U.S. electoral system: what kind of elegant facade?

American electoral system suffers from severe defects, which cast doubt on its effectiveness and fairness. It is not just about increasing strengthening of the role of money in politics, but also about the discrimination of entire segments of the population, as well as the systemic failings in the preparation and conduct of elections. This is evidenced by a number of new research reports and human rights organizations, not only the public, but also the public and the comments of senior U.S. officials.

Two million of "dead souls"

In mid-February sociological Center. Pew in Washington, presented a report on the status of the registration of voters in the country. From this it is clear that nearly a quarter of all voters, ie at least 51 million people in general are not in the voting lists. Each of the eighth, ie nearly 24 million people, record the ballot either inaccurate or not valid at all. Around 2.75 million voters registered simultaneously in two or more states. Finally, along with Hello fellow citizens on the list are … 1.8 million dead.
The main reason for such a depressing picture — lack of U.S. single, centralized voter registration system. And that it does not, many Americans do not even know. As seen in the course of his survey of sociologists Center. Pugh, a quarter of the respondents were confident that the change of residence registration is automatically updated. Half did not know what to update registration can be easily changed with a driver's license — the main American identity.

Keynote speech by Holder

U.S. authorities all this, of course, is not news. In mid-December, the Minister of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in Austin / Texas / s installation speech on voting rights. He then, in particular, stated that "automatic registration" of all citizens having the right to vote, should be "the responsibility of the government." The minister is convinced that such registration should be "permanent and portable," ie, saved the man is everywhere, wherever he moved. In his view, at the present level of technology this is manageable.

In the same speech, Holder said that in general voting rights in the United States are still in need of protection. "The reality is that across the country, both public and subtle forms of discrimination remain quite common," — said a member of the Obama cabinet.

Noting that in 2011, more than a dozen U.S. states have changed the local election law, he recalled that in a profile to federal law, state governments are required to prove the non-discriminatory nature of the measures taken. Holder warned that the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an appropriate test, in particular with regard to Texas, South Carolina and Florida.

Some of the decisions of local authorities have challenged the U.S. federal government in the courts. In particular, in Texas, according to the Attorney General, his agency is seeking cancellation of plans for redrawing electoral districts. State was entitled to four additional seats in Congress due to the influx of more than 4 million new residents, mostly Latinos, said Holder. Meanwhile, the "additional election opportunities" for this population, "reduced to zero," he asserted.

Finally, a senior official called on all human rights defenders and civil society to fight U.S. attempts to direct voter fraud. He cited specific examples where in California and Wyoming people frightened prison if voter turnout because, they say, in one case, immigrants, and in another — tried and their families allegedly barred from voting.

In general, "we need election systems, free from fraud, discrimination and party influence, as well as in more, not less accessible to citizens," said Holder.

Screener for "dirty" political technologies

Just a couple of days after his speech Obama administration's allies in the U.S. Congress Democratic senators Ben Cardin and Chuck Schumer have introduced a new draft colleagues of the federal law "On prevention practices deception and intimidation of voters." They are prohibited any attempt to prevent the registration and voting of people, including those with "deceptive advertising and other ads on the time and place of the election and the criteria for admission of electors." For violators of criminal liability and penalties including imprisonment for up to 5 years.

One of the immediate reasons for the new initiative was the trial in his home for Cardin Maryland. A Gender Shura — Assistant Republican former governor Robert Erlik — admitted there guilt is that in the 2010 elections organized in counties with a population of predominantly Democratic automatic telephone calls about 110 thousand voters with false report to the effect that it does not make sense go to the polls because their candidate is supposedly already won.

Among other things, an attempt to put a new legislative barrier to the use of "dirty" political technologies in the election — an indirect response to those critics who considered proof of fairness and justice of the American electoral system that convictions for such shenanigans while relatively rare in the jurisprudence of the United States. "This proposal is once again focuses our attention on the real threat to the integrity of our elections — on the use of party dirty tricks and intimidation tactics to prevent tens of thousands of people who have the legal right to vote, to participate in the vote," — said the bill president of "Common goats "/" Common Cause "/ Bob Edgar.

Different views of the "donkey" and "elephant" on democracy

Do not also forget the fact that the proposal Cardin-Schumer in the current balance of power in Congress between the ruling Democratic Party and the Republican opposition is by no means guaranteed. In principle, of course, all American politicians — both hands "for" a fair and honest elections. But the content in these words, they are investing a few different things. Democratic "party of the donkey" / emblem on a party / have traditionally relied heavily on the lower and middle strata of American society tends to treat the slogan broadly and to mitigate the eligibility rules limit people to participate in the voting. The Republicans of the "party of the elephant" opposite interest to the "who got" did not go to the polls and insist on maximum tightening of the same rules.

