Have you voted for your current President?
An idea from the stagecoach era : How undemocratic is the presidential election?
The accusation can be heard in every US presidential election: The indirect election of the head of state via the electoral body is undemocratic. Because it could happen that not the person with the most votes, the "Popular Vote", wins. Rather, the person who wins at least 270 electors through victories in the separately counted states. The system is therefore not proportionally representative.
Hillary Clinton had around three million votes ahead of Donald Trump in 2016, but scored only 232 electors, Trump 306. The actual result of the electoral vote in December 2016 was then again different, because several people voted differently than expected: 304 for Trump, 227 for Clinton. Seven gave their votes to other people.
In 2020, Joe Biden has around four million votes ahead of the popular vote at the current count. According to electors, the election on Friday afternoon has not yet been decided. Biden has 253, Trump 213 electors. Five states have not yet been counted.
The “mistake” of a lack of proportionality is particularly criticized in Germany, which has proportional representation. The seats in the Bundestag are distributed according to the weight of the votes of the parties that have overcome the five percent hurdle.
The composition of the second chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat, is not proportional, however. The same "mistake" appears here that many Germans criticize in the US electoral system. However, this does not play a role in most Germans' judgment of the US system.
Many other European societies are less critical of the US system. Especially if they practice majority voting themselves, which also leads to distortions in relation to the proportional weight of the votes.
What is the origin of the electoral system?
It is a compromise between the constitutional fathers, who wanted the president to be directly elected by the people, and those who believed that the elected representatives would be better off. Electors are de facto delegates of the citizens for the sole purpose of presidential elections.
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In addition, the system comes from the stagecoach era. When a presidential election was due, the citizens in their communities voted for men they trusted and sent them to the next county seat. There, along with representatives from other communities, they elected a smaller group of men of trust who were sent to the state capital.
And they voted there with the representatives of other districts the number of electors who should participate for this state in the presidential election by the electoral committee in the federal capital Washington DC. In the early decades of the young United States, the electoral council met in other cities on the east coast.
Electors really do exist. Sometimes they choose surprisingly
In modern times, electors are viewed as arithmetical figures. As soon as the votes in a state have been counted, the winner receives all electorates from that state according to the “winner takes all” principle. President becomes whoever has 270 of the 538 electoral votes.
Usually you already know the election result on election night; sometimes the counting takes longer than 2000 and 2020. The panel actually meets in mid-December to carry out the presidential election. Although individuals repeatedly violate their mandate and vote “faithless” for another person, this vote is seen by the public as a formal act that carries out the will of the people.
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US citizens are divided in how much they value this system. You see the distortion between the Popular Vote and the Electoral College.
However, the Democrats, who are ahead in terms of the total number of votes, are particularly bothered by this, and less so than the Republicans, who, thanks to the electoral system, make the president with a similar frequency, although their candidate received fewer votes from the population. And abroad mostly observers who sympathize with the Democrats are annoyed, in Germany around 70 to 90 percent.
Why are there 538 voters?
The number is the sum of the number of representatives in the two chambers of Congress, the House of Representatives (435) and the Senate (100). In addition, there are three voters from the capital district of Washington DC, which does not have state status. The electoral body thus largely represents the population weight of the individual federal states, albeit with a slight preference for the less populous states.
The number of MPs in each of the 50 states depends directly on the number of inhabitants. On average, there is one parliamentary seat for around 750,000 inhabitants.
However, each state has two senators regardless of its population. For example, poorly populated states like Wyoming, North and South Dakota have three voters, the sum of their one MP and the two senators. The most populous state, California, at 39.5 million, has 55 electorates (53 MPs plus two senators).
This results in a shift in how many residents an electorate represents, in favor of the poorest and the most heavily populated states. On average - 538 voters for a US population of 328 million people - there are 609,665 people. The two extreme cases deviate from the mean: In California there are 718,000, in Wyoming 193,000. In the vast majority of US states, however, the number is close to the average.
There is also distortion in Germany
Of course, Germany and Europe are also familiar with the principle on which the slight distortion is based. The first chamber of parliament represents the number of inhabitants, the second the regions of a country without direct proportionality to their population size.
In the German Federal Council, which corresponds to the US Senate, Bremen has three seats with a population of 683,000. North Rhine-Westphalia with 17.9 million inhabitants has six seats. The deviation from proportionality is therefore much more blatant than in the American electoral body.
This also applies to the election to the European Parliament. The number of MPs for Germany, the most populous member of the EU, is capped at 100. There is one MP for every 830,000 citizens.
The smallest EU states such as Luxembourg (614,000 inhabitants) and Malta (514,500 inhabitants) each have six MEPs. Here, too, the distortion factor is significantly greater than in the US system. Why do many consider this undemocratic in one case? And in the other case not as a problem at all?
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