and pressure at the time of voting is essential if voter is to express his choice freely and independently. It means that voting should be secret. But secret voting is recently put into use. In the past centuries, the voter expresses his choice openly and orally in the public. It is called open vote or public voting. In secret voting, the voter casts his vote secretly by means of a ballot paper and in a polling booth, which is screened off from public gaze. He goes in the polling booth and arks the ballot paper according to his choice candidates. He then folds the paper and puts it into a ballot box. When all voters have voted among two or more the box is opened and votes counted.

Plural voting

Many criticize universal suffrage on the grounds that it does not discriminate between wisdom and folly, intelligence and ignorance, education and literacy, property and poverty. Mill remarked that the principle of “one man, one vote” was wrong as it allowed “ignorance to be entitled to as much political power as knowledge, in order to remedy these defects two methods are proposed and employed in some countries.

In plural voting (also called differential voting) some persons are given more than one vote on such grounds as education or property or some other qualification. It is said that they should have more votes than those who are less qualified and have fewer interests at stake. When a person has plural votes, he casts them as many times as his votes.

Weighted voting

It is a particular form of plural voting. Weighted voting means that the vote of a person is weighted on account of education, property or some other qualification. Thus his votes are weighted as against the single vote of the ordinary voter. The example of the weighted voting was found in theBelgiumconstitution before 1921, according to which every male citizen of 25 years of age, and holding a public office or a lawyer had two votes. No one, however, could nave more than three votes in all. Plural or weighted voting inBelgiumwas, however, abolished in 1921, for this system favored the peasants, the clergy, public officials and professional classes, as against the workers and the uneducated masses.

Compulsory voting

It is matter of common observation that those who have the right to vote do not sometimes exercise it. It is often observed that due to apathy or indifference to political duty 15 to 50 percent of the qualified voters stay at home on the Election Day. It reduces the election to a farce and vitiates the expression of the general will. If franchise is a public trust, a privilege conferred on the citizens in the interest of the state and for the social good, they must be obliged to perform this function by law. In other words, voting should be made compulsory and law punishes any citizen, who fails to cast his vote. This is the case inBelgium, where a small fine is imposed for non-voting. But it has increased voting only to a slight degree. On the whole, compulsory voting has not found favor with most of the countries in the present-day world.



It is physically impossible that millions of voters in a country could assemble at one place and cast their vote’s en mess, or know all candidates or go long distances to vote. Owing to these considerations, the whole territory of the state is divided into many electoral areas or districts, called the constituencies.

Merits of the single member system

  • It enables the voters to remain in touch with the candidates and the representatives.
  • It is more economical and simple.
  • It has the advantages of responsibility and stability.
  • It encourages local talent.

Disadvantages of the single member system

  • It unduly favors government candidates.
  • It encourages localism in politics.
  • It narrows the range of choice of candidates.
  • It necessitates constant readjustment of electoral area.
  • It encourages gerrymandering.
  • It distorts the whole representation system by establishing minority government.
  • It does not provide proper representation to the minorities.


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


The method of direct election is very simple.  The voters cast their votes for or against the various candidates. The candidate who secures majority of the votes is declared successful and is returned as the representative from that constituency. This method has found favor in all democratic states, especially for the election of the popular Lower House of the legislatures.

Advantages of direct election

  1. It stimulates political interest among voters.
  2. It broadens the mental horizon of he people.
  3. It secures effective control of the government by the electorate.
  4. It is less exposed to corruption.

Disadvantages of direct election

  1. It places power in the hands of ignorant masses.
  2. Passions and propaganda dominate direct elections.


It is comparatively more complicated. The voters do not elect their representatives. They elect only a number of persons, called electors who constitute what is called an electoral college as n intermediary body. These electors then, in their turn, choose the representatives finally. Thus an indirect election involves double election: first a general election by the whole electorate, and then a limited election by the small body of electors, who finally elect the representatives. This method is not so common. It is usually favored for the election of the Second Chambers or the Upper House, especially of the federal states. It is also employed for the election of the presidents of the republican states. For example, inFrancethe Upper Chamber is indirectly elected, in the U.S.S.R the Soviet of Nationalities and inPakistanthe Senate and the President are indirectly elected.

