Tuesday, November 15

An outline of the US electoral system

The USA has a House of Representatives, a Senate and State Legislatures where first past the post voting system are usually employed. Non-compulsory voting applies to elections held every 4 years to choose a President and State Governors, but there is only 2 year terms for the house Representatives. I have deliberately omitted any mention of the elaborate nominating process involving primary elections not mentioned in the Constitution.
House of Representatives

There are 435 districts and hence the same number of elected representatives based on electoral boundaries reflecting population density.  
There are 2 senators for each state meaning 100 senators are elected for 6 year terms.

Presidential Elections  
The election process is separate and unrelated to those for the House of Reps, Senate or for State Governors except for convenience and cost many hold their elections at the same time as occurred recently. Citizens don’t directly elect a President but do so via an “Electoral College “

The “Electoral College” process presides over the results of votes which add up in in total to all of the districts plus the two senators to number 535. A thinly populated state such as South Dakota has just one district equaling one vote with 2 senators for a total of 3 Electoral College votes. California as the largest state has 53 districts and 2 senators for a total of 55.   

Voters in each district vote for an “elector”, who is aligned to a particular presidential candidate running for President in that state. Once the popular vote results in a candidate gaining 270 electoral votes a majority result is achieved and we have a President elect. But the voters cast their votes for electors and once final tallies are confirmed the electors then have to cast their votes for the President and Vice President. This has yet to happen so the President is known as the President elect. In practice elector’s votes always mirror the popular vote because of their loyalty and service to a party, but theoretically under the constitution they have the right to vote differently.

It seems to me the provisions in the Constitution, with an amendment in 1804, to elect a President served the people well when there was limited transport and communicative facilities, but not to day. It’s my view the system seems overly complicated and costly.    

Sunday, November 6

On Butterflies wings and a prayer

Last Saturday according to the Sunday Age newspaper in Eltham,  a leafy northern eastern suburb of Melbourne where I live   "The battle for Eltham" dubbed by the newspaper was won by the butterflies which carried the day. 

The battle was between pro and anti refugees groups but what the small anti group of protestors encountered adorning the surrounding trees and footpaths were 8000 beautiful depictions of colourful butterflies. This was the predawn work of locals wanting to express symbolically their welcome to the 120 Syrian refugees soon to be accommodated in a section of an aged care facility. The pictures of police standing guard on the pavement under a blanket of large butterflies looked was quite amazing.       

The refugees are to be housed for 2 years in a separate section of  St Vincent's aged care facility which was previously derelict but now renovated for their use while they re-establish themselves. 

Protestors put up signs "Protect elderly in aged care" but the renovated independent units are separate to the high care section and only families will be occupying the units and no single men. Others have voiced concern these units could have been used to alleviate shortages in aged care. But demand is specific only to high care and there is no shortage of independent units in the shire.                  
In our local Catholic church parishioners have been very active for a number of months organising donations of essential household goods for designated units so that the refugees feel welcome.