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Staggered elections

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Staggered elections are elections where only some of the places in an elected body are up for election at the same time. For example, United States Senators have a six-year term, but they are not all elected at the same time. Rather, elections are held every two years for one-third of Senate seats.

Staggered elections have the effect of limiting control of a representative body by the body being represented, but can also minimize the impact of cumulative voting.[1] Many companies use staggered elections as a tool to prevent takeover attempts. Some legislative bodies (most commonly upper houses) use staggered elections, as do some public bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Application in business

A staggered board of directors or classified board is a prominent practice in US corporate law governing the board of directors of a company, corporation, or other organization, in which only a fraction (often one third) of the members of the board of directors is elected each time instead of en masse (where all directors have one-year terms). Each group of directors falls within a specified "class"—e.g., Class I, Class II, etc.—hence the use of the term "classified" board.[2] The work of the Shareholder Rights Project has had a significant effect on the number of classified boards on the S&P 500.[3]: 159 

In publicly held companies, staggered boards have the effect of making hostile takeover attempts more difficult; however, they are also associated with lower firm value.[4]: 10  When a board is staggered, hostile bidders must win more than one proxy fight at successive shareholder meetings in order to exercise control of the target firm. Particularly in combination with a poison pill, a staggered board that cannot be dismantled or evaded is one of the most potent takeover defenses available to U.S. companies.[5]

In corporate cumulative voting systems, staggering has two basic effects: it makes it more difficult for a minority group to get directors elected, as the fewer directorships up for election requires a larger percent of the equity to win; and it makes takeover attempts less likely to succeed as it is harder to vote in a majority of new directors.[6] Staggering may also however serve a more beneficial purpose, that is provide "institutional memory" — continuity in the board of directors — which may be significant for corporations with long-range projects and plans.[6]

Institutional shareholders are increasingly calling for an end to staggered boards of directors—also called "declassifying" the boards. The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2007 that 2006 marked a key switch in the trend toward declassification or annual votes on all directors: more than half (55%) of the S&P 500 companies have declassified boards, compared with 47% in 2005.[7]

Use in legislative bodies


Chamber Type Classes % of seats up per election Method of Staggering
Total 1 2 3
Argentine Chamber of Deputies Lower house 2
130 / 257
127 / 257
Every constituency has seats in both classes, with roughly half of the seats contested in each class individually
Argentine Senate Upper house 3
24 / 72
24 / 72
24 / 72
Each constituency has all its seats in one class only
Australian Senate Upper house 2
40 / 76
40 / 76
Most constituencies have seats in both classes, with half of the seats contested in each class individually
Some constituencies have all of their seats contested in each and every class
Brazilian Senate Upper house 2
54 / 81
27 / 81
Every constituency has seats in both classes, with two-thirds of the seats contested in class 1 and the remaining one-third in class 2
Senate of Chile Upper house 2
23 / 43
20 / 43
Each constituency has all its seats in one class only
Senate of the Czech Republic Upper house 3
27 / 81
27 / 81
27 / 81
Each constituency has all its seats in one class only
Senate (France) Upper house 2
174 / 348
174 / 348
Each constituency has all its seats in one class only
Rajya Sabha (India) Upper house 3
77 / 245
78 / 245
78 / 245
House of Councillors (Japan) Upper house 2
124 / 248
124 / 248
Every constituency has seats in both classes, with roughly half of the seats contested in each class individually
Senate of Liberia Upper house 2
15 / 30
15 / 30
Every constituency has seats in both classes, with half of the seats contested in each class individually
National Assembly (Nepal) Upper house 3
19 / 59
20 / 59
20 / 59
Every constituency has seats in all three classes, with roughly a third of the seats contested in each class individually
Senate of Pakistan Upper house 2
52 / 104
52 / 104
Every constituency has seats in both classes, with half of the seats contested in each class individually
Senate of the Philippines Upper house 2
12 / 24
12 / 24
The Senate is elected nationwide at-large, with half of the seats contested in each class individually
United States Senate Upper house 3
33 / 100
33 / 100
34 / 100
Every constituency has seats in two out of the three classes, with half of the seats contested in each of those classes individually
  • In the Australian Senate, a double dissolution election can happen, where all seats are contested. The 4 Territory seats are contested at each election.
  • Some chambers do not have all of its seats elected, such as in the Rajya Sabha where 12 seats are appointed by the president.
  • By-elections (special elections) can be held concurrently with general elections, increasing the number of seats up in an election.



12 of the 24 provincial legislatures have staggered elections:


Three of Australia's five State Legislative Councils use staggered elections:

Local councils in Western Australia also have staggered elections.[8]


All six Legislative councils of states have staggered elections:

United States

27 of the State Senates in the United States have staggered elections:[9]


Historical usage



See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2016-08-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ See Faleye,O., 2007, Classified Boards, Firm value, and Managerial Entrenchment, Journal of Financial Economics83, 501-529.
  3. ^ Bebchuk, Lucian A.; Hirst, Scott; Rhee, June (2014-02-01). "Towards the Declassification of S&P 500 Boards". Rochester, NY. SSRN 2400652. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Hirst, Scott; Bebchuk, Lucian (2010-01-01). "Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate". The Harvard John M. Olin Discussion Paper Series. No. 653.
  5. ^ See Lucian Bebchuk, John C. Coates IV, and Guhan Subramanian, The Powerful Antitakeover Force of Staggered Boards: Theory, Evidence, and Policy, 54 Stan. L. Rev. 887 (2002).
  6. ^ a b Hillier, David; Ross, Stephen; Westerfield, Randolph; Jaffe, Jeffrey; Jordan, Bradford (2013). Corporate Finance (2nd European ed.). Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 34–35. ISBN 9780077139148.
  7. ^ Jared A. Favole, "Big Firms Increasingly Declassify Boards", The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10, 2007.
  8. ^ "Local Government Elections", Western Australian Electoral Commission.
  9. ^ "Length of terms of state senators", Ballotpedia, Accessed 24 August 2016.
  10. ^ a b Consell General - L'abstenció al Principat d'Andorra
  11. ^ "Direction des élections - Evolution de la législation électorale".
  12. ^ Danmarks Statistik - Rigsdagsvalgene og folkeafstemningerne i april og maj 1953, p. 182
  13. ^ "Negentiende-eeuws districtenstelsel in Nederland". (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Geschiedenis kiesstelsel Eerste Kamer". (in Dutch). Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  15. ^ Akio Kamiko (2010, bilingual): 近代地方行政の黎明期(1868-1880年), pp. 7–8: 府県会規則 /The Start of Modern Local Government (1868 – 1880), pp. 10–11: Prefectural Assembly Law (Fukenkai Kisoku)
This page was last edited on 6 August 2022, at 20:18
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