How Complicated and Challenging Is the Electoral System in the United States?

By Norma Holt

As an Australian looking over the election process in the United States it appears complex and top-heavy and must be almost stifling democracy in that country. The thing that is hardest to understand concerns the electoral college votes that appear to decide the outcome of an election irrespective of the popular vote. This is what occurred in the 2016 poll that saw Donald Trump win although he did not have the majority of votes.

Delving into the pros and cons of the system by which elections are conducted is even more confusing. It appears that in the constitution the electoral college was set up to stop mob rule overtaking the will of the people. No one of that time imagined that the office of President would become so powerful; as it was originally intended for an administrator.

It came into force in 1789. George Washington was elected first President but the country was already deeply divided. Aside from the disputes between the parties of the national government, which was heavily supported by merchants and financiers, there were the Jefferson loyalists who opposed the new national bank, the Navy, and federal taxes.

While the federalists favored Britain they were doomed to increasingly marginal roles by the Jeffersonian democracy. War with Britain became inevitable and broke out in 1812. It was thought to help end the Indian uprisings in the west. Democracy gave white men the vote and Jackson's party dominated politics making it already a confusing issue.

With the stress of such a widely diverse feeling towards its collective good framing a constitution was, at best, a tongue in cheek act of satisfying a majority. It is little wonder that it has since been amended some 33 times with 27 of these ratified by the states. The first 10 amendments constitute the Bill of Rights inaugurated in 1791, 2 years after the constitution.

With such a troublesome set of circumstances surrounding its establishment it is not surprising that civil war would eventually overtake the country before the end of the 19th Century. It was still widely diverse in nature and politics when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 after just 4 years in office and with the civil war finally over.

The biggest problem Lincoln and the country faced was slavery of the African people enslaved to work the farms. They sought their freedom as the unrest grew. The North versus the South was the trigger for the uprising and thousands died as a result. The festering sore of black hatred is not yet expunged and uprisings still dominate the news.

African suffrage in the USA meant that some free negroes were allowed voting rights in some places before the Civil War. The 15th amendment of 1870 gave all citizens irrespective of race, color, or previous servitude the right to vote, but that only applied to men. Women did not get to vote until 1920.

The history of the USA is not straight forward and it is difficult for outsiders to ponder how democracy actually works in the country's elections. Perhaps the electoral college vote is essential to keep the peace among voters even today. It will always be complicated and challenging unless new amendments are passed to fix it once and for all. The problem is its politicians are not the best people to come up with such solutions judging on their past performances.

Norma Holt has knowledge that enables her to understand many issues. Political, social and behavioral problems are usually on her list for discussion and the depth of her research will amaze.


BOOKS 2017