Before the presidential election in the USA remains less than a month. November 8 — the day of the vote for a new President and Vice-President, while the inauguration will take place only on 20 January next year. And between these two dates, American electors, whose role in countries where such an institution is missing, often not too clear, will approve the new American leader. Or select? “MK” tried accessible language to describe the procedure of election of the President of the United States and understand what it is more — pluses or minuses.
“The winner takes it all”
A two-stage election system practiced in the United States, is a subject of constant disputes and ambiguous estimations within the country and abroad. The main reason is the American people do not choose the President (and running in conjunction with it Vice-President) directly. How does it happen?
The popular vote occurs in the so-called election day (Elections Day) — Tuesday after the first Monday in November. (But not in the first November Tuesday. For example, if November 1 is a Tuesday, the election day falls next after the first Monday of the month (7 November) Tuesday 8 November this year.)
Tuesday as the voting day was chosen back in the days when the US was an agrarian country. For many farmers, to get to the polling stations, it took an entire day (and the same again to return home). Make election day a Monday for that reason, did not work on Sunday people went to Church. Wednesday, in turn, in the cities was the so-called market day, where farmers gathered Tuesday. It facilitates participation in the vote and encouraged them to choose.
Selection of the month also due to agricultural reasons — by the beginning of November, the harvest was already over, but the cold, which could prevent to reach a vote, had not come.
To this day both major parties — Democratic and Republican — has to provide a list of electors with the same number of names. And citizens participating in the elections day, not necessarily on the ballot the names you’ll see.
The number of electors in each state shall be determined in accordance with the representation of this state in the us Congress (535 people: 435 members of the house of representatives and 100 senators). To this are added the number of electors from the district of Columbia, which the Congress is not represented. It is equal to the number of electors from the least populated state (what is currently Wyoming) — today is three people.
Thus, the total number of electors in the USA — 538.
During the public voting, the principle of “winner take all” electors from a state are representatives of the party whose candidate received the most votes. The party candidate who lost in the state, to remain in the territory without the electoral College.
The results of the popular vote, knowing the number of electors who have taken to the separate States of each of the parties, it is possible to determine the winner. However, this does not negate the second stage — a vote of the electors themselves.
A formality or a necessity?
The selection of electors takes place at party congresses in each state. As already mentioned, the inhabitants of the States participating in the vote may not even know who exactly they “delegate” their authority to election of the President. Theoretically it doesn’t matter: the electors of each party should vote for its candidate. Thus, if, conventionally, in the state of new York electorate will vote for the democratic candidate (which is usually in this state happens), he can immediately count the electoral votes, “listed” by state, not waiting for their immediate vote.
The day of the vote of the electoral College (although as a structure it does not exist — these people need not meet together, hold some sort of setup meeting or something like that) falls on the 41st day after the popular will.
Disputes about what is happening that day — a formal procedure or fundamentally necessary, — and then there are in the United States and beyond.
Theoretically, again, the case of electors is to relay the results of the vote of the citizens. To win a candidate needs a simple majority: 50% + 1 votes, currently 270 votes.
Almost the same electors, in most cases, can vote as they please — the penalties at the Federal level is not installed. In addition, it is not always possible to identify who voted “wrong” person. Finally, none of the known history of the case involving “bad faith” as they are called, the electoral College has not led to a change in the expected outcome of the election.
From the file “MK”
The most illustrative case history “unfair” the electoral College can be considered the vote of 1860. Then four electors — members of the Democratic party voted for its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, and Republican Stephen Douglas. However won, as you know, Lincoln.
Sometimes the electors is obviously a matter of principle, demonstrating how they are the nasty party nominee, is voted for “descended from the race” candidates of his party. Or representatives of third parties obviously doomed. Ironically, from the point of view of simple arithmetic is similar to their actions only contributed to the victory of the competitor from the second main party.
In addition, the vote of the electoral College is fraught with other, tangible consequences. In particular, the victory may come the candidate who receives more than his opponent, electoral votes, but fewer votes of all citizens in the November election day.
It is worth to mention that while such precedents in the American past, there were only three: the election of Republican Rutherford Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (in 1888), and also the notorious and infamous George W. Bush (in 2000). By the way, in the first and third cases, it was about a fraud of such magnitude that the presidential elections of 1876 and 2000 still remain the talk of the town and is considered one of the most “dirty” in the history of the United States.
Similar — albeit few — of the phenomenon however, and give rise to criticism of the institution of the electoral College and doubts about the feasibility of a two-stage American system of electing the President.
“What could be more democratic?”
So how two-stage election system in the USA is in today’s political realities and needs?
— It seems to me that the American electoral system is highly elaborated, — said a senior researcher in foreign and domestic policy, RAS IMEMO Victoria ZHURAVLEVA. — She didn’t just appear. Those who have shaped the American political system — the so-called founding fathers, on the one hand, gave the electorate the right to participate in the electoral process, on the other — added an additional stage, complicating the process. It was one of the steps in the gradual political education of the electorate. What was the United States at the time of occurrence? It was the colonists, including fleeing from Europe criminals — people mostly with insufficient or absent is education, which first had to prepare for the selection process of government. And introduced the system of elections was an important step to pull these people to a certain level of political culture.
How adequate this system today? Indeed, it is often criticized particularly in Russia. In the United States also has a radical point of view on this issue, based on the idea that the system has outlived its usefulness. But such point of view is on the issue of cooperation between the us President and Congress — it is believed that this is one of the reasons why the US political system as a whole is stalling. This stuff is from the same series.
The system of voting is quite effective. Moreover, in my opinion, it is impossible to agree with those who think it undemocratic. Because the electorate is directly involved in the selection of the President. And this happens more than once. First, there is the stage of primaries where candidates are chosen by the electorate completely. And even here there are different formats, such as Caucus meetings, during which the residents of a district, assembled in one room, raising of hands, single candidates — what could be more democratic? And there’s a second level when people already vote for the nominees and the results of that vote, then pass through the electoral College. I do not think that it somehow negates the decision of the electorate. Indeed, there are situations like the one that happened in 2000, when slight odds were on the side of the Mountain, but the electors voted for Bush. Such cases raise criticism. By the way, for this year, this situation may also be relevant. In popularity among the electorate figures trump and Clinton are not much different, and it may happen that they will receive the same — or with a small margin — the number of votes, and in the end everything will be decided by the electors of large States, which have more representatives in the Board.
— Can you talk about the possibility of reforming this system, or — in the long run, abandon it?
— Barely. This is one of the key elements of the political system of the United States, inscribed in the entire existing structure. And the change in this item would mean the transformation of the whole structure. In addition, the American political system is very flexible, it has a sort of mechanisms that allow it to adapt to external factors. Now, when there is a crisis of the whole system (and the emergence of trump is one of the manifestations of the crisis), should be some adjustments. But thanks to a small situational adjustments, the system avoids the global revolutionary transformations and continues to exist in the previously mentioned framework.