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Difference Between Election and Referendum

Election vs Referendum

Election and Referendum are two terms that are often taken in one and the same sense. Strictly speaking there is difference between the two terms. Election is a formal decision making process by which members of the population choose an individual to hold public office.

A referendum on the other hand is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. Thus there is a difference in the definitions of the two terms, namely election and referendum.

Elections generally fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and the judiciary too and for regional and local government as well. It is interesting to note that many business organizations, clubs, voluntary associations and corporations too make use of the process of election to fill certain offices.

A referendum on the other hand may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or a specific government policy. In short it can be said that a referendum is a form of direct democracy.

It is interesting to note that the measure put to vote is known in the United States as a ballot proposition or measure. As a matter of fact a referendum is also known by other names such as a plebiscite or a ballot question. This only means that a fundamental referendum may be drafted by a constituent assembly before being put to voters.

In the United States the term referendum is often used to refer to a direct vote initiated by a legislature while a vote originating in a petition of citizens is referred to as an initiative or a ballot measure. It is sometimes called a proposition too. Election on the other hand is a tool for selecting representatives in modern democracies.


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