What Is a Representative Government?

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A representative government, or republic, is one that is governed by elected officials who represent different groups of people. The Romans were the first to use a representative government and most modern democracies feature some form of this system.

Unlike a direct democracy, voters in a representative one do not directly decide public policy and laws. They instead decide who represents them and makes these decisions on their behalf. However, there are instances when a representative government makes use of direct democracy. For example, some states in the United States use the referendum for certain proposals, giving registered voters the opportunity to have a direct say in the matter.