Elections and Electoral Systems

The vote is one of the most basic rights of political participation

Votes are very essential in influencing the election of leaders, and Canada just like other countries offers its citizens the right to vote and vie for any legislative office of their choice. Each vote is very important especially in systems that need a simple majority to win a seat. Even in a situation where a commanding majority is required, every vote counts and is essential for the whole process. Since the 1980s voter turnouts in both Canada and the United States have drooped, this drop has been so sharp that measures have been taken to find out the reasons behind it. For instance, Canada recorded a high voter turnout of 75% in 1988; this was reduced to 69.6% in 1993, then 67.0% in 1997, 61.2% in 2000, and 60.5% in 2004, prior to the latest drop recorded in 2006 elections which were a mere 64.7%. The United States is not left out either, the performance of voters has reduced with the latest singling out the highest African American voters of 68% since 1964.

Possible reasons for this have been outlined as, election timings, dominance by some parties that makes it obvious and needless to vote for some voters, lack of interest, among other reasons citing needs for its mitigation. Several initiatives have been made by the governments to increase voter turnouts, these include promoting youth participation in the process since they are the worst affected as surveys show. Other initiatives have seen reforms made in the electoral process and the introduction of electronic voting to quell some reasons.

The role of an electoral system in determining the outcome of an election

The electoral system, also known as the voting system refers to the process by which voters get the opportunity to make their choice between two or more options, this is usually carried out in elections or referendums that focus on policy changes. Electoral systems have the mandate to declare a winner democratically, in a free and fair exercise, by following the rules depending on the voting systems. There are several voting systems and these include majority rule, popularity voting with a number of processes, which include first-past-the-post voting, among others. The majority rule has been surprising at times, especially if the candidates involved are more than two, it is quite simple when it involves two opponents as the winner takes it, but in the case of three or more, it is quite difficult and the unexpected tends to happen.

Canadian electoral voting system is based on the first-past-the-post method and is founded on UK’s parliamentary model. The single member-district popularity system has been very controversial as the first person, irrespective of the percentage votes earned, gets to represent that district in the house of commons. For instance, if there are 8 candidates, and the winner gets 20%, he/she gets the slot, but 20 % is not the majority of the people in that district, this, therefore, tends to work negatively in terms of a push for democracy. Proportional representation on the other hand ensures the winner has an absolute majority of total votes and this is significant in a democratic society. Canadians should therefore change to a proportional representation method.

The process is unleashed when Canada calls an election

Canadian federal legislative body consists of the sovereign, which is represented by a governor-general, upper house or the senate, whose members are recommended by the prime minister and then appointed by the governor, and the lower house, also known as the house of commons and is represented by legislatures elected by citizens. In Canada, the governor-general, on request by the prime minister, calls elections. This can happen in case a prime minister loses a no-confidence motion, when his/her term expires, as well as in case of death.

If Canadians were to vote now, Harper would still be the prime minister; this is because he has worked hard to attack the liberals. Scandals are also raving liberals with their push for taxing which weighs much in voters’ minds. NDP and Bloc seem to gain popularity, but this would not be enough to earn them the premiership, as they are still short in numbers. Provincial elections would see NDP gain much ground due to their push for sovereignty and this can change things in the high office later in the future but not now. Besides, recent surveys have shown a decline in liberals’ popularity mainly due to Michael’s flirt to force a snap election even though, Canadians are not ready.

The advantages and disadvantages of the U.S. primary system as a means of nominating candidates to elective office

Unlike most global democratic systems, the United States uses primary nominations in some of its states. They are usually done by parties in their efforts to choose running candidates against other parties in main elections. These candidates are strictly voted by electorates as opposed to some exercises in which party leaders choose them. The process has to follow the internal rules of the party and sometimes differs from state to state. Party primaries differ, they may be open, that is all voters are allowed irrespective of their party of affiliation, closed in which only members of a particular party are allowed to vote and cross-over where voters are free to vote anyhow in any party. Among the advantages include the promotion of democracy; as opposed to direct nominations, where unpopular candidates may be forced on people, primaries allow voters to choose their candidate. In addition, it paves way for new candidates who can easily put their mark in politics.

Disadvantages include the fact that in open or crossover nominations, opponents can vote for a less popular candidate to increase their chances of failure in the general election. Furthermore, closed primaries are also faulted for being undemocratic in locking out others in an election process. It is quite vital to note that leaders may exploit opportunities in closed primaries to lock out those who support their rivals within the party. In general, primaries are significant and much better than direct nominations as they pave way for new leaders in the party as well as the government.

The role of televised debates between and among leadership candidates sway election outcomes in Canada and the United States

Televised debates have been witnessed of late in the run-up to elections. Several surveys conducted have shown that they have a way of swaying a group of voters on the winner’s side and also give an opportunity for candidates to speak about their policies to everyone especially those who may not have attended any of their campaign rallies. It always acts as a final appeal to voters to consider their proposals for changes in policies and again gives the public a chance to question their leaders before the audience. Examples of such debates that have clearly resulted in wins are the U.S. elections in 2008 where President Obama, outclassed McCain and the most recent being the current prime minister for the UK, Cameron who outclassed his rivals in a televised debate just before the elections.

The media has been active in giving poll news, some indications have shown that liberal’s fall in popularity was due to their leader’s flirt about forcing a snap election. There are different groups of voters, there are the decided, undecided and those disinterested. Experiences have shown that the decided lot never change their mind about their preferred candidates; however, both the undecided and disinterested voters tend to sway the results depending on how candidates perform in debates. I watch the debates and use politicians’ words against their actions to decide whom to vote.

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