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These Two Major Flaws in the US Electoral System Stand in the Way of Democracy

© AFP 2021 / RHONA WISEPeople line up to vote at an early voting polling centre in Miami, Florida on November 3, 2016.
People line up to vote at an early voting polling centre in Miami, Florida on November 3, 2016. - Sputnik International
On Tuesday, the United States will elect a new president. Is the electoral system in the US truly the exemplar of democracy for the world that it purports to be? Just how democratic is it, really?

Traders gather at the post of Pfizer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., August 22, 2016 - Sputnik International
US Stocks Rally One Day Before Presidential Election
Democracy is formed of two Greek words: Demos, defined as "people," and "kratos," defined as "power." It's ordinarily understood as a form of political system in which people exercise a collective power, whether by electing representatives, collectively known as a government, or by some other means. The system has its advantages. But, like any form of government, it is also prone to manipulation.

The United States, invested in creating an image of democracy, suffers from several obstacles in the way of the election process that are powerful enough to question the democratic nature of the US voting system.

​The Electoral College, which has survived for over 200 years with little change, has been discussed on Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear recently. Producer Walter Smoralek also contributed an extensive article explaining the ins and outs of the system. Drew Penrose, legal director at the election reform advocacy organization FairVote, notes that the Electoral College is particularly flawed because electors tend to give their votes unanimously to the candidate who wins the most votes in the state, rather than basing their vote on a corresponding district's preference.

"It's a ‘winner takes it all' system," Penrose told Loud & Clear host Brian Becker.

The day breaks behind the White House in Washington,DC - Sputnik International
FACTBOX: US Presidential Elections Procedure
Not only does it grossly misrepresent the true ratio of candidate support, the College also effectively removes the possibility for a third party to be represented.

This problem could ostensibly be solved by commanding electors to cast votes according to corresponding district preferences. This is where "gerrymandering," our second major obstacle, hides.

Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries, so that the majority of voters in a district elect a desired candidate. This is a widespread practice, sometimes used to balance inequalities in the country's demographics, but in the US it can take some truly bizarre forms. Both parties are known to have used this tool to their own advantage at times.

One possible solution could be to eliminate the college entirely. On November 7th, Bob Schlehuber, producer of Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary, assisted by Eugene Puryear, asked people on the street for their opinion on the Electoral College, recording an almost unanimous response from respondents that the practice is obsolete, and that a simple popular vote would much more accurately represent the will of the people.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S - Sputnik International
US Republican Presidential Candidate Donald John Trump
A possible alternative would be to replace the college with another voting system, one suggested by FairVote. Called the "ranked voting system" or "Instant runoff voting," the system allows for voters to choose their most-desired candidate, and then vote for their lesser-desired candidates. If no candidate receives a simple majority, the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded from the list, and all the second votes of the rejected candidate's first-choice voters would be counted in favor of their corresponding candidates. That process would then be repeated until one candidate has a simple majority.

This technique is known to be resistant to manipulation, yet, as with all systems, there are ways to violate it, too. Ranked voting was in use in New York City during the first half of 20th century, and allowed members of third parties, including communist and socialist parties, to be represented in city government.

Though no clear mandate for replacing the Electoral College currently exists, most agree it is time to retire the outdated electoral method. Will it's removal make US voting democratic? As with much of American culture, follow the money to find the answer.

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