The Republican Electoral College Near-Death Experience
Keith E. Whittington
kewhitt at Princeton.EDU
Wed Nov 10 09:47:13 PST 2004
For those interested in a comparative look at electoral mechanisms for
choosing presidential chief executives, see Matthew Shugart, "Elections:
The American Process of Selecting a President: A Comparative
Perspective," Presidential Studies Quarterly 34:3 (2004): 632. From the
abstract: "The United States has fallen well behind worldwide trends in
presidential elections. Its electoral college regionalizes the contest
for the national executive, contrary to a worldwide trend toward direct
election. U.S. states continue to select presidential electors via
plurality rule, resulting in vulnerability to third-party "spoilers,"
even at a time when third-party voting is on the upswing. The worldwide
trend is toward runoffs to guard against spoilers. Only in nomination
methods is the United States the trendsetter."
Shugart notes the several countries that had an electoral college system
and have subsequently replaced it. He does not note that those moves
usually followed a democratic disruption such that the electoral system
could be replaced wholesale as part of the process of transitioning back
to democracy. When being out of date means that you have successfully
avoided dictatorial interludes, I don't mind being out of date.
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Bryan Wildenthal
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 12:29 PM
To: conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: RE: The Republican Electoral College Near-Death Experience
Just to follow up with a little comparative constitutional law. Several
list members commented that direct popular vote is not that common in
other countries for the national executive leader. There is certainly
wide variety of election systems and executive leader set-ups
(president, prime minister, etc).
But here is a partial list of countries that I believe do have a simple
popular vote election of a unitary national executive, with a run-off to
ensure the final winner has absolute majority support:
France, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, Mexico (no runoff), Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, most other Latin American countries (I
think), South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and even Afghanistan! Most other
established democracies have parliamentary systems that aren't really
comparable anyway. I think it is actually quite a rarity for a
democratic nation to have a strong unitary executive (leaving aside the
distinct parliamentary systems) who is NOT elected by simple popular
vote. Indonesia, for example, used a peculiar electoral college system a
few years ago, but in its recent, very successful national election,
"graduated" to direct popular vote.
The U.S.A. is still waiting to "graduate," after more than 210 years!
The U.S.A., proud boaster as the world's oldest democracy, is looking
distinctly creaky and out-of-date!
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
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