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United States: is the American electoral system at its end?

Is America’s Electoral System Weak? As Joe Biden draws a little closer to the White House this Thursday, the battle is still close with his rival Donald Trump in the race for the big voters.

However, looking at the popular vote, the Democratic candidate is well ahead of the current President of the United States by more than 3 million votes. This was also the case for Hillary Clinton in 2016, with 2 million more votes than the votes cast for the billionaire. And the Democrat had lost. What frustrates many Americans, mostly Democrats, who demand a change.

Obsolete system, indirect universal suffrage not sufficiently representative, route too difficult to access the ballot … Critics of the American electoral process are not specific to this election. But the latter, led by a Trump who shouts fraud, crystallizes tensions. “2020 should be the last time we vote like this”, asserts a columnist of the New York Times.

Do voices have the same value everywhere?

Three in five Americans say they are in favor of amending the US Constitution to replace the electoral college with a popular voting system, according to latest poll Gallup appeared in September. A preference widely shared among the Democrats (89% in 2020) for two decades (74% in 2000), much less among the Republicans (23% this year).

Why such a disavowal from part of the population? In the United States, all voices do not have the same weight “and that can be very frustrating”, recognizes Nicole Bacharan, historian and political scientist, specialist of the United States. The state of California, for example, has 55 electors for a population of 39 million. Wyoming has three, for 600,000 inhabitants. When we relate the number of voters to the population in these states, we realize that a “voter of Wyoming weighs three and a half times heavier than a Californian citizen,” notes the political scientist.

This difference is explained “by the over-representation of very sparsely populated states in the Senate”, argues Patrick Chamorel, professor of political science at Stanford University on BFMTV.

As a reminder, each state has as many votes in the electoral college – the grand voters – as it has representatives in Congress. The Senate is made up of two representatives per state, while the number of seats in the House of Representatives is proportional to the population of a state. This allows “the same representation in each territory” and prevents “five large states from stifling the democratic debate”, explains Jean-Eric Branaa, lecturer at the University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas and author of the biography “Joe Biden” (Ed. New World).

But the supporters of direct universal suffrage in the United States believe them “that the interests of small states are too widely represented with their seats in the Senate,” explains Nicole Bacharan. “It is a will of a group, very progressive, very on the left, close to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who ask that the representation of territories be erased because they consider that only people should be represented” at electoral college, contextualizes Jean-Eric Branaa.

Obstacles to the right to vote

Another criticism made of the American system: the process of access to the vote would be too restrictive, even discriminatory, in several states. Voices are being raised to demand an “expansion of early voting” and “facilitation of registrations”. “For decades, limiting votes has been a key strategy of the Republican Party – although generally right-wing people are not so proud of this fact. This year, as has often happened with President Donald Trump, the subtext has become a text, ”says Farhad Manjoo, columnist for the New York Times.

Since a decree taken in 2013, “obstacles to the right to vote have appeared in many states,” notes Laurence Nardon, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) and specialist in the United States. And to cite Texas as an example, where “access to the vote is particularly complicated”: “You can vote with your passport, of course, but also with your license to carry a weapon, while student cards are not valid. are not accepted, ”she explains to Slate.

More recently, the Supreme Court of this southern state refused to extend the conditions for postal voting, despite the Covid-19 epidemic raging in the country. On October 1, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the massive shutdown of polling stations, limiting them to one per county, “to help fight illegal voting attempts.” “All this affects urban populations and minorities disproportionately,” Judge Laurence Nardon.

In some states, “in-person voting is limited to a single date, queues can take hours, offices close as early as 6 p.m., and citizens who leave work to vote are generally not paid during this period.” , details an article by The Atlantic. For the most precarious, “these circumstances are enough to make the exercise of the right to vote very difficult”.

“Irreformable system”

Can the US electoral process change? “The system is built in such a way that it cannot be reformed,” says Nicole Bacharan. It would indeed be necessary to go through a reform of the Constitution, therefore by an amendment which would be accepted “by two thirds of the two Chambers of Congress and, then, by the ratification by three quarters of the States. It’s impossible “. “Congress will never do it! »Abounds Jean-Eric Branaa.

But there is another track that some Democrats are trying to take: “That of a group of states that weighs heavily enough to say: we agree to give all our major voters to the winner of the popular vote. For the moment, there are not enough of them, ”continues Nicole Bacharan.

In the United States, the election of a president who has a minority vote “has never been well accepted,” recalls the historian and political scientist. “Even in the 19th century, where there were three cases… Each time, the president badly elected was not re-elected. “One exception remains: the re-election of George W Bush in 2004, after losing the popular vote against Al Gore in 2000.” The circumstances were then particular, explains Nicole Bacharan. It was the war in Iraq, the Americans preferred not to change the commander-in-chief. The fate of Donald Trump, badly elected in 2016, is not yet sealed.

Original article by : www.leparisien.fr

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