It’s disconcerting to say the least to read and listen to reports of the U.S. elections from Spain, where I am currently residing.
When my Spanish friends and family ask me what’s going on with U.S. elections, it’s not easy to reply coherently. I start by explaining the Electoral College, and I’m interrupted with questions like, “You mean the popular vote does not decide who wins an election?”
So I reply something like, “Yes, but the popular vote in each state with a number of electors depending on the state’s population determines how those electors will vote about a month after the election.” It’s hard to go beyond that when I see heads scratched and perplexed faces.
I suggest to my fellow U.S. citizens that it’s a good idea to change our (broken) electoral process according to the way it’s done in many other countries. Here are few features of Spanish elections that the vast majority of the population, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, seems satisfied with:
- The campaign season for major elections (presidential or “general,” municipal, state “or autonomous community,” and European Union representatives) is one-month long, with an official beginning date and an official end date.
While there is public financing of electoral campaigns, contributions are allowed up to a certain limit. Total campaign spending is limited to 12 million euros per party; no Super-PACs. Admittedly some companies have gotten around that restriction but not to the degree of secrecy and amounts spent in the U.S.
Each political party is allotted airtime on public television and radio stations, according to the percentage of the vote they won in the last election. There are also regulations for private stations.
- Elections are always held on a Sunday. Lots of Spaniards go to Mass on that day, but there is ample time to vote. The lines are rarely long, no matter where you are voting.
The vote counting process is uniform throughout the country.
- The Saturday before the election is officially called the of “Day of Reflection;” campaigning is prohibited on that day.
Keep in mind that Spain is a country that lived through a dictatorship from 1939 to 1975.
It doesn’t matter who we voted for; most of us are fed up with this chaotic electoral process. Let’s change it starting with the electoral college.
Michael Ugarte is a retired professor of Spanish at MU who lives in Columbia and Albacete, Spain.