"exceed in any excess of evil," from Shakespeare's it out-Herods Herod in Hamlet's instruction to the players in "Hamlet" Act III, Scene II. Shakespeare used the same construction elsewhere ("All's Well that Ends Well" has out-villain'd villany). The phrase reflects the image of Herod as stock braggart and bully in old religious drama. The form of the phrase was widely imitated 19c. and extended to any excessive behavior.
Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it. ["Hamlet"]
"government formed by election by ballot," by 1966, from Greek psēphizein "to vote" (properly "to vote with pebbles"), from psēphos "pebble, small stone," especially as used for counting and calculating (a word of uncertain origin, perhaps related to psammos "sand"), + -cracy "rule or government by."
The common method of voting in Greek cities was by dropping pebbles in different marked urns, and thus the word for "pebble" figures largely in the ancient Greek vocabulary of democracy (e.g. isopsēphos "having an equal vote"). Also a psēphados was "a juggler." Related: Psephocrat; psephocratic.
c. 1300, eleccioun, "act of choosing" someone to occupy a position, elevation to office" (whether by one person or a body of electors); also "the holding of a vote by a body of electors by established procedure; the time and place of such a vote," from Anglo-French eleccioun, Old French elecion "choice, election, selection" (12c.), from Latin electionem (nominative electio) "a choice, selection," noun of action from past-participle stem of eligere "pick out, select," from ex "out" (see ex-) + -ligere, combining form of legere "to choose," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather."
In Middle English also "act of choosing" generally, "choice, free choice" (c. 1400). The theological sense of "God's choice of someone" for eternal life is from late 14c. Meaning "act of choosing, choice" is from c. 1400.