What Is a Direct Election?

Direct election allows the voters to directly elect political officeholders through an electoral system without electing another body first that then elects officeholders, such as in an indirect election. Examples of direct election are U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament. An example of a body that uses indirect election is the U.S. Electoral College.

Direct election employs several methods to choose the winners. Some electoral methods used include party-list proportional representation, which selects a legislature, a two-round system, which is used to elect single winners and a plurality system.

According to the original U.S. Constitution, state legislatures were designated to elect senators through an indirect election, which lasted for 125 years. In 1826, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed direct election of senators through popular vote as an amendment to the constitution. In addition, several resolutions were again passed in favor of direct election, which the Senate refused. States took another route to rectify the situation by using Article V of the Constitution, which states that if two-thirds of the state legislatures apply, the Congress must call a constitutional convention for amendment. The actual law was not changed until 1911 when the House Joint Resolution 39 was passed by the House of Representatives, which revised the election policy of the Constitution to perform direct election.