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An election is a formal democratic decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.


  • I consider biennial elections as a security that the sober, second thought of the people shall be law.
    • Fisher Ames, speech on Biennial Elections before the Convention of Massachusetts (January 1788), reported in Seth Ames, John Thornton Kirkland, Works of Fisher Ames with a Selection from His Speeches and Correspondence (1854) p. 7.
  • How shall we avert the dire calamities with which we are threatened? The answer comes from the graves of our fathers: By the frequent election of new men. Other help or hope for the salvation of free government there is none under heaven. If history does not teach this, we have read it all wrong.
    • Jeremiah S. Black, "The Third Term: Reasons Against It"; first published in The North American Review (March 1880); republished in Chauncey F. Black, ed., Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (1886), p. 383.
  • What is it we all seek for in an election? To answer its real purposes, you must first possess the means of knowing the fitness of your man; and then you must retain some hold upon him by personal obligation or dependence.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790), republished in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 3, p. 483.
  • On Election Day, I stay home. Two reasons: first of all, voting is meaningless; this country was bought and paid for a long time ago. That empty shit they shuffle around and repackage every four years doesn't mean a thing. Second, I don't vote, because I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. I know some people like to twist that around and say, "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain." But where's the logic in that? Think it through: If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and you screw things up, then you're responsible for what they've done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote—who, in fact, did not even leave the house on Election Day—am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created. Which I had nothing to do with. Why can't people see that?
  • I have serious doubts about the value of debates in a presidential election. They tend to be a test of reaction time rather than a genuine exposition of the participants' philosophies and programs. Further, in debate, candidates tend to overstate their views. In the 1960 situation I had a very practical objection: Nixon was widely known; Kennedy was not; dramatic debates would therefore help Kennedy.
  • An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.
  • When the shadow of the Presidential and Congressional election is lifted we shall, I hope be in a better temper to legislate.
    • James A. Garfield, letter to General Hazen (August 1, 1867), concerning his difficulty in getting legislation passed to reduce the size of the military. Reported in The Life and Letters of James Abram Garfield (1925), vol. 1, p. 421.
  • Let all people come in, and vote fairly; it is to support one or the other party, to deny any man's vote.
    • Holt, C.J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Raym. Rep. 958; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 244-245.
  • I am superstitious. I have scarcely known a party, preceding an election, to call in help from the neighboring states, but they lost the state.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to Iowa governor James W. Grimes (July 12, 1856); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 348.
  • To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech (c. May 18, 1858); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 454. Other uses of his contrast of ballots and bullets can be found in his message to Congress of July 4, 1861, "That ballots are the rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be no successful appeal, back to bullets" (vol. 4, p. 439); and in a letter to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863, "There can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet" (vol. 6, p. 410). In Arthur Brooks Lapsley, ed., The Writings of Abraham Lincoln (1905), there is a reconstruction, forty years later, of a speech to the first Republican state convention of Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856, in which this sentence appears: "Do not mistake that the ballot is stronger than the bullet" (vol. 2, p. 269). This lengthy reconstruction was not "worthy of serious consideration", in the opinion of Basler (Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 341).
  • And as it is to be appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights, and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the Government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal Legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the authority of the Legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be derived from the whole people of the State, in their adoption of the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be obviated.
  • Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.
  • An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.
  • And we know there has been horrendous loss of life and suffering and we know that there is anger. Anyone who came anywhere near the general election in constituencies with a substantial Muslim population knows that.
  • Looking back, I am content. Win or lose, I have told you the truth as I see it. I have said what I meant and meant what I said. I have not done as well as I should like to have done, but I have done my best, frankly and forthrightly; no man can do more, and you are entitled to no less.
    • Adlai Stevenson, remarks on a radio and television broadcast summing up his presidential campaign on election eve, Chicago, Illinois (November 3, 1952); in Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson, 1952 (1953), p. 315.
  • In countries where royalty is upheld, it is a special offence to rob the crown jewels, which are the emblems of that sovereignty before which the loyal subject bows, and it is treason to be found in adultery with the Queen, for in this way may a false heir be imposed upon the State; but in our Republic, the ballot-box is the single priceless jewel of that sovereignty which we respect, and the electoral franchise, out of which are born the rulers of a free people, is the Queen whom we are to guard against pollution.
  • I know nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election.
    • Walt Whitman, "Democratic Vistas," in The Complete Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (1948), vol. 2, p. 228.

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