US Elections

Comparison British American Electoral Systems



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Although the American electoral system was in fact developed from English thinking, there are considerable differences. The differences are significant in the way that the leadership is elected in particular.

The British system of elections is a parliamentary system. In fact, the British Parliament at Westminster is often called the Mother of Parliaments. Like the American system there are two houses. Their division is that of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons is the critical player in the British electoral system,

Each Member of Parliament represents his local constituency. These constituencies are established to ensure equitable representation in Parliament. Voters in Britainvotefor their member of parliament. They do not vote specifically for the Prime Minister.

In the Presidential system of the US the President is both the head of state and the head of government. He is elected, indirectly through the Electoral College but this is far more directly than in the British system. It is because the President is electedseparately that one party might be incontrolof thelegislativebranchand another in the executive. These elections are held every four years.

The British system is considerably less direct. In the British Parliament there is an election for Prime Minister amongst elected Members. The result is that the party that controls the largest number of seats will elect the leader of their party to be the Prime Minister. Forthisreason, in the British system, the Prime Minister, who is head ofgovernmentisalwaysa member of the majority party in Parliament. The head of state is the monarch whose powers are limitedseverelyto mainly ceremonial functions.

Election in Britain can occur at varying times. Generally, when a particular party believes they are popular enough to win an election they can call an election. The limitation on this is that there must be an election every five years. During the course of governing the country seats can occasionally be vacated for various reasons. This will result in a by election. If the party with the greatest number of seats in parliament changes, resulting from by elections or for other reasons, a vote of no confidence will normally result and a general election will be called.

TheAmerican system and the British system do have one significant factor in common. In bothsystemstypically the results are calculated as winner take all or first past the post. In other countries the system of proportional representation is typically used granting seats based on the parties' percentage of votes. In many counties this proportional representation has lead tomultiparty systems. TheBritishand US Models have resulted conversely in traditionally two party systems.

British tradition has helped create many American institutions. Some things though, such as the method of electing our executive are uniquely American.

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