One of the most important parts of having a democracy is letting the people of the nation express their opinions to the government. Even more important is that these opinions have the power to drive change. Democracy first started in Athens in the fifth century B.C. The people of Athens created a government called a direct democracy where citizens attended debates and then voted on what they wanted the city to do. This gave citizens the power to directly control their government instead of the government controlling the people. The idea of giving the people a voice through voting is still at the heart of democracies today, even though things are a little different now. In fact, every democratic government has a little different take on the system.
America is a representative democracy. This means that citizens vote to elect representatives and then trust these elected officials to make the important decisions for them. We do this because it would be impossible and expensive for every American citizen to vote on every single important decision the government makes. The way we elect these important officials is also important because votes are used differently in different countries.
• The American system of counting votes is called First Past the Post.
• It is also called simple majority voting.
• Citizens cast their votes by marking their favorite candidate on a ballot.
• The marks are counted.
• The candidate with the most votes wins.
• Only one candidate wins.
Most European countries have a different style of counting votes. They also have representative democracies because they elect officials to make important decisions for them, but the way that they count votes to elect these people is different.
• They use proportional representation.
• Just like in America, citizens mark their favorite choices on a ballot.
• The marks are counted and there are multiple winners.
• If one party gets 50 percent of the votes, then they will get 50 percent of the seats.
• But if another party gets 20 percent of the votes, then they will get 20 percent of the seats.
• Instead of just representing what the majority of people want, this system tries to represent everyone’s opinions.