Elections: From Local to Presidential選挙活動:地方選挙から大統領選挙まで

Voting in the United States often looks to people around the world like a confusing series of mazes and hurdles. It often seems that way for U.S. citizens too.

There are various levels on which Americans can vote, from hometown officials all the way up to the president of the United States. Let us look at a few of those levels, using the state of California — an important state in every U.S. presidential election — as one example.

Locally, citizens can vote every few years for members of their City Council (city level) and Board of Supervisors (county level). Citizens also vote every two years for members of the California legislature, the state’s chief law-making body, which is made up of 80 State Assembly (lower house) members and 40 State Senate (upper house) members.

Citizens vote as well for their state’s top leader — the governor. In 2003 in California, a very unusual “recall” election was held in which voters were asked to decide on the proposed recall (or removal) of then-governor Gray Davis. Following an election campaign that many commentators around the world said resembled a “circus,” 48.6 percent of Californians voted the famous Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger into the
state governor’s office. The former “Terminator” star now wears the nickname “The Governator.”

Moving upward, California voters can also vote every two years for their state’s representatives to the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. In California’s case, 53 members of the House of Representatives (lower house) are elected, while two members to the U.S. Senate (upper house) are elected.

Last but certainly not least, Americans vote every four years for the esteemed president of their nation. Or at least they think they do.

The election of U.S. presidents is generally based on
two types of votes: “popular votes” (direct votes cast by the public) and “electoral votes” (indirect votes). The latter is a quite controversial system under which citizens of each state vote for special representatives called “electors.” These electors are the ones who actually cast all state-level votes for the next U.S. president and vice president.

Still sound confusing? One thing is for sure: The labyrinth-like voting systems in the 50 American states are far from being uniform and trouble-free. If democracy is to continue in the coming years, Americans will need to start voting for more public officials who put “Simpler Elections Now!” as their top campaign promise.