The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will precisely constrain cosmic expansion and the growth of structure by collecting ∼40 million extragalactic redshifts across ∼80% of cosmic history and one-third of the sky. The Emission Line galaxy (ELG) sample, which will comprise about one-third of all DESI tracers, will be used to probe the universe over the 0.6 < z < 1.6 range, including the 1.1 < z < 1.6 range, which is expected to provide the tightest constraints. We present the target selection for the DESI Survey Validation (SV) and Main Survey ELG samples, which relies on the imaging of the Legacy Surveys. The Main ELG selection consists of a g-band magnitude cut and a (g − r) versus (r − z) color box, while the SV selection explores extensions of the Main selection boundaries. The Main ELG sample is composed of two disjoint subsamples, which have target densities of about 1940 deg−2 and 460 deg−2, respectively. We first characterize their photometric properties and density variations across the footprint. We then analyze the DESI spectroscopic data that have been obtained from 2020 December to 2021 December in the SV and Main Survey. We establish a preliminary criterion for selecting reliable redshifts, based on the [O ii] flux measurement, and assess its performance. Using this criterion, we are able to present the spectroscopic efficiency of the Main ELG selection, along with its redshift distribution. We thus demonstrate that the Main selection 1940 deg−2 subsample alone should provide 400 deg−2 and 460 deg−2 reliable redshifts in the 0.6 < z < 1.1 and the 1.1 < z < 1.6 ranges, respectively.