6th November – Elections in the US

Election system is broken in USA

The general election in the United States is too close to call. This has often been the case in the past two decades, ever since the 2000 presidential election was decided when Democratic candidate Al Gore conceded with just 537 votes in between him and George W Bush in Florida.

Concerns –

There is every reason to believe that, with multiple different voting rules in different states, different rates of counting, and legal challenges being prepared by all sides, getting a firm result in this election will take a long while.

Broken system –

  • In the 2018 midterm elections, it took a week for all the results to be in — a week during which the Democratic swing turned into a Democratic landslide. Such a change is even more possible this year, given the specifics of voting during the pandemic.
  • Thus, it is too soon to determine the eventual national margin in the presidential race; even California, the US’ largest state, is about two-thirds through its counting. It does appear that opinion polls in some of the battleground states, such as Wisconsin, were clearly off the mark.
  • Whoever wins, the distribution of the popular vote so far is not on the lines the polls had predicted (an 8 percentage point gap). The pollsters have some introspection, and some explaining, to do.
  • The chances are that, as they have in six of the last seven presidential elections, the Democratic party will have won more votes than the Republicans, in this case by a decent-sized margin. Even so, who will sit in the White House from January 2021 is still undecided. The fact is that the United States’ electoral and power-transference system is broken.
  • Few other democracies have demonstrated this consistent breakdown between voters’ preferences and the assignation of power. In the current election, even the notion of a straightforward transfer of power is being doubted.

What is the cause of inefficient election process in the US?

  • The essential problem remains that elections in the US are excessively decentralised in terms of their rules. In the pivotal state of Pennsylvania for example, some counties are counting their mailed-in ballots alongside their regular votes; and others have said they will not even start counting those till the day after election day.
  • In 2000, the election of the most powerful official in the world depended upon Miami counters holding up individual ballots to their eyes and trying to determine if they were punched all the way through or not; this year it might depend upon Philadelphia counters trying to determine whether the date stamps on a few hundred ballot envelopes are legible or not. This is no way to hold an election.
  • America’s claim to leadership of the democratic world can hardly hold up, given its elections are unreliable indicators of the political will, are in danger of being ignored by unelected judges and incumbents, and are so slow, complex, and inefficient.

Conclusion –

The election has also shown how deeply divided America has become, and how much identity politics is taking over. In part this is a consequence of increasing inequality, though it is strange that the wealthiest and some of the poorest whites are both Republican. Also, the country is becoming multi-racial. In just four years, the share of white voters has dropped from 71 per cent to 65 per cent. This too is adding to the divisiveness.

SourceBusiness Standard

QUESTION – The election system in the US is slow, complex and inefficient. Comment.

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