Merits of indirect election

The method of indirect election was much favored by writers during the early period of the rise of modern democracy. In theory, it has many advantages. It was regarded as an effective remedy of the dangers of universal suffrage and an effective check to the emergence of mob rule. Some of the chief merits are as below:-

  1. It is free from the gusts of popular passion
  2. Men of ability and intelligence elect the representatives
  3. It ensures cool consideration of political issues
  4. Finally, the method of indirect election is good for countries whose people are educationally backward and politically unorganized. It is particularly useful for electing the Second Chambers

Defects of indirect election

Experience with the system of indirect election has revealed that its theoretical advantages are non-existent, while it has many defects and disadvantages in actual practice. They are as follows:-

  1. It kills popular interest in the elections and politics
  2. It is out of harmony with the spirit of modern democracy
  3. It is illogical, for if a man is fit to choose an elector, he is also fit to choose a representative
  4. Indirect elections often become direct election in present times
  5. It breeds intrigue and corruption
  6. Finally, indirect election can be successful when both primary and secondary voters are honest, and public-spirited. But this is rarely so



“a legal system for making democratic choices. The word Voting

system  is also used for electoral system.”

How the electoral system works

Of 129 Scotland’s MSPs, 73 are elected by the same “first past the post” method used for Westminsterelections. These individuals will be elected on a constituency basis, in exactly the same way as an MP. In this “first vote”, voters put their X beside the name of an individual candidate, i.e. Jack McConnell (Labor). The candidate with the most votes is then elected.

The “second vote” is a bit more complicated. The remaining 56 MSPs are elected under a form of proportional representation called the “additional member system”. Voters choose the party they wish to support rather than an

individual candidate,

These second-vote “constituencies” are very large: there are just eight covering the whole of Scotland, similar to the European election constituencies. There are seven seats up for grabs in each of these regions. These are divided up amongst the parties on the basis of the proportion of votes they get. However, under a somewhat complicated formula, parties who have won several seats in the first past the post seats in a region effectively get put to the back of the queue. Parties who won no first past the post seats, or very few, are more likely to win these “top-up” seats.

The votes cast for each party are divided by the number of “first past the post” seats gained plus one. The party that gets the highest rating is given the first seat. The calculation is the same for the second to seventh seats but if a party has gained additional seats through the calculation these are then factored in.

The purpose is to make the final result more reflective of how many votes each party received.

The individual MSPs are chosen from party lists. If the party gets just one top-up seat then the person who is first on the list is elected. If the party gets two, then the first and second people on the list are elected. This is why those returned by the second vote are known as list MSPs.

Single-Member/Majoritarian Systems

Single-member systems

  • First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)
  • Supplementary Vote (SV)
  • Alternative Vote (AV)

   Multi-member systems

  • Single Transferable Vote (STV)
  • Party List Systems
          Mixed systems

  • Additional Member System (AMS)
  • The Alternative Vote Plus (AV+)

I am not supposed to discuss every system in detail save FTPT, because it is in vogue in Pakistan.


How the System Works

The current system for electing MPs to the House of Commons is called First-Past-The-Post. There are 659 separate constituencies across theUKeach electing one single Member of Parliament. In order to vote you simply put an ‘X’ next to the name of the candidate you support. The candidate who gets the most votes wins, regardless of whether he or she has more than 50% supports. Once members have been individually elected, the party with the most seats in Parliament, regardless of whether or not it has a majority across the country, normally becomes the next government. It is used for elections to the House of Commons and local elections in the UK and in USA, Canada and Pakistan and India.

Arguments used in favor

  • It is simple to understand.
  • The voter can express a view on which party should form the next government.
  • It tends to lead to a two-party system. The system tends to produce single party governments, which are strong enough to create legislation and tackle the country’s problems, without relying on the support of any other party.
  • It provides a close link between the MP and their constituency.
  • The system represents the views of the people, as the candidate with the greatest support wins through a fair process.
  • TheUK’s democracy is one of the strongest in the world, it works and since no system is perfect, why should we go through the massive overhaul of changing?


  • Only one MP is elected in each constituency, so all the voters who did not vote for him or her are not represented. Their votes do not help elect anybody and so are wasted, they could have stayed at home and the result would not have been altered.
  • In 1997, inGreat Britain, 14.7 million voters cast ineffective votes – that is 48.2% of those who voted. A high proportion of these voters are the same people every time, e.g. Conservative voters inCountyDurhamor Labor voters in much ofSurrey.
  • There is a lack of choice given to the voters. The candidates are selected by a small number of party members, and voters can only choose between parties. If the candidate selected for your party has views with which you disagree, you are left with no alternative choice within that party.
  • Voters are represented unequally. In 1997, the average number of votes per MP elected was: 32,376 for Labor, but 113,826 for Liberal Democrats
  • Concentrated support for a party produces results. In 1997, Conservative support was spread thinly over most ofScotland. They got 18% of the vote inScotland, but no seats. The Liberal Democrats got 13% of the Scottish vote and a similar share of the seats because they had strong support in a few constituencies and minimal support in most of the others.
  • The system leads to many people casting negative votes i.e. voting against the candidate they dislike most rather than for the candidate they like best.
  • The way the boundaries of constituencies are drawn can affect the results. Governments are often accused of gerrymandering, adjusting the boundaries of constituencies to influence the results.
  • In 1997, Labor won 43.3% of the total vote, but got 65.2% of the seats in Parliament, giving them power to form a government. Although 11 out of 20 British electors voted against the Government, it has complete power.