Naturally, the opposition claims that cares only about with perfect legitimacy of the electoral process and its credibility. And from the point of view of formal logic requirement, for example, that the voter must have government issued ID, looks undeniably true. But at the same time and the current government, and human rights organizations in the U.S. in one voice say that, in fact, this requirement turns a conscious and purposeful discrimination.

The fact is that, according to experts, is now up to a quarter of all African-Americans in the country / more than 6.2 million voters / and 16 percent. Hispanics / about 3 million / are undocumented. This also should add about 18 percent. seniors and youth. This, again, millions of people in the country, which, by the way, no one is deprived of constitutional rights, including the right to participate in elections.

"The wave of attacks on voting rights" — the report of the NAACP

All this in the beginning of December last year reminded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People / NAACP USA / — one of the oldest and largest organizations in the country for the protection of civil rights. In its report, "Defending Democracy: Current barriers to voting rights in America," it was concluded that the country is now deployed "historic in its scope and intensity of the attack on the electoral law," African Americans and Latinos, especially poor people, young people and the elderly.

The drafters of the document expressed the belief that they were dealing with a conscious and deliberate attempt to nip in the bud civic engagement non-white population of the USA, clearly manifested itself in the 2008 election for the election of the first African-American president. In support, they referred to a variety of facts and figures, including the very nation-wide campaign to tighten requirements for identification cards. As the NAACP argued, since the last election cycle on the initiative of the conservative organization "American Legislative Exchange Council," the relevant bills drawn up by a single type specimen, already introduced in 34 states.

Incidentally, the authors of the report were going to present it not only in the federal center, but in all 50 states, as well as the UN. For my part, asked about the attitude of the report of the Press Secretary Jay Carney White House, and he responded by saying that the Obama administration "take very seriously any violation of electoral rights of Americans, trying to somehow limit or block their vote." He then referred to as the U.S. Justice Department, and soon followed by a speech Holder.

When presenting the report of the president of the NAACP Jealousy Todd said: "For more than a century, we have not seen such a rise wave of attacks on voting rights. Historically, this is done in order to attack and other rights. No accident behind this group at the same time lead an attack on the fundamental rights of women , on protection of the environment, workers' rights, access to education. "

"The attacks on voting rights — is the flip side of the" purchase of Democracy "- continued Jealousy." Initially bought up all the available leaders, and then suppressed the right to vote the maximum number of people able to protest, "- he explained.

Money and Live

The fact that the "mother's milk" of American politics have always been money, written, rewritten. But in late January, the Washington NGO "Free Press" / "Free Press" / find the new report a new perspective to the story of how exactly the money is converted into votes and why this is almost never mentions the free press the U.S..

The main subject of the study served as a financial "bow" between electoral politics and commercial broadcasting companies, and the main finding was that in the U.S. there is a "relationship between those who control political power / and needs access to the airwaves for its preservation / and those who controls the air / and needs access to political power to save / ". This connection "is so harmful that instead nurture and expand democracy and freedom of speech, broadcasting today threatens their perversion", stated in a report prepared on the basis of official documents of the U.S. federal government and print publications.

The essence of the described problem is quite simple. The author recalls that for 78 percent. Americans are the main source of news is local television. Accordingly, every four years — in sync with election cycles — by broadcasters shed the "golden rain" in advertising revenue. As stated in the report, "after viewers go and money to influence their votes." It brings a real political impact: the elections to the U.S. Congress in 2008, in nine cases out of ten defeated candidates who spend more money.

According to the same estimates, the Obama campaign in 2008, for every dollar borrowed funds 60 cents spent on "working with the media," ie, for advertising. It may be recalled that while Obama has raised more than 670 million dollars. The general expenses of candidates and their supporters in the general election in the United States in that cycle were estimated at a record $ 5.3 billion dollars. It looks astronomical, but most likely, and this is also not the limit.

The Supreme Court and its "supercommittee"

The fact is that, until recently, in the U.S. there were quite severe restrictions on the financing of election campaigns. But in January 2010, the Supreme Court of the country in which the majority now have a conservative jurists on the basis of the constitutional principle of freedom of speech has removed such restrictions both for business and for trade unions. Of course, this would represent a dramatic and immediate effect of strengthening the "big money" in politics. An attempt to highlight one of the consequences of the court verdict on the merits and the study was the "Free Press".

