Can we have democracy without having elections?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the most general of senses, I say that all democracy and all forms of it, on some level, has the notion of elections involved as part of its definition.  I think that if we are examining the basic premise of democracy as a functioning system, the premise of the word includes some type of call to elections, indicative of the Greek "rule of the people."  The notion of most forms of democratic governments involve some form of an electoral process, whether it is in the form of direct democracy, vote power of recall, or some other type of public based check in which government is demonstrative on some level to the needs of the people or the citizenry.  In the varied forms of democracy, one might make the claims that a sortition democracy is a form of "democracy without elections."  The use of the lottery process is how Athenian democracy in many contexts worked.  Yet, even here, the inclusion of people's voices were evident as the pool of candidates in the lottery were people from the community, reflecting to some extent, the will of the people being included in the selection process.  In this light, one could say that sortition could be a democratic process in which elections, as conventionally understood, is not needed.  Yet, in seeking to understand the broad conception of democracy as is practiced in most of the world today, democracy must have some form of election or public vote that drives the government.