Alternative Vote (AV)

A preferential, plurality-majority system used in single-member districts in which voters use numbers to mark their preferences on the ballot paper. A candidate who receives over 50% of first-preferences is declared elected. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority of first-preferences, votes are re-allocated until one candidate has an absolute majority of votes cast.

Block Vote (BV)

A plurality-majority system used in multi-member districts in which electors have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected. Voting can be either candidate-centered or party-centered. Counting is identical to a First Past the Post system, with the candidates with the highest vote totals winning the seats.

First Past the Post (FPTP)

The simplest form of plurality-majority electoral system, using single-member districts, a categorical ballot and candidate-centered voting. The winning candidate is the one who gains more votes than any other candidate, but not necessarily a majority of votes.

List Proportional Representation (List PR)

In its most simple form List PR involves each party presenting a list of candidates to the electorate, voters vote for a party, and parties receive seats in proportion to their overall share of the national vote. Winning candidates are taken from the lists.

Majority-Plurality (Two-Round System)

In French Two-Round elections any candidate who has received the votes of over 12.5 per cent of the registered electorate in the first round can stand in the second round. Whoever wins the highest numbers of votes in the second round is then declared elected, regardless of whether they have won an absolute majority or not. We therefore refer to it as majority-plurality variant of the Two-Round System.

Majority-Runoff (Two-Round System)

The most common method for the second round of voting in a Two-Round System is a straight “run-off” contest between the two highest vote-winners from the first round – this we term a majority-runoff system.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

Systems in which a proportion of the parliament (usually half) is elected from plurality-majority districts, while the remaining members are chosen from PR lists. Under MMP the list PR seats compensate for any disproportionality produced by the district seat results.

Open List

A form of List Proportional Representation in which electors can express a Parallel System – A semi-proportional system in which proportional representation is used in conjunction with a plurality-majority system but where, unlike MMP, the PR seats do not compensate for any disproportionality arising from elections to the plurality majority seats.

Party Block Vote (PB)

A form of the Block Vote in which electors choose between parties rather than candidates. The successful party will typically win every seat in the district.

Plurality-Majority Systems

The distinguishing feature of plurality-majority systems is that they almost always use single-member districts. In a First Past the Post system, the winner is the candidate with a plurality of votes, but not necessarily an absolute majority of the votes. When this system is used in multi-member districts it becomes the Block Vote. Majority systems, such as the Australian Alternative Vote and the French Two-Round System, try to ensure that the winning candidate receives an absolute majority of votes cast.

Proportional Representation (PR)

Any system which consciously attempts to reduce the disparity between a party’s share of the national vote and its share of the parliamentary seats. For example, if a party wins 40 per cent of the votes, it should win approximately 40 per cent of the seats.

Semi-Proportional Systems (Semi-PR)

Those electoral systems which provide, on average, results which fall some way in between the proportionality of PR systems and the disproportionality of plurality-majority systems.

Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV)

A semi-proportional system which combines multimember districts with a First Past the Post method of vote counting, and in which electors have only one vote.

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

A preferential proportional representation system used in multi-member districts. To gain election, candidates must surpass a specified quota of first-preference votes. Voters’ preferences are re-allocated to other continuing candidates when an unsuccessful candidate is excluded or if an elected candidate has a surplus.

Two-Round System (TRS)

A plurality-majority system in which a second election is held if no candidate achieves an absolute majority of votes in the first election.


  • Ul Haque, Mazhar, Political Science theory and practice, Bookland Publishers,Lahore.
  • Ali, Arshad, Ilme Siasiat, Kitab Ghar,Lahore.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica 2003


  1. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/votingsystems/systems2.htm
  2. http://www.idea.int/esd/glossary.cfm
  3. http://dict.die.net/electoral systemby