According to the Federal Election Commission / PCF USA /, since the Supreme Court ruling in the country there are now almost 300 so-called "supercommittee political action." As a rule, they are catchy and attractive name, which, however, do not say anything about who is really behind them. The report indicated that, for example, "Concerned Taxpayers of America" — is the brainchild of two corporate sponsors, the New York hedge fund and maryland cement producing company. A "Committee for Truth in Politics" and spent in 2010 $ 7 million on advertising counter reforms on Wall Street, did not disclose the names of its members and supporters.

Analysts from research firm profile "Kantar Media" estimated that the current election season in the U.S. will be spent on television advertising to $ 3.3 billion. It's a whopping 57 percent. more than in the 2008 elections. Not by chance the former executive president of "Al-BBC News' Bill Wheatley wrote in December in one of the trade publications that" if you have a TV station in the "undefined" in the presidential elections of the state, where the same and is a key Senate race — it's like winning the lottery. "

Happy with a lantern in search of the truth

By law, information about customers of political advertising in the U.S. media should be publicly available. In practice, according to the report, free access to these files can sometimes make even a respectable publication as the "New York Times". Therefore, the "Free Press" demanded that the broadcasting company wholly post this information on the Internet. Among other recommendations — a mandatory call the main sponsors of organizations who place advertisements seriously address the development of "political journalism" on the ground / according to the report, one-third of commercial TV stations in the United States generally does not transmit local news / tighten restrictions on "consolidation" teleradioaktivov, that is in fact to monopolize the local information markets.

Hopes for the implementation of such recommendations is certainly small. The National Association of Broadcasters in the U.S., as it turns out, is controversial even the question of whether a general broadcast in the public domain. Industry companies refuse to publicly announce the fact of whether they have a dossier on advertisers, although the Federal Communications Commission tried to achieve this. And of course, it is impossible to imagine of their programs, "a report on how the corporate media cashing in on political advertising." "Go and look" they have such a report, ironically, the report suggested.

The power of one percent

"Money does determine the winners and losers in American politics — they are stressed. — And all the power that gives the costs are concentrated in the hands of the top one percent" of the population.

In support of the calculations cited by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig that less than 1 percent. Americans donate to political campaigns more than $ 200, and the maximum donations to candidates list is less than 0.5 percent. population. "The campaign, funded by one percent — wrote about Lessig in November last year in the" New York Times "- never trust conquer the other 99 per cent., And will not be accepted by any of us except as corrupt", ie . corrupt.

Incidentally, one of the main slogans of the recent "occupation" movement, which originated on Wall Street in New York City and a ride on the largest cities of the United States, was the slogan "We are — 99 percent!"

"Black" day in the calendar?

In November, a look at how this will manifest itself mass of the population — will she electorate and, if so, how united. But in general, Americans are not very willing to go vote. Accordingly, the government is constantly concerned about the issue of how to achieve increase in turnout.

This issue was dedicated in January, and a new report of chief auditing body of the U.S. Congress — the Office of Government Accountability / SCP /. He was prepared on request of legislators and relied on the results of the 2010 elections. Although the information in it provided data for 2008, when the general elections are not only of parliamentary and presidential elections. The turnout then was estimated at 62 percent.

Since 1845, the U.S. legalized the procedure by which federal elections should be held on Tuesdays. Many, however, believe that it is better to vote at the weekend. The current inquiry was precisely dictated by one of these legislative initiatives.

After analyzing the situation based on a sample of nine states and the Federal District of Columbia, SCP experts came to the conclusion that a vote for Saturday and Sunday have been associated with significant organizational difficulties and would require considerable additional costs. In particular, the U.S. tradition, many polling stations are located in the churches. On Sundays, the churches, of course, are occupied. In addition, knowingly assumed to be a problem with the organization of areas at night, on weekends involving additional staff, etc.
To increase the participation of voters in the election authorities 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia offer a variety of alternative forms of voting — by mail, by absentee ballot, with early personal appearance, including weekends. But in the SCP calculated that any of these methods provides a general increase in the voices of no more than 4 percent. And, for example, in Maryland, where the 2010 election was proposed wishing to vote early in the weekend, took advantage of this right only 1.5 percent. voters.

For the elegant facade

Americans build their democracy for more than two centuries. They really have something to be proud of — and their current president represents their progress. They also willingly and proudly give lectures about democracy to other countries.
But they generally are aware of the fact that for the elegant facade of propaganda, proudly requirements rest of the world is hidden quite prosaic and sometimes still pretty ugly underside. Surely it is worth remembering about it and those who are looking for the same from the front, envious sigh: "We have such a problem!"

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