Writ of election

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A writ of election is a writ issued by the government ordering the holding of an election. In Commonwealth countries writs are the usual mechanism by which general elections are called. In the United States, it is more commonly used to call a special election for a political office.

Election writ issued by the Provost Marshall to freeholders of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, 1759

Commonwealth countries[edit]

In the United Kingdom and in Canada, this is the only way of holding an election for the House of Commons. When the government wants to or is required to dissolve Parliament, a writ of election is drawn up for each constituency in the UK by the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery,[1] or for each electoral district in Canada by the Chief Electoral Officer.[2] They are then formally issued by the monarch in the UK and by the Governor-General in Canada.

Where a single seat becomes vacant, a writ is also issued to trigger the By-election for that seat.

In Australia, the writs are issued by the Governor-General for the House of Representatives and by the respective state governors for the Senate. State governors also issue the writs for elections in the state and territorial legislatures. The writs are issued to the relevant Electoral Officer or Returning Officer, as the case may be, who must return them after the election has been held within a fixed period[3]

United States[edit]

In the United States, this writ is issued mainly by state governors for filling vacancies in the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, or the states' own legislatures.[4]


  1. ^ "By-elections". The United Kingdom Parliament. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Marleau, Robert; Montpetit, Camille. "The House of Commons and Its Members – The Writ of Election". House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "Federal Election Timetable". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "An Act Concerning United States Senate Vacancies". Connecticut General Assembly. Retrieved 27 March 2011.