Meaning of Ballot

Ballotage is a term derived from the French word ballottage. The notion refers to the second ballot that takes place in certain electoral systems, in which voters must choose between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round. The ballot is an electoral institution that belongs to French law, in its constitutional and electoral branches.

Also called the second round, the ballot is carried out when none of the candidates for public office reaches the minimum number of votes required or the difference with their opponents required by electoral law. In this way, the two most voted go to this second electoral round, while the other candidates are no longer part of the process. Citizens, therefore, can only choose between the two most voted candidates in the previous instance.

As a curious fact, we must point out that the original term in the French language, ballottage, derives from a verb that can be translated as “to vote using balls” (ballotter).

Suppose that, in country X, for a candidate for president to be proclaimed in the first electoral round, he must obtain 50% or more of the votes. When the elections are held, the candidate of the Democratic Party garners 46% of the votes, followed by the representatives of the Liberal Party (39%), the Conservative Party (6%) and the Revolutionary Party (4%), in addition to 5 % of votes blank. According to the legislation, after this first round a ballot is carried out among the candidates of theDemocratic Party and the Liberal Party. In the ballot, the candidate of the Democratic Party gathers 70% of the votes, while the candidate of the Liberal Party reaches 30%. In this way, the candidate of the Democratic Party becomes the president.

An example of balloting took place in the presidential elections in Argentina in 2015. In this nation, voters had to choose between Mauricio Macri and Daniel Scioli in a ballot. The result favored Macri with just over 51% of the votes.

Regarding the history of the second electoral round, we can say that it arose in the mid-nineteenth century, more specifically in 1852 when Napoleon III established the Second French Empire. From that moment, it was applied in the third Republic and – with special force – in the fifth Republic (in 1958) by means of the French Constitution.

The countries in which the ballot can be used to define an electoral process are many, including Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Slovakia, Finland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Ukraine, and Poland. An even more extensive list contains the countries that only resort to this measure in certain cases: Russia, Czech Republic, Syria, Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, Cape Verde, Egypt, France, Iran, El Salvador and Ecuador, among many others.

It is possible to distinguish several types of ballot, among which the following three stand out:

* No barrier: only the candidates who have received the most votes are taken into account and the winner is decided in a second round with a simple majority. An example in France took place during de Gaulle’s tenure for Assembly elections;

* with a simple access mechanism: when neither candidate achieves a result higher than 50% (this is called an absolute majority), the ballot is held between the two who have received the most votes. This rule can be seen in most Latin American countries that apply the second round of elections;

* With a compound access mechanism: for the ballot to take place, certain requirements must be met. For example, in addition to exceeding a certain percentage of votes, the candidate must have a certain number of points above his opponent.