In December 1998, Buyun Township elected its township leader through direct election. Since then Buyun Township has been renowned for being the first township in mainland of China to hold direct elections. In December 2001, Buyun Township successfully conducted a term election for township leader after readjusting the direct voting method in accordance with the Constitution of People's Republic of China and the Organization Law for Local People's Congresses and Local Governments at All Levels. Now the village citizens select nominees for township leader by direct vote, and the nominees are later submitted to the Township People's Congress for final voting.
In both elections, Buyun Township acted fully in the spirit of direct citizen voting, but the specific procedures were different in the two elections. These differences are reflected in two main areas. First of all, on the systemic level, the first election adopted direct voting, which was a breakthrough in current township election system, whereas the second election adopts direct voting for nominees, which is in full compliance with the current election law. Secondly, the two elections differ in their operations. Compared with the first election, the second election's attention to the fairness of the procedure manifested itself in the following ways:
1) Candidates' photos were printed on the ballot papers for the convenience of illiterate voters;
2) Proxy voting was prohibited, one person, one vote;
3) Separate booths (small rooms) were mandated so that ballots could be cast in secret;
4) When candidates gave speeches in the same place, the order of speaking was decided by drawing lots;
5) All candidates are allowed to send representatives to monitor the counting of ballots.
In addition to these procedures, the second election also increased the fairness of competition by eliminating the nomination of candidates by organizations.
The significance of Buyun Township's direct election program lies in two areas. Firstly, as an institutional innovation, the success of two smooth elections proves that direct election can be conducted at township administrative level. The quality of election lies in procedural fairness, not in the qualification of individual voters. Second, Buyun Township has made many innovations in the election procedure. For example, the town lists candidates' names on the ballot in random order, instead of following the traditional listing according to the stroke order of the candidate's last name. Illiterate voters can also vote using their fingerprint. All these practices help to improve the confidentiality and fairness of the election, and can provide a guide for other localities.