The Re-election of Barack Obama was accomplished without the worst-case scenarios that some pundits had raised as they wrongly forecast a cliff-hanger election that might not be settled for weeks. They may have been wrong on predicting the outcome; but there were some real possibilities in the US Electoral system that would have called into question the entire process. For Instance, as it turned out Obama won with a 2 Million vote majority over Romney. But for much of the night he was trailing in the popular vote. It was entirely possible that Obama could have won the presidency by achieving the necessary 270 votes in the electoral college, but still have lost the popular vote. That’s what happened in 2000 when Al Gore beat George Bush by half a million votes but lost anyway because of the Electoral College system. The whole electoral college notion was dreamed up at a time when the American founding fathers were seeking democracy…but not too much democracy, since it was a more or less untested concept. As a result the electoral college was developed as a check against more populous states overwhelming smaller states. It was the same thing with the development of the senate where even in 2012, Wyoming gets two senators—as does California with 70 times the population. Another example where elections can be thrown into question is the lack of uniformity in the way elections are held in the individual states. State and even County election officials have the ability to set local rules on the fly. For instance, when the polls closed on November 6th, Virginia, faced with long lineups of voters who had not yet cast ballots, declared that voting would continue until everyone had voted; probably a good idea, but in the meantime almost a third of Virginia’s votes had been counted and posted for all to see.
The concept of one person-one vote is similarly something of an illusion in Canada. Despite the best efforts of Elections Canada to continually tweak riding boundaries we have electoral ridings like Mississauga Erindale with over 140,000 population represented by one member—the same as Labrador with 26,000 members. Canadians being reasonable people , there is not too much fuss raised about these anomalies. Where Canadians need to show more concern is in the way candidates are picked. Political parties are free to establish their own rules around how candidates are selected. The Liberal Party was nearly destroyed over the shenanigans that occurred during the Martin-Copps leadership battle—cutoff dates for selling memberships being imposed retroactively and the like—but despite its descent into third party status, the process hasn’t changed. The Liberals have nothing to lose by implementing two simple changes that if adopted by the all parties would go a long way to restoring democracy to a House of Commons that has become largely irrelevant. The first would be to have all candidate selection processes, at the leadership level and at the riding level conducted according to rules developed and enforced by Elections Canada. Elections Canada does a good job of supervising elections, but what’s the point if the process that selects candidates can be so easily tainted? Similarly, once a candidate is selected under the new rules , no party leader should have the ability to refuse to sign the candidate’s nomination papers. Small changes to be sure, but ones that would end our system of quadrennial dictatorships.