10th November – US Federal Election Commission

US Federal Election Commission

In the presidential election in the United States, the Election Commission, is singularly missing. There has not been even a single order or intervention passed by the American counterpart of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Federal Election Commission of the United States of America.

Vision behind ECI –

In India, our constitutional fathers had debated in the Constituent Assembly itself the necessity of imbuing the ECI with enormous power. So vast are the powers accorded to the ECI during the election process that even the higher judiciary does not interfere during the course of the election process.

A comparison between India and the United States –

For a start, the Federal Election Commission has a much narrower mandate than its Indian equivalent. Moreover, the Federal Election Commission was established comparatively recently — it ‘opened its doors’ in 1975, with the special mandate to regulate campaign finance issues. As a watchdog, it is meant to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the law regarding campaign contributions, and oversee public funding of the presidential election. But, so far, there have not been any report on such oversight either.

Why the US Federal Election Commission performs so badly?

  • The Federal Election Commission is led by six Commissioners. The six posts of Commissioner are supposed to be equally shared by Democrats and Republicans, and too have to be confirmed by the Senate. But at the time of this most critical presidential election, there are vacancies.
  • In fact the Commission has hardly been able to function in the last year because of resignations, with the result that barring a brief two months, from May to July this year, the Commission has effectively passed no orders at all since August 2019, because it has lacked a quorum — for which at least four members are needed. As a result, several hundred matters lie pending before the Federal Election Commission for want of members.
  • During the course of this election, the President has not mentioned even once about appealing to the Federal Election Commission, but only to the U.S. Supreme Court. In sharp contrast, our Constitution’s fathers decided to limit the role of the judiciary in India to the post-election period, when election petitions may be filed. The founding fathers were clear that if election-related petitions were entertained during the course of the election process, it would impede the process and delay election results interminably. These delays and the acrimony, so adroitly avoided in India during the election process, is precisely what we are seeing now in the U.S..

Conclusion –

In sharp contrast to the American elections, and ever since our first election in 1951-2 and every single election since, our political parties, losers and winners alike, have invariably accepted the results declared by the Election Commission of India, with the result that the baton has passed on in a graceful and smooth manner.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTION – Compare India’s Election Commission with the Federal Election Commission of the US. How do they differ in terms of both conduct of elections and its resultant impact on democracy?

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