On Tuesday 6th November, we have the American Presidential Election along with elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives, amongst other contests on the same day. It is still a process that elects the most powerful person in the world if you think of the total state apparatus that they have at their command. Nevertheless one can envisage that situation changing as other countries, such as China, develop their fuller potential.
The American Presidential Election system is quite complex with the two major political parties holding primary elections across many states to deliver votes in an electoral college that will determine their candidate. Although any qualifying person can in theory become President, huge funding is required to make a campaign possible. To put it mildly, a candidate being rich in the first place is quite helpful.
Following the Democratic Party and Republican Party electoral colleges, the only two viable candidates slog it out for months before the actual vote. Then the electoral college process is repeated across all states for the President to be selected, with 270 votes being needed to win.
The whole process is very high profile and is undoubtedly a form of democracy but easily attracts two criticisms. One is that the choice of candidates presented to the nation is not always that great. The second relates to the electoral turnout which could be around the 50 per cent mark, or some 20 per cent below our own expectations in a General Election.
We have our own first-of-type election on Thursday 15th November, for the first PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners). Fears about turnout are associated with these contests as well. They are standalone elections that have never been run before but, because of the size of the areas being represented, the winning candidates could still poll more votes than a typical MP.
Our Crawley votes will be cast for a PCC covering all of Sussex. It is an important role which includes the appointment of the Chief Constable and setting the Council Tax to support the police force. The successful candidate will consult with the community and use the feedback to help set policing priorities. There will be a PCP (Police and Crime Panel) to hold the PCC to account.
I was not initially in favour of the apparent ‘politicisation’ of policing but having attended hustings and having viewed candidates’ agendas, I am more convinced that this is a beneficial change. Certainly I expect that people will welcome the fact that political costs will actually reduce with this reform. The costs of the PCC and Police and Crime Panel are less than those for the Sussex Police Authority that is being replaced.