Wednesday, January 16, 2013

American Election Processes

The American election system is the most complex in the world. It is also completely privatized and federalized for the Presidency. The Presidential cycle has been designed in a way that makes it completely possible for the majority of the voting population to oppose you and you can still win the election. The Senate and House of Representative elections depend on what state you live in. Because there are so many Senate and House elections and how they are all slightly different, I am going to focus on the 108 Presidential primaries, 50 states, 6 territories, and 1 for Americans living abroad.

Republican and Democratic, equally corrupt
The Republican and Democratic primaries are as confusing as they can be, but can be understood by breaking the election into several cycles:
  1. Pre-election, this is the year before the first primary.
  2. Primary season, this is the time between the first primary election in January and the last in June or July, an election season of just under 6 months. The longest single election in the world. Both major parties have similar systems.
  3. Pre-general Election. Parties hold conventions, big lush events with thousands of people where they celebrate their candidate. The Democratic and Republican candidates begin to debate and attack each other.
  4. General election. The simplest part of the entire election which is still quite confusing.

Pre-election season
During a President who is seeking re-election the third year of that person’s presidency will consist of people stating who is going to run against the incumbent, and if the President is a lame duck than both parties will begin their primaries. This begins in January or February of the previous year depending on who is currently president. It used to be much later. Once there are several candidates they start talking on talk shows and debating each other informally until December when the first debate hosted by a major private network will put them all on a single stage.
Primary season
The first election is traditionally in Iowa. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is. Then New Hampshire, and then each party has a few other states which go first. There then will be different states voting until June  with the majority in March. The last states to go often don’t vote because the delegates are already proportioned and they don’t bother. The middle states are usually random and are selected by the Party leadership.

There are two sets of delegates in each party, they have the same system. There are pledged delegates which represent their states depending on how the State party leadership determines their votes to be split, or not split. There are also superdelegates, appointed politicians who can vote any way they want in the primary regardless of election results. Both pledged delegates and superdelegates have equal voting power. The winner of the delegates becomes the Party's candidate in both parties, regardless of what the popular vote was.

Pre-general election
All parties have now selected their candidates and the general election begins in July. There will be 3 or 4 debates between the Republican and Democratic candidates on different networks. CBS and ABC always have one. People start deciding who they are going to vote for and the ads are all over the news airwaves on private networks trying to get voter's attention for these four months. People discuss and debate, often quite passionately, who they are going to vote for and why. Throughout this time there are many polls trying to get a picture on who is going to win the election. By late October the polls have determined the probable candidate and ballots start to be mailed out.

General election
Every registered American voter gets a ballot in the mail or goes to a poll on the second Tuesday of November. How the general election is done differs state to state, but the number of each state's return is always together without party biases. Each state records their votes and the popular vote is determined. Everything up to this point is done by party decisions and conventions. The next three sentences are the only de jure parts of the election cycle. The President is determined in reality by the Electoral College. Each state has a number of electors equal to their representatives in Congress who vote along with their state in most years, but every so often a faithless elector will vote against the wishes of the voters of that state, which has never been enough to this point to change an election. The winner of the electoral college becomes President and his/her running mate becomes Vice President.

This was originally published in 2011, but I accidentally deleted it because I couldn't see anything not realizing the font was white and the content was there.

No comments:

Post a Comment