Tuesday, November 13, 2012


To be in a new culture imply for the foreigners like me, an opportunity to get involved in that culture’s practices and traditions--to experience the elections is one of my best ways to understand  democracy in the USA. The most different observations that I noted are: the electoral system, the various approaches taken by each state and the transparency in the whole system which helps to guarantee trust.

Source: CBSN

First of all, the electoral system is methodically constructed. The 538 electoral votes have to be divided among the 50 states and District of Columbia. Each state has one elector for each of their members in the Congress (one for each legislator of the Representatives Chamber) and one for each senator (each state has two). One candidate needs half plus one of the electoral [1]votes, which means 270 votes to be the president. Presidents are elected by electoral votes, but these are normally cast by the electors in each state for the candidate who wins the most popular votes in the state. In this election Obama received 332 votes and Romney 206.

The 50 states in the USA, represent different attitudes and approaches. In the same way approximately 54% of the population voted in this election; according to Curtis Gans, Director of the Non-Partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate, this year 90 million Americans who could vote didn’t. The reasons are different; political behavior is not solely the product of psychological drives, socialization, or organizational norms. Rather individuals have goals they try to achieve, acting as rationally as their knowledge, resources, and the situation permit. In 24 states Romney won, and in 26 plus he District of Columbia, Obama won.

Finally, the transparency in the whole process permits us to have an internet cast ballet. And, something really surprising, 25 million voters adopt the advance vote by mail and internet, including Obama. All of these practices help inform the media regarding the results, and help people to believe in the system.

During the night of the elections Professor Ines Mergel organized a dynamic and interactive event to share a variety of perspectives. The different points of view expressed by the speakers were useful to understand how American democracy operates. The emotions that come with the results, the predictions about the leanings in different states, and the final strategies from the candidates combined to make the 2012 Elections not only an academic but, also, a social event.

[1] Cummings, Jr. Milton C, et al.  Democracy Under Pressure, An Introduction to the American Political System, 2001.

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