IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 31st Oct 2020
“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.” – Richard Bach
EDITORIAL HUNT #217 :“How does USA Electoral Framework Work ? | UPSC”
How does USA Electoral Framework Work ? | UPSC
Atanu Biswas is Professor of Statistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
The ‘swing State’ skew in the U.S. electoral framework
The political balance in some of these States could make 2020 one of the most closely contested American polls
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Elections : PR-STV
How does U.S. Electoral Framework Work ? What are the differences between Indian Electoral system and U.S. electoral system ? Discuss -(GS 2)
- Election Epicentre
- Electoral College in U.S.
- Way Forward
EPICENTRE OF ELECTION
- EARLIER TWIST IN ELECTIONS : A margin of only 537 votes in Florida made Republican George W. Bush defeat Democrat Al Gore in that election.
- SWING STATES : In fact, with 29 electoral votes at the moment, Florida is a large ‘swing State’ in the U.S., having roughly an even number of Democrats and Republicans.
- IMPACT OF A REGION : The State of Ohio with 18 electoral votes is possibly a microcosm of the U.S. in a better way.
ON ELECTORAL VOTES
- ELECTION TYPE : First-past-the-post is a ‘plurality’ voting system where the candidate winning the most votes in a constituency is elected.
- MEANING OF CONSTITUENCY : While a ‘constituency’ means a Lok Sabha constituency in the general election in India, it is mostly a State in the U.S. presidential election.
- TOTAL CANDIDATES : Voters in 50 states and the city of Washington choose among the candidates for President and Vice President.
- DUAL MEMBERSHIP : A state has one elector for each of its members of the House of Representatives, and one for each of the state’s two senators.
- EXCEPTIONS : Nebraska and Maine are further divided in congressional districts.
- THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE : The U.S. ‘Electoral College’ has 538 electors, where an absolute majority of at least 270 electoral votes is required to win the election.
- SHARE OF EACH STATE : Each State gets two electoral votes for its two U.S. Senators, and one more vote for each of its members in the House of Representatives.
- DELIMITATION : And the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961, grants the District of Columbia the same number of electors as the least populous State.
- PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION : Consequently, individual citizens in less populated States have proportionately more voting power than those in more populous States.
- TOTAL ELECTORAL VOTES : Dividing the estimated population of the U.S. in 2019, obtained by the U.S. Census Bureau, i.e. 328,239,523, by the total electoral votes (i.e. 538),
- EQUILIBRIUM MAINTAINED : Some states historically support the Democratic candidate election after election, while others are just as resolutely Republican.
- CAMPAIGNING EFFORTS : Candidates thus concentrate their efforts on about a dozen states prone to shift back and forth between the parties.
- LARGEST VOTE SHARE : Florida and Wyoming (population figures of 21,477,737 and 578,759, respectively) have 740,612 and 192,920 people per electoral vote, respectively.
- GETTING UNLUCKY : There are instances of losing the election despite getting more ‘popular votes’, even in this century.
- LAST ELECTIONS : While U.S. President Donald Trump got 77 more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton inspite of getting 2.1% less nationwide popular vote share in 2016.
CAMPAIGNS AND SWING STATES
- ALIGNMENT : It is widely observed that most of the States in the U.S. have voted for the same party, the Republicans or the Democrats, in the most recent elections.
- CAMPAIGNS : There is not much point of desperate campaigning in States heavily inclined towards favouring either party.
- NATURAL SWING : However, some States occasionally ‘swing’ from one party to another.
- SWINGING STATES : In 2020, States such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Iowa feature prominently in this list.
THE DECISIVE VOTE
- WORTH OF A SINGLE VOTE : Certainly, the worth of a vote is bound to vary from constituency to constituency in a first-past-the-post system.
- COUNTING THE VOTES: Unlike India, where counting is often held days or even weeks after voting, in the US, counting begins as soon as voting is over in a particular state.
- ELECTION RESULT : The results are also publicly announced. This means that the East Coast starts counting while voting in the West may not have been completed.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE MATTERS
- OPINION POLLS : While Democrat Joe Biden is leading at the moment according to most opinion polls, we must keep in mind that only the ‘electoral college’ matters .
- TOO CLOSE CALL : And, the political balance in some ‘swing States’ is so evenly poised that the U.S. election might turn to be ‘Too Close to Call’.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | How does USA Electoral Framework Work ? | UPSC